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Marcel Kittel sprints to victory in 2014 Criterium de Saitama

11 hours 25 min ago

Marcel Kittel out-kicks Peter Sagan to win the second Criterium de Saitama in Japan. Photo: Tim De Waele |

TOKYO (VN) — Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) won a sprint finish ahead of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) to claim the Criterium de Saitama on Saturday.

The 60km race around a 3km circuit is held by Tour de France organizers ASO. The “Criterium de Saitama by La Tour de France,” to give it its full title, is a publicity event aimed at attracting Japanese investment to the Tour while boosting the profile of road cycling in the Asian country.

Last year’s inaugural race was won by 2013 Tour champion Chris Froome (Sky), in front of 200,000 spectators.

The winner of this year’s Tour, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), got a break going early with Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo). The two were overhauled at midrace by a move led by Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Tinkoff’s Michael Rogers.

With three laps to go Nibali went it alone, just a few seconds up on a chase group including Kristoff, Sagan, Kittel, Romain Bardet (Ag2r), Arnaud Démare (, and Yukiya Arashiro and Fumiyuki Beppu, riding as the Tour de France Japan team.

The two Japanese riders took the lead as the last lap approached, but they couldn’t hold off the chasing sprinters. In the final straight, the man who won four stages of the 2014 Tour took the victory ahead of Sagan and Kristoff.

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How I hydrate: Top products to quench your thirst

October 24, 2014 - 4:30pm

Choosing a sports drink, for many, has less to do with science and more to do with what your body craves. Caffeine? Salt? Green tea? There's an answer in this mix. Photo: Logan VonBokel |

The brands offering electrolyte drink mixes might have you thinking that hydration is a precise science. They use long words that you probably don’t understand — at least I have to look most of them up. But in reality, hydration is much more simple. In the real world, what we pour into our bodies revolves around a few things: what are we craving, and what tastes good, or in the case of many electrolyte mixes, what can we stomach. Luckily, there is a growing number of tasty and portable options available. Here is my go-to selection and how I use them.

Skratch Labs Hyper Hydration — $24.00 for 8 servings

$3.00 per serving

Skratch Labs launched its Hyper Hydration mix about a year ago. I first tried it during the PeopleForBikes Ride on Chicago, where I was logging about 100 miles a day, four days in a row, in the heat and humidity of midwestern summer. I would drink only one bottle of hyper throughout the day, while drinking about a dozen bottles of normal Skratch Labs Exercise mix.

The Hyper mix is not for average exercise, and it’s certainly not for sitting on the couch and sipping. Where I found Hyper to be most useful was not while on the bike, but before a hot race or intense training ride. It’s not the easiest drinking mix, though I had no trouble getting it down. Other tasters did not accept it as quickly, and drinking it while on the bike might be hard for some.

Hyper is packed with sodium. Packed. A single serving of Hyper has 1,700mg of sodium and 80mg of potassium. Comparatively, Skratch Labs Exercise mix has 180mg of sodium. In the real world, a serving of Lay’s Salt and Vinegar chips, which is about 28 chips according to Lay’s, has about 220mg of sodium. If you’re the kind of rider to finish a hot ride or race with salt crusted on your face and jersey, Hyper is for you.

Early in the fall, when cyclocross races are hot, and sweating is a given, I’ll drink a bottle of Hyper in the hour ahead of the race. Give it a try in training first. Yes, comparatively, it’s quite expensive, but this is a tool for intense training and racing, not just another electrolyte mix.

Best For: Before extraordinarily hot training rides and summer races
Like: Individual packets are great for carrying to races
Dislike: High price

Osmo Active Hydration for Men — $20 for 40 servings

$0.50 per serving

As far as application goes, the Osmo Active Hydration is one of the simpler products that I use. It has no caffeine, normal levels of electrolytes, and is easy to drink. It’s a product that I use on most rides, regardless of length or temperature. Even on really hot days, Osmo is still easy to digest, unlike more sugary electrolyte mixes.

The ingredients list is a bit daunting, as there appears to be just about everything imaginable in this stuff. I’m also not a fan of the size of the serving scoop. For the average 21oz bottle, Osmo calls for 2.5 scoops. I don’t like trying to think about what a half-scoop looks like compared to a quarter of a scoop — and yes these are things I think about. I would guess that Osmo’s scoop is smaller as a result of the smaller canister, so I am thankful that the canister doesn’t take up an inordinate amount of space. It’s small enough to throw it in a duffel bag on trips. I just wish a single scoop did the trick. Two and a half just seems arbitrary.

When VeloNews first tried Osmo a couple of years ago, the flavor was its biggest shortcoming, and while at that time, the Active mix was the easiest to drink, I’ve found that the latest iteration is even better tasting. Or perhaps I’ve just grown to like it.

Best for: Any day, regardless of temperature
Like: Easy drinking, travel-friendly canister, available in a women’s version
Dislike: Ingredients list is a bit daunting

Nuun Active Hydration — $24 for 48 servings

$0.50 per serving

Nuun Active Hydration is the easiest electrolyte drink to travel with. The 12-tablet canisters — there are four canisters in a pack — take up about the same amount of space as a bottle of ibuprofen. The taste is great, and it is not crazy expensive. There is always a bottle of Kona Kola Active Hydration in my backpack.

Nuun Active Hydration comes in a plethora of flavors, though my favorite is Kona Cola. For anyone who likes a nice flat Coke during a ride for its sugar and caffeine, this is the ticket. Most of the other Active Hydration flavors are caffeine-free, though the Kona Kola and Lemon Tea flavors carry 40mg of caffeine.

This is quite a bit more caffeine than the Skratch Labs Hydration Mix with Matcha and Lemons, which only has about 16mg. I like to use it during short efforts on hot days, like a criterium.

For day-to-day riding, Nuun hydration is tasty and easy to drop in to a bottle. Just be careful when you pop the top on your bottle the first time, that dissolving tablet tends to build some back-pressure in your bottle. It can scare you.

Best for: Traveling and on the go
Like: Plethora of flavors. Kona Kola is excellent
Dislike: When dropped into a 24oz bottle, the mixture tastes watered down

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix — $19.50 for 20 servings

About $1 per serving

I’ve been using Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix for a long time, but I’d always wished for a flavor that included some caffeine, as not every morning ride starts from the coffee shop. Skratch has answered that call with its Matcha and Lemons flavor.

The Matcha and Lemons flavor is infused with caffeine from green tea, referred to as matcha in this application. Matcha is a finely-ground green tea — left unground it is referred to as a gyokuro green tea. In this case, you consume the matcha tea whole, as it’s ground and directly added to the electrolyte mix. Making it, unlike normal tea, able to be mixed and consumed via a sports drink.

Now there isn’t a ton of caffeine per serving, only about 16mg, and compared to a cup of coffee that has about 100mg of caffeine, it’s almost insignificant. However, if you’re consuming multiple bottles on a hot day, be careful not to overload your body with caffeine.

So, why do I end up choosing Skratch Hydration with Matcha and Lemons over anything else? I really like the taste. Not to mention, there’s research out there about the health benefits of green tea, and in the case of matcha, you’re pouring that green tea powder directly into your body. The ingredients list is shorter than the Osmo Active Hydration’s list and much less intimidating — it makes me more comfortable knowing what I’m pouring into my body.

That said, if I know a ride will be starting at a coffee shop, I’ll probably go with the Osmo Active Hydration, as I won’t need to add more caffeine on top of my macchiato.

Skratch Labs Hydration Mix’s container is a bit of a pain to deal with. The zip-lock idea works fine, but I’m hesitant to travel with it, as I’m afraid I won’t get it shut completely and end up with green drink powder all over my bag. Skratch does offer single servings, like its Hyper Mix, and they also make a glass jar, but it’s heavy and pricey. I have an old Gatorade powder container that I keep my Skratch labs powder in. It’s not as secure at the Osmo container or as classy as the glass Skratch container, but it gets the job done and Skratch’s single scoop per serving recipe is easy to remember.

Best for: Lovers of green tea and those who want a little caffeine in their mix
Like: The flavor and short ingredients list
Dislike: More expensive and powder container is not easy to travel with

Bottom Line

If I had to go with a single mix, it would be the Nuun Kona Kola or the Skratch Labs Matcha and Lemons, as I am caffeine addict. Others might completely hate the green tea flavor that I love, and might enjoy the Osmo blackberry — though I do prefer their orange flavor.

