2015 Tour de France: Editorial Preview

This Saturday, the 102nd edition of the Tour de France will commence in Utrecht, Netherlands and, after 3360kms, will conclude in Paris on July 26th. As has become the norm of late, the race will include 21 stages, broken up as follows: 9 flat, 3 hilly, 7 mountain, 1 ITT, and 1 TTT. There will also be two rest days.

Distinctive Stages:

In the Tour, every stage is important. However, there are a few unique aspects to the route this year specifically:

First, Stage 1 will be the 21st time the Grand Depart has started outside of France and the 6th such has occurred in the Netherlands. Utrecht itself, however, is a new host city for the race. The Tour will also spend two days in Belgium before reaching France.

Second, the organizers have once again given the Tour a bit of a “classics” feel in the first week. On Stage 4, riders will experience 13.3kms of cobbles, broken in 7 sectors between Seraing and Cambrai, similar to Paris-Roubaix. Additionally, at the end of Stage 3, the climb up the Mur de Huy (1.3kms at 9.6%) marks the first time the riders will use this Fleche Wallonne feature in the Tour.

Bigger climbs will come later in the race as well. The climb up the Cote de Mur de Bretagne (2kms at 6.9% with gradients reaching 15% in places) will reappear after it’s 2011 debut. This “Alpe d’Huez of Britanny” as it is known will be the finish of Stage 8.

And what about the Tour’s favorite climb, Alpe d’Huez? Don’t worry. It will be used on the penultimate day of the race and will be the ending of Stage 20! Additionally, Alpe d’Huez will be the climb used to award the Henri Desgrange prize to the first rider over the highest climb. When the route was originally published this year, that award was going to be given on the Col du Galibier, but a recent landslide has forced organizers to re-route in a manner that Alpe d’Huez is now the highest. The Jacques Goddet prize will still be award on Col du Tourmalet.

Rules Change

The biggest rules change for this year’s Tour is the return of time bonuses! For stages 2-8, the first three riders will receive bonus time in order to make the finish more competitive.

The sprint competition points for the stage win has also changed with the top placements receive 5 more points than in years past. This only applies to the 9 flat stages however.

Up for Grabs

For anyone unfamiliar with the Tour, there are a variety of prizes awarded during the race. First is the stage win. Just to win a stage in the Tour is considered one of the top prizes in all of cycling. Beyond that, however, the yellow jersey is the ultimate prize. This is the jersey worn by the rider each day who has completed the overall course thus far the fastest. Who has that distinction in Paris, wins the overall race. The green jersey is given to the rider who accumulates the most “sprint points” during the day. Most stages have intermediate sprints where riders can nip some points, and points are available at the end of most stages. Once again, whoever has the most points at the end of the three weeks wins the green jersey. The King of the Mountain (KOM) polka dot jersey works similarly in that points are awarded on climbs for riders to accumulate. The amount of points and the number of riders who receive them vary depending on the difficulty of the climb. The white jersey is given to the young rider who is highest ranked on the general classification. To be eligible for this award this year, riders had to be born on or after January 1, 1990. The team prize is given out daily via yellow bib numbers to the team who’s three highest-placed riders have cumulatively completed the course in the lowest time. And lastly, the combativity award winner is handed out daily to the rider a panel of judges votes to have been most “sportsmanly aggressive.”

So, who’s going to win what?

Here’s where I would normally sit down and try to predict riders to watch for each of the aforementioned prizes. This time, however, I thought I would take a different approach and analyze each team based on today’s starting list:

No one besides the French ever seems to expect too much of this team. However, on stage 10 of last year, Ag2R took over the lead in the team classification—and held it all the way through Paris, winning by over 34 minutes! So, perhaps they ought to not be ignored. Furthermore, Jean Christophe Peraud who was second placed last year and 5th in KOM is returning, as is Romain Bardet who was 6th last year and 2nd in the white jersey competition. With workers like Christophe Riblon, Johan Van Summeren, and Jan Bakelants, this team shouldn’t be discounted!

They are fully committed to helping defending champion Vincenzo Nibali earn a second yellow jersey. With strong riders like Lars Boom, Jakob Fuglsang, and Michele Scarponi, the team is going to be pretty solid.

BMC was a force to be reckoned with in the days of Cadel Evans. While they have struggled since then to have a clear leader, Tejay Van Garderen is probably the man they will ride for. The 2012 Best Young Rider winner has been 5th on two occasions and would certainly like to move up onto the podium. By his side, he has former KOM winner Sammy Sanchez who has also won a stage and finished on the top-10 twice. Greg Van Avermaet and Manuel Quinziato are both very experienced domestiques as well.

Bora-Argon 18
A wildcard team, there are a lot of very young riders on this team. They will most likely attack for stage wins and be in the breaks.

Bretagne-Seche Environment
Also a wild card team, they too will most likely look for stage wins. Pierrick Fedrigo does have 4 stage wins in his 11 participations, so he is a good one to keep an eye on during the breaks. Feillu also has a stage win to his name, and Delaplace loves a good break away.

Once again, this is another French team that few people outside of France realize its potential, but anytime there’s a break, Cofidis is there. Nacer Bouhanni is a very good rider who just has yet to prove himself in the Tour. But he did just win the points jersey at the Dauphine. And, Daniel Navarro is a strong climber who finished 9th in 2013. So, they could always surprise!

