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EuroTrash ‘Cav’ Monday!

As always we have a lot to get through in EuroTrash Monday. We round-up Qatar and report on Murcia and Almería, plus the last Superprestige cyclo-cross in Middelkerke with all the reports and video. We also preview the Tour of Oman, Ruta del Sol and the Volta ao Algarve, look at the ‘Wildcard’ teams for Flanders ’15 and Wiggins talks. Large coffee time.

TOP STORY: Wiggins on Roubaix, Hour Record and Nibali
Bradley Wiggins has made his first pedal strokes of the season in the Tour of Qatar, his first on the way to Paris-Roubaix where he will hang up his (road) race number forever to focus on the Hour Record with the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio to follow. For this, he has created his own team, Team continental Wiggins. As to doping, he believes that steps have been taken in the “right direction” but estimated that there are still more to take. And points to the International Cycling Union (UCI) and Nibali’s Astana.

Wiggins owns his team and his management agency XIX Entertainment seeks sponsors and funds needed to sustain it. “I had the idea for the team to focus on the games and leave the road. Initially, it was to facilitate a program on the track, to train together. Then I wished that we could find the future talent, just as Axel (Merckx) does in the United States. This team becomes a serious option for the Best of the British riders, instead of going to the United States for a year before joining Sky. Sky has turned away from this path, have become very, very elitist. They do not have time to develop young talent,” he explained in an interview with l’Equipe.

Wiggins, somehow, wants to stay linked with cycling. “But not in the Pro Tour” he qualifies. “Again, it’s hard not to think about the past, but when I was in Qatar in 2002, cycling was totally different. There was camaraderie, we were all in the lobby, teams mixed, now everything is segregated. Nobody talks in elevators.”

“The sport has changed, in the right direction,” he continued. “Even though the Tour needs time to lose the image of doping. Recent developments do not help, however. I love Nibali, I’m a big fan, but unfortunately for him, his Astana team is a disaster. While some people are not prohibited in sport, and we know the names, confidence will not return. We have a new president of the UCI (Brian Cookson), I understand in a sense, I read his explanation (for keeping Astana in the WorldTour), but we need someone to take difficult decisions and carry them out,” he concludes.

The goal on the road is the Paris-Roubaix. “Roubaix is not a challenge like a lap or hour record. It is very unpredictable. In Qatar, I just wanted to finish without glitches. Then smoothly contest other races to have a chance of being in Roubaix. Getting to the velodrome, the winner or the last, everything will end there, that’s all I want,” he stressed in the French sports daily.

For the Hour Record he will train on the Manchester velodrome, London and Mallorca. “I do not want to rush,” he announces. “I spoke at length with Chris Boardman recently. I want to try thirty minutes at a record pace, forty-five minutes to an average of 55 kph, and then I will know if I can keep up fifteen minutes more. That way, when you try, you will know exactly what you can achieve.”

Bradley Wiggins:

header-qatar15Tour of Qatar 2015
It was as windy as on the previous stages when the 139 remaining riders gathered around the splendid Al Zubarah Fort for the start of stage 5. On the day’s menu: a 153kms race heading south-east at first, before returning to the Fort and finishing on a circuit around Madinat Al Shamal.

In the first kilometers, the Etixx – Quick-Step team accelerated and the pack broke up into several echelons. Just under 40 riders were present at the front including Golden Jersey Niki Terpstra (Etixx – Quick-Step), Silver Jersey Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), White Pearl Jersey Luke Rowe (Sky), as well as Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Adam Blythe (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Tom Boonen (Etixx – Quick-Step). Several big names however were left stranded in the chasing group including the second overall Maciej Bodnar (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek). A tremendous battle went on between the two bunches at an average speed of close to 50kph. The gap however never went over 35 seconds. Eventually, after 62 kilometers of impressive combat, the peloton regrouped.

A few kilometers later, five men managed to take off: Hermans (BMC), Haller (Katusha), Gruzdev (Astana), Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Hayman (Orica-GreenEDGE). This leading quintet enjoyed a 50 second advantage after 80 kilometers. At the first intermediate sprint (87 km) won by Hayman ahead of Wallays and Gruzdev, the pack was 1:38 adrift. The gap reached a maximum 2:35 at 102 km before the chase intensified.

At the second bonus sprint (126 km), claimed again by Hayman in front of Wallays and Gruzdev, the peloton had closed in to 38 seconds. The front five were eventually caught after 135 kilometers with just over one lap to go. In the final ten kilometers, the Tinkoff-Saxo squad pushed harder and ten men powered away: Boonen, Van Keirsbulcke (Etixx – Quick-Step), Sagan, Bodnar, Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo), Kristoff, Bystrøm, Guarnieri, Paolini (Katusha) and Blythe (Orica-GreenEDGE), but no Niki Tersptra. Despite enjoying a slim 15 second advantage, the front group was however caught before the final.

At the end of the long straight in Madinat Al Shamal, Alexander Kristoff again proved he was the fastest sprinter of the bunch. Like on the previous day in Mesaieed, the Norwegian beat Peter Sagan and Nikias Arndt to the line, capturing his third stage success this year. Thanks to his victory, the winner of Milan-Sanremo last year moves up to third spot overall. Finishing in the pack, Niki Terpstra keeps his leader’s Golden Jersey and with one stage to go has a 6 second advantage over Bodnar and 11 seconds over Kristoff. The White Jersey for the best young rider changes shoulders and goes to Peter Sagan.

Stage winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha): “Honestly, today I was quite tired. Every stage here in Qatar is pretty hard, so after 4 stages it was not easy at all. But we managed to stay in front all day. We concentrated on our goal and it worked well. At the end our team did a great effort in the last 5 km to bring me in the best possible position for the sprint! We had a good plan for today’s stage and we managed to do it! I want to thank all of my teammates for support and great help on their part. I am very happy now with this nice team victory!”

Second overall Maciej Bodnar (Tinkoff-Saxo): “I was so close to taking the jersey. We had Terpstra caught with just a few kilometers to go, as we had a lot of crosswind and the pace was really high. It’s a pity that the gap was closed just before the finish but that’s how it is sometimes. I’m happy for Peter, who once again showed that he’s able to compete with the pure sprinters. He will soon have recovered from his crash, so we’ll aim for the stage win on the final stage tomorrow.”

Astana’s Borut Bozic: “Winds blew the race apart until 30k to go, and the final selection for the sprint was really big.”

Vincente Reynes (IAM Cycling): “We saw a group of 10 riders with guys from Katusha try to make a break just before the finish. Initially, Heino was not with them, but Qatar is so unusual, you should never panic, and always remain very calm. We knew the wind was going to turn and that we would all get back together again. So we all worked for Haussler, and he was able to regain his position in the field as he needed. It’s great that he has recovered from his crash yesterday, so everything is fine. All this helps the IAM Cycling team. For the final stage, the wind will not be as dangerous as it has been, and there will be limited risks of echelons, so I think, considering the group we have here, we can do great things on Friday.”

Theo Bos crashed and had to go to hospital. Dr Jarrad van Zuydam the MTN-Qhubeka team Doctor said: “Theo had a fall today after being forced into some gravel on the side of the road. He sustained injuries to his right elbow, right hip and right knee. Thankfully, x-rays revealed no fractures but his wounds were deep and required several sutures. He will be released from the hospital this evening.”

Tour of Qatar Stage 5 Result:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 3:03:01
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
3. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Giant-Alpecin
4. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
5. Adam Blythe (GB) Orica-GreenEDGE
6. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling
7. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar
8. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr
9. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
10. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis.

Tour of Qatar Overall After Stage 5:
1. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx – Quick-Step in 15:12:45
2. Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:06
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha at 0:11
4. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky at 0:12
5. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC at 0:19
6. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:31
7. Luke Rowe (GB) Sky at 0:33
8. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling at 0:39
9. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana at 0:41
10. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step at 0:42.