These are my favorite mixes, and I’ve tried plenty, but it’s all about what your body craves. Satisfying that craving will be the best fuel for your rides.

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Chris Butler moves to SmartStop for 2015

October 24, 2014 - 3:37pm

After two years at BMC, then time spent with Champion System and Hincapie Sportswear Development, Chris Butler is making the move to Team SmartStop. He's eager to grow into his role as a GC rider. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

Coming off a strong year with the Hincapie Sportswear Development, Chris Butler, 26, will make the jump to the successful upstart Team SmartStop next year.

Proving himself as one of the most promising riders in the sport, Butler had strong performances against WorldTour riders at both the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge, but hopes to build upon his results next year when moving into a GC role for SmartStop.

“I started talking with [Michael] Creed a while ago. I saw what he was doing with SmartStop and knew that I wanted to be a part of that,” said Butler. “SmartStop has been working really hard to get into some really big races in hopes of showcasing its talent.”

For 2015, SmartStop plans to race the Amgen Tour of California, the Tour of Utah, and the USA Pro Challenge, and it aims to secure invitations at international races like the Tour de San Luis and the Tour of Langkawi.

Butler raced for BMC Racing in 2010 and 2011, then spent two years with Champion System, before joining Hincapie Sportswear in 2014.

“I’d really like to make the move back to WorldTour at some point in my career, and I know that the only way to do that is to race and get results in bigger international events,” said Butler. “My goal for 2015 is to target the Tour of Utah, now that it’s an 2.HC event, and hopefully be able to finish in the top six on GC to prove that I’m capable of riding at the highest level.”

Along with Butler, SmartStop will add another former WorldTour rider, Evan Huffman to the 2015 roster, in hopes of adding more depth to their already outstanding group of riders. Huffman is coming off of a two-year stint with Astana that was largely fruitless for the young American.

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Taylor Phinney Q&A: Recovery, the Tour, and the crash

October 24, 2014 - 3:07pm

Taylor Phinney won a stage at the Tour of California in 2014, but suffered a season-ending crash shortly after during the national road race. In an interview with VeloNews, he looks to next season. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

At this point, what happened to Taylor Phinney that day is well known. An in-race motorcycle slowed down in front of him and others during a descent of the USA Cycling road national championships. He smashed into a guardrail. His left leg snapped as a toothpick does under a heavy thumb.

What happens next, though, is the unknown. Phinney has worked and rehabbed. He’s suffered through watching the races, feeling like he’s losing ground every single day as the peloton barrels forward. He talked with VeloNews recently about his recovery and his ambitions for next season.

VeloNews: How are you doing? How’s the leg? How are things?

Taylor Phinney: Things have been good. I’ve been getting out on the velodrome here in Boulder, getting back to roots, riding behind the moto getting back my leg speed. But things are progressing, slowly but surely. I thought I’d be back to 100 percent in October, but I still have a little ways to go. Just getting the strength back in my left leg — not using it for six weeks takes it about nine months to [get to] where I had it before.

VN: Is that what they’re saying, nine months until it’s back to fully functioning?

TP: Well they said six to nine months, but I can still do stuff. I can ride and still put out some watts, but I want to make sure that my left leg is equally as strong as my right leg before I start doing some serious training. I feel like that’s an important thing for me.

VN: Does it still hurt?

TP: Yeah, it starts to hurt if I push too hard around my knee, so I’m just trying to not make it hurt and just ride. I’m happy that the season is over now, just because it’s one more thing that I don’t have to think about now, but now that the season is over, it’s like everyone is at the same place now. But I’m still working and improving, so hopefully I can start training with everyone else when the time comes. For now, I’m not too fixated on what everyone else is doing.

VN: When next year rolls around, is there a time when you want to be 100 percent ready or will the progression be more as it comes?

TP: My biggest goals that I’m hoping to be 100 percent ready for are the Tour and worlds in Richmond. I want to be ready for the classics, but I just don’t know whether I’ll be ready to handle that intensity at that point. It’s hard to have a full long-term plan, but I’m quite sure that by May or June — a year after the accident — that I’ll be at 100 percent.

VN: Has the team been supportive of you, not putting a ton of pressure on?

TP: Yeah, they’ve been telling me to be conservative. I talk to them just about every week to check in and they speak with the doctors. I talk to a lot of the riders, they want to have me back, to at least be at the dinner table to make people laugh, but I’ll be back there eventually.

VN: You did a conference call shortly after the crash once you had some time to think about what happened. To me you seemed not too mad or upset with the situation then. Do you still feel that way or are you mad about what happened?

TP: I don’t get mad about it. I’ve learned a ton about myself over the past couple of months. I’ve had some really good times and some really bad times, and I’ve gained a whole new appreciation of what bike racing means to me and the ability to be mobile and the freedom of riding the bike when I could barely walk, but still pedal a bike. My relationship with the bike itself is completely different now. When you’re going through a hard time, it really is a nice escape and it allows you to filter all of the shit that you have built up in your mind. I had the relationship with the bike before, but I never went through anything as difficult or trying as this, and I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. I’ve really matured a lot, which you hear about all the time, but never really appreciate until you’ve actually gone through something like it. I have a new perspective now, things mean something a bit more to me. Just life in general and mobility and the ability to live and breathe and be a contributing person to society. It all has a whole new meaning to be healthy and I’m just grateful to getting back to being healthy, and it’s something I’ve always been grateful for, being around my dad [Davis Phinney has Parkinson’s disease —Ed.], but it really puts it in a new light when it’s you. When you can’t walk, when you need an assistant and you’re constantly trying to get better, but the recovery isn’t happening daily, but every week or month, so it’s tough to see the slow progression of the recovery.

VN: It must be hard for you, being so healthy and fit your whole life to ask for help or to need it.

TP: Yeah, I went to my friend’s soccer game the other day, and I can walk now, but my left side is still weaker. I can ride a bike a lot better than I can walk right now, but I went to this game and just desperately wanted to run around and kick a soccer ball, but there is nothing I can do about that, I simply can’t physically run yet. … But I tried to kick the soccer ball afterwards and went to kick and planted my left leg, my bad leg, as I was about kick and then just collapsed. I couldn’t hold myself up like that, so it was pretty embarrassing, I ended up in some weird pose on the ground.

VN: We saw Cadel and Hushovd retiring, what do you think of the team next year? It will obviously be a bit younger.

TP: It’s always too bad when you lose legends of sport. Thor and I have a really close relationship, he’s one of my favorites to room with, so announcing his retirement wasn’t a surprise but it was a bit of a shock to me. I know that Cadel had been thinking about it for awhile, but this allowed the team to open the door to a bunch of new riders and I think that’s the best direction to take the team — make it younger, get the energy levels up and I’m looking forward to getting back to it and forming a bond with the younger riders who are coming up.

VN: The Tour is going to be the big goal next year?

TP: Yeah, if I can come back and do Paris-Roubaix, that would be the best thing, but the Tour is a massive goal for me, especially with the short punchy prologue [The Tour's opening 14km time trial will be considered stage 1, not a prologue —Ed.]. So being able to put on the yellow jersey and maybe winning the world championships are things that I’m trying to look forward to. Obviously, there is a lot of stuff that needs to happen before I can check off those boxes, but I’m just happy that the Tour is back to putting prologues in. It’s nice of them.

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What’s inside the November Velo Magazine

October 24, 2014 - 2:26pm

The November issue of Velo magazine is out, and it covers all of the late-season racing action, plus more.

Best Vuelta ever? Andy Hood looks back on a race of redemption for Alberto Contador, as the Spanish star returned to winning after recovering from a broken leg.

Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski earns the biggest win of his career at worlds. Read about how the action unfolded in Ponferrada, Spain.

Why does public perception of different confessed dopers vary? Matthew Beaudin looks into the inconsistencies of the post-USADA report era.

Is an aero road helmet right for you? The Velo tech crew figures out if those funny-looking lids are actually faster.

The November issue of Velo magazine is out, and it covers all of the late-season racing action, plus more.

As the season wound down, all of the big hitters came out swinging at both the Vuelta a España and the UCI world road championships. The November issue of Velo provides a complete breakdown of two of the year’s most exciting races.

The issue opens with a reflection on the changing of the guard at cycling’s governing post. After a year as the president of the UCI, Velo looks at Brian Cookson’s time in office to see if he’s kept his campaign promises to making the sport more transparent.