Now, if you want a team with depth and options, this is it. Mark Cavendish is an outstanding sprinter who, in the absence of Marcel Kittel, has a good chance of winning green overall. I think his bigger objective, however, is to try to beat the record of most stage wins. Mathematically it’s possible this year, though it’s a high order. But, with leadout man Mark Renshaw by his side, you never know. Meanwhile, Zdenek Stybar is great in all kinds of terrain, Tony Martin is a very solid time trailer with some solid climbing skills, Rigoberto Uran has had a good season as well, winning a stage in the Giro, and possessing good time trial and mountain skills as well. And, Michal Kwiatkowski, who has worn the white jersey before, was 3rd in that competition last year. This is a very solid team indeed!

Most likely, the team leader is Thibaut Pinot. He was 10th in 2012 and 3rd overall last year. He is a solid climber and very young, winning the white jersey last year. He was also 4th in KOM. He may not have the strongest of teams around him, but FDJ does ride with great heart, so if they see him being successful, they will probably ride harder than most would give them credit for.

IAM Cycling
Some of the riders are decently good time trailers, but I think the best bet for this team is let Sylvain Chavanel be Sylvain Chavanel, get into every break humanely possible, and go for another stage win. He’s ridden the race 15 times, making him one of the most experienced in the entire peloton. We’ve grown to expect his attacks, and this team may well be served by his tactical skills.

Probably most well known for their bright jerseys, Lampre tends to be one of the more quiet teams in the race. That being said, Rafael Valls Ferri, Flippo Pozzato and Ruben Plaza Molina could always be in the mix for a stage win. And a few years ago, Rui Costa was a fast man and a climber to watching, finishing 18th.

While Tony Gallopin did wear yellow for a day last year, and Thomas de Gendt can time trial well, my guess is Hansen, Henderson, Sieberg, Bak and the rest are all there for one purpose—get Andre Greipel in green!

This team has several options. My guess is that objective #1 is get Nairo Quintana to win yellow. This amazing little climber, in his debut performance two years ago, won the KOM and white jerseys, won one of the hardest stages, and finished second overall. Last year, he chose to focus on the Giro instead, winning that race. I think everyone needs to keep an eye on him for sure! And, Movistar has a great roster of climbers and domestiques around him include Dowsett, Izaguirre, and Malori. But, if something were to happen to Quintana, Movistar also has one of its more prolific and experienced riders, Alejandor Valverde. Valverde is another one of those guys who can pretty much do it all—descend, climb, time trial, and attack for victories. In his 8 participations, he had two years he didn’t finish. Every other time, his worst finish was 20th. 4 times he finished in the top-10, including last year when he finished 4th, missing the podium by less than 2 minutes. He also has two stage wins and two days in yellow to his credit. This is going to be an exceptionally strong team.

Just by starting the race, this team is making Tour history, so any success it finds in the race is incredibly. MTN-Qhubeka is the first African-registered team to take part in the Tour. With experienced riders like Edvald Boasson Hagen and Tyler Farrar, a stage win isn’t out of the question. Jacques and Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg also balance each others’ talents well. But another one to really keep an eye on is Daniel Teklehaymanot. He has dominated the African races for years, largely with good tactics and quick bursts of energy. Just last month, however, he also won the KOM jersey in the Dauphine. He could have a very good Tour, indeed.

Orica Greenedge
Their starting list has me thinking they are shooting for a stage win, perhaps even the TTT. All of the riders are fairly strong domestiques, but none jump out as having the potential to beat the likes of Nibali and Quintana. That being said, Gerrans is known for his attacks, including 2 stage wins and 2 days in yellow. Impey has also had two days in yellow. And Simon Yates was just the best young rider in the Dauphine. So they have some options (although the bus jokes are sure to continue…)

Team Cannondale-Garmin
It’s tough to say who is the leader on this team. I would guess Ryder Hesjedal who finished 7th five years ago, however Dan Martin and Andrew Talansky could both also go for very strong finishes on GC. Navardauskas is a very strong supporter also.

Lets be serious—Europcar has one purpose in the Tour…one the fans of the Tour and the team are completely supportive of: Thomas Voeckler. Bryan Coquard could win sprints, finishing in the top 10 seven times last year. Cyrill Gautier is also a pretty good fast man. Pierre Rolland is a great climber with two stage wins, the white jersey overall, and two finishes inside the top-20. But the fans just wait for Voeckler…his ill-timed attacks that seem inevitable to fail, his tongue wagging with his jersey unzipped showing…skin and bones….and riding with a huge heart. Voeckler’s antics have become almost synonymous with “crazy attacks.” But the craziest thing about his attacks? They work! 16 times, he has finished stages in the top-10, four times winning the entire stage! He’s worn the yellow jersey for 20 days and has won the KOM. So the real question is, how many attacks will he get into this year?

Team Giant Alpecin
Without Kittel, I think the best bet for this team is John DeGenkolb for sprints. Tom Dumoulin was 4th in the white jersey competition last year, though.

