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Breda - Netherlands - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Tim Kerkhof (Orange Cycling Team Roompot) shows his bike with disc brakes pictured during Stage -2 ENECO Tour 2015 from Breda to Breda, the Nerherlands - photo Davy Rietbergen/Cor Vos © 2015

EUROTRASH Goodbye Disks Thursday!

The UCI have seen sense over disk brakes, but too late for Fran Ventoso – Top Story. The Brabantse Pijl is a good pointer for Sunday’s Amstel, we have the race report with video and rider quotes. In other cycling news: Klasika Primavera de Amorebieta, Amstel Gold Race preview, Movistar injury up-date, Yaroslav Popovych retires, Peter Sagan and Alberto Contador are top two in UCI ranking and we look back at the first Amstel Gold Race in 1966. Beer anyone?

TOP STORY: Coke, spray and disks!
There are three top stories today, concerning Luca Paolini, Philippe Gilbert and Fran Ventoso.

Cocaine
Eventually the UCI have announced that Luca Paolini will have to serve an 18 month suspension due to his positive test for cocaine at last year’s Tour de France. His Katusha team have also said that under the circumstances they would not be taking him back. In some ways you have to feel sorry for Paolini as he said he was at a low point in his life and had been having trouble with sleeping pills, but the rules are the rules. This probably means that Paolini’s professional career is over, maybe for the best. Let’s hope he is in a better place.

Spray
It was reported at the weekend that Philippe Gilbert and Loïc Vliengen got into a disagreement with a car driver and his passenger while out training on Friday and that Gilbert sustained a broken finger and would not ride Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl. Since then all parties have given their evidence to the police and it transpires that the driver of the car had grabbed Vliengen’s arm and tried to drive him into oncoming traffic and that when the occupants of the car were confronted by the two riders Gilbert’s finger was broken and he used a defense spray to fend off the driver and his partner. Gilbert bought the spray in France, but it is illegal in Belgium and so Gilbert could face a prison sentence and/or a large fine. If you have ever been set upon by a crazed motorist I think you might have some sympathy for the ex-World champion.

Disks
During Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix Movistar’s Francisco Ventoso crashed on the Quérénaing à Maing sector of cobbles with other riders, including a rider from the Direct Energie team who ride on disk brakes. Ventoso left the race in an ambulance with a bandage on his left calf. His manager Chente García Acosta said to El Periodico said that the cut on Ventoso’s was “so deep that you could see the tibia.” Ventoso was released from hospital with a drain from the wound.

Open letter: Fran Ventoso On disc brakes
I’ve spent thirteen years in the pro cycling peloton and another thirteen moving up the ladder in youth categories. That makes it 26 years on my bike, training every day, enjoying what I like most, my passion. Since I was six, I’ve enjoyed racing, and I continue to do so. I’m so happy to have turned my vocation into a dream job.

Just like in any other sport, cycling has evolved in many technical aspects. However, it has not done so in others in a way we’d all have liked.

Through all these years, I’ve witnessed many improvements on different parts of the bike and cycling apparel. We started off with steel, then aluminum, and later on, carbon. That last one came here to stay, since it was as rigid as we needed while also offering lightness. We’ve also stopped using toeclips for clipless pedals, much more comfortable, effective and secure. Days are long gone when we used hairnet helmets: modern ones are now lighter, beautiful to the eye and offer absolute security guarantees when you use them.

I’ve also seen very important improvements on gearing. My first bike had one chainring and three sprockets; nowadays, we use two chainrings, even three, and 11 sprockets… and I’m certain it won’t end there. Technology evolution has been a sort of trial and error: getting to this point hasn’t been easy. I remember how easily chains were broken when we first used ten sprockets: links that broke, because of materials still not as resistant as it was required… it still happens today. We could also talk about the revolution that has brought the electronic shifting. When it was first shown and used, we all were surprised and made early judgments: it’s not necessary, it might not work well, carrying batteries seems wrong, having to connect your bike to AC is bonkers… And now, we can’t imagine our bikes without it.

My point is: two years ago, we started seeing disc brakes put on cyclocross bikes, and the rumour was that there could be a chance that they be tested in road cycling events.

Beforehand, I want to make this clear: I’m so in favor as anyone else that cyclocross professionals or participants in sportives enjoy the advantages of disc brakes during their rides.

But then, there’s pro road cycling events. Was there really anyone who thought things like Sunday’s wouldn’t happen? Really nobody thought they were dangerous? Nobody realized they can cut, they can become giant knives?

At Paris-Roubaix, only two teams used them. With eight riders each, that makes it sixteen, carrying a total 32 disc brakes into the peloton. Let me take you to 130km into the race: into a cobbled section, a pile-up splits the field, with riders falling everywhere. I’ve got to break but I can’t avoid crashing against the rider in front of me, who was also trying not to hit the ones ahead. I didn’t actually fall down: it was only my leg touching the back of his bike. I keep riding. But shortly afterwards, I have a glance at that leg: it doesn’t hurt, there’s not a lot of blood covering it, but I can clearly see part of the periosteum, the membrane or surface that covers my tibia. I get off my bike, throw myself against the right-hand side of the road over the grass, cover my face with my hands in shock and disbelief, start to feel sick… I could only wait for my team car and the ambulance, while a lot of things come through my mind.