Also in VeloNotes, Ryan Newill tackles the mostly unseen aggression and contact within the peloton and how the addition of on-board cameras might provide viewers with a more accurate and intimate look into what really happens inside professional racing.

This month’s Editors’ Picks discusses layering and how to stay comfortable as temperatures cool off. Vests and arm warmers are tested and reviewed.

Winners, losers and rivalries of the Spanish grand tour are all examined, as Andrew Hood provides a look at one of the year’s most exciting races — perhaps the best Vuelta of all time.

Also in Spain, new world champions crowned in Ponferrada, and Velo breaks down the rainbow jersey performances and the week of explosive racing and huge upsets.

Two years after USADA sanctioned many of cycling’s biggest names for doping, Matthew Beaudin considers the inconsistent way the different riders are perceived by the public. From Armstrong to Zabriske, Danielson to Hincapie, the stars of yesteryear have either thrived in the sport or backed away quietly since the 2012 USADA report.

This month in tech, Caley Fretz and Logan VonBokel jump into the helmet debate head-first, discussing the recent craze over aero road helmets and how much of a difference they really make.

In training, Trevor Connor, discusses the delicate balance between fitness and illness and how overtraining the body can compromise the immune system.

Subscribe now to receive Velo magazine every month. 

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Gallery: American hopefuls preview 2015 worlds course

October 24, 2014 - 11:48am

Kiel Reijnen and Taylor Phinney led the U.S. team down Richmond, Virginia's Monument Avenue. Photo: Josh Lopez

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  • View Larger Image.U.S. team previews 2015 world championships course

    Kiel Reijnen and Taylor Phinney led the U.S. team down Richmond, Virginia's Monument Avenue. Photo: Josh Lopez

  • View Larger Image.U.S. team previews 2015 world championships course

    America's top cyclists traveled to Richmond to get a preview of the courses they will face at next year's worlds. Photo: Nick Davis Photography

  • View Larger Image.U.S. team previews 2015 world championships course

    Reijnen led the team up the cobbles of Libby Hill, which may be a decisive feature of the 2015 course. Photo: Nick Davis Photography

  • View Larger Image.U.S. team previews 2015 world championships course

    Evelyn Stevens is a perennial favorite, and played a key role in forcing the final selection at 2014 worlds in Ponferrada, Spain. Nick Davis Photography

  • View Larger Image.U.S. team previews 2015 world championships course

    Adrien Costa and Alexey Vermeulen tested their legs on the 23rd Street climb. Nick Davis Photography

  • View Larger Image.U.S. team previews 2015 world championships course

    Reijnen and Bookwalter couldn't resist the opportunity to open up the throttle on one of the Richmond course's steep pitches. Photo: Nick Davis Photography

  • View Larger Image.U.S. team previews 2015 world championships course

    Lauren Hall enjoyed her trip to Richmond, and is already looking ahead to the 2015 season. Photo: Nick Davis Photography

  • View Larger Image.U.S. team previews 2015 world championships course

    The U.S. team made time to visit Elizabeth Davis Middle School in Richmond to sign autographs. Photo: Nick Davis Photography

  • View Larger Image.U.S. team previews 2015 world championships course

    Students at Elizabeth Davis Middle School were excited to meet the team. Photo: Nick Davis Photography

  • View Larger Image.U.S. team previews 2015 world championships course

    Though they aren't guaranteed spots on the team for 2015 worlds, riders were sure to carefully evaluate the course. Note the GoPro camera on Phinney's handlebars. Photo: Nick Davis Photography

  • View Larger Image.U.S. team previews 2015 world championships course

    The team enjoyed the sunshine on Thursday after blustery weather on Wednesday rained out the planned time trial course preview. Photo: Mike Topham

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Graeme Obree and son aim for land speed record

October 24, 2014 - 10:54am

Graeme Obree is working with his son on his latest attempt to set the human powered land speed record. Photo: Humans Invent

Editor’s Note: This interview is courtesy of The Aftermarket.

Graeme Obree is one of the great enigmas of the cycling world. He has consistently looked to further the design and performance of the bicycle, normally from the humble workshop of his kitchen, and he is an ambassador for all that is great about cycling and craft. From his two hour records in the 1990s to his 2013 attempt at the human powered land speed record (HPVA) in Battle Mountain, Obree is obsessed with pushing the boundaries of a bicycle.

In 2013 at Battle Mountain, Graeme failed to break the overall record, which was taken by Sebastiaan Bowier who recorded a speed of 83.13mph in his Vortex 3. The previous record of 82.819mph was set by Canadian Sam Whittingham in 2009, but Graeme did set a new world speed record for cycling in the prone position, riding 56.62mph through the 200m speed trap to take the record. But having learned a lot from his experience, Graeme is back, this time with more records in his sights and with a new role as builder and coach, with his son Jamie taking center stage as the engine this time around.

We sat down with the maverick maker and racer to chart the beginning of another chapter in the Obree story and find out just how he plans to take on the record in 2015. One thing you always know with Obree: anything is possible.

Nigel Brown: So, Graeme, what are you up to currently?
Graeme Obree: Well, I am just starting this next project with my son Jamie, to break the human powered world land speed record. Jamie was out in America with me and he was quite keen to have a go himself at breaking the record when we were there with the Beastie [the vehicle he used to attempt the record]. Because we thought, if it’s me or him, it doesn’t matter, as long as one of us breaks the record. But it couldn’t happen because of red tape and insurance, however, it got us thinking. While we were out there we learned so much about what it takes to break this record. And importantly, what you need to do.

Firstly, as much as my knowledge from the world of cycling transferred to the attempt, which was a guy in his kitchen building a bike and giving it his best shot, when you are against teams of 12-15 aerodynamicists and the pool of knowledge from years of working on trying to break the record, we realized we had a serious problem: “Why isn’t the Beastie going as quick as it should be?” Now, there is more of a camaraderie among everyone out there, so we managed to talk to a variety of aerodynamicists and ask them that very question, because according to our first principles, the Beastie should have been going faster.

They explained the shape doesn’t always react as per principles or theory. So, we went away and thought if I built it, but Jamie, who is built like a sprinter and can generate a greater power output than me was the engine, we would have a better chance of breaking the record. And so, the project began. We are coming back September 2015.

NB: So, will you be tweaking the Beastie or is this a fresh build?
GO: No, the Beastie has retired. We have started from scratch with a new build, so it will be a completely new bike and design.

NB: So, what is your approach to the Beastie Mark II?
GO: It’s going to be a whole lot simpler. In terms of design it needs to be as simple as it possibly can be. It’s basically going to be two wheels stabilized, one chainring, and one gear. Head first again with an aerodynamic shell, with the knowledge we have learned from the aerodynamicists, making sure we get that perfect this time. It’s interesting though, in terms of an engine, now we have Jamie. He has got a much better power output and therefore, more possibility to break this record than I do. He is a stone heavier [14 pounds] and his bottom half, in particular his legs are a proper sprint build — so he has the potential for a great high-end power output. It’s exactly what is suited to this type of event.

It’s a real family out there in the USA at Battle Mountain, in terms of the community trying to further the bicycle and break this record. Everyone talks and it is really a common goal that is shared, so everyone helps each other out with their bikes. There is a sense of common purpose and how fast we can get people to go on a bike. That is what it’s all about. We were chatting away to an aerodynamicist, and he was saying that the Beastie would have been so much faster if we had looked at the shell in greater detail with an expert’s eyes. To be honest, everything about my last attempt was a little The material wasn’t good enough and I didn’t have the facilities to test or tweak materials. Plus I had major surgery just before going and our testing period out there didn’t really go to plan. So, it was a steep learning curve if I’m honest.

NB: So, the build.
GO: It’s three old bikes. Great quality steel. Joining them all together to basically create a dragster. Big wheels at the back, smaller at the front, one big chain ring, and stabilized. Get Jamie in it, push him down the road and then say, ‘Good luck son, I’ll see you at the end of the road!’ It can be his quest. So, there are three bikes with marker pen laying on my kitchen floor. I’ll scavenge for some other parts, get a standard chain set, the rear end is an old racing frame turned upside down so the bottom bracket is in the air. Basically the wheels are between Jamie’s legs, with a BMX wheel at the front. I want to keep it simple. I was thinking last time too much about gears and going up in the gears, but you really only need one gear because of the short length of the course and now with our new engine, Jamie, who has phenomenal strength in his legs — I mean he has broken cranks before! He likes breaking stuff with his power just to impress me. You need that top-end power and I don’t have that. I am more of an endurance athlete, but that is not the same as somebody who is a power merchant.