Stage 5:

After a tremendous week of racing in very demanding windy conditions, the 14th edition of the Tour of Qatar was claimed by Niki Terpstra (Etixx – Quick-Step). Just like last year the Dutchman took the final Golden Jersey, this year beating Maciej Bodnar (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). The final stage of the event ended, as expected, by a bunched sprint on the Doha Corniche. Irishman Sam Bennett (BORA-Argon 18) flew to his first ever stage success, beating Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) to the line.

At the start of the Final Stage 6 of the 2015 Tour of Qatar, there was still a lot at stake in the different standings of the event. Wearing the Golden Jersey at the Beach Resort was Niki Terpstra, but the Dutchman had serious pressure on his shoulders, having only a slim 6 seconds lead over Maciej Bodnar and 11 seconds over three-time stage winner Alexander Kristoff. While Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) had decided to call it quits before the final stage, the 132 remaining riders took off for a 113.5 kilometer ride, heading north to the Doha Corniche.

In the first kilometer four riders broke away: Burghardt (BMC), Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Boem and Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF). Their lead grew rapidly and reached 1:10 after 10 kilometers. But the Katusha team then took command of the pack and started chasing, having in mind the bonus seconds up for grabs at the intermediate sprints. After their long ride north and enjoying a maximum 2:05 lead, the front four reached the final circuit around the Doha Corniche and crossed the finish line for the first time after 56.5 kilometers with 38 seconds lead. That gap had dropped to 22 seconds at the second crossing of the line. Burghardt, Van Hecke and Boem were the first three to be caught by the pack, while Pirazzi carried on alone. The Italian was finally caught after the third time across the line.

Time had come for the big teams to prepare for the first intermediate sprint at the 4th crossing of the line. Tom Boonen (Etixx – Quick-Step) went on to capture the win just ahead of Kristoff and Trentin (Etixx – Quick-Step). Thanks to his 2 bonus seconds Kristoff moved within 9 seconds of the overall lead, meaning that if he won the stage and Terpstra finished outside of the top 3, the Norwegian would win the 2015 event. At km 77, two riders took off in the lead: Keisse (Etixx – Quick-Step) and Van Hoecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise). Their advantage over the pack reached 52 seconds at the 6th crossing of the line. At the second bonus sprint (7th crossing) won by Keisse ahead of Van Hoecke, the pack remained 45 seconds adrift. The escapees were finally caught at 93 kilometers with over two laps to go. Despite attempts from the Tinkoff-Saxo team to break the pack apart, the peloton remained together all the way to the finish line.

In a bunch sprint, Sam Bennett (BOra-Argon 18) flew to an impressive stage victory. The Irishman captured his first ever success in Qatar, beating Guardini and Bouhanni to the line. Finishing in the pack, in 25th position, Niki Terpstra went on to conquer the overall victory. In the final GC, the 2014 Paris-Roubaix champion wins with a 6 second lead over Bodnar and 9 seconds over Kristoff who has to settle for the Silver jersey (points classification winner). Sixth of the event, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) wins the best young riders White Pearl Jersey while Etixx – Quick-Step finishes best team.

Race winner Niki Terpstra (Etixx – Quick-Step): “It’s satisfying,” Terpstra said. “I came here to defend the title, or for sure go for a good placement. The time trial went so well that I was in the lead, and the team did a great job to defend my leadership for the rest of the stage race. I was a bit nervous before the start because if Kristoff had a really good day, and he was doing well so far with three stage wins already, he could still pass me with the bonus seconds, but he didn’t get that. The guys made Katusha work hard so they were tired, and in the end Kristoff was unable to win the sprint and take the 10 bonus seconds at the finish line. So, I took the win and I am happy. Between my two GC victories, they were both tough. It’s never easy to win. I have good condition now and knowing this gives me confidence for my next races. Winning at Tour of Qatar has become a bit of a tradition for the team. Look at the team we had this year, and we even won the Team Classification. Matteo Trentin was the ‘smallest’ guy on the team here, and he is actually not so small. We bring big, strong guys who are specialists in the windy conditions at Tour of Qatar and it shows every year. We have experience, and we know the roads here. It’s a bit special. It’s an important race for the team, so it’s an important race for me. But really, every professional bike race is important for the team. I go to the start line taking every race as seriously as the one before and the one next. Sometimes the roads at Tour of Qatar seem really long, but the race is going too fast and it is too chaotic to ever consider this race boring. It isn’t the parcours that dictates the race. The riders and the conditions dictate how a race will go, and at Tour of Qatar it is always full of action. I look to the next races with the understanding that each one deserves full attention, just as this one did for me and the team. For now I will celebrate this Tour of Qatar Gold jersey on my back, and I want to thank my teammates for making sure I took it home for the second straight season.”

2nd overall Maciej Bodnar (Tinkoff-Saxo): “It was absolutely a positive week. We didn’t take the win, but we showed that we’re a strong team. I would like to thank the rest of the squad for their job and effort, as they have worked really hard and consistently for six days. We could perhaps have done something different yesterday, but we didn’t do it in the split second, where the opportunity was there. That’s how it is, but I’m pretty confident that we will have the opportunity to take the win in important races during the season.”

6th overall and best young rider Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo): “It was my first race for my team Tinkoff-Saxo and I’m very happy with how the race went – except for my crash on stage 1 of course. I think it’s a good start to the season for me and also for the team in general. We are all very happy for the result Bodnar achieved”, evaluates Peter Sagan, who finished 2nd twice, 4th twice and won the white jersey. Actually I’m convinced that we could have won the GC with Bodnar. It was our fault that we didn’t put the hammer down in the final kilometers of stage 5. But we have many important races to come, so I see this is a good start with some promising signs.”

8th overall Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling): “I’m disappointed in this last sprint. Admittedly, I did not win a stage in the Tour of Qatar, but it’s all relative. The aim was also to prepare the group for the classics, and to learn to ride well as a team. We have been successful in that mission, and that is the most important thing. I am very happy with this team. There are of course things to review that we can do better, but that will all happen. Now this race is finished and I’ll go home, get some rest and then resume my training to be in good form for Paris-Nice.”

2nd on the stage Andrea Guardini (Astana): “From 3k Astana worked very good, but I started my sprint in the last 200m and with the headwind 200m was too early.”

5th on the stage Youcef Reguigui (MTN-Qhubaka): “Today was a super hard day, it was only 115km’s but it was fast. I am really happy with the team, they supported me all stage and kept me at the front of the bunch. I always had a teammate beside me the whole stage. In the last lap I was with Jaco, Gerald, Edvald and Kristian after Johann did some good work. So the whole team was there and that was why I could be in front. In the last kilometer we came from the back to the front at high speed. I just followed our wheels until I got to the wheels of Sagan and Bouhanni. I started sprinting at 400m to keep on the wheels but if I waited until 200m I could have finished on the podium. It’s okay though, I am happy about the team. Everybody rode together and we had a good understanding. If we continue to work like this MTN-Qhubeka can win some big races.”

Tour of Qatar Stage 6 Result:
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18 in 2:24:03
2. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
5. Youcef Reguigui (Alg) MTN-Qhubeka
6. Adam Blythe (GB) Orica-GreenEDGE
7. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx – Quick-Step
8. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
9. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek
10. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar.

Tour of Qatar Final Overall Result:
1. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx – Quick-Step in 17:36:48
2. Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:06
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha at 0:09
4. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky at 0:12
5. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC at 0:19
6. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:31
7. Luke Rowe (GB) Sky at 0:33
8. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling at 0:39
9. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
10. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana at 0:41.

The final stage 6:

header-murciaVuelta a Murcia 2015
Rein Taaramäe (Astana) solo’d the last 40 kilometers to the finish of the Tour of Murcia. He raised his arms in his first race wearing an Astana jersey. The best opening possible.