Just a stroke of bad luck? I don’t thing so: few kilometers later, one of the thoughts I had sitting in the gutter becomes real.

15km after my incident, Nikolas Maes, a rider from Etixx-Quick Step, comes into the very same ambulance I’m sitting in. There’s a deep wound in his knee, produced by another disc, one of those 32. One question comes inevitably and immediately to one’s mind: what will happen when 396 discs get into a race where 198 riders ferociously battle for position?

Disc brakes should have NEVER arrived into the peloton, not at least as we know them right now. I haven’t met any rider who has run out of braking power with traditional brakes; I haven’t known anyone who didn’t see his wheels skidding when you brake with all power you’ve got, no matter traditional or disc brakes. Then: why using them?

Conversely, there are lots of problems to change wheels after a puncture; added trouble for neutral service, which has to carry three or four different sets of wheels to help you out in case your team car is not around… and the most worrying thing, as I stated before, is that disc brakes in its actual concept are giant knives, ‘machetes’ when crashing against or crashed by them at a certain speed. And in some points, we reach 80, 90, 100 kilometres per hour.

I’ve been lucky: I didn’t get my leg chopped off, it’s just some muscle and skin. But can you imagine that disk cutting a jugular or a femoral artery? I would prefer not to.

All of this happens because the international riders’ association –the CPA–, national riders’ associations, international and national feds, teams and, above all of them, OURSELVES, PROFESSIONAL RIDERS, are not doing anything. We always think that it’s not a problem if it doesn’t happen to ourselves. We always wait for horrible things to happen in order to take measures. Sooner or later, it could happen to anybody: it’s a matter of probability, we’ve all got the same. Pro riders should take a look beyond our own belly. Others tell us what we should do, but we just can’t forget WE’VE GOT THE POWER TO CHOOSE, AND WE SHOULD MAKE A CHOICE.

Disks produce cuts. This time it was me; tomorrow, it can be more serious and happen to others.

***UCI Suspends the use of disk brakes.***
In the light of Ventoso’s injury the UCI have announced that the disk brake tests are suspended. Maybe they should have listened to the riders before this happened.

Fran Ventoso:
Ronde van Vlaanderen 2015 men elite worldcup

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Brabantse Pijl – Flèche Brabanconne 2016
Czech champion Petr Vakoc (Etixx – Quick-Step) won Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl after breaking away with teammate Julian Alaphilppe, Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal). Alaphilppe dragged the group clear for Vakoc to deliver the winning move.

The first break of the day: Oliver Zaugg (IAM Cycling), Sergey Nikolaev (Gazprom-RusVelo), Alberto Cecchin (Team Roth) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Argon 18) built up a maximum lead of 5 minutes, but as the race started the final circuits they move was doomed. As their lead dipped under 2 minutes Martin Mortensen (ONE Pro Cycling) jumped away from the peloton and was joined by Pieter Serry (Etixx – Quick-Step), Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal), Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Christian Mager (Stölting Service Group).

Once the lead groups go together; Serry, De Bie and Impey attacked to go clear as BMC’s Dylan Teuns & Loïc Vliegen (both BMC) and Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) got across to the mid group and were then joined by Angelo Tulik (Direct Energie). The three up front had a minute on the peloton as the chase group were at 30 seconds. With 60 km to go; Vliegen, Tulik and Van der Sande caught Serry, De Bie and Impey as Teuns, Mortensen and Buchmann dropped the other chasers to catch the front six with 50 kilometers remaining.

With a combination of attacks and hard work from Cannondale and IAM Cycling brought the race back together with 30 kilometers to go and then Orica-GreenEDGE took control of the peloton.

As the race was about to start the final 23 kilometer lap; Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) attacked on the IJskelderlaan and was soon joined by Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick-Step) to gain 20 seconds on the Direct Energie led bunch. With 20km to go Orica-GreenEDGE again led the chase, but they couldn’t catch them for a further 10 kilometers. After more abortive attacks and chases the race was back together again with 5 kilometers left to race.

On the last climb of the IJskelderlaan, David Tanner (IAM Cycling) made the first move, but Gallopin, Alaphilippe, Vakoc and Gasparotto made the move of the day and after some very hard work from Alaphilippe they had the winning gap. Into the last kilometer the lead was 10 second and his work done, Alaphilippe, sat up and his teammate Vakoc attacked to stay clear to the finish 6 seconds ahead of Gasparotto (Ita), 12 on Gallopin as Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) brought in the remainder of the bunch 20 seconds later.

56th Brabantse Pijl 2016

Race winner, Petr Vakoc (Etixx – Quick-Step): “It’s really amazing! I am grateful to the team for its incredible work and for having faith in me. They supported me, rode for me and I am happy to repay them with this victory. Julian was very important in the final kilometers, where he did a fantastic job. He’s a good friend of mine, as we know each other since the U23 years. We are roommates during races, and yesterday we talked of what we could do today, and now it’s great to see how things have panned out. In the last kilometers, I noticed that the others were fading, so I went full gas at the bottom of the climb, also because I wanted to get some seconds in hand and make sure the peloton will not come back. These steep climbs suit me well and I gave it all to make the gap. It’s probably the biggest win of my career and I’m very content with this result, because I was targeting Brabantse since the start of the year. It’s a beautiful victory, which comes after countless hours of training, but also as a result of the work I’ve done on my endurance, a key factor in this regard being last year’s Giro d’Italia. Now I look toward Amstel Gold Race with even more confidence, because the form is there and my legs are strong.”

