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Fresh faces aplenty in Vuelta’s early days

August 23, 2016 - 2:29pm

Hopefully by now you’ve read Fred Dreier’s love-note to the Vuelta a España. Maybe he’s convinced you to fall in love with the Spanish grand tour or to even proclaim it as the season’s best three-week race (which it is). But if that’s not enough, consider this: Through the first four stages, the Vuelta has, for the most part, been dominated by fresh faces, riders new to the grand tour game.

Of course, the stage 1 team time trial was won by Team Sky — no surprise there — but the man who slipped on the red leader’s jersey at the end of the day was Peter Kennaugh, not Chris Froome. Kennaugh, a two-time British champ, has never worn the leader’s jersey in a grand tour before.

More Vuelta news

But the 27-year-old didn’t have long to enjoy the overall lead in Spain. On Sunday, the maillot rojo went to his teammate Michal Kwiatkowski. We all know about the Pole’s pedigree, but he too had never worn a leader’s jersey before in a grand tour.

Have you picked up on the pattern yet? Well it keeps on going: Movistar’s Ruben Fernandez was in red for the day on Tuesday after second place in stage 3. He too was a first-timer in the GC lead at the Vuelta — or any three-week race for that matter. And after the Vuelta’s second uphill finish, Darwin Atapuma wore red (you know, not his normal, BMC Racing red). Only one Colombian has won the Vuelta, Luis Herrera in 1987. On Tuesday, however, Atapuma insisted his role was to ride for team leader Samuel Sanchez.

If the battle for red still doesn’t get your blood racing, it should also be noted that two of the stage winners to date are first-timers.

On one hand, there’s journeyman Gianni Meersman, winning his first grand tour stage Sunday after 10 seasons as a pro. He’s generally tasked with leading out top sprinters, like Etixx – Quick-Step teammate Marcel Kittel. At the other end of the spectrum, Lilian Calmejane making his grand tour debut in the Vuelta, confidently rode his way out of the break to win stage 4 on a tough uphill finish. Oh, and we should mention that 2016 is his first year with a major pro team.

So to anyone who gripes when Team Sky puts the Tour de France in a stranglehold, I say this: Watch the Vuelta, and you’ll see plenty of fresh faces on the podium and in the leader’s jersey.

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Technical FAQ: Saving freehubs, aero is everywhere

August 23, 2016 - 1:29pm

Dear Lennard,
I’ve destroyed every aluminum freehub I’ve ever ridden (see attached photo). I gouge the cassette into the hub so far I sometimes can’t get it removed to replace worn gears without filing off metal chips.

Is this a regular issue for other riders? How do you prevent this kind of wear?

I know that steel freehub bodies don’t have this issue, since the harder metal doesn’t deform against the cassette, but most road wheels (especially nice ones) don’t use steel freehubs.

Any maintenance and purchasing advice would be very appreciated.
— Ken

Dear Ken,
Well, the tearing-up of the splines and the difficulty of removing the cogs are as sure as death and taxes if you’re a powerful rider using an aluminum freehub body that is Shimano/SRAM compatible and you’re using separate cogs. The problem is, besides the soft material, that the splines are so low.

It’s hard to imagine one of those cogs being able to plow completely through the wide, indexing spline on the freehub, but I have seen complete spline failure on steel freehub bodies that have, in the interest of weight savings, removed the centers of the splines, leaving thin, separated strips of steel. The circumstance was similar: separate steel cogs pushing into the splines, but in this case they kept going until they tore right through all of the splines and just spun freely on the freehub body.

The cheapest way to eliminate the problem is to not pedal hard; this doesn’t happen to 100-pound riders. But you probably don’t want to do that, so here are two more expensive options that will allow you to pedal as hard as you want.

1. Use a SRAM Powerdome cassette. The only engagement of the 10 largest cogs with the cassette is the set of splines on the largest cog, and those are aluminum and won’t damage your freehub body in the least. Check out the photo from the back side on the link. The first cog also has splines, but you’re generally too torque-limited to get that one to dig into the freehub body anyway, and even if it did dig in, you could still remove it easily.

2. Use a Campagnolo freehub body and cassette. The splines are much deeper on Campy freehub bodies, so the pressure is distributed more, and the cogs don’t tend dig into them. If you’re using an 11-speed drivetrain, a Campy wheel is interchangeable with a SRAM or Shimano wheel, generally without derailleur readjustment, because the spacing between cogs is the same with 11-speed cassettes from any of the three brands.

If you’re going to use a Shimano cassette, get one that has the most cogs riveted to aluminum carriers. This would be Dura-Ace, and the largest five cogs will be integrated onto two aluminum carriers; this guarantees that at least the innermost five cogs won’t dig into the freehub body. But judging by your 11-speed freehub body, it looks like only the smallest six cogs have dug into it. Low-end Shimano cassettes have (or at least had) three long, thin bolts holding the entire cog stack together, which should eliminate this problem, but I don’t believe this exists in 11-speed form.

There was a brief time in the 10-speed era when Shimano tried to address this issue by making Dura-Ace cassette cogs have longer spline teeth and Dura-Ace aluminum freehub bodies have deeper splines. But the market rejected the incompatibility with prior generations and with Ultegra and 105. So Shimano’s subsequent retreat on changing the spline configuration took us to your current predicament.
― Lennard

Feedback on last week’s column:

Dear Lennard,
I saw your response to the question of whether the gloves used by the U.S. women’s track team might have slowed them down. According to an MIT wind tunnel study, gloves slow you down more than a non-aero front wheel in a TT. I suspect the same is true on the track. The article was published in a rival magazine but the data is solid.
— Ted

Dear Lennard,
Here is my comment on your note on the women’s track team gloves.

More Technical FAQ

Air drag can sometime be reduced by increasing the surface roughness of the object. This is why the golf ball has dimples. In a range of speed which depends on the object size, generating turbulence in the boundary layer, the air near the object, moves the separation point: the point where the boundary layer separate from the object downstream. The roughness increases the skin friction but decreases the pressure drag caused by the separation. At high velocities the boundary layer is already turbulent; adding roughness increases the total drag.

The U.S. track bike chain was moved to the left to reduce drag, this is an indication that a lot of time was spend in the wind tunnel, so maybe the loose gloves were there to reduce the drag.

It is evident that the U.S. running support team has done a lot of work in the wind tunnel too. At Rio the US running sprint track team tops and shorts have little pink bumps just where one would like to trip the boundary layer. The fabric roughness also has been strategically adjusted.

The speeds of the foot sprints are on the order of 100m in 10 seconds, or 10m in 1 second, or 3600 X 10m in an hour, 36 km/hour, 22.5 miles/hour. We cyclists know that air drag at that speed is not negligible. A time difference of 1/100 of a second over 10 sec is a difference of 0.1 percent over the total time. Reducing air drag by a few percent is thus very worthwhile, unless you are Usain Bolt.

Even the U.S. long jumper has dimples on his socks!
— Pierre

Dear Pierre,
Thanks for that explanation. The boundary layer argument is always one which that is in a dance with increasing the size of the object. I’m pretty sure that if you strip the fuzz off of a tennis ball, the smaller inner ball will not fly as far as the larger, fuzzy version of itself. But when you increase the size of the object in order to create the roughness to disrupt the boundary layer, there is obviously a point where size trumps surface roughness and drag goes up rather than down.

I think it is particularly interesting given your example of the US women’s 4X100 relay team, because my wife and I frequently wondered aloud to each other while watching the speed events on the track — the ones with starting blocks, whether running or hurdling — about what big hair some of the competitors had and how it seemed sure to be slowing them down. I can imagine a boundary-layer effect in that instance, too, but it’s very hard for me to imagine that some of the huge hair on some very fast Jamaican and American sprinters wasn’t, on balance, slowing them down, and not just from aerodynamic drag, but sometimes also from having to accelerate all of that additional mass.

So the question for me in this instance of the pursuit team’s gloves is: Which wins out, size or surface roughness?
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
The best explanation of why left-side-drive offers some advantage that I’ve seen came from LOOK’s marketing material for their R96 frame: they suggest that it’s simply because the left side of the bike has a lower average speed than the right side.

My calculations, based on a 42mm chainline, suggest the speed difference is 0.21%, meaning the drag difference is most likely under 0.5% (that’s half a percent of the drivetrain’s drag, not the whole bike), which isn’t a lot given the drawbacks.

The main drawback is that for now at least you have a very limited number of rear wheels which are safe to use with a left-side-drive cog. If one of those wheels is the best for drag and frictional losses then great, but it’s more likely that the best is in the larger part of the market; you could well take a bigger marginal loss on those factors than your marginal gain from moving the drive side to the slower side of the bike. There is a similar deficit of choice for left-side-drive cranks. It’s possible also that BBs are asymmetrically designed at that level, I don’t know.

Now that Felt and LOOK have both built left-side-drive track bikes it will be more worthwhile for wheel and crank manufacturers to build products that can perform that function safely, and in a few years the drawbacks I listed above may disappear entirely.
— Phil

Dear Lennard,
I broke my collarbone a few years ago at the end of a great ride when a dog ambushed us from a ditch. I thought I had hit the dog. But the more I have thought about it, I think I panicked and locked up the front brake. I hardly use the front brake now and have told myself to never lock it up for any reason. A few months ago a small dog came at me and I did not panic, no front brake. I hit the dumb dog, and he managed to wiggle out from under my wheel before I rode over him and even though it pulled my wheel so that I went off the road, I did not fall and all was well.

