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MTB Photos: Whiskey Off-Road attracts top pros

4 hours 9 min ago

Ben Sonntag (Clif Bar) was riding in third position early in the race. There had been a furious attempt by the leaders to reach the trail first since passing was nearly impossible for several miles. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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  • View Larger Image.2016 Whiskey Off-Road

    All eyes were on Howard Grotts (Specialized) who was the defending Whiskey Off-Road champion. It was expected that he would attack on the 12-mile climb out of Skull Valley. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Spencer Paxson (Kona) relaxed at the 8:30 AM start. Temperatures were in the 40s and rain was expected any minute. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    The Whiskey Off-Road and the Town of Prescott, Arizona sponsored a dozen live bands over the weekend, but that did not deter many local ensembles from setting up shop on the town green. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Todd Wells (SRAM TLD) and Jeremy Martin (Focus – Garneau) lead the pro men on the three mile road climb out of Prescott. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Todd Wells (SRAM – TLD) and Barry Wicks (Kona) led as the race was about to transition to singletrack. Unfortunately, Wicks would puncture soon after that. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Cal Skilsky from Oro Valley, Arizona no doubt felt comfortable on the Prescott dirt. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Riders climbing at about 6,000 feet elevation. Grotts seemed to be marking Todd Wells. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    USA Marathon Champion Todd Wells (SRAM TLD) led the race during the early miles on singletrack. Photo: Dave McElwaine

  • View Larger Image.2016 Whiskey Off-Road

    Ben Sonntag (Clif Bar) was riding in third position early in the race. There had been a furious attempt by the leaders to reach the trail first since passing was nearly impossible for several miles. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Chloe Woodruff (Stan's NoTubes – Pivot) in a breakaway with her teammate Rose Grant and Maghalie Rochette (Luna Pro Team). Woodruff was attempting a three-peat at the Whiskey Off-Road. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Larissa Connors (Ridebiker Alliance) and Evelyn Dong (Cannondale) had been dropped by the group of three leaders but seemed to be setting an equally fast pace. Dong had won the Fat Boy Criterium on Friday night. Photo: Dave McElwaine

  • View Larger Image.2016 Whiskey Off-Road

    Wells, Grotts, and Sonntag were part of a select group who reached the 10-mile descent to Skull Valley first. Photo: Dave McElwaine

  • View Larger Image.2016 Whiskey Off-Road

    Veteran Jeremiah Bishop (Topeak Ergon/Canyon) was riding in the top 10 at the top of the initial climb. Photo: Dave McElwaine

  • View Larger Image.2016 Whiskey Off-Road

    Kris Sneddon (Kona) pushed over the top of the long climb out of Prescott. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    The 10-mile road into Skull Valley can be seen from the top of the mountains. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Woodruff, Rose Grant, and Maghalie Rochette (Luna Pro Team) rode together at the top of the descent into Skull Valley. Photo: Dave McElwaine

  • View Larger Image.2016 Whiskey Off-Road

    Bryan Dillon (Topeak – Ergon) rode in a large group on one of the many fire roads. He finished 15th. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Stephen Davoust (Giant Bikes) worked his way up one of the many steep climbs. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    The lead women looked fairly spent after completing the long climb out of Prescott. They all knew that a 10-mile descent was going to give them some rest. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Rochette was the lone representative of her superstar team this weekend. She clearly was turning herself inside out to be in a position to win the race. Photo: Dave McElwaine

  • View Larger Image.2016 Whiskey Off-Road

    Dong had been gapped by two minutes in the climb out of Prescott but she bridged up to the leaders after the descent into Skull Valley. Photo: Dave McElwaine

  • View Larger Image.2016 Whiskey Off-Road

    Erin Alders (Ridebiker Alliance) flew down the 10-mile descent into Skull Valley. Ridebiker had three women in the top 10 positions. Photo: Dave McElwaine

  • View Larger Image.2016 Whiskey Off-Road

    As expected, Howard Grotts (Specialized) was alone on the 12-mile climb out of Skull Valley. He attacked soon after the climb began. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Grotts had nearly a three-minute lead, one mile from the top of the final climb. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Liz Carrington (Honey Stinger) descending into Skull Valley. She always rides with a smile on her face. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Sonntag seems to have upped his game this year. He was riding alone in second position near the top of the 12-mile climb. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    A crowd began to assemble in Court House Square where the final podiums and check presentations would be made. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    USA Cross-Country Champion Grotts repeated as Whiskey Off-Road champion with nearly a four-minute lead. He would take home a $5,000 check. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Sonntagis congratulated by announcer Larry Grossman on his second-place finish. The top three men were all from Durango, Colorado. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Spencer Paxson (Kona) climbed out of the saddle near the top of the final climb. He would hold third place right up to the finish. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Brian Matter (Team Wisconsin – Trek) won a sprint to the line for seventh place. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    Kris Sneddon (Kona) seemed please with his ride. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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    USA Marathon Champion Rose Grant (Stans NoTubes – Pivot) won her first Whiskey Off-Road by over two minutes. Photo: Dave McElwaine

  • View Larger Image.2016 Whiskey Off-Road

    Dong came from behind to nail down second place and a $3,000 check. Photo: Dave McElwaine

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UCI: Thermal cameras unreliable to catch motor cheats

4 hours 56 min ago

Photo: Joolze Dymond

In April, Italian and French media outlets released video from both Strade Bianche and Coppi e Bartali races that supposedly demonstrated evidence of motorized cheating. The footage, taken with thermal imagery, seemed to confirm the cringeworthy reality of cheating in cycling, but the UCI contends that this type of thermal imaging is unreliable and that the heat patterns detected at the two March races are consistent with normal heat from moving parts.

The UCI initially tested thermal imaging at the beginning of its research into motor detection. It found that, while in certain circumstances thermal imaging can indeed detect a motor, it was only reliable when the motor was in use or just been used and is still warm. This makes pre- or post-race checks ineffective. But thermal imaging also picks up heat signals from other sources, including the rider’s body, bearing friction, and heat from warm tires.

So the heat signatures from the thermal imaging at Strade Bianche and Coppi e Bartali could have been caused by friction in wheel bearings (lit area around the hub) or heat transfer from the tires (lit area at the base of the seat tube).

UCI President Brian Cookson said, “Over the past two years we have made a considerable investment of UCI resources to find a method of testing bikes for technological fraud which is flexible, reliable, effective, fast, and easy to deploy. We have consulted experts from a wide variety of professional backgrounds — universities, mechanical, electronic and software engineers, physicists — and worked with the best technology available.”

This research led to the development of the UCI’s current scanning method that uses a tablet, case, adapter, and custom-made software that enable the operator to test a complete bike, wheels, frame, group, and components in less than a minute. The scanner creates a magnetic field and the tablet then detects any interruptions to this magnetic field, which can come from a motor, magnet, or solid object such as a battery concealed in a frame or components.

If the scan picks up anything unusual, the bike or components are then dismantled for inspection. The UCI says that the current scanning method is highly effective in detecting hidden motors or any components that could contribute to power assistance.

At the Tour de Romandie, the UCI carried out an unannounced comprehensive bike check on stage 3 and found no evidence of technical fraud. In one day, the UCI tested 347 bikes from all 20 teams, which brought the total bikes tested at the Tour de Romandie up to 507.

The UCI has also been testing bikes at many races throughout the season, including 274 bikes at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in London, 164 at the women’s Trofeo Alfredo Binda, 216 at the Tour of Flanders, 232 at Paris-Roubaix, and 173 at the U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The UCI will continue testing in all disciplines throughout the remainder of the year.

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Americans Abroad: Tejay’s strong showing in Romandie

5 hours 13 min ago

Tejay van Garderen had a strong showing at Tour de Romandie thanks to good time trial efforts in the prologue and stage 3. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Welcome to Americans Abroad, our weekly check-in with the American pros in the European peloton. VeloNews will publish these updates every Monday throughout the season.

Tejay van Garderen raced against some of the top Tour favorites last week in the Tour of Romandie, a race that defending Tour champion Chris Froome (Sky) has won on two occasions (2013 and 2014). This year, however, was Nairo Quintana’s turn to shine. BMC’s leader was 10th overall, 1:21 behind the Movistar winner and beat Froome, who came in 38th.

Van Garderen showed his time-trialling prowess throughout the week, coming in ninth in both the prologue and stage 3’s individual time trial. He also showed his climbing form, finishing fifth in the king of the mountains competition.

Brent Bookwalter (BMC)

Bookwalter was one of Van Garderen’s main helpers in Switzerland throughout the week. He came in 35th overall, 19:17 behind Quintana, and BMC’s second-best finisher. His best finish was stage 3’s ITT, where he came in 26th.

Nate Brown (Cannondale)

Brown was also in Switzerland last week. He was Cannondale’s second-best finisher in 29th, 17:18 behind Quintana. Riding in support of new teammate Rigoberto Uran (who did not start stage 5), Brown’s best finish was also in the stage 3 time trial, where he came in 36th.

Adrien Costa (Axeon Hagens Berman)

The 18-year-old Costa became the first American to win the seven-stage Tour de Bretagne in France. After a solo victory on stage 4, the queen stage, he was able to hold onto the overall lead and seal the victory.

Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale)

Dombrowski was the second of three American helpers for Uran in Romandie. He finished 44th overall.