Alexander Kristoff has won two stages of the Tour, and he has had a particularly successful season thus far. That being said, I think he will be asked to help Joaquin Rodriguez. Rodriguez finished on the podium in 2013 and 8th in 2010, and he has two stage wins to his credit, but last year, he struggled considerably to find his form and adjusted his goal from being a top-10 rider to winning the KOM and while he did hold it for several days, ultimately he finished third in that competition as well. If he falters again this year, I think Kristoff will be allowed to ride for himself. But with helpers in the form of Caruso, Machado, and Paolini, either Rodriguez or Kristoff could probably win at least another stage.

Lotto NL-Jumbo
This is another team that seems to have solid domestiques but a rather unlikely GC man. 3…maybe five years ago, I would have said Robert Gesink was a serious GC contender. But the truth is, I would have been wrong then, too. Sep VanMarcke or Laurens Ten Dam could win a stage though.

Team Sky
Sky is similar to Movistar—great depth and a variety of options. I would assert that clearly their number one objective is getting Froome into yellow after his victory two years ago. He is a great climber and has become a formidable time trailer. Plus, he is clearly in form having just won the Dauphine. And, his whole team is pretty strong—I’m honestly not seeing a weak link among the names. If, however, something were to happen, Richie Porte, Leopold Konig, and even Nicholas Roche could also become darkhorses for GC.

The third of the “GC Powerhouse” teams, Tinkoff Saxo is most certainly riding for Alberto Contador. He has won the race before, is a great time trailer, is a magnificent climber, and has clearly refound his form of before with his success in this year’s Giro. He, Nibali, Quintana, and Froome are my top GC’s. Contador also has an amazing team around him, including former winner Basso, a very good climber in Kreuziger, last year’s KOM winner Rafal Majka, and stage winner Michael Rogers. And beyond that, Tinkoff is still likely to find success in a sprinter named Peter Sagan who has pretty much dominated the green jersey since his first Tour in 2012, winning the green jersey all three times. He doesn’t have the high stage victory count of other riders, with “only” four to his credit, but he is consistent—in half of the stages he has ridden, he has finished in the top-10. Cavendish and Greipel better watch this man!! And, he has two-time sprint stage winner Daniele Bennati by his side. On paper, this looks like one of the most fierce teams out there.

Trek Factory Racing
Now, anyone who knows me, knows this is my team. But, I have to try to be somewhat fair. So, if I’m being honest, they don’t look like they have a ton going for them. Honestly, even if Frank Schleck had ridden, I’m not entirely convinced he would have been on the same level GC-wise as the likes of Quintana and Froome. That being said, you never know. A few years ago, Devolder was good, particularly in classics. So, he could surprise during the first week. Fabian Cancellara could possibly get victory the first stage and hold yellow a couple of days, but that depends on if his form has come back more. Bauke Mollema has finished in the top-10 twice. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Haimar Zubeldia snuck into the top-10. In 14 participations, he has finished in the top-10 five different times, including 8th last year. He is one of those riders that no one really watches, so he rides at his own pace and is a consistent enough climber that he gets a high finish without anyone really noticing.

So there you have it: my analysis. Now, what normally happens is I make all these predictions and within the first week, everything I thought might happen has gone out the window! But that’s part of the magic of the Tour—so much is constantly changing! So, let’s see how things shape up this year!!

2015 Giro d’Italia: Stage 20 Results

With just one easy day remaining, Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador is now as close as possible to winning the Giro d’Italia 2015. But the captain had to dig deep and use his experience, as he found himself in difficulties on the towering Cima Coppi of Colle delle Finestre. Now leading by 2’02”, Contador acknowledges that he didn’t have his best of days but remained calm to secure the pink jersey.

Upon crossing the line in Sestriere after the last decisive stage of the Giro, Alberto Contador tells that he at no point believed that the jersey was in danger.

“Today was not a great stage for me. I wasn’t feeling good, probably because of the accumulated effort, but I knew I had a good cushion in the GC and, even though there were plenty of kilometers to go before the finish, I preferred to ride at my own rhythm. There was never a moment, where I thought the jersey was in danger. I remained calm because I knew that the difference in speeds between the groups was going to be small”, says Alberto Contador, who lost 1’40” on stage 20.

With nothing, but a disaster, in the way of the overall win, Contador is already directing his focus towards the next big goal in July.

“We’ll have a good dinner tonight, although I have to watch my weight for the Tour. This Giro d’Italia is in the bag now, with just tomorrow’s stage to come, so I’m already thinking of my next target”.

A dangerous attack from Mikel Landa on the 18.5km Colle delle Finestre saw Contador dropped. On the summit he had lost 1’30” but regained time on the run-in towards the final climb to Sestriere, where Fabio Aru caught up with his teammate and won the stage. Head Sports Director Steven de Jongh admits that there was a moment of tension on Finestre in the team car, but that he regained his calm, as Contador kept a good rhythm.

“Alberto definitely made a good show for the viewers, not so much for us right there on Finestre”, says Steven de Jongh with a smile. “He had a difficult moment and he also said that he found it hard to ride out of the saddle on the gravel sections. Of course, when he also got dropped by Aru, we had a scary moment in the car but as we realized that he wasn’t empty on the descent and the flat part we cooled down again”.

“The gap stabilized and we asked if he wanted gels and energy but he preferred to eat on the downhill section. So we gave him the time references and he controlled the pace very well. Although he didn’t have a good day, we saw the determination and experience of Alberto”.