I think many broken collarbones and other injuries could be avoided with front anti-lock brakes. Even the pros panic and lock up their front wheel from time to time.
— Forrest

Dear Forrest,
I think you’re right. Right after Interbike last year, I wrote about the Ultra Cycle Brake Safe, which makes any cable-actuated brake into an anti-lock brake. I don’t know whether the product ever came to be, though.
― Lennard

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Americans go 1-2 in Tour de l’Avenir time trial

August 23, 2016 - 11:55am

Classe @AdrienCosta ! #TourdelAvenir pic.twitter.com/BspSocyhIL

— Tour de l'Avenir (@tourdelavenir) August 23, 2016

After a quiet start to the eight-day Tour de l’Avenir stage race, the U.S. team took first and second in Tuesday’s stage 4 time trial around Lugny, France. Adrien Costa, 19, won the 16.5km test ahead of his teammate Nielson Powless. Costa is coming off of a great ride at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, where he was second in stages 3 and 7 and won the best young rider’s classification.

“I really liked the course, which had a bit of everything: a nice opening climb, some rolling and flat sections, and a little technical part at the finish,” Costa said. “So it was a very complete TT. I didn’t go in expecting to win at all.”

Although they started the season as Axeon Hagens Berman teammates, Costa will ride as a stagiaire for the Belgian powerhouse team Etixx – Quick-Step for the final months of the season. Tour de l’Avenir, however, is contested by national teams. Stage 4 was the first stage victory for an American since Taylor Phinney won the prologue in Vierzon in 2010.

The two Americans faced a formidably talented field in the race’s only time trial stage, including Mads Würtz Schmidt of Denmark, the reigning U-23 world TT champion, and German Lennard Kämna, who was third to Schmidt in Richmond and winner of the junior worlds TT in 2014. “It took a good two hours before the last guy finished, and it was pretty incredible to see so many top U23 time trialists come up short,” Costa added.

Norway’s Amund Jansen kept his overall lead in the prestigious under-23 race, considered the Tour de France of the future, with a 38th-place result. Costa and Powless both moved into the top-10 overall with four days of Alpine climbing stages ahead.

“It is a special occasion for teammates to go 1-2 at the biggest U23 stage race of the year,” Powless said. “Even more so for teammates to have a 1-2-9-10 finish with Adrien, me, Will Barta, and Geoffrey Curran. Today was a big confidence boost for the team and it makes me really excited about the final four stages.”

Stage 4, top 10

1. Adrien Costa (USA), 16.5km in 21:14.56
2. Neilson Powless (USA) at 0:02
3. Jonathan Dibben (GB) at 0:07
4. Mads Würtz Schmidt (Dk) at 0:08
5. Lennard Kämna (G) at 0:09
6. Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) at 0:11
7. Filippo Ganna (I) at 0:15
8. Maximilian Schachmann (G) at s.t.
9. William Barta (USA) at 0:18
10. Geoffrey Curran (USA) at 0:21

Top-10 overall

1. Amund Jansen (N), 11:11:46
2. Nico Denz (G), 0:41.
3. Jonathan Dibben (GB), 1:20.
4. Natan Van Hooydonck (B), 2:21.
5. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GB), s.t.
6. Jan Tschernoster (G), 2:51.
7. Adrien Costa (USA), 2:54.
8. Neilson Powless (USA), 2:56.
9. Vincenzo Albanese (I), 3:02.
10. Lennard Kämna (G), 3:03.

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Rio Notebook: Reconciling the Olympics bubble

August 23, 2016 - 8:52am

RIO DE JANEIRO (VN) — Early each morning, I stepped out the front door of my Airbnb apartment and turned right, walking in the shade of drooping tropical trees past two doormen guarding gates, a high-end pastry shop, and a woman with her small child, asleep beneath a covered stoop on a thin mattress of wadded blankets. I walked one block then another toward Copacabana’s white sands and the big green sign that indicated a media shuttle stop, where I flashed my credential, stepped into a blue tour bus, and sat in plush, air-conditioned, Wi-Fi-enabled comfort as the driver pointed us down special Rio 2016 highway lanes, away from the woman and her child, past stacks of stalled traffic and bright hillside favelas. We sped through a developing city inside a first-world cocoon.

Inside the Olympic bubble I met Brian Babilonia, Puerto Rico’s lone road race starter. He showed up to his event three hours early, already kitted up when I arrived, his number pinned. He didn’t want to miss a moment of his Olympic dream, he said.

I stood in front of a devastated, tearful Mara Abbott barely 10 minutes after a gold medal slipped through her fingers 150 meters from the finish line, then wrote and re-wrote, and re-wrote a story that I knew could never truly capture anything.

Inside the Olympic bubble I felt the temporary beach volleyball stadium sway with the potential energy of a bellowing crowd as Brazil defeated the Americans in two sets. I watched Fabian Cancellara jump on the podium and shake his fists at a drizzling sky with the joy of a first victory, though it was likely his last. I marveled at the grace of a pair of synchronized divers, the pace of two table tennis players, and soaked in the roar of a tennis crowd more accustomed to the chants of soccer. I laughed with Dan from Nam’, because that’s what Dan does.

I felt my heart thump as British and American team pursuit teams stole the world record from each other ride after ride after ride. I felt my stomach drop as the Americans lost in the final. As the velodrome’s eyes turned to the podium, I instead watched Ruth Winder, the fifth American pursuiter, stand in her Team USA tracksuit and hold back tears at the edge of the crowd. Her teammates stood before the world and collected silver medals while her neck remained bare. My heart broke for her, as it did for Abbott, standing close enough to touch the most important thing the Olympic bubble has to give.

Inside the Olympic bubble I found feats of unbridled athleticism, the very peak of humanity. I found inspiration, the embodiment of Olympic spirit as we optimistically hope to define it.

Each evening I reversed course. The shuttle dropped me off at the big green “Media” sign in Copacabana around 9:30 p.m., just as hints of samba and AC/DC (really) began to waft out of two competing bars across the street. I stepped out of the Olympic bubble and into Rio de Janeiro, a flawed but deeply beautiful city.

Outside the bubble I met Hugo, who sells the sweetest bananas to ever grace a roadside stall. I don’t know how to ask a man’s name in Portuguese, but when he saw my credential and my gringo face he held out a hand. “Hugo,” he said, smiling on the dark street. I walked away from him with a credit card in my shoe and a fake wallet in my back pocket and realized I wouldn’t need either.

I met Lucas, 22, who could juggle a soccer ball in perpetuity and did so one afternoon along Ipanema’s shore. He didn’t have a job right now, his friend translated for me. But the sun was warm and he had this ball and he seemed happy anyway.

Outside the bubble I met Christian, my Airbnb host, neither a poor man nor a rich one, who rents his mother’s old apartment and shows tourists around his city. “It’s her pension,” he said.

“There will be protests tomorrow,” a text message from Christian said one evening before the games began. He’d join the demonstration outside Copacabana Palace, an icon of wealthy Rio that housed much of NBC’s suit-wearing vice-presidents of something-or-other. “The city and government will try to put speakers very high at the opening ceremony to muffle the boos of the ‘President’ of Brasil,” the message continued, putting “President” in quotes. “You’re going to see people try to put out the Olympic torch.”

I met him, asked him why. He was profiting from Olympics, after all, through Airbnb.

“We want them to spend the money on things we need, not things you need,” he said, not rudely but as a matter of fact. The roads to nowhere, the metro stops nobody but the IOC wanted; these were not things for him, they were things for me. And I’d be gone in a few weeks, while the open sewers stayed behind.

In Rio, more so than any city I’ve worked in, the gap between those in power and those below, those inside the Olympic bubble and out, was overwhelming.

Some 70,000 people were displaced by these games, local human rights organizations estimate. Over 100 people, almost exclusively young and black, were killed in the lead-up to the games by Rio security forces. Entire neighborhoods were razed near the Olympic Park. Rio spent about $12 billion, a tax burden equivalent to five years at minimum wage for every single Rio resident (just under $15,000 each). The Cariocas will never see the $1.2 billion NBC paid for broadcast rights. Volunteers quit en masse when they were neither fed nor relieved after long hours, while IOC officials received $900 per day to play with, after having all meals, transport, and housing covered. Over three weeks that’s a $19,000 payday — more than many Olympic athletes make in a year, even in rich countries like the U.S.

In light of this human cost, the things we were warned of — Zika, theft, muggings — seem trivial. I saw one mosquito; it’s winter down there. I was not mugged, nor did I ever feel unsafe. I bought bananas in the dark and had nonverbal conversations with Uber drivers. Perhaps I was lucky. Perhaps those fears were completely overblown.

I took the media shuttle home on my last night in Rio, past the colorful favelas that look out over the Atlantic and the poor traffic-bound souls not allowed in the Rio 2016 lane. I stepped out of the Olympic bubble, as I had every night for two weeks, and walked past the same woman and her child, both now awake. She sat with her hand out and face down. Her boy shook small stones inside a plastic cup, happily playing a game with rules only he knew.

The Olympic games sped through this developing city in a first-world cocoon. The rich got richer, the poor got nothing, and I struggled to reconcile the beautiful, inspiring, but ultimately insular world of Olympic athletics with real Rio, a boisterous and happy and chaotic and sad city unlike any other. I don’t think I ever will.

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Rio Olympics champ Wiggins to race Tour of Britain

August 23, 2016 - 7:32am

Fresh off an Olympics during which he won the team pursuit gold medal on the track, Bradley Wiggins will return to the road for the upcoming Tour of Britain.

Race organizers confirmed Wiggins’s participation in a Tuesday morning press release. Wiggins will be joined by five of his Team Wiggins teammates, including Owain Doull and Jonathan Dibben. Doull won a gold medal in Rio with Wiggins.

“We are delighted to be welcoming two of our Olympic champions to the Tour of Britain just three weeks after their success in Rio,” race director Mick Bennett said.