Caleb Fairly (Giant – Alpecin)

Fairly was one of the riders with John Degenkolb in his first race back from injury following the training crash in January. Both Fairly and Degenkolb abandoned the Eschborn-Frankfurt race in Germany Sunday.

Chad Haga (Giant – Alpecin)

Haga was the lone American riding for GC hopeful Tom Dumoulin in the Tour of Romandie. While helping his team leader come in fifth overall, Haga was 69th.

Sara Headley (Podium Ambition)

Headley finished 20th in the women’s Tour de Yorkshire one-day race on Saturday.

Carter Jones (Giant – Alpecin)

Jones was one of two Americans racing the Tour de Yorkshire in England this week. He finished the race in 77th, 24:04 behind the winner Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie).

Joey Rosskopf (BMC)

Rosskopf was the second American in England, racing Yorkshire. He finished 20th overall after finishing stage 3 in 20th place.

Peter Stetina (Trek – Segafredo)

Stetina was Trek – Segafredo’s lone American helping Bauke Mollema in Romandie. He was 46th overall and his team’s Dutch leader ended the six-day race in ninth place.

Carmen Small (Cervelo – Bigla)

Small raced Elsy Jacobs in Luxembourg over the weekend. She won the mountains competition and finished 17th overall.

Andrew Talansky (Cannondale)

Talansky was the final American helper for Uran at Romandie. He came in 105th overall, and Talansky’s best stage was the individual time trial, where he came in 40th.

Team USA

The American national team raced the Festival Elsy Jacobs race in Luxembourg from Friday through Sunday. The team consisted of Holly Breck, Gretchen Stumhofer, Alya Trafiacnte, Madeleine Boutet, and Laurel Rathbun. Only Stumhofer finished the whole race, coming in 67th overall. Her best result was 48th in stage 1.

Alison Tetrick (Cylance)

Tetrick was the second of two women at the Yorkshire race and finished 36th.

Alexey Vermeulen (LottoNL – Jumbo)

Vermeulen rounded out the crew of Ameicans in Romandie. The 21 year-old was ninth in the young rider competition and 65th overall. His best stage was stage 4, the difficult mountain stage, where he came in 54th. Up next, the 21-year-old returns stateside for the Tour of California.

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Reviewed: Fuji Transonic 2.1

7 hours 17 min ago

Photo: Fuji

Lab data: 18/20 (.86mm head tube deflection; .25mm BB deflection)
Build: 10.5/15
Value: 12.8/15
Handling: 11.7/15
Pedaling response: 12.2/15
Aesthetics: 3.2/5

Overall: 80.4/100

This thoroughly underrated brand has produced perhaps one of the best deals in the aero category with the Transonic 2.1. It puts up screaming wind tunnel scores yet remains more comfortable than other aero road bikes, even those that are far more expensive.

It does all this while delivering pedaling and handling stiffness that racers demand. “It just works,” one tester wrote. He’s absolutely right.

Front-end stiffness is excellent, and steering geometry is spot on, neither twitchy nor slow. A trail figure on the high side for a race bike (57.8mm) makes the Fuji more of a road racer than a crit rat, but an incredibly tight wheelbase (986mm!) will get you around any corner at any speed. Frankly, we just love how this bike handles.

The relatively heavy Oval components do hold this bike back. They’re just not very nice. But for $3,500, what do you expect? You’re getting a world-class frame with electronic shifting for the price of an Enve wheelset.

The good news is that Fuji didn’t skimp on key components, like the brakes and drivetrain. The cockpit, seatpost, saddle, and wheels are uninspiring. But throw on a pair of race wheels and this bike will feel almost exactly like something twice the price.

For a road racer on a budget, look no further. The Transonic is stiff, handles like a dream, and is surprisingly comfortable. It’s also half the price of bikes that are just as good.

Price: $3,570
Component highlights: Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain with 52/36 crankset and 11-28 cassette, Shimano Ultegra brakes, Oval 733 wheels
Weight: 16.80 pounds (size 56cm)

More VeloNews Buyer’s Guide reviews >>

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Video: Sagan shows young racers the ropes

8 hours 8 min ago

Peter Sagan has been taking a quick break from road racing to hop in a handful of mountain bike races this spring (with mixed results). On Sunday, the world champ made an appearance at a Detská Tour event, part of a series of Slovakian MTB races for kids, which has also been named in his honor. He led out a group of aspiring young mountain bikers and played his familiar role as gracious superstar.

Race organizers also have a big gallery of the cuteness on Facebook, and Sagan posted several live videos from the event on his Facebook page.

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The fall — and rise — of Italian cycling

8 hours 28 min ago

Italian fans cheered on Fabio Aru as he made his way up a climb in the 2015 Giro. Photo: Tim De Waele |

At the start of the Giro d’Italia this week, everything will appear as it should in the home of Coppi and Campagnolo. The underpinnings of Italian cycling — the Dolomites, the glamorous podium girls, the frenzied tifosi at the roadside — will all be hitting their marks like actors in a gorgeous Fellini film. Scratch below the surface, however, and the reality is dramatically different.

While the Giro might be experiencing an unprecedented boom, Italian cycling has been on life support for much of the past decade. A searing economic crisis, legacy of doping scandals, and lack of charismatic stars have left Italy’s formerly thriving peloton withering on the vine. Once home to four WorldTour-level teams and stars like Marco Pantani and Mario Cipollini, today Italy can claim only Lampre – Merida as its own — and half of that title sponsorship hails from Taiwan. Races are struggling, too, with tours in Sicily, Sardinia, and mainland Italy having shuttered in the past decade.

The Italians call it la crisis — the crisis — and it’s ripped the guts out of Italy’s once proud and vibrant peloton.

“The crisis hurts a lot,” says ex-pro and Cannondale sport director Fabrizio Guidi. “We still have a great culture of cycling, but we miss the top right now. We still have a good base and foundation, but if things do not change, it will be more and more difficult.”

Despite the economic malaise, or perhaps because of it, Italy is quietly showing signs of life at the grassroots level. A new generation is picking up the baton, with young stars like Fabio Aru and Davide Formolo asserting themselves in a pro peloton that is brash, chaotic, and full of contradiction.

And Italy still boasts more riders in the elite peloton than any other nation. La crisi hasn’t changed that. But most of them now race for teams based elsewhere. It is the dawn of an Italian cycling diaspora.

Paolo Bettini, the rambunctious, two-time world champion, still cuts a lean figure at 41. Nicknamed “Grillo” (meaning “cricket,” an ode to the manner in which he would bounce around the peloton), Bettini is always smiling, except when you ask him about the current state of cycling in Italy.

“Why is Italian cycling struggling? Taxes are too high,” Bettini explains with a shake of his head. “To find a sponsor in Italy, they must pay too much to the government. So if a sponsor pays $10 million, less than half goes to the team after the government takes its share. We have a joke in Italy: ‘You work eight months for the country, and four months for your family.’ And it’s like that in cycling.”

Bettini has firsthand knowledge of how challenging it can be. In late 2013, he quit his job as Italy’s national coach to partner with Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso in an ill-fated effort to launch a new WorldTour team. When that idea fizzled, he began sniffing around Italy for new sponsors, but without luck.

“La crisi,” Bettini says, cursing the crisis in Italian. “It’s killing Italian cycling.”

Much like in neighboring Spain, Italy’s ongoing economic crisis has ripped the legs out from underneath the Italian peloton. The Great Recession hit the Italian economy very hard, with a more than seven percent decline in GDP. Unemployment for people under 30 is north of 40 percent. Corruption runs deep, and the nearly decade-long economic stagnation led to deep budget cuts that have devastated Italy’s once thriving professional scene. There’s no money for races or teams.

“Things have changed a lot,” explains ex-pro and Trek – Segafredo sport director Andrea Baffi. “We have a rich cycling culture, but the money is not there any more, and the government is not supporting cycling. Italy is in danger of losing this big cycling culture.”

Here’s a sampling of the races that have closed: Settimana Lombarda, Giro del Veneto, Coppi Piacci, Giro di Padania, and Roma Maxima. And it’s even worse for teams, long backed by regional governments and Italian-based companies. The Fassa Bortolo, Liquigas, Mapei, and Saeco teams all shut down.

“It’s almost impossible to find one big title sponsor in Italy right now,” says longtime Italian manager Gianni Savio, who’s been in the game for nearly three decades. His Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec team is supported by a patchwork of small, low-budget sponsors, something the charismatic Savio is proud of.

“My team jersey is a like a newspaper,” he says. “Since I do not rely on one big sponsor, I have been able to survive the crisis. I have seen many who have not.”

Italy’s private sector is steering wide of cycling. Major homegrown industries that once backed cycling, including flooring (Mapei), heating gas (Liquigas), construction products (Fassa Bortolo), super markets (Mercatone Uno), and vacation properties (Domina Vacanze), have all walked away. Italian cycling brands are not stepping up, either. Trek, BMC, Cannondale, Giant, and Specialized all support teams in major ways, but in Italy, bike companies are content to remain in the background as suppliers. None has put forth the financial commitment to become a title sponsor.