The twenty-seven year old Astana rider from Estonian attacked on the climb to Collado Bermejo and gained a lead of two and a half minutes and looked to have a certain victory. But Taaramäe suffered over those 40 kilometers and when he eventually crossed the finish line, he had just ten seconds over Bauke Mollema (Trek) and Zdenek Stybar (Etixx – Quick-Step).

A win at the end of the day and the first for him in his new team, teammate Luis León Sánchez controlled the peloton behind and finished 5th. After seven seasons in the Cofidis, Taaramäe signed with Astana and started off on the best foot.

His next race will be the Volta ao Algarve, which starts next week, and he will also be at the starting line of the Paris-Nice. Last year he seemed to wake up with a win at the Tour of Turkey and the Tour du Doubs Classic. We spoke to Rein Taaramäe earlier this year.

Race winner Rein Taaramäe (Astana): “At 2k to go I almost started crying – the group was getting closer and my legs were getting heavier.”

Vuelta a Murcia Result:
1. Rein Taaramäe (Est) Astana in 5:11:38
2. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek at 0:10
3. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick-Step
4. Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek
5. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana
6. Maciej Paterski (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
7. Tiago Machado (Por) Katusha
8. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.fr
9. Floris de Tier (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
10. Marco Canola (Ita) UnitedHealthcare.

Rein Taaramäe wins in Murcia:

header-almeriaClásica de Almería 2015
Mark Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step) showed he still has some form after his stage wins in San Luis and the Dubai Tour by sprinting to the victory in the Spanish Clásica de Almería one-day race.

As is normal in this race, an early break headed off up the road in the first 10 kilometers of the day. Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Romain Sicard (Europcar), Migel Angel Benito (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Arthur Van Overberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Unai Intziarte (Murias-Taldea) built up a maximum lead of five and a half minutes. Van Overberghe and Intziarte were dropped on the climb of El Chive and with 60 kilometers still to race Bardet, Sicard and Benito had just over 3 minutes with Etixx – Quick-Step, Katusha and Movistar chasing hard.

The fast pace split the peloton and fifty-eight riders gained a good lead on the chasers. There was a crash coming into the finish which took out MTN-Qhubeka’s Tyler Farrar and quite a few others, but Cavendish was well looked after by his teammates and avoided any problems. Mark Renshaw gave Cavendish the perfect lead out and was going so fast that only Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) could get pastRenshaw who finished third.

Race winner Mark Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step): “Yesterday I didn’t really feel good during the race at Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia, but today the team was really motivated. We started riding from kilometer zero. We were always in front, in the first 10 positions of the group the entire race. We also rode strong in the wind, and made the decision to break up the bunch in the crosswind after the last climb. With 30 kilometers to go Katusha and Movistar moved up to help us out, so the front group went full gas until the finish line. In the sprint Zdenek Stybar began the lead-out into the final 450 meters. Then Mark Renshaw led me out, and I was in his slipstream until 150 meters to go. By the time I went it was just a matter of finishing off the race for the win. It was perfect. I am super happy and proud about the way the team controlled the race the entire day. We are riding so united. You can see it not just here, but at Tour of Qatar where Niki Terpstra won the overall and they also won the team classification. Now we just need to keep up this team atmosphere and keep trying to win races.”

12th Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling): “I tried to sprint in the final to grab a bit of a result. The conditions were really great for riding today, super nice, so it was really enjoyable. Even if there was some wind on the course, it is a great way to get ready for the Ruta del Sol on Wednesday. I’m glad my sensations are so good after the long period of training.”

Clásica de Almería Result:
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Etixx – Quick-Step in 4:36:19
2. Juan Jose Lobato (Spa) Movistar
3. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Etixx – Quick-Step
4. Valeri Agnoli (Ita) Astana
5. Edward Theuns (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
6. Alexander Porsev (Rus) Katusha
7. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
8. Grega Bole (Slo) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
9. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
10. Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Katusha.

‘Cav’ takes Almería:

header-superprestige-leftSuperprestige Noordzeecross – Middelkerke 2015
The final round of the Superprestige cyclo-cross series in Middelkerke, Belgium was a hard fight between World champion Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games). In the end Pauwels won, but Van der Poel finished second and won the series by 1 point.

For most of the race Van der Poel seemed to have the upper hand riding off the front leaving a group of Pauwels, Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) and Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin) behind. With three laps to go Van der Poel was in the lead, but crashed in the sand and went over the handlebars hitting his private parts. While he recovered, Van der Poel was passed by Van Aert, Van der Haar and Pauwels. With less than two laps to go, Pauwels jumped away from Van der Poel and Van Aert by hopping over barriers and jumping the ditch. On the last lap it looked like Pauwels would be Superprestige winner as Van Aert was ahead of Van der Poel. But on the last lap Van Aert was in trouble and the World champion passed him to finish second and win Superprestige overall.

Van Aert was third with Lars van der Haar fourth. Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink) still isn’t at his old level, but did beat the Belgian champion Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games).

Race winner Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games): “It’s great that I was riding well but it’s too bad Wout wasn’t a tiny bit stronger. I kept an eye on them but saw that Mathieu had dropped Wout. It’s too bad but the win adds glamour to my season. It’s another big victory. Next year it will be even harder.”

2nd Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus): “It was very close but I’m very satisfied. I had to dig quite deep. I didn’t have a great day. A few times I created a gap but I twice got stuck in the sand, which cost me a lot of energy. The crash hurt my vital parts. It hurt a lot. When Kevin quickly created a gap and left Wout behind it was hard, also mentally. I bridged back up with Wout and gave everything I had in the final lap. With the barriers and the ditch I had a few more cards to play but in the end I was wasted.”

Superprestige Noordzeecross – Middelkerke Result:
1. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Napoleon Games
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) BKCP-Powerplus
3. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace
4. Lars van der Haar (Ned) Giant-Alpecin
5. Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea
6. Jens Adams (Bel) Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace
7. Sven Nys (Bel) Crelan-AA Drink
8. Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Napoleon Games
9. Vincent Baestaens (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
10. Tim Merlier (Bel) Sunweb-Napoleon Games.

Superprestige Final Overall:
1. Mathieu Van der Poel (Ned) BKCP – Powerplus 106 pts.
2. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb – Napoleon Games 105 pts.
3. Lars Van Der Haar (Ned) Giant-Alpecin 99 pts.

Superprestige Noordzeecross – Middelkerke:

header-oman15Tour of Oman 2015
Before the GC and Classics riders come to the fore, the sprinters will most likely get a chance to fight for a stage win, as stage 1 of 161 flat kilometers to Al Wutayah looks certain to end in a bunch sprint finish. Flat roads characterize the 195 kilometers of stage 2 to Al Bustan, but more difficult terrain awaits in the final 25km of the stage. Depending on the toughness of the race, the pure sprinters might not survive the last undulating part. Stage 3 again favors the sprinters, as the peloton endeavors on a flat circuit beginning and ending at the Al Mussanah Sports City.

Stage 4 is the pivotal point of Tour of Oman, as the race will be decided among the light climbers atop the Green Mountain at Jabal Al Akhdar. The finishing climb challenges the riders with 5.7km of 10.6% in average incline. Stage 5 again provides the opportunity to shake up whatever hasn’t been settled in the GC. The riders will climb the shorter Bousher Alamrat climb four times in the second part of the stage. Finally, Tour of Oman is concluded on stage 6 to Muttrah Promenade, which is inevitably set for a bunch sprint decision.

Tour d’Oman (Tuesday, February 17th – Sunday, February 22nd).
Tuesday, February 17th: Bayt Al Naman Castle – Al Wutayyah, 161 km
Wednesday, February 18th: Al Hazm Castle – Al Bustan, 195 km
Thursday, February 19th: Al Mussanah Sports City – Al Mussanah Sports City, 158 km
Friday, February 20th: Sultan Qaboos Grande Mosque – Green Mountain, 189 km
Saturday, February 21th: Al Sawadi Beach – Ministry of Housing, 151km
Sunday, February 22th: Oman Air – Matrah Corniche, 133 km.
Total length: 989 kilometers.