“As a former winner of the Tour of Britain it is always a pleasure to welcome Sir Bradley Wiggins back to Britain’s biggest race, while Owain Doull was the star of the 2015 Tour, showing he has a very bright future ahead of him.”

Wiggins won the 2012 Tour de France and won the Tour of Britain a year later. He owns four Olympic gold medals on the track and one on the road, along with two bronze and one silver on the track.

The Tour of Britain began in 1945 and ran through 1999 before returning in 2004. It’s a UCI Europe Tour stage race.

The 2016 edition runs from September 4-11 and has nine stages, including two on September 10 — a time trial and a circuit race in Bristol. The race concludes with a circuit race around London.

Also confirmed to race are Mark Cavendish of Dimension Data and André Greipel of Lotto – Soudal.

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Talansky confident he can take another Vuelta top-10

August 23, 2016 - 6:32am

A CORUÑA, Spain (VN) — The sun is out in northwest Spain, and American Andrew Talansky is smiling. The Cannondale – Drapac captain is starting his first grand tour of the 2016 season and says, with confidence, “Of course, I’m here for the classification”

Talansky has had a rough couple of years, due to crashes and family setbacks. He said this summer that he hasn’t been at his best since the 2014 Tour de France. Due to those circumstances and the desire to impress, he skipped the Tour and took aim at the third grand tour of the year.

The race began in the far northwest city of Ourense. And now, it continues to weave through Galicia for its first mountain stages. He lost 49 seconds on the Mirador de Ézaro summit finish Monday, but the steep 30 percent ramps suited other climbers better. His eyes are looking further across the horizon.

“It is about consistency and riding my race because I know how I prepared for this, I know how I’m riding,” Talansky said while prepping his bike for Tuesday’s stage 4.

More Vuelta news

“I believe what I am capable of and the team does as well, and it’s about putting together that for three weeks, not about just one day or about one single thing. I know that I’m at my best in the third week in grand tours, and the third week in this grand tour is hard. So it’s about being consistent and getting there in a good position and taking advantage of that.”

Other green-kitted Cannondale cyclists like Joe Dombrowski and Davide Formolo walked by and mounted their bikes. They will be supporting Talansky, who rode only the Vuelta in the 2011 and 2012 seasons and in 2012, then just 23, placed seventh overall behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff).

General manager Jonathan Vaughters took him to the Tour de France in the following years to learn. The 2013 season went well with 10th place and the 2014 season even better, until he crashed a few times. An intelligent move in the final day of the Critérium du Dauphiné saw Alberto Contador and Chris Froome dislodged and netted him the overall, and placed him as a favorite for the Tour. He was flying, but crashes stopped his progress.

Last year, he returned for 11th place. This year, he wanted better — his best — and skipped the Tour to correct his course in the Vuelta.

“The way that worked out this year gets a lot of focus, skipping the Tour, but in 2011 and 2012, it was the only grand tour I did. Not much has really changed now, you just go out there and do your own thing over three weeks and see what you can do,” said Talansky, perhaps playing down the choice that he and Vaughters made this spring.

“The classification, it’s my aim, 100 percent. I want to improve on how I was in 2012 here, which was seventh. I think I can improve on that.

“I think that if anybody has been paying attention I have already shown that — OK, I’ve made a smart move and I want a Dauphiné — I’m climbing with the best people in the Tour de Suisse and I’m climbing with the best people again in the Tour of Utah. I won the queen stage there.

“I’m climbing well and I’m climbing how I was before, if not better in some cases. I think people forget that a lot of times, I will also take advantage of my time trial to get a good result.”

If it is climbing that Talansky likes then this Vuelta, apart from Monday’s ramp, suits him with its 10 summit finishes.

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Sagan’s nearly great escape

August 22, 2016 - 5:03pm

RIO DE JANEIRO (VN) — The start list said it all in Sunday’s men’s Olympics cross-country mountain bike race.

On the front line were the five-star favorites: Two-time Olympic champion Julien Absalon, defending Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, and soon-to-be Olympic champion Nino Schurter, where they were supposed to be. In last place was uninvited party-crasher Peter Sagan, ranked 900th in a sport that he hadn’t competed in at the highest level since he won a world junior title seven years ago. Sagan was so far off the back, figuratively and literally, he was the lone rider in a line all by himself — start line number seven — behind riders from Guam, Rwanda, Hong Kong, and Lesotho. It was a fitting symbol of just how unlikely the race was going to be.

More on Peter Sagan

The stage was set for what could have been the biggest worst-to-first upset in Olympics cycling history. Road cycling’s ultimate showman was trying to snatch the gold medal away from the specialists who had dedicated the past four years of their lives preparing for a shot at Olympic glory.

Not everyone believed it. Whispers were going around Sunday morning that Sagan was looking tentative in training runs, and that he had even crashed in one of the rock gardens. And in a sport where start position is nearly as important as in Formula 1, more than a few insiders expected Sagan to be bogged down in traffic, unable to get to the nose of the race, even if he had the legs to challenge the favorites.

Before the race, Sagan admitted as much, “I don’t even know what is going to happen. Maybe more funny.”

And then – boom! – the race was on. And Sagan immediately revealed this was no publicity stunt. He bolted out of the back of the pack like he was sprinting up Oude Kwaremont, and catapulted right into the sharp end of the race. After the 600m start loop, he was already on the eighth wheel. Midway through the first of seven loops on the 4.85km track, Sagan suddenly appeared in a choice group of five leading riders. His incredible start electrified the race.

But just as soon as it started, Sagan’s great escape all but ended. A front tire puncture at the beginning of the second lap saw Sagan soon out the back. Maybe Sagan was racing too aggressively to move up, going off the clean line to pass and got a pinch flat. Or perhaps he missed a line, and hit a rock garden off-kilter. Or maybe it was a Brazilian thorn. Whatever it caused the puncture, Sagan was no longer the thorn in the side of the mountain bike specialists. He gamely rode on, but got another puncture, and eventually was pulled with one lap to go. His official result of 35th only told part of the story of what could have been.

“Baaah, I had two punctures, and some technical problems,” Sagan lamented at the finish line. “The start was very good. After the first lap, I was with the first guys. Race is race. It is always good or bad.”

Sagan’s wrong there; it is always good when he is at the start line. No rider has electrified the road peloton like him in a generation. His attempt at racing for gold on the dirt in Rio confirmed just how audacious he is. His presence at the start line — even in last place — pumped interest into the race.

Some were muttering that Sagan’s gold-medal gamble was little more than a marketing stunt, but they’re wrong. Sure, Specialized’s marketing department was tickled pink to see its rock star on its mountain bike, but the call to race on the dirt was strictly his own.

“I already wanted to race mountain bike in London [2012], but it was not possible because I was also racing the road race,” Sagan said. “The road race was too tough here, so I said, OK, let’s try. Maybe I will race mountain bike again. I don’t know.”

In the end, that race could not have had a more fitting winner. Schurter has dominated mountain biking since the first of his five world titles in 2009, and in many ways, he is the Sagan equivalent on the dirt. Bronze in Beijing and a heartbreaking silver in London, Schurter rode a near-perfect race to drop Kulhavy in the penultimate lap and complete his medal collection.

And let’s admit it. As fun as it was to watch, it would been a bitter pill for the mountain bikers to swallow to watch Sagan poach “their” medal. Of course, Sagan had every right to race, and he there is no questioning his bike-handling chops, but for the MTB purists, Schurter is the more fitting winner.

It’s doubtful Sagan will return to mountain bike anytime soon. His move to Bora for 2017 has him earning an estimated $7.5 million per season, making him the highest-paid rider in the peloton. No sponsor will want him risking injury for a chance to race on the dirt.

And as the Olympic medal begins to have more heft in the road peloton, we are almost sure to see Sagan racing on the pavement in Tokyo 2020. No matter how hard the road course might be, it will certainly be less difficult than what the peloton raced in Rio de Janeiro. Several riders, including Dan Martin, called the Olympic road race the hardest day they ever raced. That’s saying a lot from a rider who’s won Giro di Lombardia and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. After bypassing the road race for mountain bike (a decision he said he does not regret, despite watching Greg Van Avermaet win), Tokyo could be Sagan’s last chance for gold. By then, he will be 31 years old, no longer the wunderkind.

“Maybe I will some other races,” Sagan said Sunday. “But for now, I have to go back on the road.”

Thanks for the try, Peter. We all wish it hadn’t ended so fast, but it was fun watch. And as Sagan put it best, “Race is race. Was like was.”

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Vuelta’s first uphill finish: Who won, and who lost?

August 22, 2016 - 3:10pm

Ah the Vuelta — no need for a week’s worth of processional sprint stages. We went right into the action in stage 3 with a nasty uphill finish on the Mirador de Ezaro, which featured max gradients of 30 percent. A few of the top climbers who are vying for the red jersey showed good form on that category 3 finish climb, but other GC favorites didn’t fare so well. Here’s a quick run-down of Monday’s notable winners and losers in the overall.

Winners

Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde, Sky’s Chris Froome, and Orica – BikeExchange’s Esteban Chaves all finished on same time, five seconds behind Ruben Fernandez who sprinted clear to take the overall lead, perhaps mistakenly thinking he’d won the day. His Movistar team leader Nairo Quintana ceded only six seconds to the Froome group.

Losers More Vuelta news

Although Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador only lost 28 seconds to the Froome group on the short climb, it’s got to be a blow to his morale to lose touch with GC rivals on a punchy uphill finish that we’d think would favor the Spaniard. He comes into the Vuelta as the odds-on favorite. Maybe he’s waiting to hit peak form in the second half of the race? While a time loss of under 30 seconds is debatable, especially in the ever-volatile Vuelta, Andrew Talansky and his Cannondale – Drapac team surely will be disappointed with his 1:15 time loss Monday. The Giro’s revelation, Steven Kruijswijk, of LottoNL – Jumbo, had an even worse showing, losing 2:02 to Froome and Chaves. Having proven himself on some of Italy’s toughest finishes back in May, we’re a bit surprised the Dutchman couldn’t at least follow Contador’s group on the Ezaro. “We’re fed up with this, but we still have 18 stages to go,” sport director Jan Boven said. “We didn’t start this Vuelta perfectly because Steven Kruijswijk got sick after the Olympic Games.”