Any tale of Italy’s cycling decline would be incomplete without delving into its lurid doping past. Italy had more than its fair share, from the Sanremo raids in the 2001 Giro d’Italia to “Oil for Drugs” in 2003 to Pantani’s tragic decline and death in 2004. An entire generation was stained, including Danilo Di Luca, Stefano Garzelli, Ivan Basso, Gilberto Simoni, and Riccardo Riccò. In a sport rife with salacious fables, Italy holds an infamous place.

The nation is the birthplace of modern doping, and Francesco Conconi was the godfather. In the 1980s, he started blending sophisticated doping practices with modern science and training methods. By the late 1980s, he also started adding EPO to the recipe, with pyrotechnic results. His disciples, Michele Ferrari and Luigi Cecchini, pushed the envelope during the 1990s, adding blood transfusions. The debauchery eventually led to a string of doping scandals, from the Festina Affair in 1998 to Operación Puerto in 2006 and finally the USADA case against Lance Armstrong in 2012. High-profile raids involving Italy’s carabinieri revealed a deep rot inside Italian cycling. Lurid media headlines scared off sponsors and fans in droves.

“All of our big stories are in the past, so we need to start to build new stories,” Baffi says with a weary shrug of his shoulders. “We are in a better place now than we were before. There is a new generation, with a new story.”

It was during those darkest days that Italian cycling started to reinvent itself. Dr. Aldo Sassi, who died of a brain tumor in 2010, was a pioneer of clean training, founding the Mapei Training Center (backed by ex-Mapei sponsor Giorgio Squinzi). His earliest proponents and students included 2011 Tour winner Cadel Evans and a reformed Basso, who came back from a ban to win the 2010 Giro. Others have followed, including Paolo Slongo, who works closely with Nibali, and Luca Guercilena, now team manager at Trek – Segafredo, who coaches Fabian Cancellara and the Swiss national team.

Italian cycling was brought to its knees, but the sport didn’t die. Instead, it found a new home. Just like the emigrants who escaped Italy a century ago, many members of today’s Italian peloton were forced out.

“The problem isn’t that Italian cycling is falling down, it’s that the rest of the world is coming up,” explains Etixx – Quick-Step rider Matteo Trentin, one of three Italians on the Belgian team. “It’s not harder to find a team, it’s just different, because instead of going to an Italian team, you go to an international team. If you’re a good rider, you can still find a place in the peloton.”

Filling the void created by the lack of Italian teams are outfits from cycling’s new establishment. Russia, the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, Australia, South Africa, and the United States, with three WorldTour-registered teams, are all part of a reshaping of the modern peloton.

“The situation now in Italy is not so good. We only have Lampre, and it’s more difficult for the young riders to find a place,” says Oscar Gatto, one of four Italians at Tinkoff. “The peloton is more international, but each sponsor wants to have a few places to help out their young riders. Look at Etixx or Lotto — they bring along their own Belgian riders. That’s what we’re missing in Italy.”

The dispersion also extends to staffers. Without Italian teams to work for, sport directors and managers have migrated to other teams, spreading the Italian DNA across the peloton. Astana, Trek – Segafredo, Katusha, BMC Racing, and Tinkoff all boast very strong Italian influences. That cross-pollination helps Italian riders to find a home away from home. BMC, for example, has four Italian sport directors and five Italian riders.

All is not grim. And how could it be, in a country as effervescent and optimistic as Italy? The nation that brought us Coppi and Bartali, a country that has a shrine atop a hill devoted to the patron saint of professional cyclists, breathes cycling like no other.

There was good news this winter when coffeemaker Segafredo announced a three-year contract to link up with Trek. Team manager Guercilena engineered the deal. The news of the first major Italian company entering the sport in nearly a decade hit the Italian peloton like a jolt of espresso.

“The arrival of Segafredo is very big for Italian cycling, and Luca did all the work on that one,” says Trek sport director Dirk Demol. “And coffee and bikes, it’s a nice combination.”

Some are hopeful the arrival of Segafredo will spark a revival of Italian fortunes. Despite the high tax burden, there is quiet optimism that Italian racing is pedaling out of its unease. Doping stories no longer dominate the headlines. There’s a sense of hope and optimism inside the Italian peloton.

“We are seeing big Italian companies show new interest in the Giro,” race director Mauro Vegni said last year. “None are confirmed yet, but we hope to have some significant new sponsors soon. We are very healthy, and companies see the Giro as a way to promote their companies. Maybe soon we will see a major Italian team. I am optimistic about Italian cycling.”

While the sport is starting to show signs of life, it desperately needs a high-profile star to energize the media and public. Pantani and Cipollini entertained a generation, but today’s tifosi are waiting for someone like ski racer Alberto Tomba or Moto GP superstar Valentino Rossi, figures with charisma and success who transcend the sport and reach beyond the devotee.

Nibali could have become that star after he won the 2014 Tour, but he’s naturally shy and doesn’t actively seek out the spotlight. Instead, it could be 25-year-old Fabio Aru who draws in younger fans. He is comfortable in front of the TV cameras and has the racing chops to back it up. Hot off his first career grand tour victory at the Vuelta a España, Aru will make his Tour debut this summer.

“I believe he can be Italy’s next great rider,” said Astana sport director Giuseppe Martinelli, who led Pantani and Nibali to Tour victories. “He has all the skills, and he’s confident in himself. He knows what he wants without being arrogant.”

Aru grew up in a modest household in San Gavino Monreale, on the west coast of Sardinia. Far from the cycling hotbeds of Tuscany or Veneto, Aru didn’t start cycling at a serious level until he was 15, relatively late by Italian standards. After some remarkable results in mountain bike and cyclocross events, Aru gained a benefactor from a wealthy family in Bologna who would provide him accommodation and transportation to races each weekend. Unlike the traditional route to the top, through the Italian cycling federation or a development team linked to a top pro team, Aru employed pure Italian passion (with a dose of good fortune and generosity) to get his start.

“This family in Bologna helped my family pay for the plane tickets,” Aru explains. “I would race Sunday, then fly home that night to return to my studies at school. It wasn’t until I reached the under-23 level that I even dreamed of becoming a professional.”

It’s that dirt-under-your-fingernails passion that keeps feeding Italian cycling from below, and is saving the sport from the excesses of the EPO era. Even as the upper echelon of Italian cycling continues to face serious headwinds, the grassroots keeps churning out top-level talent. Aru’s arrival is proof that Italian cycling is alive and well. After more than a decade of poor harvests, there’s a new varietal for the Italian aficionado to get behind. Gran fondos draw thousands. The Giro d’Italia is enjoying an unprecedented boom. Cycling is cool again among Italy’s hipsters and youth.

“When I was a young boy, I was the only one riding a bike at my school,” says Cannondale’s Davide Formolo, just 22, and another one of Italy’s bright lights. “Now cycling is growing fast. There are 150 very serious amateurs just in my city of Verona. There are 2,000 top amateurs in Italy. You can sense that things are building up again.”

Cycling’s not dead in Italy; it’s simply reinventing itself.

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Behind the scenes: VeloNews Buyer’s Guide bike tests

8 hours 47 min ago

The sea of bikes grew larger as the build process came to a close. Photo: Brad Kaminski |

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Valverde doesn’t fear return to Italy despite Puerto ban

8 hours 59 min ago

Alejandro Valverde said he holds nothing against Italy despite the nation's role in his two-year doping ban. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Alejandro Valverde insists he isn’t afraid to race the Giro d’Italia despite the role Italian authorities played in his two-year racing ban in 2010.

Italian anti-doping officials linked him to blood bag evidence as part of the Operación Puerto doping scandal, but in an interview with the Spanish daily MARCA, the Spanish star insists he’s put it all behind him.

“What happened, happened, but that doesn’t mean I have anything against Italy or Italians at all,” the Movistar rider told MARCA. “That’s all over now. And the Italians don’t have anything against me, either. When I raced at Tirreno-Adriatico or Milano-Sanremo, I feel very supported and loved. It’s been a pleasure.”

Valverde rarely speaks about the ban, and told MARCA he’s simply turned the page. The Spanish star lines up Friday as a favorite for the pink jersey as he starts the Giro for the first time of his career.

“I am a person who tries to forget bad things and remember the good things,” Valverde continued. “Right now, any time I have to head to Italy to race, I don’t dwell on any of that stuff. I don’t have any problem with it at all.”

Italy played a key role in Valverde’s Puerto ban. Nearly 60 riders from several teams were linked to the Puerto scandal, but Valverde is only one of six riders who have served a racing ban for connections to the international blood doping ring organized by Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.

Despite being identified as a Puerto client with the nickname “Piti” via a list of codenames confiscated in police raids, Valverde denied working with Fuentes. While others, such as Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, were kicked out of the 2006 Tour de France for alleged links to Fuentes, Valverde continued to race.

Things changed in 2008 when the Tour route dipped into Italy. That night after the stage to Prato Nevoso, Italian anti-doping authorities drew samples of Valverde’s blood. Using the broad powers of Italy’s anti-doping laws, prosecutors secured a court order to have access to evidence held by Spanish authorities, and used DNA testing to connect Valverde to one of the Fuentes blood bags. In 2009, Italians imposed a racing ban within its borders, but Valverde went on to win that year’s Vuelta a España. After losing an appeal, a back-dated, two-year ban was handed down from January 2010, sidelining Valverde from all international competition until 2012.