With just 185km of flat riding left from Torino to Milan and a time margin of 2’02” to Aru, the overall victory seems as close to certain as possible.

“The team has worked really hard for this. Everyday they have been at the front making sure that Alberto was safe and in the right position controlling the race. The amount of work that they’ve done is amazing and I take my hat off for that. At the same time we must recognize that Astana has been the strongest team in the mountains and today they had six guys in the front group on Finestre. But in the end, we have the pink jersey and all of the guys can be really proud”, finishes Steven de Jongh.

Stage 20 Brief Results:

  1. Fabio Aru (Italy / Astana) 5:12:25″
  2. Ryder Hesjedal (Canada / Cannondale) +18″
  3. Rigoberto Uran (Colombia / Etixx – Quick-Step) +24″
  4. Mikel Landa (Spain / Astana)
  5. Steven Kruijswijk (Netherlands / LottoNL) +34″
  6. Alberto Contador (Spain / Tinkoff – Saxo) +2:25″
  7. Tanel Kangert (Estonia / Astana) +2:28″
  8. Franco Pellizotti (Italy / Androni Giocattoli)
  9. Leopold Koenig (Czech Republic / Team Sky)
  10. Diego Rosa (Italy / Astana)

General Classification After Stage 20:

  1. Alberto Contador (Spain / Tinkoff – Saxo) 84:03:30″
  2. Fabio Aru (Italy / Astana) +2:02″
  3. Mikel Landa (Spain / Astana) +3:14″
  4. Andrey Amador (Costa Rica / Movistar) +8:19″
  5. Ryder Hesjedal (Canada / Cannondale) +9:52″
  6. Leopold Koenig (Czech Republic / Team Sky) +10:50″
  7. Steven Kruijswijk (Netherlands / LottoNL) +11:02″
  8. Damiano Caruso (Italy / BMC Racing) +12:17″
  9. Alexandre Geniez (France / FDJ) +16:00″
  10. Yury Trofimov (Russia / Katusha) +16:23″
Ron Callahan is the chief cook and bottlewasher at Bike World News, doing everything from website design to bike reviews.

2015 Giro d’Italia: Stage 7 Results

A day after dislocating his shoulder in a crash, Alberto Contador retained the overall lead in the 2015 Giro d’italia on Friday as Diego Ulissi sprinted to victory in the longest stage of the race.

Contador, who was injured in a fall on the final sprint of Thursday’s sixth stage, competed with lower pressure in his tires to ease any strain on his shoulder. The real test will come this weekend when the race takes to the mountains.

”I’m happy because I got through the day,” Contador said. ”I suffered a lot from the pain and I’m happy to be here. After three, four hours I didn’t know what to do with my arm, but I hope and I’m confident that it will get better as the days pass.

”Tomorrow is one of the stages that I marked out for myself as one of my targets. Now it will be difficult for me and I expect attacks. At the moment I’m only thinking about resting and putting ice on my shoulder. Then we’ll see.”

The Spaniard, attempting to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and Tour de France in the same year, maintained a two-second lead over Italy’s Fabio Aru and a 20-second advantage over third-place Richie Porte.

Ulissi was overcome with emotion at the finish, collapsing on the ground after holding off other more recognized sprinters on the slightly uphill finish to a mainly flat 264-kilometer (164-mile) seventh stage from Grosseto to Fiuggi.

Juan Lobato was second, just ahead of Simon Gerrans after nearly 7 1/2 hours of cycling on the longest stage of the Giro since 1989.

Ulissi had only recently returned from a suspension after testing positive for the banned substance salbutamol during last year’s Giro.

”There are great sprinters here and I knew I wasn’t the favorite today,” Ulissi said. ”I started early because I was scared of being caught.

”This win cancels out what happened. They were very difficult months. But I have to say that I am really happy for how I reacted.”

There are two second-category climbs in addition to the opening first-category ascent on Saturday’s 186K (115.6-mile) leg from Fiuggi to Campitello Matese.

Stage 7 Brief Results:

  1. Diego Ulissi (Italy / Lampre) 7:22:21″
  2. Juan Jose Lobato (Spain / Movistar) ST
  3. Simon Gerrans (Australia / Orica)
  4. Manuel Belletti (Italy / Southeast)
  5. Enrico Battaglin (Italy / Bardiani Valvole)
  6. Sonny Colbrelli (Italy / Bardiani Valvole)
  7. Fabio Felline (Italy / Trek)
  8. Grega Bole (Slovenia / CCC)
  9. Kevin Reza (France / FDJ)
  10. Sergey Lagutin (Russia / Katusha)

General Classification After Stage 7:

  1. Alberto Contador (Spain / Tinkoff – Saxo) 27:48:00″
  2. Fabio Aru (Italy / Astana) +2″
  3. Richie Porte (Australia / Team Sky) +20″
  4. Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic / Tinkoff – Saxo) +22″
  5. Dario Cataldo (Italy / Astana) +28″
  6. Esteban Chaves (Colombia / Orica) +37″
  7. Giovanni Visconti (Italy / Movistar) +56″
  8. Mikel Landa (Spain / Astana) +1:01″
  9. Davide Formolo (Italy / Cannondale) +1:15″
  10. Andrey Amador (Costa Rica / Movistar) +1:18″
Ron Callahan is the chief cook and bottlewasher at Bike World News, doing everything from website design to bike reviews.