Big losers

Losing time in the overall is one thing, but Warren Barguil‘s Vuelta campaign has ended before it even began. The Giant – Alpecin climber withdrew from the race citing sinus problems. “It’s a big disappointment,” he said. “Yesterday morning it started with minor pain to my throat and nose, and yesterday after the stage and this morning it got worse.” Grand tour debutant and Astana GC hopeful Miguel Angel Lopez also had a dismal day. He crashed before the final climb and lost over 12 minutes, effectively ending his hopes of a top overall finish.

… But the Vuelta is unpredictable, and 19 stages remain, filled with tricky finishes, precipitous peaks, unpredictable race dynamics.

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Americans Abroad: Nine U.S. riders take on La Vuelta

August 22, 2016 - 12:13pm

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Americans Abroad,” our weekly check-in with the American pros in the European peloton. VeloNews will publish these updates every Monday throughout the season.

More Americans Abroad

The final, arguably most exciting, grand tour of the season is underway in Spain, and nine Americans are taking on the Vuelta a España with a variety of roles. Some, like Andrew Talansky have hopes of a strong overall finish, while others, like grand tour first-timer Kiel Reijnen are aiming to be strong team players, perhaps finding opportunities along the way for individual glory.

Here’s a look at where they stand after three stages of racing, as well as the other top U.S. riders who were at a variety of races over the past week.

Ian Boswell (Team Sky)

Working for Tour champ Chris Froome. Boswell sat 98th overall in the Vuelta after three days of racing. He helped the Sky team to victory in the stage 1 team time trial.

Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale – Drapac)

Dombrowski was 52nd overall, 3:17 behind race leader Ruben Fernandez of Movistar, after three days of racing in Spain.

Taylor Eisenhart (BMC Racing)

A stagiaire for BMC Racing in the final months of the season, Eisenhart, 22, was 108th at the Tour du Limousin, riding in support of eventual winner and teammate Joey Rosskopf.

Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data)

Although the Vuelta’s mountainous route doesn’t favor Farrar, the veteran sprinter and strongman is happy to return to the laid-back race to work for his teammates. “I love the Vuelta, it’s the favorite of my three grand tours. Each grand tour has its own character and is special in its own way. There’s this nice kind of laid-back atmosphere here.” He was 157th overall after stage 3.

Chad Haga (Giant – Alpecin)

Haga was 105th overall following stage 3. Unfortunately for his German team, its top climber, Warren Barguil was forced to abandon the Vuelta Monday due to sinus problems.

Ben King (Cannondale – Drapac)

King was 74th overall following Monday’s steep uphill finish at the Vuelta.

Amber Neben (BePink)

Neben was 57th in the Crescent Vargarda Women’s WorldTour (WWT) road race Sunday, which was won by Emilia Fahlin. Her Italian team was seventh in the Crescent Vargarda Women’s WorldTour team time trial Friday.

Kiel Reijnen (Trek – Segafredo)

The 30-year-old from Washington state was riding in 60th place overall at the Vuelta after Monday’s race.

Joey Rosskopf (BMC Racing)

The 26-year-old has been on a tear, winning the first stage of Tour du Limousin in France and hanging on to claim the overall victory Friday. He had a more subdued outing Sunday at Cyclassics Hamburg, finishing 93rd.

Now there's the type of picture I've been looking for!! Proof that all I had to do was stare at red and black butts for the past 3 days. #Repost @bmcproteam with @repostapp ・・・ To quote @joeyrosskopf, the squad rode like 'machines' to defend the yellow jersey on @tourdulimousin Stage 4! #BMCRacingTeam2016 #TDL2016

A photo posted by Joey Rosskopf (@joeyrosskopf) on Aug 19, 2016 at 11:11am PDT

Alexis Ryan (Canyon – SRAM)

Ryan helped her Canyon – SRAM team to fourth place in Friday’s WWT team time trial and finished 23rd in the Vargarda road race Sunday.

Carmen Small (Cylance)

Small was the top American finisher at Sunday’s Crescent Vargarda road race, taking 13th on the day. Her Cylance team, which also included Alison Tetrick, finished eighth in the TTT two days prior in Sweden.

Evelyn Stevens (Boels – Dolmans)

Stevens rode to victory in the TTT on Friday and went on to finish 61st in the Vargarda road race.

Such a wonderful way to race my last @vargardawwt ttt, so special! https://t.co/5kq3klGavR

— Evelyn Stevens (@evelyn_stevens) August 20, 2016 Andrew Talansky (Cannondale – Drapac)

After Monday’s first uphill finish at the Vuelta, Talansky was 19th overall, top American in the race. After two tough years, he says he’s back on top form, ready to get a result in the season’s final grand tour.

Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing)

Sharing the BMC team’s leadership with Spaniard Samuel Sanchez, van Garderen was 90th overall Monday. The American-registered team finished fourth in Saturday’s stage 1 team time trial.

Larry Warbasse (IAM Cycling)

Michigander Warbasse was 72nd overall in Spain after Monday’s stage.

Tayler Wiles (Orica – AIS)

Orica opted not to race Friday’s TTT in Sweden, and Wiles rode to 60th place in the road race Sunday.

Tour de l’Avenir

The season’s most important under-23 stage race is underway in France; the Tour de l’Avenir is considered the Tour de France of the future, showcasing top up-and-coming talents. Axeon Hagens Berman’s Logan Owen was the top American after Monday’s stage 3, 13th overall. He has three fellow U.S. teammates in the race as well: Adrien Costa was 50th after three days; Nielson Powless was 53rd, William Barta was 65th, and Geoffrey Curran was 124th. Sep Kuss, riding for Rally, was 106th after stage 3.

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Despite big mountains, Farrar still loves Vuelta

August 22, 2016 - 8:51am

VIGO, Spain (VN) — Tyler Farrar may burn his fair, freckled skin in the Spanish sun, but he loves the Vuelta a España. This weekend in the country’s northwest, he began the grand tour for the fifth time with an eye on helping teammates Kristian Sbaragli and Nathan Haas, but also on the next two years with team Dimension Data.

The 32-year-old from Washington, whose hair keeps getting longer and longer with his years of experience, will guide Sbaragli through the sprints and will set up Haas to attack in the medium-mountain stages. The team also brings a handful of climbers for the mountainous route.

More Vuelta news

“I certainly would not call this a sprinter-friendly Vuelta this year,” Farrar said. “There will be opportunities but certainly not nine field sprints, and I think that’s what scared away some of the sprinters.

“I love the Vuelta, it’s the favorite of my three grand tours. Each grand tour has its own character and is special in its own way. There’s this nice kind of laid-back atmosphere here. The Tour de France is so stressful and the Giro d’Italia is just kind of insane, where the Vuelta has a nice feel as a rider.”

And after spending time in Washington in July watching his team win five stages in the Tour de France, Farrar is more motivated.

“I would wake up every morning in America to check the results and see, ‘Wow, we won!’ and ‘Wow, we won again.’ It fuels the whole team on. When your team performs like that, it has a way of making everybody rise to the occasion and moves the bar.”

Farrar changed his plans over the last few years. Instead of hunting for sprint wins, he helps his teammates do so and powers leaders like Edvald Boasson Hagen in the classics. This spring, he helped Mark Cavendish and Boasson Hagen win at the Tour of Qatar and followed Boasson Hagen on through the cobbled classics he loves so much.

The plan is the same for the next two years. Whispers among the peloton say Farrar has a new contact with the South African-based WorldTour team, but the squad would not confirm it. He joined Dimension Data for 2015 after several years with the Garmin/Slipstream franchise.

“My role is fairly defined as a team now, the classics are my No. 1 priority every year supporting Edvald. The tricky thing is that for the Tour de France, we have a limited number of positions and guys that need to go for other objectives,” Farrar said.

“I really enjoy transitioning into this role since I came to the team. At this point in my career, I’ve been around a lot and I have a lot of experience. I’m more valuable doing that than being out there in chasing for results. We have some of the best riders in the world here in this team and I enjoy helping them.

“Edvald got a little sick in Milano-Sanremo and then it that just derailed him, but he still got fifth in Paris-Roubaix so you can’t say that he wasn’t far off in the classics. He definitely has his mojo back these last years. I think a big classics victory is still in the future for sure.”

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Fahlin wins home Women’s WorldTour race in Sweden

August 22, 2016 - 8:33am

Emilia Fahlin won Sunday’s Crescent Vargarda road race in front of a home crowd in Sweden, claiming her first Women’s WorldTour victory in a sprint ahead of Cervelo – Bigla’s Lotta Lepisto. Chantal Blaak of Boels – Dolmans was third.

The Swede won the race out of a breakaway of nine riders that formed on the updated course, which now features a few sections of gravel roads. Amy Pieters of Wiggle – High5 led out the sprint early, coming around the final corner first. Fahlin jumped out of the Dutchwomen’s slipstream with about 200m to go and held off a late charge by Lepisto.

“I am happy to have broken the ice, winning in Sweden was extraordinary,” said Fahlin. “I’m fine, I’m fit, and I really wanted to be a leader on home. I dedicate this victory to my family, now present at the finish line, to my team, perfect even here, we are united and strong, and to the crowd shouting my name at the roadside; they gave me the strength to sprint and win the best win of my career.”