TOO15_generik_colorOK ssmer

header-MTN14-leftMTN-Qhubeka for the Tour of Oman
In another first for Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung, our African team will line-up at the Tour of Oman which takes place from 17 – 22 February. The UCI 2.HC event has become a favorite season opener for cycling’s grand tour contenders like 2 time winner Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and Joaquim Rodriguez. Froome will not defend the title he won in 2014 though.

The Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung riders that make up the Oman roster include Edvald Boasson Hagen who has twice finished 2nd overall at the Tour of Oman and picking up 2 stage wins along the way. Our new South African champion, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, and Louis Meintjes will provide our team with some good climbing options for the races queen stage which finishes up Green Mountain on stage 4. Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Matt Goss will be the riders for the fast finishes and Jaco Venter, Serge Pauwels and Youcef Reguigui will complement the remainder of the team.

The Tour of Oman route should throw up bunch sprints on Stages 1,2,3 and 6 although a number of opportunist would like to spoil the party. Stage 4 is the queen stage finishing atop Green Mountain, it is most likely that the General Classification will be decided here but stage 5’s undulating parcours will also make for some attacking riding especially if the time gaps are still small. Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung will look to feature prominently throughout the race, particularly as the team will have a card to play on each stage.

Jacques Janse van Rensburg – Rider: “The Tour of Oman is actually one of my goal races for the season. From the end of last year already it was a race I knew I wanted to perform well at. So in the last few weeks I’ve really been working hard on my explosive ability on the climbs to see if I can possibly get a result on the Green Mountain stage. Obviously if you are able to get a result on that stage than that should give you a good result on the GC, as long as you don’t lose any time on the sprint stages. So definitely that is the goal in Oman. Also to go there as the new South African champion will be a big honor and I am excited to show off the jersey in Oman and throughout the rest of the season in Europe as well. For the last couple of years I have wanted to be the South African champion and now that I am, I will head into Oman and the rest of the season with increased confidence.”

Jens Zemke – Head of Performance: “The Tour of Oman will be another race which will see our jerseys for the first time. Jacques Janse Van Rensburg will race for the first time in the S.A. champ colors too. He will have a strong team around him with our fast boys Goss, Boasson Hagen and Van Rensburg. The team will change 5 riders from the Qatar team after Theo Bos’ crash. Tour of Oman is a really beautiful race with lots of high profile athletes on the start and we are proud to be part of it.”


header-etixx-qr15Etixx – Quick-Step team to Oman
The 2015 edition of Tour of Oman is a 989km stage race, which includes four stages that favor the sprint. Stage 4, 189km in distance, will likely be the biggest deciding factor in the GC as it starts at Sultan Qaboos Grande Mosque and finishes on Green Mountain (5.7km, 10.5%). Rigoberto Uran was 3rd in the GC in 2014. There is also 151.5km medium mountain stage 5, which includes varying ascents in distance of The Climb of Bousher Al Amerat (8.8% and 6.8% in the varying ascents) four times.

“For the Tour of Oman we ride almost with the same team as Tour of Qatar with only Martin Velits getting replaced by Pieter Serry,” Sport Director Wilfried Peeters said. “Tour of Oman has a different scenery than Tour of Qatar, which was all about flat stages and really windy. In Oman it’s more uphill, and the finish of these stages will be pretty hard. Here you need more power and good climbing skills. For the classification we have Pieter Serry, who’s coming back into competition after early season races in Australia. We have a few chances for bunch sprints, and in those kinds of finishes we will try with Tom Boonen. We have a really good team here with Niki, Matteo, and the others. After the good results at Tour of Qatar the team is ready to come here and do their best once again.”

“I like Oman, it’s very beautiful here,” Boonen said. “After eating all the sand in Qatar, at a race I love, it’s nice to come here and have a change of scenery with a little less wind. Tour of Oman is a bit more difficult with the climbs, but I will definitely try to go and win a stage when there is an opportunity.”

Tom Boonen (BEL), Iljo Keisse (BEL), Nikolas Maes (BEL), Pieter Serry (BEL), Niki Terpstra (NED), Matteo Trentin (ITA), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL), Stijn Vandenbergh (BEL).
Sports Director Wilfried Peeters (BEL).

Tom Boonen for Oman:
2014 Ronde Van Vlaanderen Recon - OPQS

header-tinkoffsaxo14-leftTinkoff-Saxo to Oman
Tinkoff-Saxo joins the clash between grand tour favorites and classics riders at Tour of Oman, the third and final Middle Eastern race of the early season covering six stages. Tinkoff-Saxo is looking to reap the benefits from a thorough early season build-up as the strong squad aims for both GC and stage wins in the bumpy desert of Oman.

Proven climber and stage-race talent Rafal Majka will lead the team’s efforts in the general classification, while Peter Sagan, will aim for stage wins coming straight off the back of Tour of Qatar. The prominent squad is completed by Daniele Bennati, Matti Breschel, Roman Kreuziger, Edward Beltran, Ivan Rovny and Pawel Poljanski.

“We’re sending a strong team to Oman with some big names on the roster. Rafal Majka will be our team captain aiming for at least the top-5 in the GC. Sagan has shown in Qatar that he’s, where he should be at this time of the season, and he’ll be targeting stage wins. We have some hilly stages in Oman that will suit him better than the pancake flat sprinter stages in the Qatari desert”, says Sean Yates, the team’s sport director at Tour of Oman, who is leading his first race for Tinkoff-Saxo.

“I’m truly excited about this race. I’ve been away from World Tour cycling for a couple of years, so it’s great to be back in the fold – especially on an ambitious team with some serious contenders. I’ve seen how people work together in this team and combined with the key players we have, also here in Oman, makes it exciting”.

Clash of favorites
Tour of Oman has become one of the first meetings between major stage-race favorites and riders aiming for the cobbled classics. Oman presents the peloton with a versatile route featuring flat sprinter’s stages, days in hilly terrain and the traditional stage to Green Mountain featuring a 5.7km climb of 10.6 percent. Sean Yates is certain that this is where the climbers will decide, who wins the race.

“The GC will be decided on stage four, as 5.7 kilometers of 10.6 percent is undoubtedly enough to shake things up. It’s an important year for Rafal to continue building his career and to improve on the great results he had last year. It’s early in the season, so there’s no reason to get carried away. But he has shown good signs at our training camps and it will be an important test against the likes of Nibali, Rodriguez and Valverde”, comments Sean Yates.

Rafal Majka returns to racing after a winter season of multiple training camps. And the 25-year old Pole is ready to take on the role as team captain.

“I’m really excited to begin the season and to be racing with my teammates. I think we have a very strong team for Oman and it’s a privilege to have this kind of support from big riders like Bennati, Kreuziger and Breschel”, tells Rafal Majka. “My goal is right on top of Green Mountain. Of course, it’s my first race of the season, so it’s impossible to know exactly where I am but I have a good feeling”.

Rafal’s co-captain Peter Sagan has already seen action at the Tour of Qatar, where the Slovak conquered the white jersey in his first race for Tinkoff-Saxo. He’s now on the lookout for stage wins in Oman

“I’m ready for Oman. I had a good build up in Qatar and now it’s important for me to recover from my efforts, as it was really windy with some tough stages. It will for sure become a very exciting race with some interesting stage profiles”, comments Sagan, whose big aim of the season is the cobbled classics in March and April.


header-bmc15-rosterBMC team for the Tour of Oman
Rider Roster:
Damiano Caruso (ITA), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Ben Hermans (BEL), Michael Schär (SUI), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Tejay van Garderen (USA), Peter Velits (SVK).
Sport Director: Valerio Piva (ITA).


header-sky-leftSky team for the Tour of Oman
Philip Deignan, Nathan Earle, Christian Knees, Leopold König, David Lopez, Danny Pate, Wout Poels, Chris Sutton.