2nd, Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty-Group Gobert): “I’m very happy with my result. It rewards the hard work I’ve done for two weeks in Tenerife in Spain away from my teammates. I knew I was good since the Tour of Catalonia and I proved it today. We had nobody in the break. We were in danger. I did not push 100% but I wanted to close the gap with the leading group. I thought Tony Gallopin was the strongest, but ultimately Petr Vakoč was too strong today. It was the best result possible today, but I’m still disappointed not to win for Antoine Demoitié. The emotion is always present in the team. It’s hard to forget. We are still in shock and it’s hard to put it aside to refocus on the race. We’re dealing with really tough moments at Wanty-Groupe Gobert. There is an angel with us. It is not always easy to focus on the races. We always think of Antoine. It was a very difficult day. Different from a great classic, it was very fast from afar. You always had to be alert on the circuit, and it cost a lot of strength. However, my team helped me. I took the wheel of Tony (Gallopin) because I thought he would be the strongest. But ultimately it was Vakoc. When he got 10 meters, I tried to follow, but he was too far ahead. The stronger won in the end and this second place was the best I could do. I am happy with the result of the day. It makes me confident for the Amstel Gold Race. I know Petr Vakoč, but bet on the wrong horse. Gallopin failed to close the gap between me and Vakoc and I couldn’t do it either. I am satisfied with my current condition and can confidently look to the Ardennes Classics.”

3rd, Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal): “At this moment I’m disappointed because I really tried to obtain the victory. In the final kilometer I couldn’t close the gap on Vakoc. The team did a fantastic job today. Four riders were part of an early break and after that we controlled the gap at the front of the peloton together with Orica-GreenEdge. Thomas De Gendt did a great effort. At 80 kilometres from the finish we started to attack. Sean and Tosh were part of a front group together with riders of Etixx – Quick-Step, BMC and Orica. That was a very good situation for us. But the other teams eventually succeeded in closing the gap. Our team was still well represented at the front of the peloton. After that Tim attacked together with Alaphilippe and again that was an ideal situation. Unfortunately for them they couldn’t remain ahead. On the penultimate climb of the day I decided to attack because I didn’t want to wait for a sprint. With five riders we managed to obtain a significant gap, Alaphilippe gave his all for Vakoc. In the final kilometer I was unable to follow Vakoc because of my effort on the penultimate climb. I didn’t feel superb today due to a hard Tour of the Basque Country. But I won’t use that as an excuse, Vakoc was simply the strongest and he deserved to win this race.”

Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data): “It was a super hard race today, each climb on the final circuit was full gas. Unfortunately, we lost Kristian due to a mechanical, so I had to step it up. This was quite difficult coming off racing all the Flemish cobbled classics and Roubaix. I felt strong but missed some freshness in the end.”

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal): “I’m really pleased with my feeling after the race. Last year I didn’t participate in the Brabantse Pijl and I rode very intensively in the Tour of the Basque Country. This year I prepared myself more steadily towards the Ardennes Classics. The main goal was to obtain race rhythm so I would be in top form at the right moment. Today’s race was a perfect preparation with the following races in mind. When I attacked I hoped that more riders would join us. I chose to attack because I’m not fast enough in the sprint. The most important thing is that the team rode a very strong race. I really look forward to the coming races, I think we can hope for the best.”

Brabantse Pijl – Flèche Brabanconne Result:
1. Petr Vakoc (Cze) Etixx – Quick-Step in 4:48:50
2. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 0:06
3. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal at 0:12
4. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie at 0:20
5. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE
6. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
7. Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton
8. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step
9. Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Cannondale
10. Loic Vliegen (Bel) BMC.

Brabantse:

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Klasika Primavera de Amorebieta 2016
Movistar Team wins with Visconti, adds Gorka Izagirre’s 2nd to an overall brilliant result in the Klasika Primavera, after big domestique work from Alejandro Valverde (4th) in the end of the ‘holy week’ in Basque cycling.

Movistar Team dominated again the Klasika Primavera de Amorebieta in its 62nd edition, claiming their eighth win of the 2016 season and showing that its whole block can shine, no matter the type of race they tackle. Giovanni Visconti crowned a four-man break starting into the first of three Montecalvo ascents. Alejandro Valverde and Gorka Izagirre joined Pardilla (CJR), with the Italian bridging up to the front a few kilometers later, to go on a 60-kilometer move that eventually brought ‘Visco’ its first win in three years -2013 Giro d’Italia- and his second in the Basque race.

“I’ve got to say this is a huge victory for me,” declared Giovanni. “It might not be a WorldTour race, but to me, it means even more than a top-tier one. It’s already three years since I don’t win, and it’s an immense joy and something that keeps me motivated for the upcoming races. It had been a demanding week in the Itzulia, but still one I had got big results on, while also being able to support Nairo on his podium finish. I hope to continue this way.”

Second-placed finisher Gorka Izagirre explained further on the day’s racing: “What can we say! It was a demanding race, but one that we managed perfectly. We didn’t want to take that much responsibility in the beginning, saving some energy for the end, but we didn’t want to see big breaks going away either. We couldn’t let riders from Caja or Murias take advantage. It took almost hundred kilometres before the escape was established, and that made the race quite harder than in previous years.

