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EuroTrash Le Samyn Thursday!

The cobbles are still with us in Le Samyn and we have the report and video. From cobbles we move on to ‘White Roads’ in Italy with the Strade Bianche, Paris-Nice and the 3 days of West Flanders. Other cycling news: Astana still in trouble, Wellens retires, Tom’s tax case, Scheldeprijs and a new Tour video. Get the coffee.

TOP STORY: Astana has 15 Days to Respond to License Revoke Request
The Astana team has until March the 20th to prepare their defense to the UCI’s request to revoke its WorldTour license. The UCI request is based on an audit by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) of the team’s anti-doping culture, policies, structures and management systems, plus evidence from the Padua police investigation which was not available when the licenses were handed out.

The UCI made this statement: “After careful review of this extensive report, the UCI strongly believes that it contains compelling grounds to refer the matter to the License Commission and request the Astana Pro Team license be withdrawn.”

French sports paper L’Equipe reports that the Astana team has to submit its response to the License Commission by the 20th of March, but that there is no date for any decision on the case. The Astana team have said they will contest any negative decision and will go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if need be.

As in these cases (i.e. Contador and Kreuziger) it will rumble on and on, let’s hope we see Vincenzo Nibali in the Tour de France.

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header-lesamyn15Le Samyn 2015
Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal) won Le Samyn by out-sprinting break-away companions Gianni Meersman (Etixx – Quick-Step) and Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) with his Lotto Soudal teammate Tiesj Benoot just behind in 4th.

The early break of the day included Thomas De Gendt (lotto Soudal), Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) and Ludwig De Winter (Wallonie-Bruxelles), but with 60 kilometers to go De Gendt headed off on his own only to be caught with 20 kilometers left due to the power of Etixx – Quick-Step.

Etixx – Quick-Step were the strongest team with Stijn Vandenbergh blowing the race apart on the cobbled section on the Rue de Bellevue in the finish town or dour. This cause a break of eight riders, four of which were Etixx – Quick-Step men, two Cofidis and two from Lotto Soudal. Much like last Saturday, the boy’s from the Etixx team couldn’t dominate the sprint and Boeckmans took his second win of the season after his Lotto Soudal team had been in every move of the day.

Race winner Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal): “Each victory is an explosion of joy. The last cobblestone section was the decisive moment, there the group was torn apart. I commenced the cobblestone section in the fifth place. The man before me failed to keep up, then I knew it was going fast. At that point, we were at three kilometers from the finish line. We went to the finish with this small group. I started my sprint at 200 meters. I tricked Gianni Meersman so he couldn’t pass me anymore. I rode a good sprint. Furthermore, the whole team was impressive today. We rode the perfect race. The peloton had given the escapees with Thomas six minutes, which is very dangerous when Thomas rides in front. They had to ride really fast to close the gap. This was in our advantage. The rest of the team countered each attack in the final and I just had to make sure to be in the front. The last cobblestone section was hard, although the sections in Paris-Roubaix are much harder of course. But for today this section was enough to decimate the peloton, also thanks to the wind. The other sections were rather new, so they were feasible. This second win of the season pleases me. It was a matter of time to get my first win in a long time. That first win came in the opening stage of the Étoile de Bessèges. This is now my second win of the season. Friday I will be at the start of the Three Days of West-Flanders, which kicks off with a prologue. In Bessèges I was good in the time trial, I hope to repeat that good performance. A prologue should suit me even better. I’m highly motivated to perform good in the Three Days of West-Flanders.”

Le Samyn Result:
1. Kris Boeckmans (Bel) Lotto Soudal in 4:47:01
2. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
3. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
4. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 0:03
5. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step at 0:13
6. Steve Chainel (Fra) Cofidis
7. Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
8. Tanner Putt (USA) UnitedHealthcare
9. Baptiste Plackaert (Bel) Roubaix Lille Metropole
10. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise.

The final kilometers:

header-telenet-fideaBart Wellens Retires
The 36 year-old Belgian cyclo-cross rider Bart Wellens has announced that he has ridden his last cyclo-cross race. Elite World champion in 2003 and 2004 and U23 world champion in 1999 and 2000, plus World Cup winner in 2002 and 2003 and Superprestige in 2003 and 2004.

Wellens said on Sporza: “Cross takes a heavy toll on the body and the older you get, the harder it is to deal with it and to continue to perform at the highest level. My age and my body have told me that it’s time to stop. There is a young generation that is ready to dominate cross in the years to come. It is increasingly difficult for me to live up there with them, so I realize that the time has come for me to make room. The future? I have not had time to think about that. First and foremost, I want to let things sink in. I will consider some proposals and then make an informed decision about my future.”

Some good tips from Bart:

header-etixx-qr15Boonen and Lefevere Tax Case Postponed
It has been reported by the De Telegraaf Newspaper that the tax evasion case involving Tom Boonen, Patrick Lefevere, Stijn Devolder and six other Etixx – Quick-Step riders has had to change date to later in the year. Lawyers have asked for the delay so that they might reach an out of court settlement. The trial is the result of an investigation that began in 2009. Two years ago Boonen paid €2 million to settle a previous tax discrepancy.

Tommeke will have to win a few more races for the tax man.
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header-strade-bianche15Strade Bianche 2015
Dust whirls over the Tuscan hills, as the riders of Strade Bianche tackle the unpaved roads, often firmly uphill. Riders toil on 45.4 kilometers of dirt roads, while the race unfolds on 200 kilometers from San Gimignano to the cradle of Italian renaissance, Siena. After 145km of hilly roads including six gravel sectors, the finale starts as the riders embark on the 11km long “Ponte del Garbo” dirt track, where the first serious separation is expected to happen. Then, the Strade di Colle Pinzuto of 2.4km and a maximum gradient of 15% provides the favorites with an opportunity to size each other up or launch a serious attack before the last gravel section. It comes a few kilometers after and sends the intensity through the roof with a maximum gradient of 18 percent on a slippery surface.