Philip Deignan to lead Sky in Oman
Santos Tour Down Under stage-3

header-iamcyclingIAM Cycling in Oman
Moving from one desert to another, from one atmosphere to another, the riders will not be facing the echelons and mass sprints of the Tour of Qatar, but rather the more selective routes and mountains at the Tour of Oman. And since this race offers multiple opportunities for the sprinters and climbers both to shine, the IAM Cycling team has come with clear ambitions. “IAM Cycling’s targets for the Tour of Oman are similar to those we had for Qatar, which are to give the riders good races to ramp up for the season, but also to chalk up some top results,” explained Jonas Van Genechten.

For this, IAM Cycling has fielded a squad capable of fighting on all fronts. “We have three cards to play at the Tour of Oman,” the Belgian rider added. “We’ll come with Mathias Frank for the mountains, and in terms of the sprints, the team can rely on Matteo Pelucchi and me. For Mathias, he won’t have too much pressure on him to perform just yet, but personally, I really hope to do well. I know that Oman will suit me better since it is a course fit for rouleurs and is a bit more selective. I think that with the work done at the Tour of Qatar and then a little rest, I will be in good condition. And I am sure that Matteo and I will be able to work very well together on the team; it will not be a problem. I am expected to work for him, but I know that I will also be getting my own chances if he has less of a shot.”

Marcel Aregger (S), Matthias Brändle (Aut), Dries Devenyns (Bel), Martin Elmiger (S), Mathias Frank (S), Reto Hollenstein (S), Matteo Pelucchi (It), Jonas Van Genechten (Bel).
Directeur Sportif: Eddy Seigneur.

Ex-Hour Record holder Mattias Brändle to ride in Oman

header-katusha15Kristoff and Rodriguez lead Team Katusha in Oman
The Russian WorldTour Team Katusha will close its trip around the Middle East with another prestigious stage race, the Tour of Oman, which will be held from February 17th to 22nd. Alexander Kristoff, who won three stages in the recently ended Tour of Qatar, and Joaquim Rodriguez will lead Team Katusha in Oman.

The full Katusha’s roster:
Jacopo Guarnieri, Marco Haller, Vladimir Isaychev, Alexander Kristoff, Daniel Moreno, Luca Paolini, Joaquim Rodriguez and Gatis Smukulis.
Sports director: Torsten Schmidt.

Alexander Kristoff is on a winning streak:
Cycling: 14th Tour of Qatar 2015 / Stage 2

header-rutadelsol-leftRuta del Sol 2015
Date: 18-02-2015 to 22-02-2015. UCI 2.1.
Website: www.vueltaandalucia.es/

Stage 1a – La Rábida › Hinojos (121.3k)
Stage 1b (ITT) – Coria del Río › Coria del Río (8.2k)
Stage 2 – Utrera › Lucena (194.7k)
Stage 3 – Motril › Alto de Hazallanas (159.8k)
Stage 4 – Maracena › Alto de Allanadas (202.4k)
Stage 5 – Montilla › Alhaurín de la Torre (170.9k).

Ruta del Sol video route:

header-lottosoudal15Lotto Soudal to Ruta del Sol
On Wednesday 18th February the Vuelta Ciclista a Andalucía starts, a five-day Spanish stage race also known as the Ruta del Sol. It’s the first race of the season for Jurgen Van den Broeck, who finished second overall two years ago.

Two summit finishes
On the first day of the Ruta del Sol two stages are scheduled. First there’s a stage of 118.3 kilometres, then a time trial of 8.2 kilometres. There are two short hills in the time trial in Coria del Río. In the second stage, on Thursday, the riders go from Utrera to Lucena. The stage is mainly flat but at nine kilometres from the finish there’s a climb of third category which can cause a split in the peloton. On the third day it’s the first summit finish. There are two climbs of first and second category on the route. The strongest riders can make the difference on the Alto de Hazallanas, a 7.3 kilometres long climb. Also the next day there’s a serious amount of climbing to do. After three climbs of third category the finish lies on top of the Alto de Allanadas. It’s a steep climb of 5.4 kilometres with a maximal gradient of 21%. On Sunday the riders go to Alhaurín de la Torre where they can sprint for the victory.

Help in the final
Louis Vervaeke: “We start with a strong team. Pim Ligthart won the GP la Marseillaise and was really strong in the Etoile de Bessèges, just like Maxime Monfort. Tim Wellens proved on the third day of the Challenge Mallorca that he’s in good shape. We have several riders that can battle for a stage win and a good GC. I will try to support them, because I feel the condition is good. I should be able to ride the final to help them. Who knows I can join a breakaway in one of the stages.”

Perfect preparation
“At the end of January I rode my first races for Lotto Soudal, in the Challenge Mallorca. It is my first full season in the pro peloton, so it’s exciting. I had a perfect winter, I didn’t have to skip any training. The first training camps with the team were great and then I trained four days in Álora, close to Málaga, together with Tim Wellens and Sean De Bie. A perfect preparation, but it’s always waiting to see how the first races go.”

Selection Lotto Soudal:
Bart De Clercq, Pim Ligthart, Maxime Monfort, Jurgen Van den Broeck, Jelle Vanendert, Louis Vervaeke and Tim Wellens.
Sports directors: Bart Leysen and Marc Wauters.

Jurgen Van den Broeck:

header-giantalp15Giant-Alpecin to the Ruta del Sol
Team Giant-Alpecin continues its period of racing in Spain this week at the five day, six stage Ruta Del Sol in Andalucia. The race features a series of tough stages that overall favour the lighter climbers, but the race offers various different opportunities.

The opening day sees the riders take on two stages, first a 121km road stage that features an uphill rise to the finish, and this is followed by a short, 8.2km individual time trial in the afternoon.

The following stages feature two uphill finishes, a tough puncheur’s stage, and finally another potential power-sprint stage to finish.

Simon Geschke (GER) and Koen De Kort (NED) return to racing after training periods following the Tour Down Under in January, while the other five riders come to the race from the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia this past weekend.

“For Andalucia we continue with the objective of racing aggressively, but also to work on getting back into the mindset and rhythm of racing as a team,” explained coach Christian Guiberteau (FRA).

“We will target stages here, and there are different opportunities for our team. The early time trial will be a good test for Tobias, while there should be some possible sprint opportunities with John and we will need to study the uphill stage finishes to make the best plan here.

“In the mountains I think that Daan can target a stage and test himself along with the support of the others. It is still early in the season though and so there’s not any immediate pressure on results in a race like this one.”

John Degenkolb (GER), Caleb Fairly (USA), Johannes Fröhlinger (GER), Simon Geschke (GER), Koen De Kort (NED), Tobias Ludvigsson (SWE), Daan Olivier (NED).
Coach: Christian Guiberteau (FRA).

John Degenkolb to ride the Ruta del Sol:
Tour of Spain 2014 stage - 12

header_movistar-leftMovistar to the Ruta del Sol
Movistar Team’s two Andalusians, Moreno and Lobato, to lead the telephone squad at the Ruta del Sol; Quintana continues recovery after crash in Colombian RR, will head back to Europe in March. While a group led by Alejandro Valverde continues with their Gulf tournee with the Tour of Oman -starting on Tuesday- and another roster heads into the Volta ao Algarve, Movistar Team will focus many of its efforts in the 61st Vuelta a Andalucía – Ruta del Sol, over six stages including a double sector on Wednesday 18 and finishing at Alhaurín, Malaga, on Sunday, February 22.