“At the first climb we put on a high pace, with Bala, ‘Pardi’ and myself opening a gap, and Visco joined us shortly afterwards. Pardilla was interested on keeping the gap, or so I think – we got on well with each other since we all have ben team-mates now or in the past. To be honest, Alejandro [4th in the race, behind Pardilla – ed.] did a tremendous job so Visco and I could stand a bigger chance. It really hurt us Ion and myself not to be at the Itzulia, but that’s history: cycling brings you some joy after suffering, and we must keep looking forward to the future,” the Basque allrounder said.
Thanks to the Movistar Team for the race report.

Klasika Primavera de Amorebieta Result:
1. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar in 3:56:44
2. Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar
3. Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
4. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar
5. Sergei Shilov (Rus) Lokosphinx at 1:33
6. Carlos Barbero Cuesta (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
7. Aritz Bagües (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
8. Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
9. Karol Domagalski (Pol) ONE Pro Cycling
10. Dmitrii Sokolov (Rus) Lokosphinx.

Klasika Primavera de Amorebieta:

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Amstel Gold Race 2016
The Amstel Gold Race is the first of the ‘hilly’ Classics, followed by Flèche Wallone on Wednesday and Liege-Bastogne-Liege next Sunday. The course of the races changes and so do the riders at the front of the peloton at the finish line. Gone are the cobbles, but the longer climbs take their tole and sap the energy. The course for Amstel twists and turns around the Dutch countryside from the start in Maastricht taking in 34 climbs including the Cauberg four times, the final time to the finish line after 249.2 kilometers.

Race report on Sunday and full catch-up on Monday in EuroTrash and the Photog’s view.

Website: www.amstel.nl

You can read the full PEZ Amstel preview HERE.

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Amstel Gold Race
On Sunday the team heads to the Dutch hills for the 51st edition of the Amstel Gold Race. The race favors the attacking riders who are both capable of sprinting and climbing, as the course is anything but flat. The constant rolling roads cover a total distance of 258km with 34 climbs to tackle including the Cauberg, Gulpenerberg and Eyserbosweg.

Coach Aike Visbeek (NED) said: “The weather forecast looks optimistic for Sunday, therefore I am anticipating a traditional Amstel Gold race. The section after the Kruisberg always is an important moment in the race and we need good teamwork to position our leaders ahead of the decisive climb, the Cauberg.

“The team leaders will be Warren, Simon and home rider Tom. Together with Roy as our experienced road captain, our aim is to focus on positioning ahead of the crucial climbs and we will target a top 10 result.”

Line-up:
Warren Barguil (FRA), Roy Curvers (NED), Tom Dumoulin (NED), Johannes Fröhlinger (GER), Simon Geschke (GER), Chad Haga (USA), Fredrik Ludvigsson (SWE), Georg Preidler (AUT).
Coach: Aike Visbeek (NED).

Warren Barguil:
Tour de France 2015 - stage 16

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Direct Energie Team for Amstel Gold
Coureurs:
Ryan Anderson, Thomas Boudat, Bryan Coquard, Antoine Duchesne, Fabien Grellier, Tony Hurel, Angelo Tulik, Thomas Voeckler.
Directeur Sportif: Lylian Lebreton.

Antoine Duchesne:
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LottoNL-Jumbo aims for Amstel Gold Race glory
Team LottoNL-Jumbo starts the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, April 17th, with Robert Gesink, Sep Vanmarcke, Wilco Kelderman and Paul Martens as its main guns. The Dutch team aims to deliver in its home country.

“We don’t have the top favorite in our team, but we have a strong group of riders who are very motivated for this race,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said the week before the Dutch classic. “Robert Gesink, Sep Vanmarcke, Wilco Kelderman and Paul Martens have to be in good position from the Kruisberg, so they can focus on the finale of the race. Paul Martens will be active already in the pre-finale.”

Home country
Gesink did the Amstel Gold Race for the last time in 2012, but is making it a part of his program again. “Robert wants to deliver some appealing results in the upcoming years again,” Zeeman added. “This year, he is focussing on the one-day races and stages in the big tours mostly. We’re curious to see his level this Sunday.”

Gesink came out of the Vuelta al País Vasco with a good feeling. “It was a very tough race, with bad weather, and I had to recover from that a couple of days,” he said. “My level was high, though, and I was able to compete with the best, except for one day in which the weather took its toll.

“I expect to be ready for Sunday. To race in your home country is always special. Plus I think that we have a team that is ready to fight for the trophy. Wilco en Paul showed some very good things in the Basque Country. Besides that, we have a very strong Sep Vanmarcke, who’s going to give us a lot of pleasure.”

Strong team
Enrico Battaglin is able to play a special role. He showed that he can position the front men very well. “We were strong as a team in the Basque Country,” the Italian said. “And we have to be that way another time in the Amstel Gold Race. I rode this race already two times and I know that it’s going to be very tough after 200 kilometres of racing. You need a strong team. I want to stay in the first group this Sunday so we will be able to fight for the win.”

Line-up:
Enrico Battaglin, Robert Gesink, Wilco Kelderman, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Paul Martens, Mike Teunissen, Maarten Tjallingii and Sep Vanmarcke.
Sports Directors: Merijn Zeeman and Frans Maassen.