Upon entering the city walls of Siena, a 16% sector welcomes the riders to the absolute finale on the last kilometer up the steep and narrow streets until the road flattens and a winner is found on Piazza del Campo.

The Protagonists:
Trek’s Fabian Cancellara must be a top favorite, but there will be several Italian and overseas cycling champions that have performed very well at previous editions of the Strade Bianche, and in races that are technically similar. Peter Sagan, second in 2014 and 2013, is the big name. But we have to mention Nibali, Valverde (third last year), Stannard, Terpstra (who has great form from recent races), Gerrans, Vanmarcke, Moser (2013 champion), Nocentini (third in 2013) and Gatto (third in 2012).

There will now be 20 teams starting the race. The organization has invited the Italian national team, led by Davide Cassani, which will start with six riders.

Check-out Ale’s Strade Bianche course ride.

Race website: https://www.gazzetta.it/Speciali/StradeBianche/en/
Date: 07th of March.
Total length: 200 kilometers.
Last year’s winner: Michael Kwiatkowski.

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header-tinkoffsaxo14-leftPeter Sagan to lead Tinkoff-Saxo team at Strade Bianche
Strade Bianche is being raced and celebrated as it was a Classic, despite its young age. The white gravel roads of Tuscany demand respect in what has turned into a dusty, scenic and prestigious prelude to the Northern Classics. Tinkoff-Saxo sends into battle a team with proven classics riders, led by captain Peter Sagan.

Team leader Peter Sagan is accompanied by Daniele Bennati, Roman Kreuziger, Maciej Bodnar, Manuele Boaro, Christopher Juul-Jensen, Juraj Sagan and Matteo Tosatto. Last year’s runner up, Peter Sagan, is back from the team’s Middle Eastern campaign and excited to be racing on European soil – namely gravel – on the 7th of March.

“The Strade Bianche is a race that appeals to me because it has a very picturesque, scenic route. It is also ideal for my characteristics and qualities as a rider. I hope to do well in my first European race of 2015”, comments Sagan about the Tuscan “modern classic”, which was first raced in 2007.

When asked about the ambitions at the race, Bruno Cenghialta, team sport director, was straight forward.

“Peter Sagan is definitely our leader at Strade Bianche, furthermore, we have a squad of very significant and prestigious riders, with great qualities that will play an important role in achieving our goal, which is to win. Most of our riders such as Bennati, Juul-Jensen and Kreuziger, who was fifth last year, have already participated in the Strade Bianche and are familiar with the route and the challenges”, comments Bruno Cenghialta and adds:

“Strade is a race that suits Peter Sagan. It lacks long climbs and in fact it’s quite similar to the ones of the Northern Classics. In addition, Peter’s background in mountain bikes favors him on the 45km of dirt tracks”.

Cenghialta refers to the 45.4km of the famous white roads or ‘Strade Bianche’, which always play a decisive factor in finding the winner at the finish line on Piazza del Campo, in the heart of Siena. In total, the riders will have to tackle 10 gravel sections during the 200km race.

“It would be very difficult to single out one section as being the most important. In fact, all of them are equally important and have to be approached with great attention. Some sections might be less physically demanding but are still as crucial”, Cenghialta explains.

“In an ‘easy’ section all the riders will want to position themselves, something that can cause risky situations or increase the possibilities of crashes. But on the more difficult sections, this risk might not exist because the strongest riders will have an advantage. Still we will have to be very careful and never let our guard down”.

Peter Sagan has twice finished second, in both 2013 and 2014, while Roman Kreuziger has finished fifth in 2014 and sixth in 2012.

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header-etixx-qr15Etixx – Quick-Step team for the Strade Bianche
Strade Bianche, a 200km one-day Italian Classic from San Gimignano to Siena, is a race of attrition with 45.4km of challenging gravel roads over 10 sectors, and also steep climbs along with technical descents. Michal Kwiatkowski won the race solo in 2014 for Etixx – Quick-Step.

“It’s the same parcours of last year,” Sport Director Davide Bramati said. “It’s a selective parcours with two long gravel sectors, one of 9.2 kilometers at Sector 6 (120 to 129.2km) and another of 11.5 kilometers (Sector 7 146.4km to 157.8km). At the exit of Sector 7 the race will have a different feel to it. As last year there will likely be a a select group in front at that point, then the rest of the race will start with a lot of up and down until the finish in Piazza del Campo. Last year Michal attacked on the uphill near the finish, and it could be a key point again this year. Compared to our 2014 selection we only have Rigoberto Uran returning, so we changed seven of eight riders. That is why tomorrow we will recon the parcours. But we have a really good team here. We have guys who can thrive in difficult race conditions, such as Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra. We have riders for the hills such as Uran, Pieter Serry, Carlos Verona, and Gianluca Brambilla. We also have riders who are familiar with these kinds of roads because of their experience in the Northern Classics, such as Fabio Sabatini and Julien Vermote. So even our selection this year is competitive. For sure our goal is to try be there and play a role in the victory.”

Riders:
Gianluca Brambilla (ITA), Fabio Sabatini (ITA), Pieter Serry (BEL), Zdenek Stybar (CZE), Niki Terpstra (NED), Rigoberto Uran Uran (COL), Julien Vermote (BEL), Carlos Verona (ESP).
Sports Director: Davide Bramati (ITA).

Rigoberto Uran:
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header-bmc15-rosterBMC Roster: Strade Bianche
Past Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez makes his European racing debut Saturday at Strade Bianche as part of a BMC Racing Team roster that includes Greg Van Avermaet, a three-time top 10 finisher at the Italian one-day race.

After signing with the BMC Racing Team in January, Sánchez’s only racing competition has come in Australia on Feb. 1 at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Van Avermaet has finished sixth (2013), fifth (2012) and ninth (2011) in the 200-kilometer race that is best known for its sections of white gravel roads.

Roster:
Brent Bookwalter (USA), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Daniel Oss (ITA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Samuel Sánchez (ESP), Peter Stetina (USA), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL).
Sport Directors: Fabio Baldato (ITA), Valerio Piva (ITA).

