Road – Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Mon, 05 Dec 2016 23:33:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Road – 32 32 USA Cycling eyes gravel, gran fondo crowd Mon, 05 Dec 2016 20:04:33 +0000 USA Cycling announces policy changes for 2017, intends to broaden its membership base too less race-oriented crowd.

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In an effort to grow its membership and offer elite perks to its membership holders, USA Cycling has created new license tiers to cater to both enthusiast cyclists and hardcore racers. The new licenses come with perks such as increased insurance coverage and roadside assistance.

According to Derek Bouchard-Hall, CEO of USA Cycling, the new products reflect a bigger trend that USAC is trying to tap: the growth of non-traditional cycling events such as charity rides, gravel races, and gran fondos.

“We don’t want to sit idly by and not be a part of that and influence it,” Bouchard-Hall said. “They don’t even know that we exist. We’d like to be a positive part of that community. That’s explicitly part of our mission to grow cycling.”

Amid a raft of policy changes for 2017, USAC announced another tier of its Ride membership, a product for enthusiasts, not hardcore racers. Those who opt for the Ride license can chose between $50 and $150 Ride+ options, the latter of which includes a USA Cycling racing kit. Changes are less severe for members who hold a traditional racing license. The $70 racing license is good for unlimited racing through the calendar year, with a $100 Podium license including supplemental insurance coverage as well as 24/7 roadside assistance.

According to its roadside assistance page, the upgrade plan offers assistance for flat tires, transportation in case of a crash, and extraction of a bicycle from a ditch or other inaccessible area. The roadside assistance crew will also free up a locked bicycle.

The governing body will also begin aggressively reaching out to gran fondo and charity ride events to offer sanctioning and USA Cycling racing insurance.

The push toward gran fondo and other nontraditional events represents a shift in focus for the governing body. Of the estimated 7 million cyclists in the U.S., only about one percent are part of USA Cycling, and thus far, USA Cycling has sold approximately 8,000 Ride memberships, according to Bouchard-Hall.

“That’s a lost opportunity for us,” Bouchard-Hall said. Pending a decision by the USAC board, riders could also use fondo results to upgrade from Cat. 5 to 4, which might further entice recreational riders.

Bouchard-Hall cited British cycling as a successful model with its enthusiast-class licenses. That organization’s enthusiast membership base is twice as large as its base of competitive members. “That’s the scale of our aspiration, ” Bouchard-Hall said.

The push into the gran fondo marketplace could put USA Cycling at odds with cyclists who purposefully gravitate toward non-sanctioned events such as gravel races and gran fondos. In recent years, critics have accused the governing body of sucking the fun out of some cycling events due to rules and regulations aimed at course safety, participant categories, and even course design.

Bouchard-Hall said he is cognizant of the criticism, and said that USAC is working toward a less-intrusive presence at these events. “There’s no reason why it needs to feel less grassroots,” he said. “It could be more expensive, but that’s only because the insurance product covers all eventualities. We’re trying to make it so the value proposition is better.”

Read more about USAC’s 2017 policy changes >>

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Lotto Soudal confirms 2017 team rosters Sun, 04 Dec 2016 20:12:50 +0000 Lotto Soudal finalizes team rosters for its WorldTour, Ladies and U23 teams for 2017.

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While the official team presentation is still more than two weeks away (December 20), Lotto Soudal has officially announced the roster for its WorldTour team, along with its Ladies team and under-23 (U23) team, for 2017.

The men’s WorldTour squad will consist of 28 riders, with the most notable departures being Belgian Gert Dockx, New Zealander Greg Henderson (UnitedHealthcare) and Dutchman Pim Ligthart (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij). Five new riders join the squad, including Belgian Enzo Wouters and Briton James Callum Shaw, both of whom are coming over from the U23 team.

Belgian Rémy Mertz is the third rider who makes his debut as a pro with the team. His compatriot Nikolas Maes also joins the team with seven years experience riding with QuickStep. Dutchman Moreno Hofland is the fifth and final newcomer.

Team 2017: Sander Armée, Lars Bak, Tiesj Benoot, Kris Boeckmans, Sean De Bie, Jasper De Buyst, Bart De Clercq, Thomas De Gendt, Jens Debusschere, Frederik Frison, Tony Gallopin, André Greipel, Adam Hansen, Moreno Hofland (newcomer), Nikolas Maes (newcomer), Tomasz Marczynski, Rémy Mertz (newcomer), Maxime Monfort, Jürgen Roelandts, James Callum Shaw (newcomer), Marcel Sieberg, Rafael Valls, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert, Louis Vervaeke, Jelle Wallays, Tim Wellens en Enzo Wouters (newcomer).