Two mountain-top finishes -Haza Llana (stage 3, Friday 20) and the Allanadas (La Guardia de Jaén, st. 4, Saturday 21)- plus a tough final kick on day five will gather all attention together with the 8.2km ITT in Coria del Río, during the afternoon leg of stage one. Lots of tricks will also be hidden into a course where Movistar Team will line up its two locals: Juanjo Lobato and Javi Moreno. The solid Blue roster in Spain will be completed by Beñat Intxausti, Gorka Izagirre, Eros Capecchi, Giovanni Visconti and José Herrada.

Nairo Quintana, originally scheduled to ride, continues to recover from the blows and bruises caused by a crash at the end of last Sunday’s Colombian Championships road race, which have advised on a delay to his return to racing. His next stagerace will be Tirreno-Adriatico, in mid March.

Juanjo Lobato:
Tour Down Under 2015

header-sky-leftSky team for the Ruta del Sol
Chris Froome, Peter Kennaugh, Vasil Kiryienka, Mikel Nieve, Nicolas Roche, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Xabier Zandio.

Chris Froome to the Ruta del Sol:
Tour of Spain - Stage 5

header-europcar15-leftEuropcar team for the Ruta del Sol
Jimmy Engoulvent, Cyril Gautier, Fabrice Jeandesboz, Vincent Jerome, Maxime Mederel, Pierre Rolland, Romain Sicard.
Directeur Sportif: Lylian Lebreton.

Cyril Gautier:

header-MTN14-leftMTN-Qhubeka at the Ruta del Sol
While part of Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung will be racing in Oman this week, another part of the team will head to the Spanish Ruta del Sol as well. The Ruta del Sol runs from 18-22 February and incorporates 6 stages over the 5 days, the opening day consists of a morning road stage and an afternoon time trial.

Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung happily return to the Ruta del Sol this year after picking up a stage victory at last year’s edition of the race through Gerald Ciolek. This year Gerald will not be racing but Tyler Farrar will be our sprinting option for the Ruta del Sol. Tyler has shown some good early season form and will be looking to open his win account for the year, this week.

Tyler will be able to count on support from Matt Brammeier, Nic Dougall, Songezo Jim and Jay Thomson. Steve Cummings could find the short lumpy stage 1B individual time trial to his liking and Merhawi Kudus will certainly be targeting the stage 3 and 4 mountaintop finishes.

With a well-rounded team, MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung head into the racing this week with much confidence. The race startlist includes some of the biggest names which will be starting the Tour de France this year as well, so it will be good early season gauge of where our competitors are before our debut Grand Depart in July.

Merhawi Kudus – Rider
I am feeling good after the African champs in South Africa and I look forward to my next appointment in Europe. There are some options for me in this race so I will see if I can get a decent result on one of the stages.

Alex Sans Vega – Sports Director
We have brought a well balanced team to this race with Farrar for the sprints, Cummings for the TT and Kudus for the 2 climbing stages, where he will have the opportunity to race against the big names of Froome and Contador.


header-wanty-leftWanty-Goupe-Gobert to the Ruta del Sol
The last seven riders of the 21-rider Wanty-Groupe Gobert 2015 team take part in the Ruta del Sol. This five-day stage race in the south of Spain sees some strong riders on the start list including several Grand Tour winners.

“The Ruta del Sol is the perfect race to start the season with. There are stages for sprinters, a time trial and uphill finishes. All our riders make their season debut in this race. Therefore the main goal is to get some kilometers in the legs in a race situation,” sports director Jean-Marc Rossignon says.

For Enrico Gaspararotto the Ruta del Sol is the start of the build-up towards the Ardennes Classics in April. The Italian has spent a lot of time on the Teide, Tenerife to train this winter. Furthermore Rossignon counts on Danilo Napolitano for the sprints and a good result for Jan Ghyselinck in the time trial.

“Minnaard, Eijssen, De Greef and Selvaggi should do well in the overall classification. The first day things will be clearer with a nervous short stage in the morning and a time trial in the afternoon. After that we’ll define our tactics further. The Ruta del Sol is a hard race with strong riders like Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana on the start list. But Wanty-Groupe Gobert is there to show themselves and not only to ride along.”


header-tinkoffsaxo14-leftBasso to get Tinkoff-Saxo debut at Ruta del Sol in support of team captain Contador
Tinkoff-Saxo’s first European race of 2015 is imminent, as the team is gearing up for this season’s beefed up, mountainous edition of Vuelta a Andalucía Ruta Ciclista del Sol starting Wednesday in southern Spain. Ruta del Sol features one of the toughest routes of the early season and will produce a six-stage clash between several Grand Tour favorites including Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador.

DS Steven de Jongh, who will direct Tinkoff-Saxo’s Andalusian campaign, tells it’s no secret that the team will be looking for success in the GC.

“We look forward to the first race of the year for Alberto and we definitely aim at a top spot in the GC. Tinkoff-Saxo goes to Ruta del Sol with that goal. Alberto is ambitious about this race and wants a good start in a season in which he has very high ambitions. The goal is to have a squad with good teamwork and I feel confident we can achieve this”, says Steven de Jongh, who is backed by his Spanish captain:

“After many training passes, I want to compete, which is essentially what I like. I’m focused on the Giro and Tour, which will be a big challenge, but I look forward to Ruta del Sol and to compete with Chris Froome, who is one of my biggest rivals. I have to see how advanced he is in his preparations, but it’s nice with an early battle, because cycling needs these clashes”, comments Alberto Contador.

Contador will lead a strong group consisting of Ivan Basso, Jesús Hernandez, Sergio Paulinho, Evgeny Petrov, Matteo Tosatto and Michael Valgren.

Route favors the climbers
Ruta del Sol is characterized by being a race for the climbers, and this year’s exceptionally difficult edition is no different. The riders will tackle two mountain stages, one on stage 3 to Alto Hazallanas with a 16.7km finishing climb and again on stage 4, where the specialists will fight on the final, steep 5km climb to Alto de Allanadas.

However, the GC favorites will already compete on the first day of the race, as the split stage 1B brings a short, highly technical time trial of 8.2 kilometers.

“Out of the race’s six stages, three will be decisive for the GC: the time trial and the mountain stages on day 3 and 4 with uphill finishes. We know it’s going to be an exciting and challenging race, as we have some strong opponents including Chris Froome”, comments Steven de Jongh.

Basso excited about debut
For Ivan Basso, Ruta del Sol will not only be the first race of the season but his debut race in the Tinkoff-Saxo colors. He’s dedicated to perform his best in support of team captain Alberto Contador.

“Since the moment I joined Tinkoff-Saxo, my ambition has been to reach the start of the season with all forces available to provide my best for the team. I’m very happy to kick off the season by the side of our extraordinay captain, Alberto Contador. I think we are at a very good level right now, as a group, and personally I feel very well”, says Ivan Basso and continues:

“I am convinced we have given our best this winter. We’ve given thorough attention to every detail and I think these efforts will pay off. I feel ready to take up the challenge and help Albert to reach the goal we have in Ruta del Sol, which is basically to win”.

“Ivan Basso will make his debut for Tinkoff-Saxo at Ruta del Sol. The goal for Ivan here in Andalucía is to be a valuable domestique for Alberto and contribute towards our overall target. Ivan didn’t have a very good season in 2014, since he wasn’t in top shape. However, he has been putting in a strong effort during the last few months and has been training very hard. I feel confident he’s in a form to perform well”, finishes de Jongh.

For Basso, Contador, Hernandez and Paulinho Ruta del Sol will mark the start of the racing season, while Valgren, Petrov and Tosatto have already seen action in Dubai. Ruta del Sol starts Wednesday with two split stages.


header-iamcyclingIAM Cycling team for the Ruta del Sol
While part of the IAM Cycling team will be racing in Oman, another group from the Swiss Professional team will also be racing in the heat, but this time in Spain. Over the roads of the Ruta del Sol, which will see climbs reaching 18% and 21% gradients, the riders from Michel Thétaz’s team will face some of the best cyclists in the world. Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, and John Degenkolb will be among them. IAM Cycling certainly intends to field a top quality team as well. “We have big goals for this race, and to accomplish them we have a strong team,” Jérôme Pineau said in anticipation. “Sylvain Chavanel wants to win the time trial, and he has had that on his radar for a while. Then for the mountains we have Jérôme Coppel and Sébastien Reichenbach to chase after the general classification. I was just talking with Sébastien on the phone, and he is in good shape. To resume racing after the break, we’ll immediately need to attack two or three very difficult stages. But these are the types of climbs that Sébastien really likes. And it is the start of the season for everyone, so all the riders are bound to come with ambitions. Over the days, we will see how it unfolds. But we are also coming here to build up the sense of the team community, and then the results will naturally follow.”