Samuel Sánchez will ride the Strade Bianche:
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header_movistar-leftMovistar for Strade Bianche
An expedition led by Chente García Acosta will be at San Gimignano on Saturday to take the start in the 9th Strade Bianche Eroica, with its 45.1km of sterrato roads for a total 200, full of slopes till the very finish at Siena’s Piazza del Campo. Third-place finisher in 2014, Alejandro Valverde, will be in the Blues’ roster together with Andrey Amador, Giovanni Visconti, Jasha Sütterlin, Marc Soler, Pablo Lastras, Fran Ventoso and Enrique Sanz.

Valverde, 3rd in 2014:
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header-lottonl-jumboleftLottoNL-Jumbo for Strade Bianche
The team races Strade Bianche this Saturday. “The race is sometimes compared with Paris-Roubaix, but actually it’s more like an unpaved Liège-Bastogne-Liège,” said Dekker. “With Sep Vanmarcke we have a serious contender, although the many climbs are not in his favour.”

Rick Flens looks forward to his first time on the white gravel roads between San Gimignano and Siena. “It’s a beautiful race to watch,” Flens explained. “The climbs are steep. On the bike is going to be very hard, much harder than in front of the television! My main task is to assist Sep. I’m excited.”

Team line-up Strade Bianche:
Rick Flens, Paul Martens, Sep Vanmarcke, Robert Wagner and Kevin De Weert.
Sports Director: Erik Dekker.

Sep Vanmarcke:
Kuurne - Brussel - Kuurne 2015

header-bardianiBardiani-CSF Riders for Strade Bianche
Enrico Battaglin and Sonny Colbrelli will be the main riders for the Bardiani-CSF in the Strade Bianche on Saturday. Team manager Roberto Reverberi said: “The Strade Bianche is a race with a lot of visibility where we have to try to shine,” said team director Roberto Reverberi. “Our riders are focused to redeem the last Sunday performance at GP Lugano and the same time show signs of growth before two important events like Tirreno – Adriatico and Milano – Sanremo. Some of the strongest puncheurs of pro cycling will be there. So it will be a really good test bench for our shape and future goals.”

Riders:
Enrico Battaglin, Enrico Barbin, Sonny Colbrelli, Manuel Bongiorno, Andrea Piechele, Stefano Pirazzi, Nicola Ruffoni and Edoardo Zardini.

Sonny Colbrelli:
Giro-D'Itaia 2014 stage 5

header-sky-leftSky Team for the Strade Bianche
Riders:
Andy Fenn, Peter Kennaugh, Christian Knees , Salvatore Puccio, Ian Stannard, Elia Viviani and Xabier Zandio.

Ian Stannard:
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header-katusha15Katusha riders for the Strade Bianche
On Saturday, March 7th, in Italy, will be held the famous one-day race Strade Bianche, which is known for its beautiful landscapes and white gravel sectors.

Team Katusha’s roster:
Sven Erik Bystrøm, Giampaolo Caruso, Pavel Kochetkov, Dmitriy Kozonchuk, Aleksandr Porsev, Alexey Tsatevich, Angel Vicioso and Eduard Vorganov, all directed by Claudio Cozzi.

Sven Erik Bystrøm:
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header- paris-nice15Paris-Nice 2015
The first races of 2015 have already whetted appetites and provided an amuse-bouche of the season in store. The real feast, though, is being prepared for Paris-Nice and will be served by some of the biggest names in cycling: Porte, Wiggins, Kwiatkowski, Van Garderen, Péraud, Bardet, Talansky, Majka, Barguil and Aru will all be on the start-line in Maurepas, and all vying to succeed the winner of the 2014 Race to the Sun, Carlos Betancur.

While the route unveiled by Christian Prudhomme in February gave at least a vague outline of what kind of racing to expect over eight days and 1,137 kilometers between the Parisian suburbs and the Côte d’Azur, sifting the pretenders from the contenders promises to be a much trickier undertaking. Wherever one looks on the provisional start-list, there are stage-hunters and “maillot jaune” aspirants: eleven previous Paris-Nice podium finishers are due to compete, and four previous winners. There are also 22 Tour de France stage-winners (and, coincidentally, 22 who have won stages at Paris-Nice) and four former world champions. The squads submitted by the 20 pre-selected teams are also clearly as well prepared as they are decorated; 16 of the riders down to start had indeed won races in 2015 before the end of February.

The usual imponderables aside, there is no mystery over where the decisive action could occur. Climbers like Romain Bardet, Pierre Rolland, Richie Porte, Rafael Valls, Tom Slagter and Rafal Majka, the 2014 Tour de France King of the Mountains, will all be eyeing stage 4 and the summit finish on the col de la Croix de Chaubouret. But to triumph overall, they will also have to see off the challenge of probably the three finest time triallists on the planet: world champion Bradley Wiggins, Tony Martin and Tom Dumoulin. Not that the time-honoured, final-day TT up the Col d’Eze is your normal race against the watch. For this reason, Andrew Talansky, Lieuwe Westra, Geraint Thomas and Jean-Christophe Péraud, the runner-up in last year’s Tour de France, can all harbor hopes of a stage-win that day and overall glory. The newly enthroned Tour Down Under champion and world hour record holder, Rohan Dennis, will also pose a serious threat, with the opening-day prologue in Maurepas adding to the kilometers of time-trialling.

If the battle for the yellow jersey has rarely looked so open or so rich in intrigue, the same applies to the white jersey competition for the best young rider. The revelation of last year’s Giro and Vuelta, Fabio Aru, won’t have raced a single day in 2015 when he reports for duty on March 8th, but the Sardinian has spent most of the winter toiling at altitude. Aru’s tussle with Warren Barguil at the 2014 Vuelta turned into a fascinating sideshow, and that pair will again lock horns. Romain Bardet, a star performer at the recent Ruta del Sol, Wilco Kelderman, the white jersey winner at the 2014 Dauphiné, and maybe even Bob Jungels will hope to encroach on the latest installment of Aru and Barguil’s duel. The stages earmarked for the sprinters should also keep the pundits guessing: Kristoff, Greipel and Degenkolb have already opened their accounts in 2015 but may find three French tyros – Démare, Bouhanni et Coquard – blocking their route to more bouquets. And for those who believe in omens, Coquard’s latest victory, no less than the world Madison championship, came just around the corner from Maurepas in the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines velodrome…

20 teams and the main names.