In fact, he said the Puerto ban might have helped prolong his career. Now 36, Valverde only seems to have improved since his return to racing in 2012, with a third place at the 2015 Tour de France, several victories at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, as well as winning the UCI WorldTour title in 2014 and 2015.

“This ‘stop’ allowed me to be fresher now. I was a year and a half without racing, so it was like a break time for my body,” Valverde said. “Even though I kept training during that time and took care of myself, all that helped me to feel even better now. Of course, I would have preferred to have kept racing, but I did not feel bitter or torture myself about what happened. I enjoyed my life just as I do now, with my family, it was like as if I was on holiday.”

Despite the Italian drama, an optimistic Valverde lines up Friday as one of the five-star favorites for the 99th Giro d’Italia.

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Reviewed: Zipp 404 NSW wheels

9 hours 28 min ago

Zipp's 404 NSW wheels add aero touches and a new free hub engagement system intended to save you watts. Photo: Dan Cavallari | VeloNews

“Solid, do-all wheels that offer marginal gains for top-level racers”

Star rating: 8.2/10
Price: $3,100 ($1,350 front; $1,750 rear)
Weight: 720 grams front; 870 grams rear (with rim strips)
Type: Clincher
Rim Depth: 58 millimeters
Internal Rim Width: 17.25 millimeters
Spoke Count: 18 Front/24 Rear

I reach for these wheels more than any other set in the vast VeloNews stable just on instinct: the 404 NSW wheels are stiff, do-it-all hoops with a wide footprint for better traction and rolling resistance. But Zipp’s venerable 404 Firecrests cost $1,000 less, so the question is, are the NSWs a grand better?

For the top-level racer, yes. For the rest of us, perhaps not.

One of the most important differences between the Firecrests and NSW is the Cognition hubset, an upgrade that promises near-instant freehub engagement thanks to its Axial Clutch system. Instead of relying on springs to engage and disengage the freehub, the Axial Clutch relies on magnets that pull a ratchet ring away from the engagement ring. When you pedal, the rings engage; when you coast, they disengage quickly and slide smoothly over each other. Zipp says this system allows quicker engagement and lower resistance when coasting.

At first we found the engagement to be about as good as it is on Firecrests. There seemed to be a little bit of initial slop when starting to pedal, then the engagement kicked in solidly. Perhaps there was a break-in period, though, because engagement seemed to improve over the course of several rides. There was a much firmer, active engagement when starting to pedal by the third ride on the wheels. Instant? No, but very good — better than the Firecrests.

The real benefit of this system, though, is the promise of low-drag coasting. Zipp claims you’ll be able to stop pedaling earlier as you approach a high-speed curve without losing speed and pedal less when drafting. This is another intangible that was nearly impossible to gauge out on the road, so we can’t say for sure if we saved any watts or were able to stop pedaling earlier. Some serious lab testing would be necessary to determine if this claim is true, and we imagine it would have a lot to do with the type of bearings being used in the hubs, as well as the condition of those bearings. It stands to reason that the best way to truly reduce drag would be to have the engagement rings in the freehub completely disengage from each other — something Shimano is toying with when its Scylence hubs drop.

The Aerodynamic Boundary Layer Control (ABLC), which we all know as those little dimples on the sides of Zipp rims, carries over from even before the Firecrest wheels, but with a twist. ABLC dimpling — similar to the dimples on a golf ball —addresses an aerodynamic concept called Laminar separation, which occurs when air moves over the surface of an object and then at a certain point separates from that object, effectively creating turbulent drag. ABLC helps airflow adhere to the rim’s surface by “energizing” it, or essentially creating mini-turbulence as the air flows over the surface. In theory, air should then flow more completely around the leeward side of the rim at a wider range of yaw angles.

The ABLC Sawtooth dimpling on the NSWs builds on the original ABLC concept by rearranging the dimpling pattern to address what’s known as the Kármán vortex street, in which air swirls as it leaves the rear of the rim shape, causing turbulence that in turn creates drag and possibly even vibrations that can affect your bike’s handling. The new Sawtooth pattern groups dimples in a sinusoidal orientation as they approach the spoke bed to create small sheet vortices — small circuits of swirling air — at a high frequency but low magnitude. In other words, there are more tiny vortices of swirling air, but they are not as powerful and therefore won’t affect handling and drag as significantly.

“The 404 NSW has a massive drop in side force at higher yaw angles,” says Jason Fowler, Zipp’s wheel product manager, “due in large part to the rim shape and the Sawtooth dimple pattern compared to the 404 Firecrest, which is already best in class (34% side force reduction). The end result for the rider is peace of mind in gusty wind conditions and saving watts that would be expended while attempting to hold your line.”

We didn’t wind-tunnel-test the ABLC Sawtooth versus the older version of ABLC, but if it works as promised, that’s a win for you, the racer, considering the rims generally feel the same as the Firecrests in terms of lateral stiffness and responsiveness. We did notice a stability improvement in Colorado’s strong spring crosswinds: The NSW wheels seemed to dance a bit less in crosswinds than their Firecrest counterparts. Same feel plus lower watt expenditure equals a win.

The other eye-catcher is the Showstopper brake track. It’s a textured track molded into the rim, and as promised, the brakes do, in fact, grab and modulate better than most of the carbon rims we’ve tested recently. On sustained descents, we got a few squeals out of them, but braking power seemed consistent even if the rims sang to us. Get them wet and you’re reminded you’re riding a carbon rim, though: that nothing-nothing-grab feeling still applies here, though certainly to a lesser extent than the Firecrests.

So yes, these are very good wheels, but they pose an impossible question: Should you buy them? The advantages are marginal: coasting with lower rolling resistance, wind-shearing details, freehub engagement. Both the NSWs and Firecrests are rugged, reliable wheels up for any type of racing, but the NSW has those small touches that might mean the difference between crossing the line a tire ahead of another sprinter or standing on the second step, especially if it’s a windy race day. If you’re a top-level racer, those marginal gains are likely worth the cost. The rest of us may be better served to pocket that extra grand and stick with the proven 404 Firecrests.

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Nibali likes his chances at Giro after two-year absence

9 hours 44 min ago

Vincenzo Nibali is returning to the Giro d'Italia after winning in 2013. Photo: Tim De Waele |

MILAN (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali is returning home and racing the Giro d’Italia this year for the first time since 2013, the year he won. He said after sitting out two years and going to the Tour de France last year instead, he had to return to Italy’s grand tour.

Astana’s Sicilian rider already won the Vuelta a España in 2010 and the Tour de France in 2014. He tried to win the Tour again last year, but he left with only a stage win and fourth-place overall – and a desire to return to the Giro.

“Because I miss the Giro d’Italia,” Nibali told Italian magazine Sport Week. “After two years away, I felt the desire to return.

“To return to the race where I made my name. I raced the first year in 2007, my third year as a professional, and finished 19th. I was a helper in team Liquigas for Danilo Di Luca, who won.”

Nibali helped Ivan Basso win in 2010, placed third in 2011 — which later became second with Alberto Contador’s disqualification — and returned to win in 2013.

In 2012, Nibali stood on the Tour’s podium for the first time behind Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. It was enough for him to decide to change course and try to win in the coming years. But 2014’s victory took its toll.

“Afterwards, there was too much. Parties, distractions, too much weight,” Nibali explained. “At the first team camp, I saw that my teammates were further along than I was.”

Nibali ate some humble pie in 2015 and had time to think about 2016. He and his trainer Paolo Slongo decided it was best for him to come out fighting and not ease up until the Giro ends May 29 in Turin.

With Nibali’s experience and his Tour of Oman win in February, insiders mark the 31-year-old as a favorite. There are some question marks, however, because Sky’s Mikel Landa rode away from him in the Giro del Trentino last week. But even Landa said, “When [Nibali] prepares for something, he doesn’t make a mistake.”

“Landa was my teammate last year and he pulled off some numbers in the Giro,”Nibali added. Linda was third in the race behind winner Alberto Contador. “Alejandro Valverde is hard-headed and never gives up. But then there are young rivals like Esteban Chaves.”

The Giro starts with a time trial in Apeldoorn, and continues on Dutch roads through Sunday. On Tuesday, the race restarts at home in Calabria and makes its way north through Tuscany, where the cyclists face a 40.5-kilometer time trial through the Chianti hills. Like always, the high Alpine passes mark the third and final week.

“I like this Giro because it’s similar to the one I won in 2013,” Nibali said. “Nervous stages at the start and then obviously, it will all be decided in the last week.”

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Preliminary 2016 Giro d’Italia start list

10 hours 11 min ago

Alberto Contador won the 2015 Giro d'Italia; the 2016 route is coming into focus. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The 198 starters of the Giro d’Italia will set off from Apeldoorn, Netherlands on May 6. The Giro released its preliminary start list last week, but last-minute changes are still likely. Anything with an asterisk is an unconfirmed roster. We’ll update this post as teams make their final selections.