In any case, the IAM Cycling team is not about to rest on their laurels or just show up to the event, even if the season is just beginning. “I’m not just thinking about this race in terms of preparing for the Classics,” Pineau added. “We want to come here and race with a purpose. We’ve been three or four months at home, kenneled you might say, so now we are really ready to get some serious racing. We are definitely going to be tested, each one will see what his level is. For some of us, we’ll be testing our form and seeing what the response is, while others will be making the race. But we are certainly not here just to make up the pack fodder. Each race is important. Everyone wears a jersey, pins on a number, and so I don’t think that the riders come here simply to prepare for future races; it would be wrong to do so. For myself, I always want to race. My recovery went well, I feel fit, so I will be very present in my role as teammate and road captain.”

Sylvain Chavanel (Fr), Jérôme Coppel (Fr), Pirmin Lang (S), Jérôme Pineau (Fr), Sébastien Reichenbach (S), Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat), Marcel Wyss (S).
Directeurs sportif: Kjell Carlström and Mario Chiesa.

Chavanel wants to win the time trial:
Paris-Nice stage-5

header-colombia15Team Colombia-Coldeportes is heading to Andalucia
The Escarabajos want to prove themselves in Vuelta a Andalucia-Ruta del Sol with a very strong line-up

After racing the Étoile de Bessèges and the Gran Premio Costa degli Etruschi last week, Team Colombia-Coldeportes is ready for one of Spain’s biggest stage races, the Vuelta a Andalucia-Ruta del Sol. Here, the team’s cyclists will ride against the likes of Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador, who won two of the previous season’s Grand Tours, but also Chris Froome, Wilco Kelderman and Jurgen van den Broeck, who will kick-off their 2015 campaign on February 18th.

Team Colombia-Coldeportes will go to Spain next week with a very strong line-up, including Alex Cano – making his pro European debut, after establishing as a major stage race presence in Colombia for years – Fabio Duarte, and Rodolfo Torres, the 27-year-old who finished 2nd at the Tour de San Luis, as well as winning the mountain classification along the way.

The Andalusian race will start with two half-stages, but the team guided by Sports Director Oscar Pellicioli will have its targets later in the week, when the peloton will go up on the Alto de Hazallanas (stage 3) and Alto de Allanadas (stage 4), both climbs coming at the end of the day. Team Colombia-Coldeportes – which in Spain will also make its debut this season in World Tour’s Volta a Catalunya in March – will be keen to have its riders at the front and amongst the protagonists in the two mountain stages, knowing that a strong performance in the Ruta del Sol could also work in their favor in the Vuelta a España wild card bid.

“It is still early season, but we head to Andalusia looking to show out and follow up to our strong performance at the Tour de San Luis” – general manager Claudio Corti explained. “The level will be very high, and we picked a strong line-up to rise up to the challenge. The fact that we race in Spain and we are in the run for the Vuelta a España only increases our motivation.”

Vuelta Andalucia – Ruta del Sol (February 18th – 22nd).
Alex Cano, Edward Diaz, Fabio Duarte, Carlos Julian Quintero, Miguel Angel Rubiano, Rodolfo Torres, Juan Pablo Valencia.
Sports Director: Oscar Pellicioli.

Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rubiano:

header-algarve15Volta ao Algarve 2015

Stage 1: Wednesday, February 18: 167 km Lagos to Albufeira.
Stage 2: Thursday, February 19: 197 km Lagoa to Monchique
Stage 3: Friday, February 20: 19 km Vila do Bispo to Cabo de São Vicente
Stage 4: Saturday, February 21: 216 km Tavira to Malhão
Stage 5: Sunday, February 22: 184 km Almodôvar to Vilamoura.
Total Distance: 783 km.

Website: https://voltaaoalgarve.com/en/

Volta ao Algarve 2014 stage 2:

header-lottonl-jumboleftLottoNL-Jumbo with ambitions in Algarve
Team LottoNL-Jumbo is full of ambitions for the Volta ao Algarve next week, but
will not put its riders under pressure to perform. Sports Director Nico Verhoeven wants his team in Portugal to work towards bigger races later in the season.

“We will try to win a stage,” said Verhoeven, “but the important thing is that we start the season well.”

He has already set his sights on the season’s first big races. The Belgian opening weekend, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, marks the beginning of a series of important races. “Our classic riders need to build rhythm ahead of those races. Tom Van Asbroeck, Paul Martens and Robert Wagner are fast. They’re allowed to get in the mix in the sprints in the Algarve.

Robert Gesink and Kevin De Weert are at an altitude training camp in Tenerife, Spain. “We are curious to how they are doing in Portugal,” Verhoeven said.

“The Algarve is my first race of the season after a long and hectic winter,” said Gesink. “For me, it’s not a race that I’ll score in. My priority is to form a foundation for a good season. “So far, during the training sessions, things are going my way. This is my first training camp with the team this year, but I don’t feel like I’m any less than the others at the moment.”

Verhoeven rates the Volta ao Algarve as a beautiful race. “The course is very diverse. There are two uphill finishes and two sprint stages. There is also a 19-kilometer time trial. Above all, it is a race with many kilometers and a nice start ahead of the bigger ones.”

Team line-up:
Tom Van Asbroeck, Robert Gesink, Paul Martens, Bram Tankink, Sep Vanmarcke, Robert Wagner, Kevin De Weert and Maarten Wynants.
Sports Director: Nico Verhoeven.


header-lottosoudal15Lotto-Soudal to Volta ao Algarve:
In the run-up to the classics Lotto Soudal is racing in the southern part of Europe. While a team of seven will ride the Ruta del Sol, eight others will take part in the Volta ao Algarve from Wednesday 18th until Sunday 22nd February. The Algarve is a region in the south of Portugal.

Two opportunities for the sprinters
There are two sprint opportunities in the Volta ao Algarve: the first and final stage. Apart from that there are two tougher stages and a time trial. That time trial, nineteen kilometers long, is scheduled on Friday. The last five kilometers are slightly uphill.

Two tough stages
Thursday the riders have to climb in the final, with two official climbs of third category. Between those two KOM points, spread over a distance of 55 kilometers, it goes up and down all the time. The second KOM lies at 5.4 kilometers from the finish. The last straight line is downhill.

The penultimate stage will be the toughest. The Alto do Malhão will play a crucial role. It’s on this climb of second category that the finish line is drawn. After a first passage the peloton has to cover just over forty kilometers. There’s a climb of third category before the final ascent of the Alto de Malhão, where the riders can battle for the stage win.

Tony Gallopin: the man for GC
Herman Frison, sports director: “We aim for a stage win and a good overall classification. Tony Gallopin is our man for the GC. In the Etoile de Bessèges Tony proved that he had a good winter, just like the others, so he can set a good result in Algarve as well. Tony rode a strong time trial in Bessèges, the course in Algarve has to suit him as well. Together with the stages of Thursday and Saturday the time trial will be one of the decisive days for GC. Of course Tony could win a stage as well.”

Ride offensively
“In theory there are two opportunities for the sprinters. We can count on Jens Debusschere, André Greipel, Jürgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg in that case. We do want to race offensively and Tiesj Benoot, Stig Broeckx and Sean De Bie can do that. It’s always good to have a man in the front group and if the break makes it, they can finish it off.”