Australia
Orica-GreenEDGE : Albasini (Swi), Matthews (Aus), Yates (Gbr).

Belgium
Etixx – Quick-Step: Boonen (Bel), Kwiatkowski (Pol), Martin (Ger).
Lotto Soudal: Gallopin (Fra), Greipel (Ger).

France
AG2R-La Mondiale: Bardet, Péraud (Fra).
Bretagne-Séché Environnement: Fédrigo, B.Feillu, R .Feillu (Fra), Sepulveda (Arg).
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: Bouhanni (Fra), Navarro (Spa).
FDJ.fr: Démare, Jeannesson, Vichot (Fra).
Team Europcar: Coquard, Rolland, Voeckler (Fra).

Germany
Team Giant-Alpecin: Barguil (Fra), Degenkolb (Ger), T.Dumoulin (Hol).

Great Britain
Team Sky: Thomas (Gbr), Nordhaug (Nor), Porte (Aus), Wiggins (Gbr).

Italy
Lampre-Merida: R.Costa (Por), Valls (Spa).

Kazakhstan
Astana Pro Team: Aru (Ita), LL.Sanchez (Spa), Taaramae (Est), Westra (Hol).

Netherlands
Team Lotto NL-Jumbo: Hofland, Kelderman, Ten Dam (Hol)-

Russia
Team Katusha: Kristoff (Nor), Silin, Trofimov (Rus).
Tinkoff-Saxo: Kiserlovski (Cro), Majka (Pol).

Spain
Movistar Team: Capecchi (Ita), Rojas (Spa).

Switzerland
IAM Cycling: Sy.Chavanel (Fra), Frank (Swi), Haussler (Aus).

USA
BMC Racing Team: Dennis (Aus), Gilbert (Bel), Van Garderen (USA).
Team Cannondale-Garmin: Slagter (Hol), Talansky (USA).
Trek Factory Racing: Jungels (Lux).

Paris-Nice route video:

[Parcours Paris Nice 2015] Rendez-vous à la… por tourdefrance

header-lottonl-jumboleftTeam LottoNL-Jumbo wants results in Paris-Nice
Team LottoNL-Jumbo has been looking forward to the Paris-Nice stage race since December, marking down ‘The Race to the Sun’ as one of hits major spring targets. Two of the team’s young guns, Moreno Hofland and Wilco Kelderman, will lead the charge: the former will aim for another stage win in Paris-Nice and Kelderman for the overall classification.

“Everyone prepared really carefully for this race,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said. “That effort must pay off next week because we expect some results.“Moreno had a spotless pre-season until the Ruta del Sol. He crashed in that race and fell sick afterwards, but we are confident he will be ready for Paris-Nice. “Wilco is doing fantastically at the moment. He proved himself already on the bike this season and moreover, we have a team which is able to support him perfectly.”

Sunshine
Last year in Paris-Nice, Moreno Hofland lived up to the promise put on him by sprinting to a stage win. Since that victory, his status has increased.

“More is expected from me since my good results during last year’s spring races,” Hofland said. “I have to keep improving my level, which is happening, fortunately. I had a good winter with enough training. I was at the level I wanted to be at for the start of the season. It’s a pity when you have a little setback, but that’s part of the job. “I examined the profile of Paris-Nice and in the first three stages and stage five, there are chances for me. It would be nice if I can win a stage like last year. Let the race to the sun bring me sunshine after this cloudy period.”

Northern France
The stages Hofland aims at are the trickiest ones for Wilco Kelderman. Paris-Nice is well-known for his tough stages in the north of France. The bad weather and strong winds often create some precarious moments on the bleak roads.

“That’s why we left already today,” Zeeman said. “We’re going to preview the stages in northern France because we don’t want to lose the race there already. Thursday is the first mountain finish, which gives other riders opportunities. We will be able to perform with Wilco in that part of the race.” Kelderman expects to do well in the stage race, too. “I felt good in Paris-Nice already last year, but I was a little unlucky,” he explained. “If everything comes together this year, I will be able to finish in the top five.”

Enormous Boost
To do that job, Kelderman will count on his climbing skills and the advantages of his new Bianchi time trial bike. “The new bike is truly amazing,” Kelderman said. “Bianchi put a lot of effort into the development of this bike. I’m very happy with that. I feel the differences. The bike is stiff and light, which makes it very efficient. Mentally, something like that gives you an enormous boost.

Line-up:
George Bennett, Jos van Emden, Moreno Hofland, Wilco Kelderman, Steven Kruijswijk, Bram Tankink, Maarten Tjallingii en Maarten Wynants.

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header_movistar-leftMovistar team for Paris-Nice
José Luis Arrieta and José Luis Laguía will be the telephone squad’s sports directors in the 73rd Paris-Nice, the second event of the 2015 UCI WorldTour calendar. This year’s route includes two time trials -a prologue in Maurepas (Sunday 8) and a traditional, 10km hill climb showdown towards the Col d’Eze (Sunday 14)-, a mountain-top finish in the Croix de Chaubouret (Thursday 12) and nervous finishes including some wind danger in days one to three. Spanish road race champion Ion Izagirre and Vuelta a Andalucía GC podium finisher Beñat Intxausti feature in an eight-man group also including Imanol Erviti, Rubén Fernández, Dayer Quintana, Eros Capecchi, Gorka Izagirre and José Joaquín Rojas, 4th in 2014.

J.J. Rojas:
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header-katusha15Katusha riders for Paris-Nice
On Sunday, March 8th, the prestigious WorldTour race Paris – Nice, the so-called Race to the Sun, will take its start in France. The race includes 8 stages and will be held from March 8th to 15th.