AG2R La Mondiale
PERAUD Jean Christophe
Director: KASPUTIS Arturas

Astana Pro Team
NIBALI Vincenzo
AGNOLI Valerio
ZEITS Andrey
Director: SHEFER Alexandr

Bardiani – CSF
BOEM Nicola
BONGIORNO Francesco Manuel
Director: ZANATTA Stefano

BMC Racing*
GILBERT Philippe
DE MARCHI Alessandro
KUNG Stefan
OSS Daniel
Director: PIVA Valerio

Cannondale Pro Cycling*
URAN URAN Rigoberto
CARDOSO Andre Fernando S.M.
MOSER Moreno
Director: GUIDI Fabrizio

Dimension Data*
HAAS Nathan
SIUTSOU Kanstantsin
THOMSON Jay Robert
VAN ZYL Johann
VENTER Jacobus
Director: HAMMOND Roger

Etixx – Quick-Step
SERRY Pieter
Director: BRAMATI Davide

DELAGE Mickael
FISCHER Murilo Antonio
GENIEZ Alexandre
LE GAC Olivier
Director: GUESDON Frederic

Gazprom – Rusvelo
SEROV Alexander
Director: DEVOTI Michele

Giant – Alpecin
ARNDT Nikias
JI Cheng
Director: REEF Marc

IAM Cycling*
BRANDLE Matthias
WYSS Marcel
ZAUGG Oliver
Director: CHIESA Mario

KUZNETSOV Viacheslav
PORSEV Alexander
Director: AZEVEDO Jose

Lampre – Merida
CONTI Valerio
MORI Manuele
NIEMIEC Przemyslaw
Director: SCIREA Mario

Lotto – Soudal
BAK Lars Ytting
Director: LEYSEN Bart

LottoNL – Jumbo
KEIZER Martijn
Director: BOVEN Jan

ROJAS GIL Jose Joaquin
Director: GARCIA ACOSTA Jose Vicente

Nippo – Vini Fanitini
CUNEGO Damiano
BISOLTI Alessandro
BOLE Grega
GROSU Eduard Michael
ZILIOLI Gianfranco
Director: GIULIANI Stefano

Orica – GreenEdge
CHAVES RUBIO Johan Esteban
EWAN Caleb
TUFT Svein
Director: WHITE Matthew

Southeast – Venezuela
ZHUPA Eugert
Director: SCINTO Luca

Team Sky*
KNEES Christian
ROCHE Nicholas
Director: CIONI Dario

BOARO Manuele
Director: CENGHIALTA Bruno

Trek – Segafredo
DIDIER Laurent
ZOIDL Riccardo
Director: BAFFI Adriano

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Axel’s army: A pathway to the pro peloton

10 hours 11 min ago

Former members of Axel's teams (from left) Gavin Mannion, Joe Dombrowski, Taylor Phinney, Tim Roe, Tanner Putt, Julian Kyer, Ruben Zepuntke, and Ben King stand with some of this year's squad. Photo: Davey Wilson

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the October issue of Velo magazine.

It’s approaching 85 degrees in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, on the eve of the 2015 USA Pro Challenge, but Axel Merckx has goose bumps. He’s getting emotional.

“I’m almost more happy now when they win than when I won,” he says, looking at the bumps on his forearms as he settles into an Adirondack chair in the Colorado sun. “I don’t now why. It’s just the way I am.”

“They” are the riders for Axeon Cycling Team, the youth-development program Merckx has been running for seven years. Several of them are walking back and forth behind Merckx, 43, on their way to and from massage sessions and other obligations as they prepare for their biggest race of the year. They’re young, all between 18 and 23. Most are American, but this year’s squad also includes a Kiwi, a Brit, and a rider from Portugal. They come to work, ride, and grow, to prepare themselves for the big jump to a WorldTour team.

“I wanted to create a team that I wish I was on,” Merckx says. “I tried to take all the positive experiences I had on all the different teams that I raced on, remove the pressure, and keep the attitude, the personality, the spirit of it. It’s been an amazing journey so far. I feel really lucky. I’ve encountered some great riders and some great athletes. This is the good I want to do for cycling. It’s what I want to give back.”

Since retiring in 2007, Merckx — a former Belgian national champ, Olympic bronze medalist, son of Eddy — has embarked on a surprising second life as a gifted developer of young cycling talent. Axeon (pronounced the same as “action”) is the latest iteration of an under-23 cycling project that has become perhaps the best launching pad for aspiring pros in North America. A third of the 54 riders who have passed through the team’s ranks since its inception have moved onto the WorldTour, including Taylor Phinney (BMC); Ian Boswell (Sky); Alex Dowsett (Movistar); Jasper Stuyven and Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing); Carter Jones and Lawson Craddock (Giant-Alpecin); and Joe Dombrowski, Ben King, Nate Brown, and Ruben Zepuntke (Garmin-Cannondale).

In many ways — and especially in the more emotional, goose-bump-inducing ones that have to do with using the crucible of sport to turn boys into men—Merckx is possibly the closest thing American cycling has to a Mike Kryzewski, the longtime basketball coach of the Duke Blue Devils. With a budget that wouldn’t cover Team Sky’s bus-cleaning bills, Merckx recruits, mentors, and develops young riders who, by design, will age out of his program within four years. In the best case, he loses them with their glory years still to come. Worst case, they’ve spent four years chasing a dream and now have to figure out a post-cycling life. In either case, Merckx can only hope his lessons have stuck.

“To me, the success of this team is not the results, or the number of riders we move up,” Merckx says. “It’s that all the riders who have been in this program, wherever they are, as soon as we’re at the same race they come to see us. They stop by, give us hugs; they come and say, ‘We miss you guys. We had a great time with you. It was awesome.’

“That’s the success of the program — that they all come back.”

For college-age riders hoping to make a go of it in the pro ranks, there are only a few options. USA Cycling runs its own development program, which identifies junior and U23 riders and provides European acclimation for those looking to turn pro. But the national squad doesn’t race a full calendar, so riders are best off picking a development-oriented trade team as well.

There are other excellent development programs in North America, teams such as California Giant Berry Farms-Specialized (which will fold into Axeon in 2016) and Hincapie Racing, which take riders up to the age of 25. There are plenty in Europe, too, like French-based VC La Pomme, which has turned out top riders (Dan Martin, Alex Howes, Fumi Beppu, Maxime Bouet) for decades.

A growing collegiate racing scene is an option as well, but juggling racing with classwork takes particular dedication. Ted King (Cannondale-Garmin) graduated from Middlebury College before turning to a pro career, and Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare) continues to win at the highest levels of women’s cycling despite a course load at Marian University. But for most, school and a top-tier professional lifestyle don’t mix well. Nonetheless, Merckx says he never dissuades a rider from trying to balance both.

“I know as much as anybody that after cycling you still have a long life,” he says. “Some guys have gone to school and made it. But this team, it’s kind of like going to university. That’s the idea of it. You come out ready for one job.”

Among the options a young rider has, Axeon is unique in the U.S. both for sticking so strictly to the U23 ranks and for the success of its riders. That was perhaps never on better display than at this year’s U23 national championships. The team completely dominated proceedings as the 167km course rolled through the foothills west of Lake Tahoe, California, and then shed all but a handful of riders on the long climb up to the Northstar ski resort. Axeon took first and second, with Keegan Swirbul, 19, and Gregory Daniel, 20, respectively, and placed five riders in the top-25 overall.

Swirbul’s win marked the 20th national championship earned under Merckx since 2009.

Axeon began life in 2009 as Trek-Livestrong. The team, a project between Lance Armstrong and his long-time sponsor Trek, was built primarily as a development vehicle for Taylor Phinney, the then-19-year-old American phenom whom Trek hoped to tie to its brand the way Armstrong had been. Armstrong brought in the newly retired Merckx — his former teammate on Motorola — to run things.

Those first years remain some of Merckx’s finest. Phinney proved worthy, taking the team’s first major victory at U23 Paris-Roubaix in 2009. “That was really our first big win, that was very big. That was something special,” Merckx says. The young American would repeat at Roubaix in 2010.

Spun throughout Phinney’s success in 2009 and 2010 was something less expected. The cast of young riders brought in to support Phinney turned out to be stars in their own right. Along with Phinney, Ben King, Alex Dowsett, Jesse Sergent, and Tim Roe all jumped up to the WorldTour in 2010. Their success convinced Merckx that he could turn what was supposed to be a short-lived project into something both lasting and more effective.

As he set out to rebuild his roster for the following season, Merckx abandoned the single-star model and started thinking about ways to replicate the surprise success of his first group of riders. “I wanted to bring in the best talents we could and make a team out of it,” he says, “and turn them into the best pros they could be.”

The team dropped Livestrong from its jerseys in 2013, in the wake of the USADA case against Lance Armstrong. But Trek stayed on as a sponsor, either directly or through its Bontrager subsidiary, until 2014, when it pulled out to concentrate on the Trek Factory Racing WorldTour team. Merckx brought in Bissell, which had been sponsoring a Continental squad, to fill the gap, and the team raced as Bissell Development Team for the 2014 season. For 2015, Merckx brought on an assortment of sponsors. None are title sponsors, however, so the team rebranded as Axeon — a portmanteau of Merckx’s first name and Neon Adventures, an investment group that has provided the lion’s share of the funding.

With an annual budget of roughly $1 million—more or less, depending on the year—Axeon is very much a minor-league operation. Peter Sagan alone makes $4 million per year. Even the poorest of WorldTour teams have budgets over $10 million. Team Sky has a reported $40 million to play with annually.