NB: So, you are up-cycling these bikes, Is the pedaling system similar to the Beastie?
GO: Well, that is the way I like to work. I learned so much in such a short space of time last year. As I mentioned, I started with all these gears and then I took them out. They were a source of unreliability and complications, plus you don’t need them. You just need a top gear, it’s the only one that really matters. When you are approaching the high speed you need to be in top gear anyway. What I found with Beastie was it doesn’t take long to drift up to a pace that you are in top gear, so you only need one gear.

NB: Are you personally training Jamie for the attempt?
GO: Jamie is proper into it. He goes to college which is 17 miles away, so he cycles there and back twice a week. He does other cycling, plus he is in the gym working on his weights. The thing is we have more time now. He can train the muscle groups that I didn’t train. The pull of the force on your legs is so much greater than what I expected it to be. The muscle in front of your shins is actually the most important. We are building for him a special type of boots that mean he can hang upside down. He has a bar across the top of his door and he is learning to pull himself back up, just to improve his pedaling technique.

See videos of Obree’s last attempt and the Beastie on The Aftermarket >>

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Video: Behind the Barriers interviews Lars van der Haar

October 24, 2014 - 9:27am

Lars van der Haar talks to Behind the Barriers about his career as a World Cup-winning cyclocross professional.

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Neri Sottoli hoping for Giro invite amid doping concerns

October 24, 2014 - 8:52am

Matteo Rabottini's 2014 EPO positive is causing headaches for Neri Sottoli as the team angles for a Giro d'Italia invitation. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

MILAN (VN) — Italian second-division team, Neri Sottoli may sign Alessandro Petacchi for 2015, but it races into the new season with uncertainties linked to past doping cases.

The team fans love to hate may be back, and maybe with Petacchi, if all goes well for general manager Angelo Citracca. If not, he explained that the team has enough sponsorship and is not dependent on a Giro d’Italia invite to continue.

“Petacchi’s got experience, he’s a big name and he could help our new young under-23 sprinter who’s turning pro, Jakub Mareczko,” Citracca told VeloNews.

“Whether or not he’d help for the Giro d’Italia, that’s for the organizer to answer, but he’d help with any race invitation, not just the Giro, given his palmarès.”

Petacchi won the green jersey at the 2010 Tour de France. He joined Omega Pharma-Quick Step to help Mark Cavendish in 2013 and was not renewed at the end of this season. The Tuscan team could be the perfect landing spot for the 40-year-old Italian as his career winds down, but there are some issues for Citracca.

Citracca acknowledged that the team faces pressure from the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC) and the unknown when it comes to a Giro d’Italia wildcard invitation.

As a second-division team, it must ask for invitations to the big races like the Giro. The organizer automatically gives the first-division teams the right to race and hands out four (or possibly five in 2015) wildcard invitations to lower ranking professional continental teams.

Neri Sottoli — or Vini Fantini and Yellow Fluo as it was called — raced its home grand tour the last four years with success. However, its neon colors never looked as dark as when the 2013 edition saw two of its cyclists, Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio, test positive for EPO.

It received an invitation to race again in 2014 from organizer RCS Sport who was making a nod to its Italian teams. This year, it won the Coppa Italia series of races, which gives it the front of the line spot to participate in the 2015 Giro, but doubts linger over its inclusion after Matteo Rabottini, the Italian who won a stage and the mountains jersey in 2012, tested positive for EPO in August.

“We don’t have any right to race the Giro. We won the cup, OK, but it all depends on RCS Sport. That cup win was great for us and our sponsors, but it does not give us the right to force our Giro participation,” Citracca continued.

“If the organizer says that we can’t race given our past doping cases, we’ll accept that and move forward because in 2014 they already invited us given everything that happened before and when everyone thought they wouldn’t do so. We’d accept it without making a fuss.”

Giro race director Mauro Vegni explained to Tutto Bici website this month that it is true the Coppa Italia-winning team gets the nod, but that only comes after it has checked all of the boxes.

“The team,” Vegni said, “is subject to the usual economic and ethics criteria and that gives us the ability to accept or to reject it despite winning the cup.”

RCS Sport is due to hand out the wildcard invitations sometime in January. It is expected to offer five — one more than normal — since only 17 and not 18 first-division teams are due to race the 2015 WorldTour.

Boiling in the background is the MPCC. The movement said in a press release this week that it did not appreciate how the team responded to Rabottini’s doping positive and warned a punishment could follow.

Citracca disagreed with its stance and said that he is pushing cycling’s governing body to unify the rules for all teams instead of having separate voluntary rules that some teams adhere to and others do not.

The rule change may come because UCI President Brian Cookson said last month that he wants to streamline the rules to avoid confusion for fans, which occurred for example when Lampre-Merida stopped Chris Horner from racing the Vuelta a España due to low cortisol levels.

“There’s no help with being a MPCC member, there are just requirements and no rights that come along with such membership. The rules are not clear, not respected equally.

“We joined because we are a pro team, if we are not in the MPCC, then we’ll have problems racing in certain races. You’re obliged in a sense to join. The UCI needs to look at that, if it is correct that the organizers are obliging teams to be part of an association to race. We are already paying a lot of money to the UCI for the passport and following strict financial guidelines, but then an association like MPCC decides if you can race?”

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Vuelta route to be announced in January

October 24, 2014 - 7:10am

Vuelta a Espana organizers will unveil the 2015 route after the new year. Photo: Tim De Waele |

With two routes of the three grand tours already confirmed, now all eyes turn to Spain.

The Vuelta a España, however, is waiting until January 10 to make its route announcement for the 70th edition.

The Vuelta is confirmed to start with five days of racing in and around Malaga in Spain’s sunny Andalucía region, coinciding with the peak holiday season in late August.

Vuelta director Javier Guillén confirmed the 2015 Vuelta will conclude once again in Madrid. This year, the race finished with four days of racing in Galicia, also a question of convenience for the world championships, which were held in nearby Ponferrada.

Speaking in an interview with the Spanish media outlet Cinco Días, Guillén said the Vuelta is planning something special for what will be the 80th anniversary for the Spanish tour.

“We want to include a lot of new mountaintop finales for 2015,” Guillén said. “Maybe we could announce that every summit finish will be on new climbs, but it’s still not finalized.”

There are rumors the race could dip into Portugal as well as include a return to the Basque Country in northern Spain.

Since the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) took over the Vuelta in 2008, the Spanish tour has enjoyed a renaissance.

“We have our own personality,” he continued. “Explosive finals, shorter stages, new climbs, original stage starts. We have an important identity as a race.”

Vuelta officials also confirmed they will hold a women’s race to coincide with the final day of racing in Madrid.

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Tour de France resurrects time bonuses, reshuffles points competition

October 24, 2014 - 6:55am

At the 2015 Tour, there will be more at stake during a sprint finish than just a stage win. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Time bonuses, and the thrilling battle for the yellow jersey in the first week that come with them, are back in the Tour de France.

As part of a restructuring of the points competition, Tour officials reintroduced time bonuses for the first time since eliminating them for the 2008 edition. Finish-line bonuses of 10, 6, and 4 seconds will be in the offing in the opening nine days of racing, but do not apply to the stage 1 time trial nor the stage 9 team time trial. The remainder of the stages, dominated by the Pyrénées and Alps, will not see bonuses in play.

“We want to open up the race,” said Tour director Christian Prudhomme in Paris on Wednesday. “We want the race to be decided on any day of the Tour.”

It’s a compromise to appease the GC riders who argue that time bonuses, especially on mountaintop finishes, can be inherently unfair and can dramatically alter the overall standings. The logic being that a rider with a fast finishing kick atop a brutal climb doesn’t deserve to gain an invaluable 10 seconds (or more, when some bonuses can be as much as 20 seconds) by simply stabbing their bikes across the line first.

By limiting the time bonuses to the first nine stages, the Tour is looking for a middle ground. It wants to protect the integrity of the GC battle, but open up the typically exciting battle for the yellow jersey among the sprinters.