Katusha’s line-up:
Sergei Chernetckii, Jacopo Guarnieri, Alexander Kristoff, Viacheslav Kuznetsov, Tiago Machado, Egor Silin, Simon Špilak and Iurii Trofimov.
Sports directors are Dmitry Konyshev and Xavier Florencio.

Alexander Kristoff:
oman15st3-Kristoff-620

header-giantalp15Giant-Alpecin to Paris-Nice
Paris-Nice, the ‘Race to the Sun’, gets underway this weekend and Team Giant-Alpecin heads to the eight-day WorldTour race with a strong team to battle both on the flats and over tougher terrains.

John Degenkolb (GER) returns to the race where he took the green jersey and a Stage 3 sprint victory in 2014, together with two second spots on the opening two stages. The German sprinter already has a victory to his name this season, at the Dubai Tour, and other places of honor proving that he is already riding with some good form ahead of the important classics period.

He will be joined by Warren Barguil (FRA) who started his season at the Tour of Oman where he was able to test his legs on the early season climbs. It will be a welcome return to racing on home soil for Barguil where he will be able to test himself on the tougher days as he continues to build towards his early season objectives.

Tom Dumoulin (NED) returns to racing at Paris-Nice after a period of training since the Tour Down Under. He will have a close eye on the opening prologue and to test his form over the whole week of racing, however recent sickness at training camp may knock him back in his preparation for the race.

The line-up is completed by road captain Roy Curvers (NED), lead-out man Koen de Kort (NED), climbing domestique Georg Preidler (AUT), as well as Ramon Sinkeldam (NED) and Zico Waeytens (NED) who continue their preparation for the classics period.

“This year’s Paris-Nice, as always, presents different opportunities over the week and we have a lot of aspects to the team here to challenge with,” confirmed coach Christian Guiberteau (FRA). “We would like to try to go for a good overall result with Tom, but his chances will depend on how he recovers from recent sickness. With Warren, he is still building his form but there will be good opportunities for him to test himself and also to support others here.

“We have seen that John is in good shape already and his confidence and motivation is there so he can push to take his chances on the sprint opportunities here with good support. The first three road stages should suit the sprinters and after that we will see how the race pans out.”

Line-up:
Warren Barguil (FRA), Roy Curvers (NED), John Degenkolb (GER), Tom Dumoulin (NED), Koen de Kort (NED), Georg Preidler (AUT), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Zico Waeytens (BEL).
Coach: Christian Guiberteau (FRA).

Warren Barguil, a man to watch in the hills:
Cambrils, 26-012015, Warren Barguil

header-bmc15-rosterBMC Paris-Nice Roster
Santos Tour Down Under winner and world hour record holder Rohan Dennis and Tour of Oman runner-up Tejay van Garderen headline the BMC Racing Team’s roster for Paris-Nice.

Dennis and van Garderen will be joined by two other members of the BMC Racing Team’s winning world team time trial championship squad from last fall, Silvan Dillier and Peter Velits. Past world road champion Philippe Gilbert and 2010 Paris-Nice “king of the mountains” winner Amaël Moinard will also compete in the eight-day race that begins Sunday.

Roster:
Rohan Dennis (AUS), Silvan Dillier (SUI), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Ben Hermans (BEL), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Michael Schär (SUI), Tejay van Garderen (USA), Peter Velits (SVK).
Sport Directors: Yvon Ledanois (FRA) & Max Sciandri (ITA).

RaceSheet-Paris-Nice

header-sky-leftSky Team for Paris-Nice
Riders:
Bernhard Eisel, Lars-Petter Nordhaug, Richie Porte, Nicolas Roche, Luke Rowe, Ben Swift, Geraint Thomas and Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Bradley Wiggins will ride Paris-Nice as part of his warm-up for Roubaix:
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header-europcar15-leftEuropcar team for Paris-Nice
Riders:
Bryan Coquard, Antoine Duchesne, Cyril Gautier, Yohann Gene, Brian Nauleau, Romain Sicard, Angélo Tulik, Thomas Voeckler.
Directeur Sportifs: Andy Flickinger, Lylian Lebreton.

Voeckler for Paris-Nice:
europcar-voeckler620

header-tinkoffsaxo14-leftRafal Majka named captain of versatile Tinkoff-Saxo squad at Paris-Nice
The “Race against the Sun” is coming up and Tinkoff-Saxo is fielding a strong squad in support of team captain Rafal Majka, who’s looking to make an impact. Paris-Nice 2015 will this year provide a noticeable chance for climbers and stage racers to face each other on several mountain stages and time trials in the battle for the GC.

In addition to GC-captain Rafal Majka, the team is sending Robert Kiserlovski, Matti Breschel, Michael Mørkøv, Pawel Poljanski, Chris Anker Sørensen, Ivan Rovny and Danish champion Michael Valgren to Paris-Nice. Sports director Sean Yates sees the race as the first major event of the year.

“Paris-Nice is the first European WorldTour event and one of those races that signal the coming of the high-season of cycling. We’ve assembled a strong squad of riders, whom have all shown a current shape that matches the toughness of this race. Rafal is, clearly, in the process of becoming a bona fide team leader and here he’ll get the chance to lead the troops. He’s motivated and with the form he carries on from Tour of Oman, he can do well on this year’s parcours”, comments Sean Yates.

Besides flat stages and two time-trials, Paris-Nice 2015 also features serious days in the mountains, especially on stage 4 to Croix de Chaubouret. Rafal Majka, 25 years old, picks Chaubouret as a deciding moment, but underlines that the final time trial up Col d’Èze is just as important.

“I’ve recovered well from Oman and I feel that my condition is improving, which is good since I’m here to fight for the GC. I have a really good squad around me with, for instance, Robert Kiserlovski to help me in the mountains. We’re aiming to do a good result for the team. For sure, the mountain stages suit me the most and it’s where I can make a difference, if I have good legs. But the final mountain TT up Col d’Eze will be where the GC is eventually decided”.