Team Novo Nordisk Secures First World Tour Event Invite

Earlier this month, it was announced that Team Novo Nordisk will be racing the Dubai Tour and Strade Bianche. Adding to their early season schedule, RCS confirmed the team has been invited to Milan-San Remo on March 22, 2015.

“Competing in our first World Tour race is a major milestone for Team Novo Nordisk and speaks to the hard work and dedication of this entire organization,” said Team Novo Nordisk CEO Phil Southerland. “It’s also the result of a tenacious and inspirational group of athletes, who are proving every day that they can race alongside the world’s best. Racing at such a high caliber event will also enable us to reach even more people around the world and show what may be possible with diabetes.”

With the invite to Milan-San Remo, the all diabetic pro team is one step closer to their overall goal.

“Since we started Team Novo Nordisk two and a half years ago, our goal was to participate in a World Tour event in 2015,” commented Team Novo Nordisk General Manager Vassili Davidenko. “We’ve been working very hard to bring the team to this level and we’ve done it. Milan-San Remo is going to be the first major test for this young team. We want to do well and we want to be invited to World Tour events in the future. We thank RCS for this opportunity.”

Milano-San Remo

For 2015, Milan-San Remo will be back to it’s traditional route, with no additional climbs and finishing in Via Roma, the center of San Remo. The Capi, Cipressa and Poggio climbs late in the 293km race shouldn’t be enough leave the fast men of the race behind.

Bring Via Roma back as the finish could make for an interesting finish. With only 2km from the bottom of the Poggio climb to the line, a rider willing to make a late race move and take risks on the descent could potentially take the win.

Via Roma is one of three finish locations for the race. From 1907 through 1948, the finish was held at Corso Cavallotti, In 1949, Fausto Coppi was the first winner at Via Roma, and the race continued to finish there until 2007. In 2008, the finish moved Piazzale Italo Calvino, due to road construction. For 2015, the race has a chance to return to it’s most common finish, where Eddy Merckx took his record seven wins.

Teams Invited
Etixx – Quick Step
Team Sky
AG2R La Mondiale
Astana Pro Team
MTN – Qhubeka
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits
Trek Factory Racing
Team Katusha
Tinkoff – Saxo
Lampre – Merida
IAM Cycling
Lotto Soudal
BMC Racing Team
Movistar Team
Orica GreenEDGE
Team Cannondale – Garmin
Team Giant – Alpecin
Team LottoNL-Jumbo
Bardiani – CSF Pro Team
Androni Giocattoli
CCC Sprandi Polkowice
Team Colombia
Team Novo Nordisk
Bora-Argon 18

Heckling Editor, Image Taker, Crash Test Dummy, and Beard Master at Bikeworldnews.com

~Veggie Powered Athlete~

Location – Lancaster, PA

Current Testing Rigs – 2015 Bianchi Sempre Pro, 2014 Trek Boone 9, 2015 Cannondale Scalpel 2, 1978 Trek TX900

Dream Bike – I’ll tell you when they make it

Discipline – Cyclocross, with some dabbling on the road, mountain, and running

Favorite Rides – Quiet country roads of Amish Country, some of the best roads around.

Food of Choice – Brown rice and quinoa veggie roll, make that two

Beer of Choice – Unibroue Grand Reserve 17, aged four years

BBB Cycling Will Be the Official 2015 Helmet Supplier of Équipe Cycliste FDJ

BBB Cycling Icarus FDJ Edition
BBB Cycling Icarus FDJ Edition

BBB has signed a new sponsor agreement with the French World Tour team FDJ for 2015. Partnering with professional teams provides valuable testing ground for our products and allows us access to feedback and ideas from the pro’s. The Tithon and AeroTop helmets are great examples of these partnerships.

BBB marketing manager Frank van Eck: “We are proud to be back on WorldTour level. FDJ, with top riders such as Thibaut Pinot (third in the 2014 Tour de France and winner of the white jersey) and Arnaud Démare (French national Champion and 15 victories in 2014), is a team that competes in all major races. And with an attractive style of riding, a style that suits BBB.”

The squad, led by Marc Madiot, sets high demands on their material. “This partnership took some time to be finalized”, Van Eck explains. “Our product have been intensively tested and compared by the team, for example in a windtunnel. This makes us even more proud in this partnership, which eventually has to result in even better products.”

Besides cycling team FDJ, BBB will also be the official 2015 partner of:
Roompot Orange Cycling Team; New Pro-Continental Dutch cycling team.
Team Wanty-Groupe Gobert; Pro-Continental Belgium cycling team.
Team Synergy Baku; UCI cycling team from Azerbaijan.
Superior Brentjens MTB Racing Team; mountainbike team, led by Bart Brentjens.
Team Stressless; International speed skate team around Belgiam Bart Swings.

2014 Vuelta a España Preview

The final Grand Tour of the 2014 season, the Vuelta a España, will start on Saturday, August 23rd and run through Sunday, September 14. Over these three weeks, the race will include 21 stages totaling nearly 3240 miles. 5 stages are designated “flat,” 13 mountainous (to varying degrees), a team time trail of 12.6kms, and 2 ITT’s totaling 44.5kms.