Of course, Axeon is a much smaller operation. There are currently just 12 riders on the team, each earning enough to cover expenses (Merckx declined to provide an exact figure). There is no official base for the team. Merckx works out of his home in Kelowna, British Columbia, and is one of only three full-time staffers. The others are head mechanic Eric Fostvedt, who has been with the team since 2009, and head soigneur Reed McCalvin, who spent the 2014 season working for Phinney in Europe but has otherwise also been around since the beginning.

Merckx checks in with his riders often, and a few have coalesced around training bases in Colorado and California. But it’s the team’s training camps, both in the early season and in between races like the Tour of Utah and the Pro Challenge, that make the disparate squad into a single unit. “Camp is crucial,” Merckx says. “We set the mold, set the cement, and then hope it comes together nicely.”

“We cook a lot together, hang out and play pool, sit in a hot tub, have a lot of fun,” says Tao Geoghegan Hart, a product of British Cycling now in his second year racing for Axeon.

In any professional team sport, recruiting is tricky. But the constant churn that comes with Axeon’s U23 model makes things especially complicated. Recruitment is even more difficult within Axeon’s age bracket, as the physical development of riders often occurs in stops and starts through their junior years, making it challenging to tell which are truly talented and which simply developed a year or two earlier than the rest. Gauging personality at this age is difficult, too. A four-year stint for these riders amounts to nearly 20 percent of the time they’ve been alive. Who they are when Merckx signs them is not necessarily who they will be in two or three years.

“My best allies are my riders,” Merckx says.

“The ones on the team now or who were on the team before are the ones that can say, ‘That guy would fit the team. He’d fit the mold.’ I get riders offered to me, really talented riders, but I don’t pursue all of them. First of all, I can’t, but also because I want to keep the right spirit.”

“We have 12 guys and 12 different personality types,” Merckx says. “There are guys I have to slow down, because they want it so bad that they will do harm. And then some guys, yeah, you gotta kick their asses. If they don’t want it, that’s fine. There are many kids that want it. There are a lot of kids who want to do this, so don’t waste somebody else’s chance by not doing the work.”

One key to the team’s success is what McCalvin calls the “no-asshole policy.”

“Reed and Axel pride themselves a little bit on looking at people for more than just results,” says Geoghegan Hart. “It’s a bit of a cliché. A lot of teams will tell you that, but they actually do it. Reed’s all about that. At the end of the day, he has to work with the bike riders all year, and if someone is a pain in his ass, he has to deal with it all year.”

Though Merckx ultimately calls the shots, McCalvin, 39, a fast-talking ex-Army paratrooper and sniper with a degree in business from Duke, is the day-to-day guy. “If Axel is the handsome politician, I’m the guy behind the scenes, doing lots of the heavy lifting,” he says. That means he’s the one helping riders who may have never lived away from their parents before — or who may still live with their parents — deal with the sudden pressures of professional sports. He has to be a recruiter and manager but also a friend and surrogate father who can help his charges make sense of the new world they’re entering.

“The number one thing [Reed] taught me was to have fun,” says Nate Brown, Cannondale-Garmin’s leader at the USA Pro Challenge and a 2013 graduate of the team. “Still do your job, but have fun doing it. The moment you purely focus, you lose who you are. I took that to heart. The further you get into the sport, you have to focus more and watch what you do, but as a U23 that was the best advice.”

One of the benefits of Axeon for aspiring pros is that, unlike riders on feeder squads associated with pro teams, Merckx’s riders can enter the pro ranks unencumbered by sponsorship or team obligations. They’re free to go where their talent and opportunities take them.

“They’re not linked to a brand,” Merckx says. “They’re free agents. They go wherever they want. And then those big teams, if they really want them, they have to persuade the rider that they’re the right choice. It’s supply and demand.”

Sitting out in the Colorado sun, Merckx doesn’t know that his 20-year-old GC phenom Geoghegan Hart will finish the USA Pro Challenge in seventh place overall and win the best young rider competition, or that Daniel Eaton will place fourth in the Breckenridge time trial, or that Logan Owen will come away with three top-10s in the sprints. Another set of Axeon pups likely headed for bigger things.

Merckx will soon have more roster holes to fill, if not this year then the next. But the never-ending, Sisyphean cycle just seems to motivate him. In fact, he says he has turned down offers from WorldTour teams for the chance to keep working with the kids. And he’s doubling down for 2016. Axeon is set for a dramatic makeover next season. It will be bigger, broader, and quite a bit richer. During the Pro Challenge, Merckx announced the addition of California Giant Berry Farms, Specialized, and Hagens Berman as sponsors. SRAM returns, as it has every year since the team’s inception. Merckx will have a bigger budget, “not to pay the guys more but to give them more tools, more information, more opportunities to race not only here but in Europe,” he says.

Across seven years, four major sponsors, and the tumult of the Armstrong affair, one out of every three Axeon riders has stepped into a top professional team. While you’re pondering that, consider the possibilities that lie ahead. With the expansion of his squad on the horizon, Merckx will take even more chances; he’ll sign more riders that are still unproven. Perhaps that rate of success will be sustainable with a bigger program, perhaps it won’t be. Regardless, there is no denying the ability of this team to shape the future of American racing.

“Here, we do everything we can to push them forward, to make them ready,” Merckx says, opening his hands wide as if he’s offering something. “When they are ready, whoever wants them can grab them.”

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Does Quintana’s Romandie win clear path to yellow?

10 hours 29 min ago

Nairo Quintana rode to the overall victory at the Tour de Romandie, his second of the season. Photo: Tim De Waele |

A victory at the six-day Tour de Romandie bodes well for Tour de France. Of course, a lot can happen between May and the end of July, but three recent Romandie winners — Cadel Evans in 2011, Bradley Wiggins in 2012, and Chris Froome in 2013 — went on to win the Tour two months later.

Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, who won a Romandie stage and the overall in impressive manner, hopes history repeats itself this summer.

“At least we start with the yellow,” Quintana said of the Romandie victory. “So let’s hope the myth is true, and that the dream of the Tour can come true.”

Now 26, Quintana won Romandie in just his second try (he was eighth last year), and rode with renewed confidence and astuteness against key rivals he will face off against at the Tour de France this summer.

“We know we’re going well, and now we will continue to prepare for the Tour,” he said. “I came here with my training plan, and I can see that it’s working well for me, and I am not paying too much at the others. I know how to arrive in top condition for the Tour.”

Backed by a strong Movistar, Quintana controlled the race from start to finish with determined maturity. With surgical precision, he delivered where he was expected, taking the yellow jersey — and a controversial stage victory after Ilnur Zakarin of Katusha was relegated for an irregular sprint — in the mountaintop finale to Morgins. Even more encouraging for his prospects in July was his strong time trial on the 15-kilometer course Friday. The route included a moderate climb, but he finished on the same time as Froome, and took time on Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), Bauke Mollema (Trek – Segafredo), Geraint Thomas (Sky), and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), all names he will be facing down in July.

“We controlled the race pretty well, without problems,” Quintana said. “The time trial went as well as hoped, perhaps even better, and we didn’t have any more complications. The team took care of the rest.”

The highly anticipated showdown with Froome fizzled when the two-time Tour winner punctured just before the penultimate climb in the queen stage Thursday to lose all hope of the GC. He didn’t bother to go into the red to chase back, but saved face with a stage victory Saturday. Froome didn’t seem too worried, and even won the most combative prize Sunday for riding into a breakaway.

“Obviously, my big goal is to be ready for July,” Froome said. “I needed some good racing this week to set that up.”

FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot also confirmed his credentials for July with a surprise time trial victory Friday against the heavily favored Tom Dumoulin of Giant – Alpecin to secure second overall.

Quintana’s 11 stage race victories

2016 Tour de Romandie
2016 Volta Catalunya
2015 Tirreno-Adriático
2014 Tour de San Luís
2014 Giro d’Italia

2013, 2014 Vuelta a Burgos

2013 Vuelta al País Vasco

2012 Route du Sud

2012 Vuelta Murcia

2010 Tour de l’Avenir

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Gallery: 2016 Tour de Romandie, stage 5

May 1, 2016 - 7:48pm

Cycling: 70th Tour de Romandie 2016 / Stage 5 Arrival Sprint/ ALBASINI Michael (SUI)/ AMADOR Andrey (CRC)/ KELDERMAN Wilco (NED)/ Ollon - Geneve (177,4 Km)/ Etape Rit TDR / © Tim De Waele

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  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: The final stage

    Stage 5 of the Tour de Romandie took the peloton 177.4 kilometers from Ollon to Geneva. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: The breakaway

    The Tour de Romandie's final day of racing provided cycling fans with a rare sight — Chris Froome, no longer in the GC conversation, jumped into the early breakaway move. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: FDJ

    Having won the stage 3 time trial, Thibaut Pinot rode into stage 5 in second place overall. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: Swiss countryside

    After a challenging queen stage in the pouring rain, the Romandie peloton enjoyed a slightly calmer final stage. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: Holding on out front

    The breakaway's advantage was never more than a few minutes, but the GC teams in the peloton had little reason to press the chase, giving the escapees hope for a stage victory. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: Froome on the move

    Chris Froome tried his luck with a move from the break, but his attempt was ultimately reeled in. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: Verona

    After Froome was brought back, Carlos Verona attacked the breakaway. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: Four leaders

    Andrey Amador, Michael Albasini, Wilco Kelderman, joined Carlos Verona in the move. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: The sprint

    The peloton closed down much of the gap to the escapees in the final 10 kilometers, but the leaders had just enough space to fight for the stage win among themselves. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: Victory

    Albasini sprinted to the win ahead of Amador and Kelderman. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: Quintana

    GC leader Nairo Quintana waved to fans as he crossed the line to seal his overall victory. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: Another win for Albasini

    Albasini stood on the podium to celebrate his sixth career Romandie stage win. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: GC winner

    Quintana's GC victory was his first ever at the Tour de Romandie. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: The overall podium

    Pinot took second overall, and Quintana's Movistar teammates Ion Izagirre rounded out the top 3 — but the Spaniard was not present for the podium presentation due to injuries suffered in a crash in the finale. Photo: Tim De Waele |

  • View Larger Image.Tour de Romandie, stage 5: Combativity

    Chris Froome was rewarded for his efforts with the day's combativity prize. Photo: Tim De Waele |

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Dombrowski primed for Giro debut

May 1, 2016 - 2:18pm

Joe Dombrowski is hoping he can put the skills that won him last year's Tour of Utah to work in support of Rigoberto Urán at the Giro d'Italia. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Joe Dombrowski’s story is one of unrealized potential. He hopes to change that in May.