The 27-year-old’s victory in the 141km race was also the first Women’s WorldTour (WWT) win for her Ale – Cipollini team. Only two events remain in the inaugural season of the WWT: GP Plouay-Bretagne in France, August 27, and The Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta, September 11.

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Under-23 TT champ signs with Katusha

August 21, 2016 - 8:22pm

Denmark’s Mads Würtz Schmidt, the reigning under-23 world time trial champion, has signed a two-year deal with Katusha, the team announced Sunday in press release.

Würtz Schmidt, 22, is also the Danish under-23 national champion in both the road race and the time trial. He currently rides for the Continental-level TreFor – BlueWater team, boasting a stage win and GC podium in the Tour of Denmark among other strong performances so far this year.

“This is really a dream come true. I felt from the beginning that I should not sign immediately after my world title,” Würtz Schmidt said, according to the release. “It was good to wait for another year.”

The release also noted that Katusha was planning to stay busy in the transfer market, with Katusha General Manager Viatcheslav Ekimov saying “more new signings will follow in the near future.”

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Rio: Schurter gets his Olympic gold

August 21, 2016 - 11:24am

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) — Switzerland’s Nino Schurter, who took bronze in cross-country mountain biking in the Beijing Olympics and silver in London, struck gold in his third attempt Sunday in Rio.

The 30-year-old reigning world champion delivered a dominant performance on the course to take the convincing win. Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic was next across the line to nab silver, with Spanish rider Carlos Coloma finishing third.

Top 10
  • 1. Nino SCHURTER, Switzerland, in 1:33:28
  • 2. Jaroslav KULHAVY, Czech Republic, in 1:34:18
  • 3. Carlos COLOMA NICOLAS, Spain, in 1:34:51
  • 4. Maxime MAROTTE, France, in 1:35:01
  • 5. Jhonnatan BOTERO VILLEGAS, Colombia, in 1:35:44
  • 6. Mathias FLÜCKIGER, Switzerland, in 1:35:52
  • 7. Luca BRAIDOT, Italy, in 1:36:25
  • 8. Julien ABSALON, France, in 1:36:43
  • 9. David VALERO SERRANO, Spain, in 1:37:00
  • 10. Victor KORETZKY, France, in 1:37:27

Schurter, Kulhavy, and Coloma seized control by the end of the first lap with Schurter pulling clear in the sixth and final lap to seal a complete set of Olympic medals.

“I have been working four years for this gold,” Schurter said.

“If I am looking back, I needed silver in London to get back and be strong here. For me, it is the perfect story. I have bronze in Beijing, silver in London, and now gold in Rio.”

A rainy Rio morning on the final day of competition made for treacherous conditions and Kulhavy was happy to settle for silver under the circumstances.

“It was incredibly tough. It rained today, and the course was very different, and it was very slippery on the rocks, and the downhills were much more difficult today,” said Kulhavy.

“It was a different race in London, but today, I was with Nino again. I am very happy for both of us. Nino is the strongest rider this year.”

Coloma, meanwhile, was ecstatic to take his first major competition medal in 13 years.

“I knew it would be very complicated with such a high level of riders in this race. It is like a dream come true for me,” said the 34-year-old.

France’s Julien Absalon, Olympic champion in 2004 and 2008, finished eighth in his Olympic farewell.

Slovakia’s Peter Sagan, the reigning road world champion but a former world junior mountain bike champion, returned to his roots hoping the mountain bike course would suit him more than the road course. Despite making the start in the very last position, Sagan quickly worked his way to the front of the race in a matter of minutes on the first lap — only to see his medal hopes crumble when he suffered a puncture in the second lap. He finished a lap down on the leaders.

“After seven years, I am back on the mountain bike, and I [am] happy to try,” Sagan said. “The start was very good. After the first lap, I was with the first guys. Then I had some technical problems.”

However, the charismatic Sagan insisted his immediate future was back on the road.

“Maybe I will try some other races, but for now, I have to go back on the road.”

Results
  • 1. Nino SCHURTER, Switzerland, in 1:33:28
  • 2. Jaroslav KULHAVY, Czech Republic, in 1:34:18
  • 3. Carlos COLOMA NICOLAS, Spain, in 1:34:51
  • 4. Maxime MAROTTE, France, in 1:35:01
  • 5. Jhonnatan BOTERO VILLEGAS, Colombia, in 1:35:44
  • 6. Mathias FLÜCKIGER, Switzerland, in 1:35:52
  • 7. Luca BRAIDOT, Italy, in 1:36:25
  • 8. Julien ABSALON, France, in 1:36:43
  • 9. David VALERO SERRANO, Spain, in 1:37:00
  • 10. Victor KORETZKY, France, in 1:37:27
  • 11. Ruben SCHEIRE, Belgium, in 1:37:36
  • 12. Anton SINTSOV, Russia, in 1:37:38
  • 13. Manuel FUMIC, Germany, in 1:37:39
  • 14. Ondrej CINK, Czech Republic, in 1:38:18
  • 15. José Antonio HERMIDA RAMOS, Spain, in 1:38:21
  • 16. Daniel MCCONNELL, Austria, in 1:38:42
  • 17. Grant FERGUSON, Great Britain, in 1:39:10
  • 18. Jens SCHUERMANS, Belgium, in 1:39:30
  • 19. Andrea TIBERI, Italy, in 1:39:33
  • 20. Marco Aurelio FONTANA, Italy, in 1:40:25
  • 21. Kohei YAMAMOTO, Japan, in 1:40:34
  • 22. Jan SKARNITZL, Czech Republic, in 1:41:11
  • 23. Henrique AVANCINI, Brazil, in 1:41:18
  • 24. Andras PARTI, Hungary, in 1:41:20
  • 25. Catriel Andres SOTO, Argentina, in 1:42:01
  • 26. Alan HATHERLY, South Africa, in 1:42:03
  • 27. Leandre BOUCHARD, Canada, in 1:42:43
  • 28. Moritz MILATZ, Germany, in 1:43:14
  • 29. Shlomi HAIMY, Israel, in 1:43:30
  • 30. Rubens DONIZETE VALERIANO, Brazil, in 1:44:01
  • 31. Dimitrios ANTONIADIS, Greece, in 1:44:17
  • 32. Chun Hing CHAN, Hong Kong, in 1:44:41
  • 33. Andrey FONSECA, Costa Rica, in 1:44:54
  • 34. Simon ANDREASSEN, Denmark, in 1:47:44
  • 35. Peter SAGAN, Slovakia
  • 36. Scott BOWDEN, Australia
  • 37. Samuel GAZE, New Zealand
  • 38. Howard GROTTS, United States of America
  • 39. Tiago Jorge Oliveira FERREIRA, Portugal
  • 40. Raphael GAGNE, Canada
  • 41. Nathan BYUKUSENGE, Rwanda
  • 42. James REID, South Africa
  • 43. Zhen WANG, China
  • 44. David Joao Serralheiro ROSA, Portugal
  • DNF Lars FORSTER, Switzerland
  • DNF Alexander GEHBAUER, Austria
  • DNF Peter LOMBARD II, Guam
  • DNF Rudi VAN HOUTS, Netherlands
  • DNF Phetetso MONESE, Lesotho

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Ewan nabs Cyclassics victory after Bouhanni relegated

August 21, 2016 - 8:46am

Caleb Ewan (Orica – BikeExchange) claimed his first ever WorldTour one-day win at the EuroEyes Cyclassics in Hamburg Sunday after Cofidis’ Nacer Bouhanni was relegated for an irregular sprint. Giant – Alpecin’s John Degenkolb earned runner-up honors, while Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek – Segafredo) finished third.

A stubborn breakaway group nearly stole the show in the sprinter-friendly race, formerly known as the Vattenfall Cyclassics. Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing), Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Kamil Gradek (Verva ActiveJet), Matej Mohoric (Lampre – Merida), Lükas Postlberger (Bora – Argon 18), and Maxat Ayazbayev (Astana) formed a six-man escape early, and despite never getting an advantage of more than a few minutes, the last remnants of the move managed to put serious pressure on the bunch in the final moments of the race. Multiple crashes in the final half hour of racing added to the stress.

Though the peloton swept up their breakaway companions, De Marchi and Gradek stayed clear off the front into the last kilometer of the race — but the sprinters’ teams finally swept them up some 300 meters from the line. That set up a hectic bunch kick for the win.

Nizzolo was the first of the big contenders to launch his sprint, but Bouhanni came around 100 meters from the line and took the lead. Ewan tried to overtake Bouhanni on his right, but Cofidis rider drove aggressively in the same direction to cut off Ewan’s push for the finish.

Bouhanni hit the line well ahead of the other contenders, celebrating a win as Ewan arrived second, but the Frenchman’s celebration was short-lived.

Upon further review the race jury determined that Bouhanni had left his line in the sprint, and awarded Ewan the victory. That bumped Degenkolb from third to second, and Nizzolo from fourth to third.

“I’m really happy with the victory,” Ewan said. “It was a very fast and tough sprint, I had to deviate from my line a bit and it’s always difficult to try and regain momentum after that.

“It’s great to get a European win under my belt for this season, it was an eventful day all round after suffering a puncture and then crashing twice although fortunately I landed on my feet both times.”