The gateway to the prized maillot jaune was slammed shut, at least to the sprinters, after the 2007 Tour when Tour director Christian Prudhomme introduced the “true time” policy of eliminating time bonuses.

Tour officials rationalized that time bonuses unfairly altered the GC and confused fans. But in practice, the time bonus ban blotted out one of the most interesting battles during the entire Tour: the fight for the yellow jersey among the sprinters.

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who rose to prominence in the sprints just as ASO rolled back the time bonuses, has never worn the yellow jersey. Neither have sprinters over the last half decade, such as André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol).

In 2012, for example, Fabian Cancellara won the opening prologue, and held the yellow jersey uncontested for a week, before Bradley Wiggins overtook the lead in the first of two time trials. Wiggins held it all the way to Paris, giving the Tour just two yellow jerseys throughout three weeks of racing — hardly palpating stuff to excite fans, teams, riders, or media. In sharp contrast, five riders held yellow in the first week alone in 2006.

Of course, time bonuses can occasionally decide the outcome in the final GC of a grand tour. In the 2011 Vuelta a España, Juanjo Cobo beat the ascendant Chris Froome by 13 seconds. Take away Cobo’s time bonuses, and Froome would have won by 19 seconds. In the 2008 Vuelta, Alberto Contador beat then-teammate Levi Leipheimer by 46 seconds, but erase the bonuses, and the pair would have finished in Madrid tied on time.

Most agree, however, that time bonuses will help liven up the first half of the Tour.

By the 1990s, the Tour settled into a familiar pattern, with a short opening prologue followed by a week of relatively flat stages that favored the fast-twitch sprinters. That gave riders such as Robbie McEwen, Erik Zabel, and Mario Cipollini the chance to finish close in the prologue, win a stage or two, and they could end up in the yellow jersey. Intra-stage time bonuses — of 6, 4, and 2 seconds — only added to the drama. Those apparently have not been reintroduced for 2015.

Just how much the return of the time bonuses will play on the yellow jersey remains to be seen. The opening day time trial, at nearly 14km, will create major differences, and it could prove difficult to wrestle away the yellow jersey if such see riders such as Tony Martin (Omega Pharma) or Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) win the stage, and take substantial time with it.

On top of that, the opening week is hardly a string of boring sprint stages, so it’s unlikely that pure sprinters such as Cavendish or Marcel Kittel (Giant) will be cherry-picking time bonuses at their whim.

Stage 2 could well end in a mass sprint, but stage 3 ends atop the Mur de Huy, the challenging wall featured each year in Flèche-Wallonne, hardly sprinter’s country. Stage 4 takes the peloton once again over the treacherous cobbles, which saw the peloton crumble over the punishing pavé. Any sprinters who survive those landmines will face a hard battle to win back bonuses on equally sinuous terrain across Brittany before a punchy finale in stage 8 and the team time trial on stage 9.

Instead, the bonuses could play into the hands of the likes of Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), Michel Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), or even Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing). Those are riders who could have a strong time trial to stay close, and then thrive in the classics-style racing of the first week.

So what to expect? No matter how it plays out, the return of the time bonuses will add an additional layer of drama and intrigue to the first week of racing, without taking anything away from the true fight for the yellow jersey. In fact, their presence will give GC riders even more motivation to battle for stage wins in the first week.

Rather than seeing just two riders in the yellow jersey throughout the entire Tour, like in 2012, the opening nine days of racing of the 2015 Tour could see three or four riders take yellow, perhaps even a few more.

Points reshuffled

In another significant change, the Tour has reshuffled the points competition in what could be viewed as the “anti-Sagan” rule change. Like time bonuses, the new points rules will apply to the first nine stages only.

In 2014, Sagan won his third consecutive points jersey without winning a stage. By consistently placing in the top-5, Sagan picked up points to coast relatively unchallenged into his third green jersey. Under new rules introduced for 2015, that feat could prove more difficult, with a new rule structure favoring stage winners.

“We want to give more of a bonus for those who win,” Prudhomme said Wednesday.

Under new rules, a stage win will be worth 50 points, compared to 45 under old rules. The gap to second-place is significant, with just 30 points to the runner-up, compared to 35 under former rules. Here are new points for the top-15 — 50, 30, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 — compared to the former top-15: 45, 35, 30, 26, 22, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2. Those numbers will only put more pressure on green jersey candidates to win.

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Changing the Business Model: Building the sponsorship base

October 24, 2014 - 6:32am

Sponsorship in pro cycling is mostly centered around the Tour de France. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Editor’s Note: VeloNews contributor Steve Maxwell and his partner Joe Harris are publishing a multi-part series of articles about how to improve the sport of cycling’s business foundation. This is an excerpt from the second article.

One of cycling’s greatest attractions for fans is that it’s basically free to watch. The flip side is that, relative to other sports, there is much greater pressure on event organizers and teams to find external commercial sponsors to provide the financial foundation for the sport. And although there is an urgent need to diversify the sources of revenue in the sport, the fact is that pro cycling — by its very nature — will always be heavily dependent upon commercial sponsorship. Viewed from this perspective, one of the most pressing issues faced by the sport is the need to attract and retain more committed and global long-term sponsors.

The real problem (as pointed out in the first article in this series) is an underlying atmosphere of instability that affects everything and everyone in the sport, because the requisite sponsorship and financial backing are always in flux. Team managers are always on the hunt for new sponsors. Race organizers are trapped in revolving budget shortfalls. Marginal teams come and go. Riders and other employees worry constantly about whether their team is about to collapse — should they be looking for employment elsewhere? There is no sense of security. This continuous turnover, uncertainty, and sense of financial foreboding has a very negative impact on the sport — and it must be addressed.

Sports sponsors are after opportunities that will give their brand wide exposure, but they obviously steer away from options they fear could turn into liabilities. In this regard, pro cycling is at a distinct disadvantage. Doping scandals have overshadowed the sport for so long that it has developed a poor public image — with the general public, but also with much of the potential sponsor base. As Bob Stapleton, chief of the former HTC High Road team, and now chairman of USA Cycling, says, “You can’t talk about cycling sponsorship without confronting the doping issue.”

Because of this historical legacy, “cycling can look like a risky bet,” says Slipstream team owner Doug Ellis, especially vis-à-vis other sports. No one wants their name and brand to get bogged down in a doping scandal, and no company, even today, should enter the pro cycling market without directly confronting this issue and deciding how to deal with the risks.

Although it’s impossible to know what the real impact of doping has been, it is certain that there are many potential sponsors out there who fear that associating their name with pro cycling may hurt rather than help their brand image and customer awareness. Because of this, cycling has had to adapt to continuously high sponsor turnover — with new firms coming in and out of the sport almost every year. Despite recent and hopeful progress in this regard, numerous key sponsors continue to pull out of the business — Belkin, Liquigas and RadioShack to name just a few.

Beyond this primary issue of changing and overcoming its historical image, there are also a number of secondary challenges in promoting pro cycling sponsorship.

First, it is very difficult to measure and document the value of a sponsorship investment. Accurately measuring the benefit and economic value of any sports sponsorship is at best an inexact science, but more sophisticated metrics and means of evaluating the real financial returns would be invaluable in attracting cautious potential sponsors. One recent study estimated a six-to-one financial return on cycling sponsorship investments — a claim which was briefly bandied about by various parties who wanted to agree with the conclusion, such as the UCI and sponsor-hungry ProTeams. Unfortunately, however, these studies are often based upon very simplistic value calculations or unverifiable assumptions — making it difficult to judge their accuracy or conclusions. Many sponsors tend to fall back on what is easy to measure — like the number of logo or signage “views,” often measured as the number of seconds the logo is in view on television — rather than what may be important to measure, such as consumer recognition of the sponsors’ product, and whether or not the consumer trusts the sponsor.

Second, the visibility and potential revenue-generating capability of pro cycling is overwhelmingly focused on a single event — the Tour de France. Getting selected for the Tour is a huge consideration for existing or potential sponsors, and unfortunately, the system for selection has historically been somewhat opaque. The sport desperately needs to diversify its calendar and logically organize its structure (to be discussed in later article in this series) in order to spread the wealth around a bit better. Here again, the sport is heavily dependent upon the decisions and strategies of ASO to move it in a positive direction for overall growth — not just to consolidate and preserve its current lock on key events.