The races starts in the city of Jerez de la Frontera and finishes with one of the two ITT’s in Santiago de Compostela (the first time in 21 years it has finished outside of Madrid) This year’s edition is considered a very difficult course, especially with 8 summit finishes. Furthermore, many riders set to start are looking at this as redemption for not achieving their Tour de France goals, so defending champion Chris Horner (Lampre) will certainly face stiff competition if he wants to repeat his success.

The following teams are all scheduled to take to the start:
• Ag2r-La Mondiale
• Astana
• Belkin Pro Cycling
• BMC Racing Team
• Cannondale
• Caja Rural-Seguros RGA†
• Cofidis†
• FDJ.fr
• Giant-Shimano
• Garmin-Sharp
• IAM Cycling†
• Lampre-Merida
• Lotto-Belisol
• Movistar Team
• MTN Qhubeka†
• Omega Pharma-Quick Step
• Orica-GreenEDGE
• Team Europcar
• Team Katusha
• Team Sky
• Team Tinkoff-Saxo
• Trek Factory Racing

There are numerous prizes available in the Vuelta. The leader’s jersey, which has changed in appearance quite a bit over the years, is red; the points jersey is green; the best climber is designated by a white jersey with blue dots; a white jersey with green accents is given to the leader in the “combined competition” (based on placement in the previous three competitions); best team; stage winner; and the “prize fighting” number to the rider who is nominated by television viewers.

In looking at the riders currently slated to start, quite a few could walk away with some sort of prize. BMC has a strong team with Rohan Dennis, Cadel Evans, and Sammy Sanchez. Evans just showed strong form in Utah, so he could very well ride into the top-10 with Sammy right up there with him. Caja Rural currently has Luis Leon Sanchez listed as a starter, and he is a definite contender for a stage win. He is well-known for taking daring long breaks and sneaking away with a stage victory in grand tours. Cannondale’s Peter Sagan is an obvious selection for the points jersey. FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot is a possible top-10 finisher after his success in the Tour last month. Garmin has a number of options between Dan Martin, Andrew Talansky, and Ryder Hesjedal….and David Millar could certain try for a stage win himself as redemption from not being at the Tour. Jurgen Van Den Broeck could be a top-10 finisher as well for Lotto. OPQS has Boonen that could potentially challenge Sagan, but he has announced his goal is world’s and therefore may play it safe. Katusha’s Rodriguez was looking strong in the Tour mountains so maybe his native terrain will play in his favor this go-round. We could also see the Chris Froome (Sky) versus Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) showdown we were denied in the Tour as both are currently set to take part in Spain. On paper, however, Movistar is the team to beat: Igor Anton, Alejandro Valverde, Adriano Malori, and Nairo Quintana (who has been dominating at the races he has participated in this year) will be a tough force to match, especially with all the climbs!

So, with so much at stake (particularly wounded egos from the Tour), this will certainly be a very fierce and competitive race!

Tour de France, Stage 17: Van Garderen Stays Sixth

Tejay van Garderen of the BMC Racing Team held onto his sixth place overall Wednesday after a summit finish to the shortest stage of this year’s Tour de France.

Only Looking Forward
Van Garderen finished 13th in the 124.5-kilometer race, 1:40 behind king of the mountains classification leader Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), who soloed to win his second stage. With one day in the Pyrenees and four more of the race to go, van Garderen is 10:19 back from yellow jersey wearer Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Pro Team), who finished third on the day. “Yesterday was a pity, it was an off day,” van Garderen said. “You can’t change that. You can only look ahead.” Asked if a podium finish is still a possibility, he said: “Anything is possible. If you would have asked me a couple days ago I would have said, it is really possible. Now, yes it is possible. But it will be hard.” Van Garderen is 2:45 behind fifth-placed Romain Bardet and 4:11 back of Bardet’s Ag2r La Mondiale teammate, Jean-Christophe Péraud, and 4:19 behind third-placed Thibault Pinot (FDJ.fr.).

Two In The Breakaway
The BMC Racing Team placed two riders – Amaël Moinard and Peter Velits – in a 21-man move ahead of the peloton that eventually splinted on the third of four climbs on the day. Moinard, who has been in breakaways on Stages 9, 10 and 14 said having a teammate or two ahead of van Garderen was part of the plan. “There was a chance I could help Tejay on the top of the climb,” Moinard said. “First, to help him pull back on guys like Bauke Mollema, who was a threat on the GC (general classification). And also to maybe make time against Alejandro Valverde (second in the overall standings). But unfortunately, Valverde came back at the top. But it is good for Tejay’s morale for the last few days.” Moinard went on to finish 20th, while Velits was 27th.

Hard Day Still Ahead
After Nibali surged away from him in the last seven kilometers, van Garderen said he still felt good enough to test himself against two of the three French riders ahead of him in the overall – Bardet and Pinot – who were with him. “I tried doing a little attack today but they are looking really strong,” van Garderen said. “Obviously, if one of them has a bad day, I need to take advantage of it.” BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said he was pleased to see van Garderen bounce back from a performance Tuesday that saw him concede more than three minutes to the top contenders. “After one hard day for him yesterday, today I think he was good,” Ledanois said. “I have confidence in him for tomorrow. It is another hard day with the Tourmalet and the Hautacam.”