Ladies team

Next year, 12 elite riders will be part of the Lotto Soudal Ladies team. Seven riders of the present team are leaving: Sofie De Vuyst, Willeke Knol, Claudia Lichtenberg, Emma Pooley, Anouk Rijff, Anisha Vekemans and Susy Zorzi.

In September, Lieselot Decroix ended her career after the final stage of the Lotto Belgium Tour. In 2017, the team welcomes five new riders. Annelies Dom and Kaat Van der Meulen are two Belgians who will reinforce the team. Together with Lotte Kopecky, they are part of the national team pursuit squad on the track. Also on board is Dutch rider Puck Moonen, Dane Trine Schmidt and Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer.

Once again the team has signed one youth developmental rider in Julie Roelandts, who won the Belgian cyclocross championships in the 14-year-old division last weekend.

Team 2017: Isabelle Beckers, Jessie Daams, Elise Delzenne, Annelies Dom (newcomer), Chantal Hoffmann, An-Li Kachelhoffer, Anna Kiesenhofer (newcomer), Lotte Kopecky, Puck Moonen (newcomer), Julie Roelandts, Trine Schmidt (newcomer), Kaat Van der Meulen (newcomer) and Fenna Vanhoutte.

U23 team

Team 2017: Ruben Apers (newcomer), Jonas Castrique, Alfdan De Decker (newcomer), Sander De Pestel (newcomer), Robbe Debuyck (newcomer), Stan Dewulf, Robbe Ghys, Mitch Groot (newcomer), Steff Hermans, Mikkel Frølich Honoré, Laurens Huys (newcomer), Kevin Inkelaar, Ward Jaspers, Bjorg Lambrecht, Senne Leysen, Milan Menten, Emiel Planckaert, Gerben Thijssen (newcomer), Mathias Van Gompel, Brent Van Moer (newcomer), Harm Vanhoucke, Thomas Vereecken and Aaron Verwilst.

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Katusha names leaders, identifies objectives for 2017 Sun, 04 Dec 2016 17:00:25 +0000 Katusha-Alpecin reveals goals for team leaders Alexander Kristoff, Ilnur Zakarin and new signee Tony Martin for the upcoming season.

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Katusha-Alpecin has appointed three leaders in Norwegian Alexander Kristoff, Russian Ilnur Zakarin and German Tony Martin for the 2017 season.

The team is fresh off a training camp in Spain, which included 26 riders from 14 different nations. From that camp, the team’s objectives were defined: the yellow jersey at the Tour de France for Martin following the opening stage time trial in Dusseldorf, Germany, as well as the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and a fifth world title against the clock; general classification at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España for Zakarin; and the spring classics for Kristoff.

“We have 40 percent newcomers, but what I saw, from our first camp in Italy in October, is very positive. The atmosphere and mentality of the group are good, “said the team’s new general manager José Azevedo, who takes over from Viacheslav Ekimov.

Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez (Bahrain), Belgian Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto NL) and Italian Jacopo Guarnieri (FDJ) are the main departures from the 2016 squad.

New arrivals include: Martin, as well as Jenthe Biermans (BEL), José Gonçalves (POR), Reto Hollenstein (SUI), Robert Kiserlovski (CRO), Maurits Lammertink (NED), Marco Mathis (GER), Baptiste Planckaert (BEL), Mads Würtz Schmidt (DEN) and Rick Zabel (GER).

Returning riders include: Kristoff and Zakarin, along with Maxim Belkov (RUS), Sven Erik Byström (NOR), Marco Haller (AUT), Pavel Kochetkov (RUS), Viacheslav Kuznetsov (RUS), Alberto Losada (ESP), Tiago Machado (POR), Matvey Mamykin (RUS), Michael Mörköv (DEN), Nils Politt (GER), Jhonatan Restrepo (COL), Simon Spilak (SLO) Rein Taaramae (EST) and Angel Vicioso (ESP).

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Gallery: Katusha-Alpecin unveils 2017 kit Sun, 04 Dec 2016 15:46:46 +0000 Katusha-Alpecin unveiled its new kit, bike and roster at the official team presentation in Benidorm, Spain on Saturday.