Moving through early springtime France, Paris-Nice more often than not throws harsh weather conditions at the riders before reaching the mild climate of the Riviera. The team captain sees this as a reason to prepare extra well.

“We need to prepare us mentally and be ready for some days of fighting. With wind, rain and sometimes snow in Northern France during the first stages, it’s so important to stay at the front as the weather creates a nervous race”, Majka adds.

Strong competition
As a prestigious WorldTour race, Paris-Nice attracts strong competition. This year, Majka will face other in-form pre-race favorites such as Tejay van Garderen, Richie Porte and World Champion Michael Kwiatkowski. Sean Yates explains the level of ambition:

“Our goal going into the race is to do well in the GC with Rafal and to win a stage with guys such as Breschel or Valgren, who are obviously fast guys – and can do well in breakaways. The competition for the overall win this year is strong and the likes of van Garderen, Thomas, Porte, and Kwiatkowski are all natural time trialists. So with two time trials on eight stages, we’ll have to look for opportunities and use the strong and versatile qualities we have on the team to soften our rivals, especially on the mountain stages, where Rafal is at his best”.

“However, nowadays it’s more difficult to isolate a team leader, as the teams are very disciplined. But Paris-Nice is a hell of a race, there are so many factors that remain unknown until they are in effect and we can’t take anything for granted. Our approach is to remain flexible and stay focused tactically… half of the favorites could be written off after stage one, if everything is torn to pieces in the wind like in previous editions”, finishes Sean Yates.

Rafal Majka will lead Tinkoff-Saxo:
tdf14st17-majka

header-lottosoudal15Lotto Soudal Preview Paris-Nice
Paris-Nice is the second stage race at WorldTour level of the season. The ‘Race to the sun’ starts 8th March with a prologue. Paris-Nice ends with a climb time trial on Sunday 15th March. Last year’s edition was won by Carlos Betancur, Tony Gallopin finished tenth in the GC.

Tricky wind
A flat 6.7 kilometres long prologue in Maurepas will cause minimal differences at day one. It will be looking out for the wind, causing spectacle the three following flat stages. If the wind isn’t strong enough and the peloton stays together, one can expect bunch sprints in Contres, Saint-Amand-Montrond and Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule. The fifth stage is the queen stage, with the finish line drawn uphill. Eight climbs along the route will make sure the favourites will make the difference. The final climb, the Croix de Chaubouret, is a ten kilometres long first category climb with an average gradient of 6.7%.

The peloton has an easier day on Friday. Although the Col de la République has to be covered pretty soon. After the climb the stage is rather flat. The last kilometre is quite hard with an average gradient of 4.4 %. The penultimate stage contains a lot of climbs again. Six climbs, among those three first category climbs, should decimate the peloton. At the top of the last climb there are still 27 kilometres to descend to the finish line in Nice. Anything is possible with a 9.5 kilometre climb time trial on the final day. At the Col d’Èze, a first category climb, the riders will be striving for the GC win.

‘The first goal’, that’s how Tony Gallopin describes Paris-Nice. It’s not the main goal, but still he hopes to give a first demonstration. How that will be, will become clear in the ‘Race to the Sun’, but as a Frenchman and one of the leaders in the Lotto Soudal team he can’t wait until it’s Sunday.

Tony Gallopin: “The preparation went smoothly. The past three years I rode the Tour of Oman, now I rode the Tour of Algarve, a tough stage race with many race kilometres in good weather; ideal. Paris-Nice is my first real goal. I finished tenth in GC last year. The course suited me perfectly and if I had been more lucky, I would have finished on place five. This year there is a summit finish and the time trial to the Col d’Eze on the final day. You can’t compare these two editions.”

“I know the route well. The first two stages take place in my home region. I also know the stages of the final weekend pretty well, because I often go training in that area. We have a top sprinter in the team with André Greipel. For a team it’s nice to have riders for each types of stages, that will definitely be the case in this Paris-Nice. The GC will probably be determined in the stage on Thursday to the Croix de Chaubouret and during the two days in Nice.”

Lotto Soudal sports director Herman Frison gives his preview of Paris-Nice as well.
Herman Frison: “Tony finished tenth in the overall standings last year. Hopefully we can do better this year. André Greipel can strive for the win in the three flat stages. He missed the opening weekend in Flanders but he resumed his training on Monday. Now we have got to make sure he doesn’t get ill again and that he has recovered sufficiently for Paris-Nice. His shape was good, he proved that in the Tour of Algarve. If he could raise his form to a next level it would be all right. The prologue isn’t important for him, so his Paris-Nice will start on Monday.”

Two GC riders in the selection
“Tim Wellens and Tony Gallopin are two riders who can strive for a good GC. If they ride a decent prologue, it will be important not to be surprised in the flat stages. If the wind is advantageous the peloton could split. Hopefully both of them won’t lose time so they can maintain a good position in the overall standings. We have Tim and Tony to go to the battle. If one of them loses time, we still got the other one. Towards the end the race gets harder with two mountain stages and a climb time trial. These are stages which are feasible for our leading men. I’m looking forward to it.”

Selection Lotto Soudal:
Lars Bak, Thomas De Gendt, Tony Gallopin, André Greipel, Adam Hansen, Greg Henderson, Marcel Sieberg and Tim Wellens.
Sports directors: Herman Frison and Marc Wauters.

Tony Gallopin:
Criterium Dauphine Libere 2014  stage -4

header-iamcyclingIAM Cycling for Paris-Nice
The World Tour is back in Europe. After a trip to Australia for the Tour Down Under, the international peloton will return to France to fight at the highest levels at Paris-Nice. With two time trials, a summit finish and a stage that will invite echelons fighting the wind, the 73rd edition of the Paris-Nice will represent the first major objective for many riders this year. “We’ll definitely get into the thick of it,” Michel Thétaz, CEO of IAM Funds and the founder of the team, confirmed. “This is the first time this season that we will be so close geographically to our fan base, so we will of course be expected to perform well. With this in mind, we have put together our strongest squad, our dream team, so to speak. We will have Sylvain Chavanel, who recently showed himself well even on the hardest climbs, as well as Mathias Frank, who is naturally more comfortable in the mountains. We’ll also have very good road captains with Dries Devenyns and Jérôme Pineau. In any case, we know the competition at Paris-Nice will be spicy.”