It’s been said by none other than his Cannondale team’s manager Jonathan Vaughters, that if the Tour de France were performed on spin bikes, his young charge would be in with a shot at yellow. But the bright light that shone on Dombrowski’s early years, including a win at the so-called Baby Giro over one Fabio Aru (Astana), has never sparkled on the world’s stage.

His short career has been full of setbacks. There were two disastrous years at Team Sky, then a diagnosis of iliac artery endofibrosis, leading to a lack of blood flow that caused dramatic power loss in his left leg. Surgery in August 2014 made 2015 a rebuilding year, capped off with his first pro stage race victory at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.

“Coming off an injury, you just don’t know what’s next. To see that I could be back racing at a high level and winning races was good,” he said. “It put me in a good mindset coming into this year.”

That dominant Utah win was a glimpse of Dombrowski’s talent, but he’s capable of much more. He knows it. And so he heads to Italy in May with the potential to show the world what he’s really made of. His primary mission: learn what it means to race at the front on the world stage.

Dombrowski, 24, won’t lead the Cannondale team; that’s a responsibility too heavy for him now. He’ll ride in support of Rigoberto Urán, who has twice finished second at the Giro. He’ll focus on being Urán’s last man, helping him late in Italy’s mountain stages. It’s not an easy job, particularly since Dombrowski’s difficulties lie on the stretches between the climbs, in fights for position and through crosswinds. He’s tall and not particularly aerodynamic. He isn’t a fighter, yet. But with Urán as his guide, the team is hoping he’ll learn quickly. To do his job, he’ll have to.

“My aerobic power output for 20, 30, 50 minutes is probably among the highest out there,” Dombrowski said, as matter-of-factly as if he were describing the weather outside his window. “That’s definitely not the limiter for me. That pure power to weight, it’s not the problem. But all the other factors can be. The goal is to get where I’m not dropped before we get to the climb, so I can do my thing when I get to the climbs.”

His thing, of course, is climbing faster than just about anyone else in the world. Now he just needs to learn the skills to unleash the motor. The Giro, thankfully, is an excellent teacher.

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American Adrien Costa wins Tour de Bretagne

May 1, 2016 - 1:29pm

Adrien Costa is the first American to celebrate an overall Tour de Bretagne victory in the event's 50-year history. Photo: Tour de Bretagne

Adrien Costa wrapped up a victory in the 50th Tour de Bretagne Sunday, marking the first time an American has ever won the race.

The 18-year-old from Bend, Oregon, competing for the USA Cycling under-23 squad, took a solo win Thursday in stage 4, the queen stage, and grabbed hold of the lead along the way. He held on at the top through Sunday’s stage 7 to close out the race as the winner.

“It hasn’t really sunk in because I wasn’t thinking about the overall win as a true possibility,” said Costa, among many promising up-and-comers riding for the developmental Axeon Hagens Berman squad.

“After I won that stage, I tried to enjoy that victory as much as possible. I didn’t put too much pressure on myself for the overall win. Just being a first-year under-23 rider, I was already happy to have won a stage. So that kind of helped me stay relaxed. I just can’t believe it.”

A 2.2-rated UCI event, the Tour de Bretagne does allow professional riders, but it has long been a popular showcase for cycling’s top prospects.

For Costa, sealing up the GC victory was made even more difficult by the absence of several teammates in the final stage. Two of the American squad’s riders missed the time cut Saturday and a third was a DNS Sunday, leaving only Sean Bennett and Greg Daniel (also an Axeon Hagens Berman teammate of Costa’s) to ride in support of the GC leader.

“Before the stage, we had Sean and Greg set their finish line at 120 kilometers, which was the entrance of the circuits,” Costa said. “We got pretty lucky today because the breakaway that went off did not have any big teams. So their gap never got huge. Sean and Greg did a fantastic job for 60 or 70 kilometers on the front, keeping me out of trouble and keeping the gap manageable. So I had a really relaxed ride into the circuit.”

Once on the circuit, Costa was able to handle things on his own.

“Thankfully it was a hard circuit which suits me,” he said. “On the climb, I was able to keep everyone marked. Then it was pretty technical the rest of the way, which made it easier to keep things together. At the end of the day, today’s stage was a lot less stressful mentally and physically than the last two days. Especially yesterday, when the breakaway had an eight-minute lead and I thought we had lost the race. So in that respect, today was a lot easier.”

Costa finished stage 7 in fourth place, four seconds back of stage winner Nick Schultz (SEG Racing Academy). That was a strong enough performance to wrap up the GC win by seven seconds over runner-up Frantisek Sisr (Klein Constantia). Lennard Hofstede (Rabobank Development Team) finished the race in third place overall, 13 seconds back.

The victory will undoubtedly come as a big confidence boost for Costa, who has already racked up a pair of silver medals in the juniors time trial at the road world championships, but Axeon Hagens Berman manager Axel Merckx is hoping to keep things in perspective in the interest of Costa’s continued development.

“This is a huge win — as much for him and for USA Cycling’s program as it is for us,” Merckx said. “We are very excited about this. But you have to keep in mind Adrien is still very young and that puts a lot of pressure and stress on him. We don’t want to burn him out.

“It is easy for us to go and put him in every single race because he is the next big talent. But we could burn him out like that. So we have to be careful and very particular. Riders like that still need to recover and still need their rest and to be able to grow physically and emotionally.”

Costa has certainly earned a recovery period given the strong spring he has had so far. In addition to his stage victory, overall title, and young riders’ classification win in the Tour de Bretagne, he landed seventh in the under-23 Tour of Flanders last month and also nabbed the youth classification at the Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux stage race, finishing fifth overall.

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Results: 2016 Tour de Romandie, stage 5

May 1, 2016 - 11:25am

Cycling: 70th Tour de Romandie 2016 / Stage 5 Arrival/ ALBASINI Michael (SUI) Celebration Joie Vreugde/ AMADOR Andrey (CRC)/ KELDERMAN Wilco (NED)/ Ollon - Geneve (177,4 Km)/ Etape Rit TDR / © Tim De Waele