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Alexander Kristoff clad in his new Katusha-Alpecin jersey for 2017. Photo: Tim De Waele | Full frontal view of the new Katusha-Alpecin kit for 2017. Photo: Tim De Waele | Front view of the bib shorts for the new Katusha-Alpecin kit for 2017. Photo: Tim De Waele | Rear view of the bib shorts for the new Katusha-Alpecin kit for 2017. Photo: Tim De Waele | Side view of Tony Martin's new Katusha-Alpecin jersey. Photo: Tim De Waele | Norway's Alexander Kristoff clowns around with Katusha-Alpecin's new casual clothing range for 2017. Photo: Tim De Waele | Alexander Kristoff took time to put the new kit through the paces. Photo: Tim De Waele | Russian rider Ilnur Zakarin took his turn modelling the new Katusha-Alpecin kit while on the bike. Photo: Tim De Waele | Katusha-Alpecin's team presentation of the new kit, logos and roster. Photo: Tim De Waele | Katusha-Alpecin team presentation. Photo: Tim De Waele | Team owner Igor Makarov proudly presents the latest Katusha-Alpecin team bike from Canyon. Photo: Tim De Waele | It was lights, camera, action at the Katusha-Alpecin team launch.

Photo: Tim De Waele | A spectator snaps a shot of the 2017 team roster.
Photo: Tim De Waele | Canyon, Zipp and SRAM combine to create the team bike for 2017. Photo: Tim De Waele | The new social media hashtag for Katusha-Alpecin. Photo: Tim De Waele | Katusha-Alpecin's team bus adorned with new co-sponsor logo. Photo: Tim De Waele | German Tony Martin is one of 10 new recruits for 2017. Photo: Tim De Waele | Always time for a caffeine fix at the mobile Katusha Cafe. Photo: Tim De Waele | Presenting in style, as Katusha-Alpecin held its team presentation at the Grand Luxor Hotel in Benidrom, Spain. Photo: Tim De Waele | The 2017 Katusha-Alpecin cycling team. Photo: Tim De Waele |

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Illuminate to add women’s team in 2017 Sun, 04 Dec 2016 14:04:00 +0000 Former Airgas-Safeway squad has revealed it will expand in 2017 with the addition of a women's UCI team.

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Just a little over a week since signing former IAM Cycling rider Simon Pellaud (SUI), Team Illuminate has revealed it will field a women’s UCI team for 2017. While no official roster details were released, the American Continental program formerly known as Airgas-Safeway did reveal that the team would predominantly sign domestic riders.

“The majority of our roster is from the US, although we do have some international riders on the team,” said team director Chris Johnson. “Honestly, we have put together an incredibly strong roster and I feel lucky to have such a great group of women to work with in our first year.”

According to Johnson, the addition of a women’s team is a natural progression for the team, which adopts a community-first approach and made the switch to an all-black kit, devoid of sponsor logos.

“When you look at our overall model, we’re really building a club that is led by the professional riders,” he said. “We want people to join us, to follow the riders and to interact with the team. Our team is about bringing people together, and in order to do that we need to have a men’s and a women’s program.”

The San Francisco-based squad has targeted the Tour of California to open its racing calendar in May before heading east for the summer.

In addition to the signing of the 24-year-old Pellaud prior to the announcement of its new women’s program, the men’s team recently announced it has re-signed Colombian national champion Edwin Avila, as well as Americans Connor McCutcheon, Griffin Easter and Cullen Easter. According to news reports, the team will unveil its final men’s roster via social media.

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Froome: Wiggins must resolve steroid use controversy Sat, 03 Dec 2016 15:16:32 +0000 Five-time Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins has to clear up question marks remaining over why he was granted TUEs, Chris Froome says.

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London (AFP) — Five-time Olympic cycling champion Bradley Wiggins has to clear up the question marks remaining over why he was granted therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for a steroid, his former team-mate Chris Froome says.

Wiggins, 36, had his medical records leaked by presumed Russian hackers The Fancy Bears earlier this year.

They revealed he’d been granted the TUEs to take the banned triamcinolone to treat a pollen allergy including just before the 2012 Tour de France when he went onto become Britain’s first winner.

Froome, who was his faithful lieutenant on Team Sky that year and has won it himself three times since, told The Times that Wiggins’ denials since and responses to the questions have not resolved the matter.

“People ask me, ‘Do I think it’s tarnished his (Wiggins) image?’ I certainly think it’s raised a few questions, that’s for sure,” he told the paper by phone from Australia. “A lot of people have said it’s taken the shine off his performances back in 2012.”

Kenya-born Froome, who will attempt the rare feat of doing a Grand Tour double next year having failed in his bid this season, said he still did not know what was in a package delivered to Team Sky during the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine, which Wiggins won.

“I am completely in the dark on that,” he says. “I have asked the question. Hopefully we will find out at the end of the investigation.

“Those are questions for Brad to answer about what happened back then. In terms of who did what at the time, I still don’t know all the answers myself.”