And even with key sponsors, many teams don’t cover all of their expenses. In many cases, there is a wealthy individual owner behind the scenes absorbing at least some financial losses incurred by the team. This has led to a growing disparity or “income gap” within the ranks of the teams on the WorldTour — where some teams struggle to survive while others are propped up by the likes of cycling patrons like Andy Rihs or Oleg Tinkov. This allows some teams to survive over the short-term, but it’s clearly not a sustainable long-term financial model; being a loss-leader rarely leads to market success. Moreover, when patrons pull out, these teams often collapse.

Finally, cycling events are just as dependent as teams are upon sponsorship arrangements and wealthy backers to survive — particularly in the United States. All three of the top races in the U.S. are essentially underwritten by wealthy individuals or companies — in addition to name sponsors. Event organizers face most of the same challenges that bedevil individual teams, and sometimes actually find themselves competing with their constituent teams for the same sources of scarce sponsor dollars.

Read the complete article >>

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Hincapie says Armstrong had prior authorization to ride fondo from ‘governing body’

October 23, 2014 - 4:47pm

Lance Armstrong (left) and George Hincapie (right) were teammates at U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel from 1998 through 2005. Photo by Tim de Waele.

George Hincapie, namesake for this weekend’s Gran Fondo Hincapie in Greensville, South Carolina, said that former teammate Lance Armstrong had prior authorization from “the appropriate governing body” to ride in the event.

Because of his lifetime ban, Armstrong’s planned attendance drew the attention of USADA and USA Cycling, with the national federation issuing a statement Thursday that, according to WADA Code, Armstrong is prohibited from participating from any event sanctioned by the national federation.

Following this news, Hincapie issued a statement of his own Thursday, expressing disappointment, and claiming that someone from the Hincapie fondo had reached out to “the appropriate governing body,” and had that Armstrong had been given “the green light” to participate.

“Lance will not be joining us at the Fondo this year. More then a month ago we conferred with what we thought was the appropriate governing body regarding his participation. At that time we were given the green light for him to ride. Our intent was never to cause a stir, but we are disappointed to learn they’ve reversed course at the eleventh hour. We will of course comply with the ruling, and look forward to a great event Saturday.”

Asked for further clarification, Hincapie did not wish to specify which “appropriate governing body” had been contacted.

When asked if, at any point in the past few months, anyone from Hincapie’s fondo had reached out to USA Cycling to enquire about Armstrong’s participation in the USA Cycling-sanctioned event, USA Cycling’s director of communications, Bill Kellick, told VeloNews via email, “We had no prior knowledge… No one here gave him a green light to participate.”

USA Cycling’s website lists the Hincapie Fondo as permitted as a “Fun Ride or Tour,” rather than a competitive event that would submit results to the National Rankings System.

Shawn Farrell, who was fired from USA Cycling last week after 11 years in the role of technical director, overseeing the federation’s rules and regulations, explained that it is essentially impossible for the federation to proactively enforce suspensions or bans from “fun ride or tour” events.

“Nobody [at USA Cycling] is specifically responsible for that,” Farrell told VeloNews earlier this week. “USA Cycling has 3,000 events, and no staff can scan all start lists. Normally the licensing solves that problem. Gran fondos are challenging, as people don’t need licenses. But then the same thing can happen when a rider just fills out a one-day app and creates a separate account.”

Armstrong had intended to reunite with several former U.S. Postal Service teammates, including Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde, and Kevin Livingston, as well as several active American professional riders including Tejay van Garderen, Brent Bookwalter, and Larry Warbasse (BMC Racing), Tom Danielson and Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp), and Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing).

Although Hincapie testified before USADA in 2012 that he, and Armstrong, had used performance-enhancing drugs together, he made a point in his sworn affidavit to say that he continues to hold Armstrong in “high regard.”

“I continue to regard Lance Armstrong as a great cyclist, and I continue to be proud to be his friend and to have raced with him for many years,” Hincapie said in 2012. “I do not condemn Lance for making those choices, and I do not wish to be condemned for the choices I made.”

Armstrong has not responded to requests for comment.

As a non-competitive event, the Hincapie fondo is in no way required to be sanctioned through USA Cycling; the sanctioning amounts to rider insurance coverage, which USA Cycling offers to myriad cycling events.

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Team USA previews Richmond 2015 road, time trial courses

October 23, 2014 - 3:44pm

Top contenders for the U.S. world championship team gathered in the Virginia capital on Wednesday and Thursday to take a first tour of the road and time trial courses, hold team meetings, and build the foundation of the nation’s first home-field advantage in nearly three decades. Photo by Mike Topham.

RICHMOND, Virginia (VN) – The 2015 UCI world championships in Richmond, Virginia, are still nearly a year away, but the initial reviews of the road and time trial courses are in.

Top contenders for the U.S. world championship team gathered in the Virginia capital on Wednesday and Thursday to take a first tour of the road and time trial courses, hold team meetings, and build the foundation of the nation’s first home-field advantage in nearly three decades.

After two police-escorted laps of the 16.5km course, the verdict was unanimous. Technical. Tactical. Unpredictable.

“It could be for anyone. It doesn’t suit a climber, it doesn’t suit a sprinter. It’s an all-rounder, that’s my prediction,” said Carmen Small, a medalist in the 2013 world time trial championship. “But it could be a climber, and it could be a sprinter. It’s pretty open. There are so many turns, and if someone gets away it could potentially stick.”

“I like the course. I think it could be a little bit harder, but it’s definitely Americanized with a bit of a Euro feel to it,” said Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing). “You have a lot of turns in town, a lot of right hand turns, criterium-style, then you go out and do this little cobbled climb. It’s going to be a punchy race, a hard race, but it’ll take a big team effort to make it selective.”

From the start, the road races will roll out through a flat, open 12 kilometers that would be a well-controlled sprinter’s delight, were it not for what follows. Packed into the circuit’s last four kilometers are the three principal challenges – the cobbled, switchback climb of Libby Hill, quickly followed by the short 18-percent ramp of 23rd Street and the final 350-meter ascent up Governor’s Street. By its crest, riders will be left with only some 700 meters to the line.

“Position will be probably more important than any worlds I’ve ever done,” said Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp). “I think it’ll make for an exciting final. There’s places to launch, there’s places to chase, and there’s places where chasing will be really hard.”

Late escapees will be aided by the technical finale, where the series of turns could help keep well-timed moves away from the prying eyes of a chasing peloton. And while Libby Hill might not be long or hard enough to have the decisive effect of a Flandrian climb, the battles for position as the race approaches the technical climb each lap will be fierce — and draining — especially if riders face a headwind on the run-in as they did on Thursday.

“It’s not the hardest cobblestone section I’ve ever done, but it is a cobblestone section, it is a small climb,” said two-time U23 Roubaix winner Phinney. “The main thing with the cobblestones is that you force 180 guys onto a really small road, so there’s a big fight for position before you go in. It’s almost less about the hill itself than the approach to it, and crashes, and staying safe, and being where you need to be. Then being able to gun it over the top while other guys are still on the climb, you’re kind of riding away off the front, and that’s how you make the race really hard.”

With an unpredictable course and an entire cycling season to run before the cycling world rolls into Richmond, few riders were willing to venture a strong favorite for the road race just yet.

“I think it’ll be sort of similar to the classics. Anyone who’s doing well in something like Flanders or Liège will do well here,” said Howes. “On paper, I think if a guy like [Simon] Gerrans is going as well as he was last year, it’s a good race for him. He’s probably better in the field than a lot of people, and he’s got a good finish. But maybe he’ll party too much this off-season and have a terrible year.”

On the U.S. squad, Howes cited a departing Garmin-Sharp teammate as a man to watch.

“I think Tyler Farrar could potentially get to the end here, and if he does he’s going to be pretty quick,” Howes said, “I think we’ll see him playing a new leadership role on MTN. If they don’t burn him out early and use him up at the beginning of the season, if he gears more towards the classics like he wants to and then takes a good break, he could be a serious contender for this course. And we have a lot of guys who can help him.”

As for the women’s peloton, Evelyn Stevens said she expects the usual suspects to be battling for the rainbow jersey.

“I think it’s the same women who are competitive nowadays: Marianne Vos, Lizzie Armitstead, Pauline [Ferrand-Prévot], the current world champion, and Elisa Longo-Borghini,” Stevens said of the elite women’s contenders. “I think there’s just a lot of talent out there, and it keeps increasing each year, so I think we’ll have a lot of good candidates who could win on this course.”