Nevertheless, the IAM Cycling team will not be going to the race trying to bite off more than it can chew at this point. Thétaz realizes it is important for the team to be realistic. “Paris-Nice is a race that we take very seriously. Of course we are going there trying to win, but wins can come in different forms. This is not yet the peak of the season. We are coming in the hopes particularly to see how versatile our riders are. The idea is to see how they react and perform over varied terrain. If we are in a position to play for the win, then yes, we will. But that is not our top priority,” Michel Thétaz explained.

Riders:
Sylvain Chavanel (Fr), Dries Devenyns (Bel), Mathias Frank (S), Heinrich Haussler (Aus), Jérôme Pineau (Fr), Vicente Reynes (Esp), David Tanner (Aus), Jonas Van Genechten (Bel).
Manager sportif: Serge Beucherie, Rik Verbrugghe. Directeur sportif: Eddy Seigneur.

Paris-Nice teaser video:

[Teaser – Paris Nice 2015] Rentrée des cycles… por tourdefrance

header-3dagsWVDriedaagse van West-Vlaanderen
The three Days of West Flanders used to be the warm-up stage race for the cobbled Classics, but now clashes with Strade Bianche and Paris-Nice, so tends to have young or riders who are not at the Classics winning level. That said; the race is hard in the Flemish style with a course taking in steep cobbled climbs and if the weather is bad (which it usually is) it will break many.

Race website: https://www.3dwvl.be

Stages:
Prologue: Friday 6th March: Middelkerke – Middelkerke (7.0 km).
Stage 1: Saturday 7th March: Bruges – Harelbeke (174.1 km).
Stage 2: Sunday 8th March: Nieuwpoort – Ichtegem (184.5 km).

The 2013 Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen:

header-lottosoudal15Lotto Soudal team for the Three Days of West Flanders
It’s time for the first Belgian stage race of the season. From Friday 6th until Sunday 8th March the Three Days of West-Flanders takes place.

Important prologue
Since 2011 the Three Days of West-Flanders starts with a prologue in Middelkerke. Three times the winner of the prologue became the overall winner as well. Obviously the prologue is important to get a good classification. The prologue in Middelkerke is seven kilometers long. The riders will head towards Nieuwpoort to then head back to the Casino in Middelkerke after three and a half kilometers.

The first stage, on Saturday, is 174.1 kilometers long. The peloton starts in Bruges. After hundred kilometers the riders will arrive at the Oude Kwaremont, the only hill on the route. Afterwards there are 74 flat kilometers left till the finish town Harelbeke, where the riders will have to cover four laps of 9.9 kilometers. The final stage from Nieuwpoort to Ichtegem is tougher with a total of eleven hills. The Goeberg, Rodeberg, Monteberg and Kemmelberg are halfway on the course. At the end there are three laps with the Keiberg and Ruidenberg as obstacles. After 184.5 kilometers the stage will come to an end and the winner of the Three Days of West-Flanders will be known.

Frederik Willems, sports director: “The prologue is indeed decisive in the battle for the overall win. We hope to set a fast time with Sean De Bie, who proved in the Tour of Denmark last year that he can ride a good time trial, Vegard Breen and Kris Boeckmans, who is in good shape.”

Sprints of a reduced bunch
“Normally Kris Boeckmans will be our sprinter. He won a stage in the Etoile de Bessèges and proved in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne that he’s good. Kenny Dehaes is our backup. I don’t expect a real bunch sprint. With hills like the Oude Kwaremont, Kemmelberg and Monteberg a selection will be made. If a peloton of sixty riders heads to the finish, Kris should be in it. Much will depend on the other riders on the start list. Also the weather conditions will have their influence on the race.”

Selection Lotto Soudal:
Tiesj Benoot, Kris Boeckmans, Vegard Breen, Sean De Bie, Kenny Dehaes, Gert Dockx, Boris Vallée and Tosh Van der Sande.
Sports directors: Kurt Van de Wouwer & Frederik Willems.

Tosh Van der Sande:
Cycling: Team Lotto-Soudal 2015

header-bmc15-rosterBMC Roster: 3-daagse van West-Vlaanderen
Campbell Flakemore and Klaas Lodewyck return to action this week for the BMC Racing Team, having recovered from broken collarbones sustained in separate crashes in January and February.

The two will be part of the team’s roster for 3-daagse van West-Vlaanderen, a three-day stage race in Belgium that begins Friday. Lodewyck and Flakemore – the reigning Under 23 world time trial champion – will be joined by six others, including Jempy Drucker, who finished sixth Sunday at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Riders:
Jempy Drucker (LUX), Campbell Flakemore (AUS), Klaas Lodewyck (BEL), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Manuel Senni (ITA), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Danilo Wyss (SUI), Rick Zabel (GER).
Sport Directors: Allan Peiper (AUS), Geert Van Bondt (BEL).

Campbell Flakemore:
flakemore15-620

header-europcar15-leftEuropcar team for the West Vlaanderen
Riders:
Thomas Boudat, Jérome Cousin, Dan Craven, Jimmy Engoulvent, Romain Guillemois, Morgan Lamoisson, Julien Morice, Alexandre Pichot.
Directeur Sportif: Benoit Genauzeau.

dan-craven-620

header-etixx-qr15Etixx – Quick-Step team for the 3-daagse van West-Vlaanderen
The race once again opens with a fast and flat 7km prologue. Stage 2, from Brugge to Harelbeke, includes a climb of the Oude Kwaremont about 100 kilometers into the 174.1km stage, but then finishes with a flat four-lap circuit. The 184.5km Stage 3, from Nieuwpoort to Ichtegem, includes the Rodeberg, Monteberg, and Kemmelberg before entering a finishing circuit of 11.5km for three laps. The circuit includes the Keidenberg and Ruidenberg.