Froome, 31, says he couldn’t fault the present Team Sky regime for being totally transparent and felt this had filtered through to spectators at the Tour de France whose attitude had changed between the angry and hostile one of 2015 towards him and his team-mates and this year.

“I can only deal with what I do know. From what I have seen for myself [at Sky], it’s been completely above board. It’s been clean. I’ve laid all my cards on the table. Everything has been out there for a while in terms of my TUEs,” he said.

“We have worked really hard to try to show we are being as transparent as possible. I feel we have made a lot of headway this year, especially on the roads of the Tour.

“I felt a genuine change in mentality of the French fans, a much warmer reception than it has been in the past.”

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Cycling insiders say it’s time for WorldTour race in China Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:57:14 +0000 Managers from the cycling world weigh in on the UCI's deal with Wanda Sports to stage a race in China starting next year.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — It is time the WorldTour returns to China, say insiders after this week’s news that the UCI added the Tour of Guangxi to its top racing series.

Asia’s richest man Wang Jianlin, who reportedly made bids to buy ASO’s and RCS Sport’s races, will own and run the new event via his Wanda Sports group. It will cover six days with a women’s WorldTour race and side events. It marks the 38th and final event in an already busy WorldTour schedule, but it builds a new bridge to the Far East.

“Definitely, it’s time,” Alain Rumpf said. “In some ways, I think time has been lost because there was already a race in Beijing.”

The Swiss presided over Global Cycling Productions, a branch the UCI created to run the Tour of Beijing starting in 2011. When Brian Cookson won the UCI presidential election and took over for Pat McQuaid, the race ended following the 2014 edition.

Rumpf saw first hand the benefits of taking top-level cycling to China, where the sport is growing quickly. As the UCI said in its press release early Thursday morning, “The world’s most populous country also has 10 million active cycling fans, 20,000 cycling clubs, 100 cycling events and 15,000 bike stores. The size of the Chinese cycling sports market has grown to $1.5 billion with the industry expecting to reach a growth rate of 20% by 2023.”

Rumpf spent months every year in China to prepare for the Tour of Beijing, which Tony Martin won twice and Philippe Gilbert last won.

“The number of race days is growing and there are more people riding bikes,” Rumpf said. “It’s booming. Maybe we don’t see that from Europe, but you can ride gran fondos all the time now in China, big events with huge participation.

“I’m not saying that the Tour of Beijing was a perfect project, things could have been done differently and we learned lessons. I hope that the new Chinese race will be better than the Tour of Beijing and that it will really help strength sport as a whole.”

Complaints existed, from Beijing’s infamous smog to the lack of fans. Rumpf explained that the fans exist, even more so now, but that during the Tour of Beijing the over-zealous police often kept them away out of security fears. Outside the capital city at the stage starts and finishes, more fans arrived and lined the roads.

In its four years, the race traveled north along the Great Wall and visited historic palaces. For cycling, the autonomous Guangxi region bordering Vietnam offers much richer terrain with its rivers, gorges, and karst peaks.

“A new race is always good for cycling given there are races that are dying,” Max Sciandri said. The BMC Racing sport director guided Gilbert to his 2014 win in Beijing.

“The only negative part is that the WorldTour calendar is stretched quite a bit and the riders are spread thin. It pushes teams to their maximum going to the other side of the world mid-October to end of the season. You always need points, so you go.”

With WorldTour races already in North America, the Middle East, Australia, and of course Europe, Sciandri said it was time to return in China.

“The races have always been there, but maybe we failed to give them enough attention like we did in the Middle East,” he added. “In the end, China has races and cyclists, and we should help it grow. It’s good for them and for cycling.”

Wanda Sports agreed with the UCI on a three-year deal, through 2019. In addition, the group is due to build a cycling center with a 250-meter indoor track, a BMX track, and a road circuit.

“We are happy Wanda took it up,” said Richard Plugge, manager of the Dutch WorldTour LottoNL – Jumbo team. “I was always in favor of the Tour of Beijing. This one is a good replacement.

“It’s good for both, for globalization of the cycling calendar and good for China to have a race at the highest level to develop the sport over there. There’s huge potential in China.”

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5 ways to spice up bike racing Fri, 02 Dec 2016 14:16:43 +0000 Andrew Hood presents some ideas on how to make professional road cycling a bit more exciting for fans.

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Race organizers kicked the hornet’s nest last week with its unilateral decision to reduce the peloton by one rider across nearly the entire WorldTour. While still not yet officially approved, the idea to reduce the number of riders per team is a tantalizing one. The outline has gained traction because race promoters say fewer riders would not only make for a safer peloton, but would heighten drama in the races as well.