Could Stevens, a past winner of the women’s Flèche Wallonne, and a threat on punchier courses, be one of those candidates?

“I would like to be one of them,” she said. “It’s extra motivation. This is leading up to the Olympics as well, and I think to have the world championships in Richmond as you’re leading up to that Olympic year, for me, I couldn’t imagine anything better than winning here.”

Time Trial Washout

While riders had the privilege of a postcard blustery fall day to preview the road course on Thursday, Wednesday’s scheduled crack at the time trial course did not pan out. Heavy rain and temperatures in the low 50s engulfed the region, all but scuttling the day. Only Phinney, perhaps the United States’ best chance at a men’s worlds medal, braved the elements, shivering as his road bike was unloaded in the sprawling parking lot of the King’s Dominion amusement park, where the elite men’s time trial will begin north of Richmond proper.

“I figured, we flew all the way out here. It’s kind of cold and rainy, but I have a new appreciation for being able to ride my bike now since I was forced off it a couple months ago due to a crash,” Phinney said. “I had a great time, though. I had 10 police escort motos just for me, and as we started to get into town people were cheering me on. It felt like I was back in a race, and that’s not a feeling I’ve had in awhile.”

The course itself, Phinney said, is a fairly traditional world’s route that will suit the specialists well. Among them will be men who have already collected striped skinsuits, including Fabian Cancellara, Tony Martin, and, if he rides, reigning champion Bradley Wiggins. And Phinney?

“It’s rolling, it takes a lot of power but a lot of pacing strategy as well. It’s a good course for people who win time trials, basically,” he said. “I like to think of myself as one of those people.”

When it comes to battling Europe’s time trial monsters, Phinney may get an unlikely home field advantage from King’s Dominion itself, where the park’s one-third scale Eiffel Tower will preside over the TT start.

“I’m sure [the Europeans] will get really excited about starting in a theme park, because Europeans typically get really excited about American things like that. Maybe that’ll create a distraction and be beneficial to us,” he said.

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Alison Powers announces retirement

October 23, 2014 - 11:26am

Alison Powers won the 2014 road race at U.S. nationals. It was her second title that weekend, as she also claimed the national time trial championships. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

After a successful year racing for UnitedHealthcare in the U.S. and internationally, Alison Powers will retire from professional cycling. She plans to focus on her coaching business, ALP Cycles Coaching.

Looking back on her career, Powers said, “It has been a pretty amazing career! I have won or been part of a team that has won almost every single race in the United States. All of my cycling goals have been accomplished and I feel very satisfied leaving the sport. I’m proud to have won the Tour of the Gila criterium in 2006, my first year doing NRC races, and then to have won it again this year, my last year racing.”

Powers, 34, came into 2014 with a long list of accomplishments: a Pan American time trial championship title, the U.S. national criterium championship title, and general classification wins at the Joe Martin Stage Race, Cascade Classic Stage Race, and Redlands Classic.

In her final season, Powers won the overall classification at the Tour de Femenino de San Luis, took victory in the Amgen Tour of California time trial, and claimed U.S. national titles in both the road and time trial disciplines. Powers said, “Being a part of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team has been wonderful. This year felt like I was getting my ‘master’s degree’ in bike racing. I am so proud and happy to have been part of the team — and also sad to leave the program, my teammates, and the staff. They are all really wonderful people who took great care of me and taught me to become a better and more complete bike racer.”

In retirement, Powers plans to spend more time at home with family and friends in Colorado, while remaining active on her bike and Nordic skis. She will put more emphasis on her coaching business, allowing her share her racing skills and training expertise with other athletes.

“The past 10 years of my life as a bike racer have been really wonderful,” Powers said. “I feel so lucky to have had this kind of hard work, team camaraderie, and success in my life. I really love riding my bike, and to know I have accomplished so much feels really wonderful and happy. I can leave the sport with a smile on my face and two current national championship jerseys.”

General manager Mike Tamayo said, “Alison was instrumental in creating this program and yielding the one of the most successful seasons for a women’s team ever, especially a debut season. Not only is Alison an extremely valuable rider in terms of her own results, the knowledge she brought as a coach, mentor, and racer was invaluable to the rest of the team. Alison will always be a part of the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train family, and will continue to stay involved with the team as a high-performance advisor and mentor to riders.”

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USA Cycling: Under WADA Code, Armstrong cannot ride Hincapie fondo

October 23, 2014 - 11:24am

Lance Armstrong had hoped to ride in George Hincapie's gran fondo, however the event's sanctioning under USA Cycling prohibits his participation. Photo: Tim De Waele |

USA Cycling issued a statement Thursday, addressing the planned participation of Lance Armstrong in this weekend’s Gran Fondo Hincapie, declaring that, under WADA Code, Armstrong’s lifetime ban prohibits him from riding in the USA Cycling-sanctioned “non-competitive” event.

As reported earlier this week, Armstrong had intended to reunite with several former U.S. Postal Service teammates, including George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde, and Kevin Livingston, as well as several active American professional riders, at the gran fondo bearing Hincapie’s name.

That participation came into question, however, due to the event’s sanctioning with USA Cycling.

USA Cycling’s website lists the Hincapie Fondo as permitted as a “Fun Ride or Tour,” rather than a competitive event which has “agreed to submit results to the National Rankings System.”

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency told VeloNews on Wednesday that it had reached out to USA Cycling Tuesday, following the publication of a VeloNews story about Armstrong’s involvement, to determine whether or not the Hincapie fondo “qualifies as an authorized event under the rules.”

“The WADA Code rules dictate that a sanctioned athlete cannot compete in an authorized event during that athlete’s period of ineligibility,” USADA’s media relations manager Annie Skinner wrote in a statement on Wednesday. “After this question was brought to our attention, we reached out to USA Cycling, and we are awaiting their determination as to whether or not this Gran Fondo qualifies as an authorized event under the rules.”

That question was answered Thursday morning, in a statement sent from USA Cycling to VeloNews, which declared that, after conferring with USADA and the UCI, USA Cycling determined that Armstrong is, indeed, banned from participating.

“USA Cycling has been asked by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to look into the Hincapie Gran Fondo in the face of questions concerning rider eligibility,” the statement read. “USA Cycling has informed USADA that the Hincapie Gran Fondo constitutes a cycling ‘activity’ that is ‘authorized’ by USA Cycling as those terms are used in the World Anti-Doping Code and in the Anti-Doping provisions of the UCI (International Cycling Union) Cycling Regulations. Under these provisions, an athlete’s suspension bars participation in an authorized activity such as this. The UCI has confirmed USA Cycling’s interpretation.”

Because they are considered “non-competitive events,” and racing licenses are not required, gran fondos are difficult to police.

In this case, there would be no one to stop Armstrong, or anyone else, from riding. USA Cycling’s statement went on to address what might happen in the event that Armstrong should disregard the rules and choose to ride in the fondo.

“The World Anti-Doping Code vests jurisdiction in UCI and in USADA to determine whether an athlete has violated the terms of any suspension, as well as to assess any sanctions that might accompany an adverse determination.”

As a non-competitive event, the Hincapie fondo is in no way required to be sanctioned through USA Cycling; the sanctioning amounts to rider insurance coverage, which USA Cycling offers to myriad cycling events.

Under USA Cycling permitting guidelines, one-day trial licenses are optional for gran fondos and fun rides/tours, but USA Cycling’s excess medical coverage is only provided with purchase of a one-day (or annual) license.

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The Torqued Wrench: Dawn patrol

October 23, 2014 - 11:08am

This is the dawn patrol, a murky reflection of real life below. Photo: Caley Fretz |

We roll away from a coffee shop glow and into blue ink air. Cold presses in, as it always does just before sunrise at 8,000 feet, but a climb comes first on this dawn patrol. Warmth lies just a few minutes up the road.

Creatures of the dark, we are. Working stiffs, mostly. Real jobs, or as close to real as is possible in this industry. It’s not nine-to-five because it’s 24/7, 365. We’re on-call like doctors, without the intelligence or pay. But these schedules leave some time to play, albeit often on the edges of daylight.

The sun is sleeping, for another 20 minutes at least. A hum of thick rubber on asphalt dampens blue-lipped conversation before the road turns to dirt. Climb through a small mountain enclave, through 9,000 feet, up and away from email and smartphones and deadlines and work fires waiting to be put out.