Results
  • 1. Caleb EWAN, ORICA-BIKEEXCHANGE, in 4:54:26
  • 2. John DEGENKOLB, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at :00
  • 3. Giacomo NIZZOLO, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :00
  • 4. Danny VAN POPPEL, TEAM SKY, at :00
  • 5. Alexander KRISTOFF, TEAM KATUSHA, at :00
  • 6. Dylan GROENEWEGEN, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at :00
  • 7. Mark RENSHAW, TEAM DIMENSION DATA, at :00
  • 8. Sondre HOLST ENGER, IAM CYCLING, at :00
  • 9. Matteo TRENTIN, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at :00
  • 10. André GREIPEL, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :00
  • 11. Jurgen ROELANDTS, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :00
  • 12. Daniel OSS, BMC RACING TEAM, at :00
  • 13. Ruslan TLEUBAYEV, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at :00
  • 14. Nikolay TRUSOV, TINKOFF, at :00
  • 15. Michael VALGREN, TINKOFF, at :00
  • 16. Roy CURVERS, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at :00
  • 17. Hugo HOULE, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :00
  • 18. Heinrich HAUSSLER, IAM CYCLING, at :00
  • 19. Jordi SIMON CASULLERAS, VERVA ACTIVEJET PRO CYCLING TEAM, at :00
  • 20. Sacha MODOLO, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at :00
  • 21. Zakkari DEMPSTER, BORA-ARGON 18, at :00
  • 22. Edvald BOASSON HAGEN, TEAM DIMENSION DATA, at :00
  • 23. Jasha SÜTTERLIN, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :00
  • 24. Jiri POLNICKY, VERVA ACTIVEJET PRO CYCLING TEAM, at :00
  • 25. Kamil GRADEK, VERVA ACTIVEJET PRO CYCLING TEAM, at :00
  • 26. Peter VELITS, BMC RACING TEAM, at :00
  • 27. Nacer BOUHANNI, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at :00
  • 28. Alessandro DE MARCHI, BMC RACING TEAM, at :13
  • 29. Ruben ZEPUNTKE, CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM, at :13
  • 30. Anthony TURGIS, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at :13
  • 31. Martin ELMIGER, IAM CYCLING, at :13
  • 32. Oliver NAESEN, IAM CYCLING, at :13
  • 33. Luka PIBERNIK, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at :13
  • 34. Arnaud DEMARE, FDJ, at :19
  • 35. Daryl IMPEY, ORICA-BIKEEXCHANGE, at :19
  • 36. Michael REIHS, SSG, at :19
  • 37. Timo ROOSEN, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at :19
  • 38. Francisco José VENTOSO ALBERDI, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :23
  • 39. Rui Alberto FARIA DA COSTA, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at :23
  • 40. Youcef REGUIGUI, TEAM DIMENSION DATA, at :23
  • 41. Loic VLIEGEN, BMC RACING TEAM, at :23
  • 42. Gorka IZAGUIRRE INSAUSTI, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :26
  • 43. Pavel BRUTT, TINKOFF, at :26
  • 44. Marcus BURGHARDT, BMC RACING TEAM, at :29
  • 45. Ben SWIFT, TEAM SKY, at :29
  • 46. Jacopo GUARNIERI, TEAM KATUSHA, at :31
  • 47. Alexander PORSEV, TEAM KATUSHA, at :31
  • 48. Sep VANMARCKE, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at :31
  • 49. Tom BOONEN, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at :31
  • 50. Marcel SIEBERG, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :31
  • 51. Nikolas MAES, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at :31
  • 52. Laurens DE VREESE, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at :31
  • 53. Jens DEBUSSCHERE, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :31
  • 54. Marc SARREAU, FDJ, at :31
  • 55. Lukas PÖSTLBERGER, BORA-ARGON 18, at :31
  • 56. Mike TEUNISSEN, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at :31
  • 57. Lars Petter NORDHAUG, TEAM SKY, at :36
  • 58. Grégory RAST, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :36
  • 59. Luke ROWE, TEAM SKY, at :36
  • 60. Ramon SINKELDAM, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at :36
  • 61. Moreno HOFLAND, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at :36
  • 62. Maarten WYNANTS, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at :36
  • 63. Michael VAN STAEYEN, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at :36
  • 64. Diego ULISSI, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at :36
  • 65. Ben GASTAUER, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :36
  • 66. Wilco KELDERMAN, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at :36
  • 67. Paul VOSS, BORA-ARGON 18, at :36
  • 68. Tom Jelte SLAGTER, CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM, at :45
  • 69. Søren Kragh ANDERSEN, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at :47
  • 70. Matej MOHORIC, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at :50
  • 71. Juraj SAGAN, TINKOFF, at :55
  • 72. Oscar GATTO, TINKOFF, at :55
  • 73. Sebastian HENAO GOMEZ, TEAM SKY, at :59
  • 74. Yoann OFFREDO, FDJ, at 1:00
  • 75. Tony GALLOPIN, LOTTO SOUDAL, at 1:00
  • 76. Thomas LEEZER, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at 1:00
  • 77. Maxat AYAZBAYEV, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 1:00
  • 78. Jasper STUYVEN, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 1:00
  • 79. Marcel KITTEL, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at 1:05
  • 80. Phil BAUHAUS, BORA-ARGON 18, at 1:12
  • 81. Daniel HOELGAARD, FDJ, at 1:16
  • 82. Luka MEZGEC, ORICA-BIKEEXCHANGE, at 1:16
  • 83. Reinardt JANSE VAN RENSBURG, TEAM DIMENSION DATA, at 1:38
  • 84. Marco HALLER, TEAM KATUSHA, at 2:25
  • 85. Wouter WIPPERT, CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 2:29
  • 86. Geoffrey SOUPE, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at 2:35
  • 87. Michael ALBASINI, ORICA-BIKEEXCHANGE, at 2:35
  • 88. Luke DURBRIDGE, ORICA-BIKEEXCHANGE, at 2:35
  • 89. Rasmus GULDHAMMER, SSG, at 2:35
  • 90. Alexander KAMP, SSG, at 2:35
  • 91. Manuele MORI, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at 2:35
  • 92. Rick ZABEL, BMC RACING TEAM, at 2:35
  • 93. Joseph ROSSKOPF, BMC RACING TEAM, at 2:35
  • 94. Patrick KONRAD, BORA-ARGON 18, at 2:35
  • 95. Ignatas KONOVALOVAS, FDJ, at 2:35
  • 96. Davide MARTINELLI, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at 2:35
  • 97. Simon GESCHKE, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at 2:35
  • 98. Alexis GOUGEARD, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 3:03
  • 99. Patrick GRETSCH, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 3:03
  • 100. Jack BAUER, CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 3:03
  • 101. Kristoffer SKJERPING, CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 3:03
  • 102. Ryan MULLEN, CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 3:03
  • 103. Rayane BOUHANNI, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at 3:03
  • 104. Fabian WEGMANN, SSG, at 3:03
  • 105. Eugenio ALAFACI, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 3:03
  • 106. Borut BOZIC, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at 3:03
  • 107. Stijn VANDENBERGH, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at 3:03
  • 108. Tomasz MARCZYNSKI, LOTTO SOUDAL, at 3:03
  • 109. Lars Ytting BAK, LOTTO SOUDAL, at 3:03
  • 110. Bernhard EISEL, TEAM DIMENSION DATA, at 3:03
  • 111. Julien BERARD, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 3:03
  • 112. Roberto FERRARI, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at 3:03
  • 113. Marco COLEDAN, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 3:03
  • 114. Adam BLYTHE, TINKOFF, at 3:03
  • 115. Mitchell DOCKER, ORICA-BIKEEXCHANGE, at 3:03
  • 116. Andreas SCHILLINGER, BORA-ARGON 18, at 3:03
  • 117. Matteo TOSATTO, TINKOFF, at 3:03
  • 118. Aleksejs SARAMOTINS, IAM CYCLING, at 3:03
  • 119. Albert TIMMER, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at 3:03
  • 120. David TANNER, IAM CYCLING, at 3:03
  • 121. Arman KAMYSHEV, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 3:03
  • 122. Giovanni VISCONTI, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 3:03
  • 123. Mads PEDERSEN, SSG, at 3:03
  • 124. Boy VAN POPPEL, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 3:03
  • 125. Michael MORKOV, TEAM KATUSHA, at 3:03
  • 126. Pawel FRANCZAK, VERVA ACTIVEJET PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 3:03
  • 127. Jay Robert THOMSON, TEAM DIMENSION DATA, at 5:33
  • 128. Jesus HERRADA LOPEZ, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 5:33
  • 129. Adrian BANASZEK, VERVA ACTIVEJET PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 5:33
  • 130. Sam BENNETT, BORA-ARGON 18, at 5:40
  • 131. Javier MORENO BAZAN, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 5:40
  • 132. Nils POLITT, TEAM KATUSHA, at 5:40
  • 133. Christian Mager, SSG, at 6:06
  • 134. Bert DE BACKER, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at 7:11
  • 135. Andrew FENN, TEAM SKY, at 7:11
  • 136. Fabio SABATINI, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at 7:11
  • 137. Xabier ZANDIO ECHAIDE, TEAM SKY, at 7:11
  • 138. Alberto BETTIOL, CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 7:11
  • 139. Eros CAPECCHI, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 7:11
  • 140. Daniil FOMINYKH, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 7:11
  • 141. Matteo BONO, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at 7:11
  • 142. Mathew HAYMAN, ORICA-BIKEEXCHANGE, at 7:11
  • 143. Dominik NERZ, BORA-ARGON 18, at 7:11
  • 144. Norbert BANASZEK, VERVA ACTIVEJET PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 8:05
  • DNF Frederik FRISON, LOTTO SOUDAL
  • DNF Maciej BODNAR, TINKOFF
  • DNF Ian STANNARD, TEAM SKY
  • DNF Manuel SENNI, BMC RACING TEAM
  • DNF Iljo KEISSE, ETIXX – QUICK STEP
  • DNF Viacheslav KUZNETSOV, TEAM KATUSHA
  • DNF Angel VICIOSO ARCOS, TEAM KATUSHA
  • DNF Christian MEIER, ORICA-BIKEEXCHANGE
  • DNF Julian David ARREDONDO MORENO, TREK – SEGAFREDO
  • DNF Stijn DEVOLDER, TREK – SEGAFREDO
  • DNF Cédric PINEAU, FDJ
  • DNF Mickael DELAGE, FDJ
  • DNF Benoît VAUGRENARD, FDJ
  • DNF Alex DOWSETT, MOVISTAR TEAM
  • DNF Juan Jose LOBATO DEL VALLE, MOVISTAR TEAM
  • DNF Lars BOOM, ASTANA PRO TEAM
  • DNF Andrea GUARDINI, ASTANA PRO TEAM
  • DNF Guillaume BONNAFOND, AG2R LA MONDIALE
  • DNF Maxime DANIEL, AG2R LA MONDIALE
  • DNF Matteo MONTAGUTI, AG2R LA MONDIALE
  • DNF Kristijan KOREN, CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM
  • DNF Max WALSCHEID, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN
  • DNF Leigh HOWARD, IAM CYCLING
  • DNF Roger KLUGE, IAM CYCLING
  • DNF Adrien NIYONSHUTI, TEAM DIMENSION DATA
  • DNF Matt BRAMMEIER, TEAM DIMENSION DATA
  • DNF Gerald CIOLEK, SSG
  • DNF Jonas TENBROCK, SSG
  • DNF Christophe LAPORTE, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS
  • DNF Cyril LEMOINE, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS
  • DNF Stanislaw ANIOLKOWSKI, VERVA ACTIVEJET PRO CYCLING TEAM
  • DNF Jonas KOCH, VERVA ACTIVEJET PRO CYCLING TEAM