Listen to complete comments from Ledanois, Moinard and van Garderen on the BMC Racing Team’s Tour de France Audio Line:

2014 Tour de France Preview

This Saturday, the 101st Tour de France will start, running until Sunday, July 27th. 3664kms will be totaled over 21 stages. Of these stages, 9 are classified as flat, 5 are hills, 6 are mountains (of which, 5 finish at altitude), and there is only one long ITT, running 54kms from Bergerac to Perigueux on Stage 20. There are also two rest days.

This year, nine cities will be newly featured: Harrogate, York, Sheffield, Cambridge, Ypres, Oyonnax, Risoul, Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour, and Leeds which will play host to the Grand Depart. This year, in addition to the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain will also host various moments of the Tour.
The first three stages are within the UK. This is only the 4th Tour to have stages in England, and it is the only Tour to ever have more than 2 stages there. Also, stage 3 will end in London.

One unique aspect of this year’s Tour is the taste of Paris-Roubaix that awaits the riders on Stage 5. The route on July 9th travels 156kms from Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, but 15.4kms of that include cobbles covered in the “Hell of the North” every spring.

Another unique feature in this year’s Tour is that on the final day, 20 teams of 6 women will take part in the race—in a sense: they will be riding “La Course by Le Tour de France,” finishing on the Champs-Elysees a few hours ahead of the men’s peloton.

There are 22 teams that will take part this year, including the 18 World Tour teams and 4 wild cards. The participating teams are: Ag2r; Astana; Belkin; BMC, Cannondale; Cofidis; FDJ; Garmin; IAM; Katusha; Lampre; Lotto; Movistar; OPQS; Europcar; Orica; Giant-Shimano; Sky; Tinkoff; Trek; Bretagne-Seche Environment; Team Netapp-Endura.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Tour, there are multiple prizes at stake. For one, winning any stage in the Tour is the dream of most professional cyclists and can guarantee a rider a lucrative future. Beyond that, a jury of cycling specialists nominate the day’s “most aggressive” rider. One rider then wins the overall after the last stage of the race. The daily winner receives a small cash prize as well as red bib numbers to wear the next day. The best team also is much sought after as it gives your team car ideal placement in the motor caravan the days when your team leads. This prize is determined by adding the times of the best three riders for each team in each stage. As there are no time bonuses in the Tour anymore, teams seeking this prize must force themselves to place well on a daily basis. The members of the leading team wear yellow bib numbers to indicate to all that they are currently winning that competition.

There are also 4 jerseys “up for grabs.” These are handed out daily, and for many riders, simply wearing one of these once is considered the highest honor. However, for others, the goal is to be the last one wearing the jersey in Paris to become the overall winner of that classification. The first of these is the white jersey. This is worn by the rider highest on overall classification who was born on or after January 1, 1989 (so around 25 years old). Many rookies and breakout stars have taken this prize, announcing to the world their presence within the peloton. My predictions for men to watch to compete for this jersey include: Michal Kwiatowski (OPQS); Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp);Romain Bardet (Ag2R); Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano); Tejay van Garderen (BMC); Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo); Thibault Pinot (FDJ).

The red and white polka dot jersey is given to the “king of the mountain” classification. KOM represents the best climber based on points earned on classified climbs. Climbs are classified as categories 4 (the “easiest” based on distance and gradient), 3, 2, 1 or hors categorie (HC) for those climbs that are considered too hard to classify. Each category of climb awards points to variable numbers of riders to summit, depending on difficulty of climb and if the climb is located at the end of the stage. This is traditionally a very difficult jersey to predict because most riders in contention for the soon-to-be explained yellow jersey also accumulate quite a few points in this competition. So, it happens on occasion that the rider who wins the Tour overall “accidently” takes the KOM jersey as well. That being said, some riders do target this jersey as their overall goal. What usually happens is early in the Tour, guys who consistently go out in the day’s breakaway accumulate points to earn and hold on to this jersey for the first 10 days. However, as the climbs become more difficult as the Tour enters its second week, usually a leader emerges. This year, two of the riders I don’t consider to be “true” GC contenders who could take the win here are Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Michele Scarponi (Astana).

The green jersey is awarded to the best sprinter. This is similar to the KOM jersey in that it is based on points earned on certain stages. Points are awarded to the first 15 riders to cross the line at both an intermediate point on each stage as well as the finish. Different finishes (flat, hilly, mountain, or time trial), however, award a different number of points. Because anything can happen in the blink of an eye, and flat finishes often produce very dangerous sprints where leadouts can fail and the most obvious choice for the stage victory can get “boxed in,” it is not always easy to predict this jersey, either. However, I feel there are four men who are top contenders for this prize: Mark Cavendish (OPQS); Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano); Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol); and Peter Sagan (Cannondale).

Lastly, the ultimate prize in the Tour de France is the maillot jaune, or yellow jersey, for the overall winner. This is awarded to the man who, at the end of each day, has covered the total course in the least amount of time. For many, this year’s Tour is between two former winners: Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky). However, I feel that Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) could also be very competitive and could sneak into the overall if Froome and Contador aren’t paying attention. Lastly, because a Tour victory could be lost in a crash or inattention to winds or other contenders, dark horse potential winners always sit in waiting. For me, Tour de Suisse winner Rui Costa (Lampre) and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) are two great potential dark horse winners….if VDB can conquer his historic Tour ill luck. And, I have a soft spot for the Schlecks of Trek. It is highly unlikely they will perform well given their poor results of late—they appear as shadows of their former greatness. However, I would love to eat my words and watch them at least finish in the top-10!