The five of us sometimes light fires for each other, back in that other world. We are two editors and three marketers, living in a tug-of-war of content and coverage. Two contrasting sides of the media you consume every day.

But here, in the cold before sunrise, headed toward secret singletrack, where the phones show “no service” and the only pitches are topographical, that salaried world may as well not exist. Maybe it never existed, I think. But that’s just pre-dawn meta nonsense.

The trail is on the right, somewhere. A mile more, perhaps. It is marked by nothing, a blank face of forest, invisible to the unfamiliar. We pass the entrance … oops … even though I rode this trail just three days ago. Double back; spot a ribbon of pressed earth through the trees. Pick up the bikes, walk in 20 yards. Leave no trace.

Maybe build a little cairn so we can find it next time? Stack three rocks. No, best keep the forest face blank. Knock the tower over, throw rocks back in the woods.

Look back, East, at cotton candy clouds on fire.

Pleased that the singletrack has survived the night, we roll first tracks on dewy hero dirt. The climb is steep, rocky, and full of technical moves; it feels like New England, to me, like home. On this northwestern face, there is more soft dirt, less decomposed granite than we usually deal with. A few groves of aspens let the first light through, so striking it raises the hair on the back of my neck, before we dive back into shadowy tunnels of pines.

The top, two miles above sea level, provides a look toward home, 5,000 feet below. We rise out of the canyon, and cell service returns. A collection of bling-bloop-buzzes radiate out from our packs. The Europeans are up, and emailing.

Nobody steps back into that other world.

This is the dawn patrol, a murky reflection of real life below. Cold starts and steep climbs, hard work and occasional discomfort — each pedal stroke is rewarded in kind. Little happens down there that doesn’t happen here; it’s all just a matter of scale.

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UCI, WADA to appeal Kreuziger case to Court of Arbitration for Sport

October 23, 2014 - 10:30am

The UCI and WADA confirmed that they will appeal Kreuziger's biological passport case, seeking to overturn the Czech Olympic Committee's decision to drop the case. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

The UCI and the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) will appeal the decision made last month by the Czech Olympic Committee to clear Roman Kreuziger of anomalies in his biological passport, taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

“After reviewing the full case file, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), joined by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), has decided to appeal the Czech Olympic Committee hearing panel’s decision to acquit Roman Kreuziger following anomalies that were found in the rider’s Athlete Biological Passport (ABP),” the UCI said through a statement Thursday.

“Having carefully considered the decision, the UCI and WADA are filing an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) with the request that consideration be given to a sanction for Kreuziger that is fully compliant with the rules of the World Anti-Doping Code.”

Both bodies indicated that they would not comment further until a decision had been made by CAS “in order to fully respect the integrity of the legal process.”

The anomalies in his biological passport relate to the periods between March and August 2011, and April 2012 until the end of that year’s Giro d’Italia. At that time Kreuziger rode for Astana. He joined Tinkoff-Saxo in 2013, and that year, he won the Amstel Gold Race, and finished fifth at the Tour de France, riding in support of Alberto Contador.

Following his 2013 Amstel Gold win, Kreuziger admitted to having worked with controversial Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, during 2006 and 2007. In 2002, the Italian Olympic committee (CONI) banned Ferrari from working with athletes in Italy.

His Tinkoff-Saxo team withheld him from competing in the Tour de France, but then grew frustrated by the UCI and attempted to start him in the Tour of Poland. Kreuziger was then provisionally suspended on August 2.

On September 22, the Czech Olympic Committee said that Kreuziger “did not violate anti-doping rules,” adding that, “the values in the cyclist’s biological passport did not exceed the basal (extreme) values.”

UCI president Brian Cookson announced last month that starting in 2015, a new independent and international anti-doping tribunal will handle doping cases, instead of the rider’s national federation or Olympic Committee.

Kreuziger returned to competition on October 1 in Italy’s Milano-Torino race, knowing full well that the UCI would be appealing his case to CAS. Thursday’s announcement confirmed that was the case, with WADA joining the UCI in the legal battle.

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Team LottoNL-Jumbo officially unveiled

October 23, 2014 - 9:19am

Team LottoNL-Jumbo was introduced on Thursday. It is a unique combination of a cycling team and speed-skating team. Photo: LottoNL-Jumbo

UTRECHT, Netherlands — Team LottoNL-Jumbo, which is the 2015 iteration of the Belkin team, was officially presented Thursday. Key team staff and athletes such as Robert Gesink, Laurens ten Dam, and Wilco Kelderman were on hand to introduce the team’s new look.

Belkin was involved with the cycling team for only a brief period — it’s sponsorship began mid-2013, and it announced it would withdraw from the sport earlier this year. In 2014, the team won stages at notable races such as Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, Tour de France, and the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.

Jumbo Supermarkten, a Dutch chain of supermarkets, was introduced as the second title sponsor of the new speedskating and cycling team.

Richard Plugge, director of the Belkin team said, “Now that the contract with Jumbo Supermarkets is a fact, we can continue with building a future for cycling and speedskating, together with young talents. Previously, Robert Gesink and Bauke Mollema have transformed themselves into top-level cyclists. Wilco Kelderman and Moreno Hofland are also part of cycling’s top.

“The team wants to reach the highest level shortly with riders such as Mike Teunissen and Timo Roosen. Kjeld Nuis and Annette Gerritsen are exponents in the development of talents in speedskating. Within a few years after their junior period at the team, they obtained great results at the world championships and the Olympics. The collaboration with Jac Orie’s speedskaters enables us to work with the best athletes the entire year round, as one team. We are confident that we can excel together and can inspire a new generation of top-level athletes and to reach numerous fans.”

Team LottoNL-Jumbo is a merger of a professional cycling team and a professional speedskating team, which it says is a new organizational model in Dutch sports. The two teams plan to share knowledge and benefit from the cross-pollination that comes with combining their efforts.

“It is fantastic news that we have completed the team with Jumbo,” said speedskating coach Jac Orie. “I am also pleased that our ladies have received a spot in Team LottoNL-Jumbo. We can continue with building a successful team the following years. I look forward to working with the cycling section on a great team, that will hopefully entertain the Dutch sports fans for 12 months a year.”

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Karsten Kroon retires after 18 years of professional racing

October 23, 2014 - 8:39am

Karsten Kroon's biggest win came in 2002 on stage 8 of the Tour de France. Photo: Tim De Waele |

One of cycling’s elder statesmen is retiring from professional racing after a successful career spanning three decades. Karsten Kroon (Tinkoff-Saxo) turned pro in 1997 with Rabobank. He rode for Team CSC from 2006-2009, then BMC for two season, and wrapped up his career with Tinkoff-Saxo from 2012 to present.

Kroon rode his last race in Sunday’s Japan Cup, and after returning home, he confirmed that it was the right decision.

“I feel fortunate,” Kroon said. “I have had a great career with many defining memories. I have made many close friends in cycling, and that is something valuable for me. But I can honestly say that I’m ready to retire from racing. I’m tired after 18 seasons and I look forward to spending time with my family and kids.

“I want to thank Bjarne Riis for believing in me during the years and giving me the opportunity to spend the best seasons of my career on this team. My two seasons on BMC in 2010 and 2011 were plagued by two potentially career-ending crashes, but the team gave me another chance to come back and to finish my career the way I had wished for.”

The 38-year old Dutchman rode his first season in what is now the WorldTour in 1999. He steadily evolved into an experienced specialist in the northern classics. In 2002, in his first Tour de France, Kroon won stage 8. A victory that he describes as his biggest sporting moment.

“My stage win in the Tour is what I’m most proud of. It is something every rider dreams about. It was my first Tour de France, and I remember how surreal it seemed, when I rode across the line.”

But there’s also another less-known result that stands as the pinnacle of his career.

“It might sound a bit strange, but the 2009 world championships in Mendrisio is perhaps the greatest experience of my career,” he said. “I was dropped in the final part of the race and finished 20th, but I have never had better legs than I had that day in Switzerland. It was almost mythical for me. I remember that I felt as if I could keep going on my limit for hours and hours.”

According to Kroon, he hasn’t decided on his future yet. But one thing is for sure; he will take some time off from racing and training.

“I think I’ll relax with my family and wait awhile before I decide what the next chapter in my life will be.”

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