Different start
“This season we chose to race less in the beginning of the year. We didn’t go to the Tour of Qatar or Tour of Oman and André Greipel and Jürgen Roelandts didn’t ride the Tour Down Under. Until now it turns out well, but we can only make an evaluation after the spring classics. Those three victories are great. We couldn’t have started any better.”

Selection Lotto Soudal:
Tiesj Benoot, Stig Broeckx, Sean De Bie, Jens Debusschere, Tony Gallopin, André Greipel, Jürgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg.
Sports directors: Herman Frison and Kurt Van de Wouwer.

Tony Galopin:
Criterium Dauphine Libere 2014  stage -4

header-wanty-leftWanty-Groupe Gobert to Algarve
The team that already did GP Marseillaise and Etoile de Bessèges travels to the south of Portugal for the Volta ao Algarve which starts Wednesday 18 February.

“The team that rides Algarve is roughly the same as the team for Omloop het Nieuwsblad,” sports director Hilaire Van Der Schueren says. “The stages in Portugal are longer and that is important in these early stages of the season.”

“There is a time trial and we don’t have any specialists. I therefore don’t travel to Portugal with ambitions for the overall classification,” Van Der Schueren continues. “The first and last stages offer possibilities for the sprinters. We’d like to see how far we get with Roy Jans.”

“I want to show myself as best as I can in the stages where we’ll probably have a sprint. There I want to see how far I stand against sprinters like Greipel. Our sprint train with Dron, Van Melsen, Antonini, Leukemans and Marcato needs to gain experience and get used to each other. In Bessèges we did well and were very strong,” the winner of the second stage in the French stage race concludes.


header-katusha15Team Katusha goes to Portugal
Team Katusha goes to Portugal to take part in the 2.1 stage race Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta, which will be held from February 18th to 22nd.

The race consists of 5 stages, including one stage with uphill finish and an individual time trial of 19 km.

The team’s line-up for the race: Sergei Chernetckii, Alexander Kolobnev, Alberto Losada, Tiago Machado, Aleksandr Porsev, Rudi Selig, Iurii Trofimov and Anton Vorobyev.
Sports directors are: José Azevedo and Claudio Cozzi.

Home race for Tiago Machado:

header-etixx-qr15Etixx – Quick-Step team in Portugal
Volta ao Algarve, 796.7km in distance, is an up-and-down race every stage. There is an undulating 19km ITT at Stage 3, from Vila do Bispo to Cabo de Sao Vicente. UCI World Road Champion Michal Kwiatkowski makes his return as defending champion, and having also placed 2nd in the 2013 edition.

“I think I came to Algarve every year since I’ve been a professional,” Kwiatkowski said. “This is a well organized race, with good stages, good weather, and a short time trial. So it is good to race here. As for me, this race will be another step towards the first big appointments of my season. After Tour de San Luis I had three good weeks of training in Calpe, and everything is going as expected. But of course as the last winner of the race I will try to do my best to be in the actions maybe a few times. But in any case here we have a great team with Tony Martin, Gianni Meersman, and Zdenek Stybar for example. They are all good riders. The team is also in a good mood after nine road victories after only the very beginning of the season. Let’s see what we can do, but as a team we will try to make a mark also in Algarve.”

Michal Golas (POL), Michal Kwiatkowski (POL), Yves Lampaert (BEL), Tony Martin (GER), Gianni Meersman (BEL), Zdenek Stybar (CZE), Petr Vakoc (CZE), Julien Vermote (BEL).
Sports Director: Jan Schaffrath (GER) & Tom Steels (BEL).

World champion Michal Kwiatkowski will be at the Volta ao Algarve:

header-sky-leftSky team for the Volta a Algarve
Ian Boswell, Andy Fenn, Sebastian Henao, Lars Petter Nordhaug, Richie Porte, Salvatore Puccio, Ben Swift, Geraint Thomas.

Richie Porte to lead Sky in Portugal:

header-rvvBORA-Argon 18 & MTN-Qhubeka receive Tour of Flanders ‘Wildcard’
The Ronde van Vlaanderen, or if you are Belgian: The (unofficial) World championships, has announced the ‘Wildcard’ teams for the 2015 edition. Bora-Argon 18 and MTN-Qhubeka have had the call along with: Androni-Giocattoli, Team Roompot, Cofidis, Europcar, Wanty-Groupe Gobert and Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise. The 99th Ronde van Vlaanderen will be held on the 5th of April 2015 and is 264.2 kilometers in length.

The race website:https://www.rondevanvlaanderen.be/en

The 2015 Ronde course:

header-bora-agon18BORA – ARGON 18 receives wildcard for the Tour of Flanders
The German cycling team BORA – ARGON 18 has secured the coveted wildcard to the 99th edition of the Tour of Flanders. Manager Ralph Denk’s team will therefore be tackling the biggest Belgian classic for the fourth year in a row. The “Ronde” is one of the five monuments on the cycling calendar. BORA – ARGON 18 has already been invited to compete in three of them (Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Il Lombardia).

“The Belgian classics season starts in two weeks, and the invitation is thus extremely motivating. In recent years, we completed the Tour of Flanders in about 30th place. We expect to do significantly better this year. The team’s experience from competing in the Tour of Flanders three times, and countless smaller classics on the same roads are sure to pay off,” says Ralph Denk, Team Manager of BORA – ARGON 18.

This year’s Tour of Flanders will take place on Easter Sunday, April 5. After the traditional start on the market square in Bruges, the team will have to cover 265 kilometers before crossing the finishing line in Oudenaarde. The profile includes 19 infamous hellinge, including ten climbs over cobblestones.

The organizer of the Tour of Flanders already invited the team to compete in the WorldTour classic Gent-Wevelgem last week. The German team can thus already look forward to forty racing days in the highest category.

Jan Barta (Netapp-Endura) in the 2014 Ronde, he should be in the BORA-Argon 18 line up:
Ronde van Vlaanderen  2014

header-MTN14-leftMTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung Return to Tour of Flanders
Yesterday the organizers of the Tour of Flanders announced the 8 wildcard teams for the 2015 edition of the race. Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung are delighted to have received an invitation for a second year in succession.

The 264.2km monument, known as the Ronde van Vlaanderen, is the darling race of the Belgian classics. Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung rider, Tyler Farrar, is particularly excited at our teams inclusion in the race. “The Tour of Flanders is probably my favorite race in the whole world and it is the ultimate Flemish classic. It has everything in it, cobblestones, the short steep climbs, small roads and sometimes bad weather. It’s the quintessential Belgian classic and with MTN-Qhubeka getting into the race it is a fantastic stepping stone for us. I look forward to going there to race for the victory.”

The “Ronde” takes place on the 5th of April this year and MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung will be sure to send a strong line-up that will make an earnest challenge for the title. With 19 climbs on route, including 3 ascents of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, MTN-Qhubeka are set to light up the race. Along with Tyler, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Matt Goss, Gerald Ciolek, Kristian Sbaragli, Youcef Reguigui, Matt Brammeier and Jay Thomson have also all had the Tour of Flanders pencilled into their calendars since the start of the year.

“The Tour of Flanders is the pinnacle of the Belgian classics. I have raced the last 2 editions of the race and I’m really glad to be going back this year with MTN-Qhubeka, I love the race. Belgium is cycling mad and it’s going to be great to go there and show off our stripes to the passionate fans,” comments Reinardt.

Along with the 17 World Tour teams, Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung will line-up alongside fellow wildcard recipients Bora-Argon 18, Androni-Giocattoli, Team Roompot, Cofidis, Europcar, Wanty-Groupe Gobert and Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise.


BritishCycling(CMYK)British Cycling National Track Championships
This is a great little video about the British Cycling National track championships with behind the scenes shots from the Manchester Velodrome. The facilities look out of this World, but that must be what you need to be one of the top track countries.

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