Sep Vanmarcke:
Gent - Wevelgem 2016

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The Amstel Gold Race, the most Flandrian of the Ardennes classics
THE QUOTE: “I am one of those riders who is able to follow-up the Flanderian races with the Ardennes classics,” Oliver Naesen admitted. Having recently taken 22nd at the Tour of Flanders and 13th at Paris-Roubaix, the young Belgian racer nevertheless remains realistic about his chances. “I want to help the team. Although I have recovered well from Roubaix, I know I will not be the best. Other riders who competed at the Tour of the Basque Country in preparation for these races will be fresher than me.”

THE EXPLANATION: The difficulty of the Amstel Gold lies not only in the string of 35 climbs, but knowing how to place yourself is crucial. “It is very important to know the course,” Naesen explained. “Last year I got trapped. I did not know the key points of the race.” This is an assessment supported by directeur sportif Thierry Marichal: “This is an event where the experience is a definite bonus. It takes more than one participation to tame it.”

THE ANALYSIS: “The Amstel Gold Race is the most Flandrian of the Ardennes classics,” Marichal, a Belgian former racer, reflected. “There are the short, dry climbs of the Ronde, but also the accumulation of ascents that you will encounter at the Liège-Bastogne-Liège as well. In this context, it is difficult to identify a real favorite. For IAM Cycling, we will rely heavily on David Tanner. But we also have several other riders who could prove useful according to how the race unfolds.”

THE MENU OF THE DAY: Apart from a slight deviation, the route remains unchanged from that of 2015. Of the 248,7 kilometers that will separate Maastricht from Valkenburg, the peloton will climb 35 hills, or bergs, which are mainly located in the Limburg region. Among the renowned climbs will be the Keutenberg, the Eyserbosweg, and the Kruisberg. And then finally the finish line will be drawn 800 meters after the Cauberg. This mythical mount is climbed four times over the course of the day, at kilometers 52,2 km, 160,8 km, 228,4 km, and then 246.9 km.

THE NUMBER: 4000m. That is the total number of meters climbed during the Amstel Netherlands. In comparison, a day in the high-mountains of the Tour de France will cover between 3000 and 5000 meters of altitude gain.

Coureurs:
Stef Clement (Ned), Jérôme Coppel (Fr), Sondre Holst Enger (Nor), Oliver Naesen (Bel), Aleksejs Saramotins (Let), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), David Tanner (Aus), Larry Warbasse (USA).
Manager sportif: Rik Verbrugghe. Directeur sportif: Thierry Marichal.

Aleksejs Saramotins out of the Amstel Gold Race
Aleksejs Saramotins will be unable to start the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, April 17th for IAM Cycling as originally planned. The Latvian rider for the Swiss professional team has been suffering from indigestion and will not be in a condition to give his best at the race. Saramotins will be replaced by Stefan Denifl at the Amstel Gold Race.

David Tanner:
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The Amstel Gold Race on Sunday is the first of three WorldTour climb classics

Line-up Lotto Soudal:
Tiesj Benoot, Tony Gallopin, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert, Tim Wellens.

Tony Gallopin:
Milano - Sanremo WT 2016

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Gilbert Given the All-Clear for Amstel Gold Race
Three-time winner Philippe Gilbert has been given the go ahead to line up at Amstel Gold Race despite nursing a fractured finger.

Sports Director Valerio Piva said BMC Racing Team is looking for a good result following an eventful cobbled Classics campaign.

“Gilbert has been given the medical all-clear from our Chief Medical Officer, Dr Max Testa, which is good news because Amstel Gold is a special race for both Gilbert and BMC Racing Team and we hope to continue our previous success at the race.”

Despite the setback of fracturing his finger, Gilbert is motivated for the coming Ardennes races.

“I’ve had a disrupted start to the season with illness and injury so I hope to put all of this behind me and be at the front of the race on Sunday. I have been back on the bike in the last couple of days and put in a long session today so I’m confident that I’ll be in a good shape to race,” Gilbert admitted.

Rider roster:
Marcus Burghardt (GER), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Silvan Dillier (SUI), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Ben Hermans (BEL), Samuel Sanchez (ESP), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Loïc Vliegen (BEL).
Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA), Jackson Stewart (USA).

Philippe Gilbert:
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Amstel Gold Race
Edvald Boasson Hagen leads Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka at Amstel Gold Race
On Sunday Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka will start the Amstel Gold Race in Maastricht, Netherlands. The Amstel Gold race is the first of the 3 World Tour classics that fall under the Ardennes Classic’s label.

This year will be the 51st edition of the Amstel Gold Race and riders will be faced with 248km and 34 noted climbs. While the climbs are not all that long (only 2 are longer than 3km), they are short, steep and once they start there is almost no respite between them.

The Cauberg is considered to be the most famed climb of the race and riders will race to the top no less than 4 times. The final time up the Cauberg comes in the final 3km of the race and is often the stage for the race defining moment.

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka will start with a strong team, ready to challenge for a top result at the hilly Dutch classic. Edvald Boasson Hagen will lead the team with Kristian Sbaragli, Serge Pauwels, Nathan Haas, Omar Fraile, Jaco Venter, Natnael Berhane and Youcef Reguigui completing our roster.