So, there you have it. This year’s Tour doesn’t have the luster of last year’s 100th edition, but it isn’t any less important or exciting!

Tour de Suisse Stage 3 Results

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) took the sprint to win stage three at the Tour de Suisse ahead of Michael Albasini (Orica GreenEdge) and Sergio Henao (Team Sky). Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) stays in the leaders jersey, despite finishing five seconds behind Sagan.

The day started off with Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) abandoning the race due to a concussion sustained in a stage two crash. Martin Kohler (BMC) and Steven Kruijswijk (Belkin) were able to get away from the field, but Martin rallied the Omega Pharma-Quick-Step troops to bring the break back. With the leaders being caught so far from the finish, a new break consisting of Nino Schurter (Orica-GreenEdge), Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing), Danilo Wyss (BMC) and Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) rode off with 70 km to go. Thurau’s sole purpose in the break was to collect KOM points, so once the climbs were completed, he retired back to the chasing group. The leaders were strengthened though, as Tosh Van Der Sande (Lotto Belisol) and Valerio Agnoli (Astana) were able to bridge up. 

As the kilometers ticked down, Garmin-Sharp and FDJ.fr moved to the front to bring back the second break. All but Van Der Sande were brought back, and even his time out front was doomed. Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) gave a final go, but were never quite able to get away from Omega Pharma-Quick-Step. 

The Belgian team continued on the front to try and bring Martin to the line with the rest of the leaders. It was left to Martin with 500 meters to go, but Cadel Evans (BMC) was the first rider to open up the sprint. Albisini came around Evans, and looked as though the race was his with 100 meters to go. Sagan sat on his wheel and used him as the final lead out rider and finally made his move to take the win.

Stage 3 Brief Results:

  1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia / Cannondale) 5:22:09
  2. Michael Albasini (Swizterland / Orica GreenEdge)
  3. Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Columbia / Team Sky)
  4. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands / Belkin-Pro Cycling Team)
  5. Cadel Evans (Australia / BMC Racing Team)
  6. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spain / Movistar Team)
  7. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Portugal / Lampre-Merida)
  8. Thibaut Pinot (France / FDJ.fr)
  9. Mathias Frank (Switzerland / IAM Cycling)
  10. Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic / Tinkoff-Saxo)
  11. Davide Formolo (Italy / Cannondale)

General Classification After Stage 3:

  1. Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 10:44:34
  2. Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands / Giant) +6″
  3. Peter Sagan (Slovakia / Cannondale) +14″
  4. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands / Belkin) +17″
  5. Tom Jelte Slagter (Netherlands / Garmin Sharp) +23″
Heckling Editor, Image Taker, Crash Test Dummy, and Beard Master at Bikeworldnews.com

~Veggie Powered Athlete~

Location – Lancaster, PA

Current Testing Rigs – 2015 Bianchi Sempre Pro, 2014 Trek Boone 9, 2015 Cannondale Scalpel 2, 1978 Trek TX900

Dream Bike – I’ll tell you when they make it

Discipline – Cyclocross, with some dabbling on the road, mountain, and running

Favorite Rides – Quiet country roads of Amish Country, some of the best roads around.

Food of Choice – Brown rice and quinoa veggie roll, make that two

Beer of Choice – Unibroue Grand Reserve 17, aged four years

Sprinters missed Giro opportunity

The profile and the length of today’s 157 kilometer long 13th stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia from Fossano to Rivarolo Canavese most of all indicated a bunch sprint finish. After yesterday’s consolidation of Rafal Majka’s overall third position, Tinkoff-Saxo were focusing on staying out of crashes and keeping the young Polish rider in front of the pack.

There were quite a lot of crashes during the stage but the Tinkoff-Saxo boys stayed on their bikes the whole day. In front of the pack, Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Marco Canola (Bardiani), Jeffry Corredor (Colombia), Gert Dockx (Lotto-Belisol), Angelo Tulik (Europcar) and Jackson Rodriguez (Androni) formed the breakaway.

The sprinter teams were playing the waiting game too long as they were bluffing, waiting for the other teams to take responsibility as Canola, Tulik and Rodriguez broke clear of the front group and continued in high pace towards he finish line. With three stage wins in the bag already, FDJ took their turn at first but no one joined them and the Colombia team was now desperate to bring them back as panic set in.

But it was all too late and in the sprint among the front trio, Marco Canola (Bardiani) was the fastest and took the stage win. Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafal Majka finished in the main bunch and is still third overall.

“For a long time it was a game of cat and mouse and it could have ended up in a massive sprinter gallop but as the big sprinter teams were bluffing for too long, the three escapees took the stage. We’re happy about the outcome as we only wanted to stay out of trouble and our biggest concern was the hailstorm shooting down on us in the finale with narrow roads but the boys elegantly went through it and brought Rafal safely across the finish line. Now, we’re facing two big mountain stages and we feel ready for the challenge,” said DS, Lars Michaelsen after the stage.