Etixx – Quick-Step has been successful at this race in past years, with two overall victories in 2012 and 2013. Guillaume Van Keirsbulck won the final stage in the 2014 edition.

“The prologue is short, but even a second or two matters in this race,” Sport Director Rik Van Slycke said. “Then there is the stage near the sea, where the wind always play a role. The final stage is not so easy to predict either, where there can be actions at different points of the parcours including the climb of the Kemmelberg. But in past years even with the conditions and the climbs, the difference in the overall was made in the prologue. So normally it is important to do well immediately, so you don’t miss the chance to do well also in the GC. We have a good team at this race and will try to go for at least one win, depending on what we find on the roads day-by-day.”

Riders:
Iljo Keisse (BEL), Yves Lampaert (BEL), Gianni Meersman (BEL), Petr Vakoc (CZE), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL), Martin Velits (SVK), Lukasz Wisniowski (POL).
Sports Director: Tom Steels (BEL) & Rik van Slycke (BEL).

Gianni Meersman:
Cycling: 41th Volta Algarve 2014 / Stage 1

header-MTN14-leftMTN-Qhubeka: 3 Days of West Flanders
Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung head to the 3 Days of West Flanders this weekend with the 3 stage UCI 2.1 race kicking off with a 7km prologue on Friday. Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung are happy to be back at this traditional stage race for classics specialists for the 3rd year running.

After picking up a stage victory in 2013, Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung took on the 3 Days of West Flanders last year with high hopes. Unfortunately some misfortune plagued the team and we weren’t able to achieve a notable result. This year MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung will send a strong team to West Flanders, aiming to make up for last year’s mishap.

Tyler Farrar and Theo Bos will lead our African chargers over the 3 days. Tyler has put in some gutsy rides of late, including a strong showing at the GP Samyn on Wednesday. Theo has been recovering well after his crash in Qatar and is slowly coming back into some decent form.

The rest of the squad will be made up by Jay Thomson, Jaco Venter, Johann van Zyl, Adrien Niyonshuti, Matt Brammeier and Serge Pauwels. Jaco has always fared well in the opening prologue and will again give the opening 7km course a good crack.

J.P Heynderickx – Sport Director: “We are coming to 3 Days of West Flanders with clear goals. We want to a win a stage. We have a strong team with riders capable of contesting for the victory on the 2 road stages. The racing will be tough as it always is in Belgium but our team is prepared for these circumstances.”

mtn-3dayswflanders-620

header-katusha15Team Katusha for Three Days of West-Flanders
The Russian Team Katusha will continue its Belgian trip with the 2.1 UCI stage race Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, which will be held from March 6th to 8th.

Team Katusha line-up: Maxim Belkov, Marco Haller, Vladimir Isaychev, Alexander Kolobnev, Sergey Lagutin, Rudi Selig, Anton Vorobyev and Ilnur Zakarin, all directed by Gennady Mikhaylov.

Katusha’s Marco Haller:
stertoer12-haller-650

header-lottonl-jumboleftOpportunities in West-Vlaanderen for LottoNL-Jumbo
Team LottoNL-Jumbo has several options to perform during the 3-daagse van West-Vlaanderen. Tom Van Asbroeck is the most important rider for the stages, while Martijn Keizer should be able to deliver a good general classification because of his time trial skills.

“I have to be at my best, now”, Martijn Keizer makes clear. “I am satisfied with my current condition. I have to show off during the prologue in West-Vlaanderen. This race suits me well enough to maintain a good position in the general classification afterwards.”

Frans Maassen
The 3-daagse van West-Vlaanderen starts with a prologue of 7 kilometers. The two stages are challenging with its tough climbs such as the Oude Kwaremont, the Rodeberg, the Monteberg and the Kemmelberg. “It’s a profile that gives all the riders a chance to show themselves”, sports director Frans Maassen said. “In Tom Van Asbroeck, we have a strong man for the stages and Martijn Keizer is able to deliver a good time trial. But maybe one of the other riders can surprise.”

Man in shape
Tom Van Asbroeck showed in the Algarve and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne that he is in good shape at the moment. For this reason we expect him to perform in the 3-daagse van West-Vlaanderen as well.

“But it’s premature to expect that he will win a stage”, Maassen nuances. “There will be a lot of strong riders in this race and cycling isn’t a sport in which winning is a formality anyway. I hope that everyone will give everything they have. When the whole team has fought at their maximum level, I will be satisfied with every result. The prologue will be decisive for the general classification, so I expect everyone to go all the way in those 7 kilometers.”

Team Line-up:
Tom van Asbroeck, Brian Bulgac, Martijn Keizer, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Nick van der Lijke, Barry Markus, Timo Roosen en Mike Teunissen.
Sports Director: Frans Maassen.

Bert-Jan Lindeman:
lottoNL-Jumbo-training-620

header-scheldeprijs15Teams for the Scheldeprijs
The organizers of the Belgian Scheldeprijs race has named the 24 teams that will take part in the 103rd edition on April 8, 2015.

The WorldTour teams are: Giant-Alpecin, Etixx-QuickStep and Mark Cavendish, Katusha team, Astana, FDJ.fr, Lotto Soudal, Cannondale-Garmin, LottoNL-Jumbo, Sky and Trek. The ProConti teams are Bora-Argon 18, Bretagne-Séché Environnement, Cofidis, Cult Energy, MTN-Qhubeka, Europcar, Team Roompot, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, UnitedHealthcare, Wanty-Groupe Gobert , Androni Giocattoli and Southeast.

Race website: https://www.scheldeprijs.be/en

scheldeprijs-map-620

header-tdfNew Tour de France video
The Tour de France has released this new video from last year, these farmers have some great ideas.


Clip FNSEA – TDF 2014 por tourdefrance


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