Jens Zemke – Sport Director
After Edvald raced his heart out at Paris-Roubaix, fighting for the win right into the Velodrome, we were happy that we could convince him to take the start of Amstel Gold. He deserves our full support and are sure that he will be in the mix again. He has good memories from the region as he finished on the podium of the World Championships when Valkenburg hosted the event in 2012. With a strong team, we are ready to perform and promote our BicyclesChangeLives project at the Amstel Gold Race.

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Roman Kreuziger to lead Tinkoff at Amstel Gold Race, kicking off the Ardennes Classics
After the cobblestone classics, which came to an end on Sunday with Paris-Roubaix, come the Ardennes Classics. Starting on Sunday with the Amstel Gold Race, while the classics to date suited the all-rounders and sprinters, the Ardennes Classics are much hillier in their profiles and therefore suit the climbers and stage race specialists.

Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, was eager to see how the change of terrain would influence the races. “It’s a whole new peloton and type of rider in the Ardennes to what we have seen at the spring classics so far, and we’re excited to get this part of the season started after a strong cobblestone campaign.”

Not known for its hills, the Netherlands is generally more famous for its flat, windswept roads. This is not the case for the Amstel Gold Race – this year’s edition – the 51st in its history – has thirty-four short-yet-tough climbs in a 264km route that circles the southern-most part of the Dutch Limburg region, from its start in Maastricht to the finish on the Cauberg climb in Valkenburg.

Because the race brings a different kind of rider to it looking for the win, this first of the climbers’ classics should lead to some dramatic racing, De Jongh continued. “It should be an interesting race as some teams want to push for a sprint with fast guys, while others, like us, want to make it a hard race and to try to avoid a larger group finish. We’ll have to be aware of the late breaks that go clear and then see what happens on the Cauberg at the end.”

The route itself is a number of progressively smaller circuits, many of which take in the same climbs on as many as four occasions. The difficulty of the race can be attributed to a number of features, but perhaps the most important is the sheer number of climbs and the how little time there is to recover between each one. The climbs themselves are not especially difficult by alpine standards, but in the first 100km there are ten climbs, while in a little more than 50km, there are no fewer than nine climbs before the finish.

Looking at what it takes to win the race, Roman Kreuziger said: “I could say that the Amstel Gold is one of the craziest classic races. It’s never calm, it’s always up and down and the bunch is often very stretched. You need to get experience on that race, you need to ride year after year to learn how you can reach the finish with as much energy as possible. When I won in 2013 it was amazing to have Karsten Kroon in the team, a rider that lives in the area and knows exactly the time to make each move. He was a smart rider and it was a big school for us to have him in that race.

“I have now raced six times there, so I think I have acquired the required knowledge, I have the parcours engraved on my mind. When I won in 2013, the finish had already changed and I think that this new finish is a bit more difficult for a rider like myself because you have to be very fast. Nobody would go away alone or in two but instead you will have a group of 10-20 riders that then sprint for the victory.”

While much of the attention will be on the Cauberg, which is climbed four times, there are plenty of other climbs on the route to be feared. One such climb is the Eyserbosweg, coming just under 40km from the finish, the average gradient of the climb is 8.1% over its 1.1km distance, with a maximum gradient of 18%. Additionally, the Keutenberg is a fairly short climb but carries a brutal maximum gradient of 22% and it being fairly narrow, it is the climb where many riders launch their final attacks before the final climb of the Cauberg.

In addition to the climbs, riders will have to contend with a technically challenging course. The roads themselves are narrow and pass through residential areas – something which brings with it some challenges unique to this race. Because of the urban nature of some of the race and its course, riders will have to negotiate roundabouts, kerbs, chicanes, bollards, speed bumps and other traffic-calming measures. The Amstel Gold Race is well known for its crashes.

Tinkoff will be coming to the race with a strong team and an experienced leader, as De Jongh revealed the team members ahead of the race. “We head to Amstel Gold Race with one leader in Roman Kreuziger, and two other protected riders that will help look after him deep into the race but who are also capable of getting results here – Robert Kiserlovski and Michael Valgren.”

The Czech rider has had a strong start to the season, and rode strongly in support of Alberto Contador in last week’s Vuelta al Pais Vasco, in which Alberto won the overall GC classification. Having won this race in 2013, knowing full well the challenges it poses, as De Jongh noted in advance of the race. “Roman won here in 2013 and on this course having good knowledge of the race is important as the whole day you’re going up and down, left and right on small, twisty roads. You need to stay attentive all day with all the climbs, and Roman’s knowledge will be important for the others that are less experienced here.”

Joining Roman, Robert and Michael in Maastricht on Sunday will be Jesper Hansen, Jay McCarthy, Evgeny Petrov, Yuri Trofimov and Pavel Brutt. All of the team has ridden well, playing a key part in Tinkoff’s success in the UCI WorldTour so far this season.

Roman Kreuziger added: “After Pais Vasco I am having a recovery week because we spent a lot of energy in a hard race under bad weather. The focus this week is on resting and recovering and a team soigneur is here with me for the massages. I don’t know whether I will be able to repeat my victory by this is one of the big goals of the season and I have prepared for it and hope to be ready. In addition to be in good shape, you need to like these races to be successful. I consider them very nice and I’m happy to have competed there so many times. I’m always focused when I hit the start line in such classics.