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Vuelta: Froome already in driver’s seat after just one day

August 21, 2016 - 7:21am

OURENSE, Spain (VN) — Sky and Chris Froome are “confident” and “calm.” They face the rest of the Vuelta a España’s three weeks already in a good place after gaining seconds and even minutes on their rivals in the opening team time trial in northwestern Spain Saturday.

Froome, having twice placed second overall in the race, is out to secure his first Vuelta a España title to diversify his palmares. He already counts three Tour de France titles, taking his last one this July.

With the Tour and the Olympics, where he won the bronze medal in the time trial, it has been a taxing season. The Vuelta could be difficult for the 31-year-old Brit, but so far, things are going smoothly.

“It was one of the best starts to any of the grand tours that we’ve done,” Sky’s sports director Dario Cioni said. “Yes, one of the best. In the past we haven’t done great team time trials.”

Sky beat Movistar by a fraction of a second over the 27.8-kilometer time trial in Ourense’s countryside. They put six seconds on Orica – BikeExchange with Esteban Chaves, who placed second overall in this year’s Giro d’Italia, and 52 seconds on three-time Vuelta winner Alberto Contador and his Tinkoff team.

Cioni added, “This was one of the stages that we identified as a key stage for the Vuelta, a stage where we hoped to gain time for Chris so that he could face the next week with a little bit more calmness.”

This year’s Vuelta a España still must cover 3200 hard kilometers. So hard, with 10 summit finishes, many of the sprinters decided to race elsewhere.

Froome’s rivals include Movistar’s Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, Chaves, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo), and of course, Contador.

“We know that he’s going to have to suffer in this Vuelta, Chris is already done the Tour and the Olympics,” said Cioni. “He’s a big racer who can do big things, also if we are a little unsure about where exactly he is fitness-wise. But I’m sure after today we did a good test where he was able to regulate and getting that second that the team needed to win the stage, he’s going to be very much more confident.”

Perhaps better for Sky, mountain helper Pete Kennaugh led the team over the finish line and took the red leader’s jersey. Instead of the immediate attention being on Froome, with post-stage press conferences and podium ceremonies, Kennaugh will take the load.

Cioni explained that it was not planned who would cross the finish line first, but that Kennaugh is a deserving winner after fighting back from a broken collarbone suffered in the Amgen Tour of California and a good Vuelta a Burgos.

He added, “Chris does not need to start with the leaders jersey as he’s done in the past already.”

Last year, BMC Racing won the opening time trial and Tejay van Garderen wore the leader’s jersey for one day. Froome pulled out in the second week due to a crash and broken bone in his foot.

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22-year-old Rissveds claims women’s MTB gold in Rio

August 20, 2016 - 11:13am

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) — Sweden’s Jenny Rissveds won the Olympic title in women’s cross-country mountain biking Saturday, just a week after needing stitches in her knee and elbow following a training fall.

The 22-year-old soloed clear of the other contenders towards the end of the fourth of five total laps on the Rio course. She held out the finish for gold, crossing the line 37 seconds ahead of Poland’s Maja Wloszczowska, who also won a silver medal in Beijing in 2008.

Catharine Pendrel narrowly staved off her Canadian compatriot Emily Batty for bronze.

Top 10
  • 1. Jenny RISSVEDS, Sweden, in 1:30:15
  • 2. Maja WLOSZCZOWSKA, Poland, in 1:30:52
  • 3. Catharine PENDREL, Canada, in 1:31:41
  • 4. Emily BATTY, Canada, at :31:43
  • 5. Katerina NASH, Czech Republic, in 1:32:25
  • 6. Jolanda NEFF, Switzerland, in 1:32:43
  • 7. Lea DAVISON, United States of America, in 1:33:27
  • 8. Linda INDERGAND, Switzerland, in 1:33:27
  • 9. Yana BELOMOINA, Ukraine, in 1:33:28
  • 10. Gunn-Rita DAHLE FLESJAA, Norway, in 1:33:34

Rissveds’ bid for gold looked to be in doubt in the early goings, when she suffered a mechanical in the first lap. She recovered, however, and worked her way up to the head of the race, making her way into a lead group of three with Wloszczowska and Switzerland’s Jolanda Neff by the third lap.

Rissveds and Wloszczowska dropped Neff before long, and then Rissveds pushed ahead solo as she neared the penultimate crossing of the finish line. The reigning under-23 world champion quickly opened a gap to Wloszczowska that held steady all the way to the line.

Risseds’ win marked the first gold medal for Sweden in any Olympic cycling event since Bernt Johansson, who won the men’s road race in 1976 in Montreal.

“I just came here a week ago. I crashed in training, and ended up with six stitches in my knee and four in my elbow and I thought, ‘this is not going to work at all,'” Rissveds said.

“But the day after that I went out on the course and I felt so good. I like this course but I was a little bit scared after that. After a few laps I felt good enough.”

Results
  • 1. Jenny RISSVEDS, Sweden, in 1:30:15
  • 2. Maja WLOSZCZOWSKA, Poland, in 1:30:52
  • 3. Catharine PENDREL, Canada, in 1:31:41
  • 4. Emily BATTY, Canada, in 1:31:43
  • 5. Katerina NASH, Czech Republic, in 1:32:25
  • 6. Jolanda NEFF, Switzerland, in 1:32:43
  • 7. Lea DAVISON, United States of America, in 1:33:27
  • 8. Linda INDERGAND, Switzerland, in 1:33:27
  • 9. Yana BELOMOINA, Ukraine, in 1:33:28
  • 10. Gunn-Rita DAHLE FLESJAA, Norway, in 1:33:34
  • 11. Annika LANGVAD, Denmark, in 1:33:48
  • 12. Helen GROBERT, Germany, in 1:34:08
  • 13. Tanja ZAKELJ, Slovenia, in 1:35:17
  • 14. Chloe WOODRUFF, United States of America, in 1:36:17
  • 15. Anne TERPSTRA, Netherlands, in 1:36:33
  • 16. Daniela CAMPUZANO, Mexico, in 1:36:33
  • 17. Irina KALENTYEVA, Russia, in 1:36:54
  • 18. Eva LECHNER, Italy, in 1:38:45
  • 19. Sabine SPITZ, Germany, in 1:39:16
  • 20. Raiza GOULAO-HENRIQUE, Brazil, in 1:39:21
  • 21. Githa MICHIELS, Belgium, in 1:40:23
  • 22. Iryna POPOVA, Ukraine, in 1:41:29
  • 23. Perrine CLAUZEL, France, in 1:42:23
  • 24. Ping YAO, China, in 1:43:20
  • LAP Rebecca HENDERSON, Australia
  • LAP Michelle VORSTER, Namibia
  • LAP Jovana CRNOGORAC, Serbia
  • LAP Francelina CABRAL, Timor-Leste
  • DNF Pauline FERRAND PREVOT, France

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Van Garderen back to racing, hunting Vuelta stage wins

August 20, 2016 - 6:57am

OURENSE, Spain (VN) — Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) returns to action in the Vuelta a España Saturday, and, after a “disappointing” Tour de France, he is aiming for stage wins.

America’s grand tour star failed to reach his best at the Tour in July and fight for the overall classification. The race, as well as time at home in Colorado, helped him to reconsider his Vuelta plans.

“To do two grand tours in one season, it’s a chance to feel the legs, feel the engine, to give me a bit more depth heading into the next season,” van Garderen said. “I don’t want to ride anonymously. I want to hunt for a stage win. It’s going to be an interesting race, different to what I’m used to.

“Last year, I was very disappointed with the Tour, I wanted revenge. I basically woke up on Monday morning and tried to go back in shape and be sharp, I was nervous and stressed — all the above. This year was another disappointing Tour, but I’m really just kind of like, ‘I don’t need to jump right back into it. Just rest up a little bit.’ I’m coming in more fresh but maybe not as sharp.”

The BMC squad will lead Spaniard Samuel Sánchez in the fight for the overall classification. Van Garderen, 28, will look for other opportunities.

He considered the new approach after “struggling” through the Tour de France. Van Garderen started as co-leader with Australian Richie Porte, but quickly saw his level was not the same. In 2012 and 2014, he placed fifth overall and last year, sat third overall before falling sick and quitting in the third week. Porte placed fifth this time around, and van Garderen took 29th behind winner Chris Froome (Sky).