  • 1. Michael ALBASINI, ORICA – GreenEDGE, in 4:13:17
  • 3. Wilco KELDERMAN, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at :00
  • 4. Niccolo BONIFAZIO, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :00
  • 5. Moreno HOFLAND, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at :00
  • 6. Kristian SBARAGLI, DIMENSION DATA, at :00
  • 7. Daryl IMPEY, ORICA – GreenEDGE, at :00
  • 8. Tom BOHLI, BMC RACING TEAM, at :00
  • 10. Jarlinson PANTANO GOMEZ, IAM CYCLING, at :00
  • 11. Andrea PASQUALON, TEAM ROTH, at :00
  • 12. Samuel DUMOULIN, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :00
  • 13. Marco MARCATO, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at :00
  • 14. Ilnur ZAKARIN, TEAM KATUSHA, at :00
  • 15. Jose Joaquin ROJAS GIL, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :00
  • 16. Gaetan BILLE, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at :00
  • 17. Georg PREIDLER, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at :00
  • 18. Jos VAN EMDEN, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at :00
  • 19. William BONNET, FDJ, at :00
  • 20. Roland THALMANN, TEAM ROTH, at :00
  • 21. Jan BAKELANTS, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :00
  • 22. Marinus Cornelis MINNAARD, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at :00
  • 23. Matej MOHORIC, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at :00
  • 24. Damien HOWSON, ORICA – GreenEDGE, at :00
  • 25. Nairo Alexander QUINTANA ROJAS, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :00
  • 26. Thibaut PINOT, FDJ, at :00
  • 27. Steve MORABITO, FDJ, at :00
  • 28. Sébastien REICHENBACH, FDJ, at :00
  • 29. Mathias FRANK, IAM CYCLING, at :00
  • 30. Oliver ZAUGG, IAM CYCLING, at :00
  • 31. Bauke MOLLEMA, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :00
  • 32. Simon SPILAK, TEAM KATUSHA, at :00
  • 33. Tom DUMOULIN, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at :00
  • 34. Rafael VALLS FERRI, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :00
  • 35. Gatis SMUKULIS, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at :00
  • 36. Pawel POLJANSKI, TINKOFF, at :00
  • 38. Yury TROFIMOV, TINKOFF, at :00
  • 39. Mikael CHEREL, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :00
  • 40. Pierre-Roger LATOUR, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :00
  • 41. Martin VELITS, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at :00
  • 42. Tobias LUDVIGSSON, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at :00
  • 43. Danilo WYSS, BMC RACING TEAM, at :00
  • 44. Peter VELITS, BMC RACING TEAM, at :00
  • 45. Martijn KEIZER, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at :00
  • 46. Dries DEVENYNS, IAM CYCLING, at :00
  • 47. Reto HOLLENSTEIN, IAM CYCLING, at :00
  • 48. Ben GASTAUER, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :00
  • 49. Rein TAARAMAE, TEAM KATUSHA, at :00
  • 50. Jan POLANC, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at :00
  • 51. Kenny ELISSONDE, FDJ, at :00
  • 52. Jérémy ROY, FDJ, at :00
  • 53. Michael HEPBURN, ORICA – GreenEDGE, at :00
  • 54. Damiano CARUSO, BMC RACING TEAM, at :00
  • 55. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC RACING TEAM, at :00
  • 56. Maxime BOUET, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at :00
  • 57. Pavel KOCHETKOV, TEAM KATUSHA, at :00
  • 58. Steven LAMMERTINK, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at :00
  • 59. Marcel WYSS, IAM CYCLING, at :00
  • 60. Nico BRÜNGGER, TEAM ROTH, at :00
  • 61. Matthias KRIZEK, TEAM ROTH, at :00
  • 62. Martin KOHLER, TEAM ROTH, at :00
  • 63. Jack HAIG, ORICA – GreenEDGE, at :00
  • 66. Christophe RIBLON, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :00
  • 67. Maxime MONFORT, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :00
  • 68. Chad HAGA, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at :00
  • 69. Peter STETINA, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :00
  • 71. Patrick GRETSCH, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :00
  • 72. Tomasz MARCZYNSKI, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :00
  • 73. Cheng JI, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at :00
  • 74. Christian MEIER, ORICA – GreenEDGE, at :00
  • 75. Jesus HERRADA LOPEZ, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :00
  • 78. Enrico GASPAROTTO, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at :00
  • 79. Brent BOOKWALTER, BMC RACING TEAM, at 2:47
  • 80. Frederik VEUCHELEN, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 2:49
  • 81. Rui Alberto FARIA DA COSTA, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at :00
  • 82. Matteo BONO, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at :00
  • 83. Mario Jorge FARIA DA COSTA, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at :00
  • 84. Johannes FRÖHLINGER, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at :00
  • 85. Amaël MOINARD, BMC RACING TEAM, at 2:53
  • 86. Anthony ROUX, FDJ, at 2:56
  • 87. Jerome COPPEL, IAM CYCLING, at 2:56
  • 88. Guillaume MARTIN, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 2:56
  • 89. Kanstantsin SIUTSOU, DIMENSION DATA, at 2:56
  • 90. Maxim BELKOV, TEAM KATUSHA, at 3:01
  • 91. Tsgabu Gebremaryam GRMAY, LAMPRE – MERIDA, at 3:04
  • 92. Jaco VENTER, DIMENSION DATA, at 3:04
  • 95. Alexandre GENIEZ, FDJ, at 3:08
  • 96. Egor SILIN, TEAM KATUSHA, at 3:13
  • 97. Lieuwe WESTRA, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 3:20
  • 98. Romain BARDET, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 3:24
  • 99. Salvatore PUCCIO, TEAM SKY, at 3:33
  • 100. Alexey VERMEULEN, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at 3:33
  • 101. Geraint THOMAS, TEAM SKY, at :00
  • 102. Winner ANACONA GOMEZ, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 3:33
  • 103. Antonio PEDRERO LOPEZ, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 3:33
  • 104. Ben SWIFT, TEAM SKY, at :00
  • 105. Christopher FROOME, TEAM SKY, at 3:36
  • 106. Anton VOROBYEV, TEAM KATUSHA, at 3:51
  • 107. Sander ARMEE, LOTTO SOUDAL, at 4:00
  • 109. Tosh VAN DER SANDE, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :00
  • 110. Dimitri CLAEYS, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at :00
  • 111. Davide MARTINELLI, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at :00
  • 112. Cameron MEYER, DIMENSION DATA, at 11:49
  • 113. Fabio SABATINI, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at 11:49
  • 114. Dylan PAGE, TEAM ROTH, at 11:49
  • 115. Valentin BAILLIFARD, TEAM ROTH, at 11:49
  • 116. Bruno PIRES, TEAM ROTH, at 11:49
  • 117. Lukasz WISNIOWSKI, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at 11:49
  • 118. Natnael BERHANE, DIMENSION DATA, at 11:49
  • 119. Alex PETERS, TEAM SKY, at 11:49
  • 120. Sergey LAGUTIN, TEAM KATUSHA, at 11:49
  • 121. Dennis VAN WINDEN, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at 11:49
  • 122. Youcef REGUIGUI, DIMENSION DATA, at 15:44
  • 123. Songezo JIM, DIMENSION DATA, at 15:45

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Reviewed: BH G7 Disc Ultegra

May 1, 2016 - 10:55am

Photo: Brak Kaminski |

Lab Data: 19.5/20 (.61mm head tube deflection; .23mm bottom bracket deflection)
Build: 12.3/15
Comfort: 12.0/15
Value: 12.7/15
Handling: 11.9/15
Pedaling Response: 12.1/15
Aesthetics: 3.6/5

Overall: 84.1/100

The BH G7 Disc is a bike for riders who value comfort over raw speed but who still want the wind-cheating benefits of an aero bike. It has the aggressive geometry (150-millimeter head tube and 73-degree head tube angle) and a beefy BB386 bottom bracket that you’d expect from a race bike, and the G7 scored impressively well in our lab stiffness tests, especially at the BB with just 0.23mm of deflection.

While this responsiveness was felt on the road with each hard pedal stroke, the slightly bowed seat stays help reduce road vibrations, making for a ride so smooth you might confuse the G7 for an endurance bike. Thru-axles and flat-mount disc brakes also seem incongruous, since discs are still a rarity on aero bikes. But testers loved the smooth, consistent braking of the discs especially when blazing down the steep descents scattered throughout our test loops. The discs also help with the bike’s aerodynamics as BH engineers were able to optimize the geometry of the rear triangle to shed air faster — because they didn’t have to work around a rear brake mount between the seat stays — creating smoother airflow over the back of the bike.

While the G7 performs exceptionally well on the flats, cutting through wind with excellent aerodynamics, it’s no slouch on twisty descents either. Short, asymmetrical (402mm) chainstays make for snappy handing in these tight turns and the bike’s sloping geometry lowers its center of gravity for added confidence in the corners.

The only real disappointment with the G7 was the DT Swiss R23 Spline C disc wheels. One tester noticed severe flex in the rims when pressing hard on the handlebars or climbing out of the saddle. Upgrading to a snappier set of Zipps or Enves would be our first move but the wheels are certainly not a deal-breaker, especially with its reasonable (compared to similar aero road bikes) price tag of $4,800.

Price: $4,800
Component Highlights: Shimano Ultegra drivetrain with 52/36 crankset and 11-28 cassette; Shimano RS805 hydraulic flat-mount disc brakes; DT Swiss R23 Spline C disc wheels
Weight: 17.08 (size M)

More VeloNews Buyer’s Guide reviews >>

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Strickland, Elbusto triumph at Red Hook

May 1, 2016 - 10:02am

Colin Strickland celebrated the victory at a crash-marred Red Hook Criterium. Photo: Fred Dreier

The Red Hook Criterium served up a night of crashes and carnage as both the men’s and women’s fields saw riders hit the deck in nasty pileups Saturday. Texan Colin Strickland (Allez Allez – Specialized) and Spaniard Ainara Elbusto (Conor WRC) survived the crashes to win the men’s and women’s races, respectively, at the annual fixed-gear event in Brooklyn, New York.

The men’s event was delayed twice due to mass pileups shortly after the gun, the first of which occurred after an official’s motorbike stalled near the start line. Half of the field managed to speed around the stalled motorcycle before several riders struck the bike, leading to a huge crash.

Race organizer said that four riders were transferred away from the race in ambulances. The race start was delayed nearly an hour afterward as officials waited for additional ambulances to return to the racecourse, Trimble said.

“It was extremely unfortunate,” said race organizer David Trimble. “This was a new situation for us.”

Due to the delays, the men’s race was shortened to 22 laps. Midway through the race, Strickland attacked from the front group and quickly built a 15-second advantage on the field. With his teammate Aldo Ilesic marking moves, Strickland was able to grow his advantage to 25 seconds by the final lap.

The women’s race came down to a bunch kick, which Elbusto won just ahead of Ash Duban (Affinity Cycles). The duo survived a sizable crash on the penultimate lap, which saw nearly half of the women’s front group crash into hay bales.

The race celebrated its ninth edition in Red Hook with a sizable crowd at the Red Hook cruise terminal, new corporate sponsorships with Specialized and Strava, and a 5km running race. Former U.S. criterium champion Daniel Holloway made his debut in the men’s field, finishing 5th.

Trimble launched the race in 2008 with a dozen participants racing on open streets.

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