“In what regards the squad that will support me, in that race we will be able to assess how Jay McCarthy performs after the training camp. Michael Valgren will do all three Ardennes classics and Amstel Gold suits him the most. We will have to be smart on Sunday and do our best. Our competitors will go there with ambitions as well and we will have to keep an eye on everybody.”

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Cannondale Pro Cycling Team backs Slagter for AGR as Ardennes week looms
The Cannondale Pro Cycling Team turns its attention from the bumpy northern classics to those of the hilly Ardennes region this weekend, with the first of the three classics on tap in the form of the Amstel Gold Race.

Two riders will make debuts for the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team at a classic — Nathan Brown and Toms Skujins. Tom-Jelte Slagter will lead the team through the Ardennes races, terrain the Dutchman favors, and for good reason. Slagter has finished in the top 10 at both Flèche Wallonne (5th in 2014, 9th in 2015) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (6th in 2014).

“The major objective of the year remains the Giro, but in the Ardennes races, our team is more adaptable to the terrain than the cobbled classics,” said Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters.

“We’ve got a number of different options from Tom-Jelte Slagter, who should be the de facto leader, to an up-and-comer like Mike Woods, in for Flèche and Liege.”

Slagter finished ninth in this week’s Brabanste Pijl, a clear indication of good form moving toward Amstel Gold and the rest of the Ardennes contests.

“They are so long and super hard,” Slagter said of the upcoming races. “For me personally the climbs are perfect and I like the type of roads we race on. I really enjoy racing in this area.”

The Ardennes mark a change in the season with one day races that favor those with climbing prowess over raw power.

“It’s almost like a season shift within the season” said Cannondale Pro Cycling Team’s DS Charly Wegelius. “This is the first time you see these kinds of climbs come into the one day races. It’s a really exciting week.”

Skujins is excited to make his debut.

“I’ll be up against big boys. I’ve prepared the best I can and these races are the ones I aspire to do really well in and hopefully to podium in later in my career,” Skujins said. “These are the special one-days that everyone knows about and everyone watches. On the start line everyone is in the same situation. You get one chance, one shot at glory and you better make the best out of it — that’s the beauty of one days. They are aggressive, unpredictable and much less scripted then stage racing. It’s what I live for.”

Cannondale Pro Cycling for Amstel Gold Race:
Alberto Bettiol, Nathan Brown, Simon Clarke, Alex Howes, Benjamin King, Kristijan Koren, Toms Skujins, Tom-Jelte Slagter.

Tom-Jelte Slagter:
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Etixx – Quick-Step to Amstel Gold Race
The 11th World Tour event of this season is scheduled on Sunday, when the riders will face an up-and-down challenging course.

First held in 1966, the Netherlands’ sole Classic will see a new episode unfold this week-end, when 25 teams and 200 riders will come to the start with the goal of making it safely over the narrow roads and punishing climbs, before the final showdown on the iconic Cauberg, a hill which has its prominent place in the history of cycling not only thanks to this race, but also as a result of the key role played at the World Championships and in Grand Tours since 1938.

Starting in Maastricht and finishing in Valkenburg, Amstel Gold Race runs a total of 248.7 kilometers, with the 34 climbs on the route making up for more than 4000 meters of climbing. With less than 3 kilometers to go, the peloton will tackle Cauberg (800 meters, 12% average gradient) for the last time, as the puncheurs will be expected to make their move and try to get a gap before the final 1800 meters, which come over the top of the ascent, on a plateau that can allow the ones who were initially dropped to return at the front.

Coming off a very successful Brabantse Pijl, which saw Petr Vakoc become the first Czech winner in the race’s history, Etixx – Quick-Step will line up a strong and motivated team in this star-studded event. The squad will not in any case be short of options on Sunday, as it will include both Vakoc and Julian Alaphilippe, last season’s revelations in the Ardennes. Three-time ITT world champion Tony Martin will continue his Classics campaign in the Netherlands, with Bob Jungels, Gianni Meersman, Pieter Serry, Matteo Trentin and Julien Vermote also joining the team for the 51st edition of Amstel Gold Race.

Riders:
Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Bob Jungels (LUX), Tony Martin (GER), Gianni Meersman (BEL), Pieter Serry (BEL), Matteo Trentin (ITA), Petr Vakoc (CZE), Julien Vermote (BEL).
Sports Director Wilfried Peeters (BEL) & Tom Steels (BEL).

Cycling: 1st Tour de la Provence 2016 / Stage 3

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Popovych Announces Retirement from Professional Cycling, Takes on Role as Director
After 15 years competing in professional cycling, and 24 years riding a bicycle, Yaroslav (Popo) Popovych has officially announced his retirement Monday, one day after competing in his final Paris-Roubaix.

Popovych, 36, will not be leaving Trek-Segafredo, but rather changing responsibilities as he jumps into the role of sport director for the team.

“It will be quite the adaptation for me,” said Popovych. “From the bike to the director’s car. I love driving cars, but that’s not the same as driving for 5 hours at 40kmh! It may be challenging to work with the athletes I rode with until yesterday, but I’m ready for it.

“It’s a beautiful opportunity. It’s something that’s been on my mind for some time now, although in a way unexpected as the team only approached me about this last winter and made me this offer to ride until Paris-Roubaix. I have always known I’d stay involved in cycling. And this is perfect: to remain with the same group of people.”