Back home in Colorado, he reflected. He decided that when returned to Europe for the Vuelta a España, he would race differently.

“After the Tour I went home. It had been seven months away from home. I just went home, mentally recovered, physically recovered. I was getting on the bike but no real intensity, just riding for the fun of riding,” he added.

“So I’m coming here fresher but not as sharp and by the second or third week, I hope to really come good and go for the stage win.”

Last year, van Garderen wore the leader’s jersey one day after his team won the shortened opening time trial. But he did not stay long as he was one of several stars taken out by crashes. He suffered a fractured shoulder due to a fall in the eighth stage and pulled out.

This year, the race again starts with a team time trial, 27.8 kilometers around the river that passes by Ourense.

This Vuelta a España gives him another chance and an opportunity to end his season, which includes stage wins in the Tour de Suisse and the Ruta del Sol, on a high note. When he regroups with team manager Jim Ochowicz and the trainers this winter, he will consider 2017.

“We are always looking at it with the trainers, the coaches and the team to see if there is something we could change. If we keep on with the same approach and get the same results, it won’t be too smart of us. In the past I’ve had a couple of good Tours. Maybe we’ll try to focus on what I did on those years to prepare and try to go back to that,” he added.

“In the 2015 Tour, I was right up there with the best guys. This year, even from the beginning I was struggling on the bike until I just came apart altogether. I pushed it too hard with the diet, the training, and I paid the price in the third week.”

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The Vuelta is the best grand tour. Here’s why:

August 19, 2016 - 5:15pm

Every July, we hardcore cycling fans field dozens of bad Tour de France questions from our coworkers, family members, and other non-bike people who stumble across a stage while channel surfing.

No, that solo breakaway rider wasn’t trying to win the Tour de France. No, Lance would not have beaten these guys. No, that stage wasn’t exciting.  

That’s not the case during the Vuelta a España, which kicks off this Saturday in Ourense. I don’t know about you, but I rarely have any casual cycling people ask me about Spain’s grand tour. Sure, the Vuelta occasionally receives some TV time — this year NBC Sports is airing a two-hour recap show each night. But for the most part, the Vuelta exists in the small, web-streaming bubble of bike nerd-dom. That’s right — we have three weeks to enjoy the Vuelta all to ourselves.

Which is great. Because, as bike fans, it’s time we admitted something: The Vuelta a España is the best grand tour of the year.

The Vuelta is like an exclusive beach with perfect sand. It’s like that double-secret mountain bike trail that only locals ride. It’s like a restaurant with kick-ass food that doesn’t require reservations. The Vuelta is great, and it’s all ours.

 

With tired teams, unpredictable riders, and creative stages, the Vuelta always delivers excitement. /(c)Tim De Waele Why is the Vuelta No. 1?

The Vuelta is No. 3 in terms of popularity and importance, but when it comes to exciting, edge-of-your-seat racing, it’s a convincing No. 1.

More Vuelta a España news

The Tour de France has the fanfare, the pressure, and the history. But let’s admit it, the actual race is a total snooze-fest. These days, it’s like watching the New York Yankees (clad in black Sky kits) stomp on the Bad News Bears (everyone else).

The Giro d’Italia has the hours-long climbs and the chaotic Italian roads. Sure, the Giro often produces fireworks — the last two editions were nail-biters. But occasionally the climb-heavy parcours simply separates the cream from the wheat too early. Was there any doubt that Nairo Quintana would win in 2014, or that Nibali would win in 2013?

So why is the Vuelta so exciting?

There are a handful of reasons. For starters, the race is the final grand tour of the season, so its the last opportunity for a stage racer to either make his mark, or salvage a disappointing season — some guys are racing on pure desperation.

The field always has one or two young, up-and-coming talents who are looking to turn heads. Then there are the established strongmen who, for whatever reason, underperformed at the Tour de France. Finally, you have the guys who weren’t picked for the Tour squad, but are looking to be on it next season.

Unlike the Tour de France, where the strongest team can often steamroll the competition, the Vuelta rarely attracts squads capable of shutting down the action. Marquee domestiques are tired by August, so teams often stack their Vuelta squads with younger support riders, or guys who are gassed.

Finally, the Vuelta organizers love to experiment with shorter stages, punchy climbs, and plenty of unpredictable terrain near the finish line, to make every stage worth watching. Your typical Vuelta stage looks like a standard Tour de France stage… only with a stinging climb, twisting descent, and maybe a few nasty corners right at the finish.

The 2014 Vuelta pitted Alberto Contador against Chris Froome in an all-time great battle. /(c) Tim De Waele A run of exciting Vueltas

If you didn’t know, the Vuelta is currently on an impressive streak of dramatic, down-to-the wire races. Let’s observe the last six Vueltas, shall we?

  • 2010: Race leader Igor Anton crashes out, setting up a duel between Vincenzo Nibali and Joaquim Rodriguez. Rodriguez drops Nibali on stage 16 to Cotobello to take the jersey, only to lose it the next day later with his customary terrible time trial. In the final week, Nibali fends off the maybe, possibly, likely-juiced Xacobeo-Galacia duo of Ezequiel Mosquera and David Garcia Dapena on the Bola del Mundo summit finish. Nibbles holds on by 47 seconds to win. Excitement level: Oh-Em-Gee!
  • 2011: Known punk-rock fanatic and Sky leader Bradley Wiggins appeared to have the race wrapped up until the route tackled the Angliru on stage 15, when Pro Continental rider and former Ricardo Ricco domestique Juan Jose Cobo drops everyone to take the race lead. Cobo weathers the onslaught by Wiggins and then-lieutenant Chris Froome to win by a mere 13 seconds. Yeah, this was the race that introduced us to Chris Froome. Excitement level: Holy Moly!
  • 2012: Back from his doping ban, Alberto Contador comes in to battle against Valverde and a hyper-motivated Purito Rodriguez. Rodriguez wins three stages and takes a commanding lead, only to find himself cut to ribbons by El Pisolero on the stage 17 stage climb to Fuenta De. Again, the race finished atop the Bola del Mundo, with Rodrigeuz trying unsuccessfully to unseat Contador. Excitement level: Yabba Dabba Doo! 
  • 2013: An all-time classic saw admitted McDonald’s lover Chris Horner fight a head-to-head battle with Nibali, who came into the Vuelta hoping to pull the elusive Grand Tour double (he won the Giro that year). Wearing his trademark grimace grin, Horner slowly picked away at Nibali’s advantage until seizing the lead on stage 19. It set up the most dramatic final day on the Angliru, which saw Nibali launch endless attacks, only to be dropped in the fog and chaos by the 41-year-old American. Excitement level: I just had a heart attack! Call an ambulance! 
  • 2014: In a comparatively tame Vuelta, Contador and Froome both battled for redemptive glory after they both abandoned that year’s Tour de France with crash-related injuries. Contador was the stronger of the two on the climbs, and took a convincing win. But the sight of both men attacking each other with abandon became the lasting image of the duel. Excitement level: Yowza!
  • Another all-time great: Man-monster Tom Dumoulin defies the laws of gravity by hanging with the race’s pint-sized climbers … for awhile. Fabio Aru’s all-in attack on the penultimate day slices Dumoulin down to size, and gives viewers a great show. Excitement level: Hooboy! 
How much beer has Chris Froome been drinking in the leadup to the Vuelta? Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com Questions for the Vuelta contenders

So who will win this year’s Vuelta? The VeloNews editorial staff is picking Contador (not me — I think Chris Froome will pull it off). Europe’s online betting sites agree with the other VNers, with most putting Contador as a 7/4 favorite, with Froome at anywhere from 11/4 to 7/2.

In my opinion, each Vuelta contender must overcome at least one question if he hopes to win.

  • Chris Froome: How much beer has he been drinking since the Tour de France? No, seriously. As the reigning Tour champ, Froome is entitled to drink at least five pints a night for the month after the event.
  • Alberto Contador: How angry was Contador after his humiliating crash on the Tour de France’s first day? If he hit boiling rage-levels of anger, then perhaps he was able to apply that to his pre-Vuelta training.
  • Nairo Quintana: Did Nairo undercook himself for the Tour? If so, then perhaps he could reach into the fitness bag and pull out another peak for the Vuelta.
  • Esteban Chaves: Is Chaves a killer? He almost escaped with the Giro win, but seemed to lack the angry sauce on the final climb. He’s plenty strong on the climbs, but does he have the mentality to destroy his rivals?
  • Steven Kruijswijk: Will there be snowbanks on the course?
  • Miguel Angel Lopez: Is Lopez the real deal? He sure seems like it.
  • Alejandro Valverde: How can Alejandro Valverde still pedal a bicycle after three grand tours, the Olympics, and a full classics campaign?
  • Andrew Talansky: How strong is peak Talansky? Apparently we’ve seen sub-peak Talansky for the last two years.
  • Tejay van Garderen: Can Tejay complete a grand tour without one bad day?
Keep your eyes open for:

You know how cycling blogs recommend the “stages to watch,” for grand tours and then list like 4 or 5 stages? Yeah, that’s not the case with this year’s Vuelta. There are but few flat stages, with most finishing on the uphill. I’d especially recommend watching the following stages:

Stage 3 (Monday, Aug. 22), stage 4 (Tuesday, Aug. 23), stage 8 (Saturday, Aug 27), stage 9 (Sunday, Aug. 28), stage 10 (Monday, Aug 29), stage 11 (Wednesday, Aug. 30), stage 14 (Saturday, Sept. 3), stage 15 (Sunday, Sept. 4), stage 17, (Wednesday, Sept. 7), stage 20 (Saturday, Sept. 10)

 

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