General Manager Luca Guercilena: “Popo is one of the most respectful riders in the peloton, and his experience will be gold for the team’s future riders. It is a pleasure to have him in the sport managers group, and he will have time to learn a new job and become a good DS, just as he was a great team player.”

After being hailed as one of the most promising cyclists at the turn of the century, Popovych changed his mindset to that of domestique to become one of the most cherished teammates found in the pro peloton.

His impenetrable passion and intense fighting spirit combined with incredible loyalty, propelling Popovych into the ultimate team player – something that did not go unnoticed by cycling’s biggest champions, like Fabian Cancellara, who treasured the selfless, tireless work habits of the affable Ukrainian.

Popovych: “I am absolutely satisfied with my career. This is the right decision. Sometimes in life, you have to make big decisions like this. Becoming a gregario was another one of those. Yes, I won some big races as a young rider, the U23 World title in Lisbon was my highlight, and I am proud of what I have accomplished. Some people will say that I should have won more, but I made my choices. It’s my life. I won a lot with the leaders I worked for. I would even argue that the TTT’s that we’ve won over the years are the things I’m most proud about.”

Popovych has no regrets in calling it quits: He speaks seven languages, competed around the world, met many people and estimates he has pedaled some 500 thousand kilometers on two wheels.

Popovych: “That’s a crazy number if you think about it. But it was fun putting in the miles; I love riding my bike and looking around how the landscape changes all the time. I never got tired of that. The things you see, the people; I have seen the world through cycling. Traveled to so many different places and met so many different people. That’s maybe the most beautiful thing I take away from my career.”

Yaroslav Popovych:
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Two injuries for Oliveira; Ventoso back to Spain
Portuguese rider sustains collarbone fracture and radial head fissure after Paris-Roubaix crash, will not undergo surgery; Spaniard has wound in leg sutured, returns home this afternoon.

The Movistar Team confirms Tuesday that, after checkups on Nelson Oliveira yesterday at Pamplona’s Clínica San Miguel, following his crash during the early phase of Paris-Roubaix, the Portuguese rider suffers from a collarbone fracture and a fissure to his radial head, both on his left arm / shoulder.

The extent of both injuries has not been judged serious enough to require surgery. Oliveira, released from hospital today, will require an estimated three to four weeks to recover completely, always depending on the evolution of his injuries.

In turn, Fran Ventoso will fly back home in Spain on Tuesday after a deep wound in his leg, also during the French race. The 33-year-old from Cantabria went into the operating room to apply suture and drain on his cut in the most aseptic environment possible, looking to regenerate the muscle tissue damaged as quickly as possible.

Fran Ventoso:
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Sagan and Contador, first and second in UCI WorldTour Individual Rankings
Following his recent win at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in Spain, the now four-time winner of the race Alberto Contador has moved into second spot overall in the WorldTour rankings, just behind teammate Peter Sagan. In addition to the two top spots in individual rankings, Tinkoff maintains its leadership in the team classification.

After securing the top spot of the overall UCI WorldTour team rankings during the cobblestone classics campaign, thanks to the strong results of Peter Sagan paired with Alberto’s stage race results and several others scoring well too, Alberto has now made it a 1-2 at the top of the rankings, with Tinkoff still holding a strong lead in the team rankings.

It was Alberto’s win at Pais Vasco that gave him the UCI points to move up from third, and the runner up of Paris-Nice and Volta Catalunya now has 280 points, a 58-point lead over third. Tinkoff holds 61-point lead over second place in the team classification.

After an exceptionally hard week’s racing, over one of the most mountainous stage races on the UCI WorldTour, Sport Director at Pais Vasco Sean Yates had nothing but praise for Alberto and the team. “He’s in great shape and deserves this win after his second places in Algarve, Paris-Nice and Catalunya. We had a few injuries and illness coming into the race and lost three guys along the way but the team stayed solid. Things played into our favor this race, and never taking the leaders jersey worked for us, as we didn’t have to ride and defend. And now the stage win is the icing on the cake.”

Peter maintained his position at the top despite missing out on scoring any points at Paris-Roubaix. The points amassed through his wins at Gent – Wevelgem and Ronde van Vlaanderen, together with his second places at Tirreno – Adriatico and E3 Harelbeke, have put him in a strong position to continue challenging for the top spot as the season goes on.

“Compared to last year we have definitely had a good start to the season, with two strong leaders in Peter and Alberto scoring well on two fronts,” explained Sport Director Steven De Jongh. “Of course the team’s strategy is to support these riders in their respective target races, but it is a nice demonstration that the teamwork is paying off.

“We had a really good winter, coming together first to build bonds and work on the base, before moving to more specific camps and separate altitude camps with Alberto and Peter, together with other guys. We also spent time working on some changes in the race program and this has started to pay off. So it’s a real bonus to the results we’ve been achieving, and it shows the momentum we have as a team now.”

UCI WorldTour Individual Rankings – as of 13 April 2016
1. Peter Sagan 329
2. Alberto Contador 280
24. Jay McCarthy 68
77. Roman Kreuziger 4
96. Adam Blythe 2.

A happy Oleg:
Trainingstage team Tinkoff - Saxo 2015

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The first Amstel Gold Race in 1966 won by Jean Stablinsky:


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