Safety questions aside, organizers are clearly taking a shot at breaking the stranglehold that teams like Sky or Etixx – Quick-Step hold over grand tours and the spring classics. Less riders means less control. In theory, that delivers a more exciting race.

What else could be introduced to create more provocative race dynamics? First, you have to buy into the idea that races now are somehow boring or unattractive. In many ways, the 2016 racing season was the most exciting in recent history, with thrilling battles across the WorldTour calendar, so why mess with a good thing?

Sometimes cycling’s biggest handicap is its resistance to change and its instinct of sticking with tradition. However, for those looking to spice things up within professional cycling, there are a lot of ideas kicking around, some of which have already been implemented. Here are a five fixes that could work:

1. Spike power meters

Many argue that today’s racing is too controlled and too robotic, and they point to one major culprit: power meters. The technology has revolutionized cycling, allowing coaches and racers to train and race with meticulous precision, but some say too much so. With the help of power meters and ever-improving technology, racing can be calibrated in ways unimaginable a generation ago. Echoing the call from a decade ago to ban race radios, some, including big-time riders like Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana, think power meters should not be used in competition.

Pros: There is a reasonable argument that power meters dull the element of surprise, especially in grand tours, because riders can better gauge their efforts based on real-time information from their power numbers. Races have almost become formulaic as a stage unfolds like a spreadsheet on a training program. Power meters act like a security blanket, allowing riders to know if they’re in the red, or if their opponent can truly sustain an attack. Take away power meters, and a rider will have to revert to more gut instinct and tactical guile than stone-cold data.

Cons: Most riders insist they don’t “race by numbers,” and many don’t use them at all. Many bristle at any suggestion of limiting technology, and they counter that power meters and other metrics should be incorporated into the TV viewing experience to fully engage the public. And even if power meters are removed from bikes, what’s to stop sport directors and coaches to pass along calculations to riders via race radio? The upshot: instead of fighting against technology, embrace it.

The takeaway: At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what a power meter might suggest if you don’t have the legs to back it up. It could be an interesting experiment, however, to take them off the bikes in a few races, just to see if the racing dynamics change in any discernible way.

2. Shorter, more explosive stages

The Vuelta a España has been leading this charge for more than a decade. The Giro d’Italia picked up on it, with short, punchy finales, wild descents over gravel roads, and jigsaw-like profiles. Even the Tour de France, the last bastion of tradition in the sport, has embraced the notion of “shorter is better.”

Pros: Short in favor of long works on several levels. First, it rewards aggression, with less pavement for dominant teams to throttle the action. Second, it’s ideal for TV. What was the best stage of 2016? The raid to Formigal, when Movistar and Tinkoff caught out Chris Froome, opening the door for Nairo Quintana’s victory. The distance? 118km. The race time? Under three hours. Boom!

Cons: By turning its back on the tradition that cycling, at its core, is about suffering and endurance, the sport’s modern makeover could go too far. Riders are already complaining that stage races are simply too hard, with nearly universal agreement that the 2016 Vuelta, a race packed with an unending series of novelties, was the hardest grand tour they’ve ever raced. Too much gimmickry could undercut the history and heritage of cycling.

The takeaway: There is certainly room for old-school, six-hour stages, and in fact, the rules require it simply to hit grand tour distances. Next year’s Tour de France seems to have fully embraced this “short is the new long” tenet. There must be a balance between heritage and innovation in grand tours, but in today’s shrinking attention span, short and explosive is working.

3. Smaller teams

This is the one that made headlines last week, and perhaps it’s the most provocative and controversial proposal. Critics say the throttling control of big teams is sucking the emotion of out of racing. When teams are so strong and so deep, the real battles are often reduced to just a few final kilometers of a mountaintop summit or the final throes of a classic.

Pros: Many point to this year’s Vuelta a España as evidence that even the strongest GC rider like Chris Froome is vulnerable when the team is hobbled. Of course, what happened in the Vuelta has nothing to do about reducing teams, but just seeing that mano-a-mano battle between the GC stars stripped away from the protective cocoon of their teams is what more people want to see. Strip away some of the strength of the team, and you will see that raw, old-school racing everyone wants. How to do that? Smaller teams.

Cons: The WorldTour teams loathe the idea of trimming the number of riders. First off, teams like control, in part because they’ve invested millions of dollars to buy and train their GC stars. They don’t want to see a year’s worth of work thrown out the window because of an echelon, a crash, or a mid-race hiccup. Several team managers have also pointed out that one fewer rider during a grand tour — eight instead of nine — would create unseen challenges. Crashes and illnesses inevitably take their toll (last year, only seven teams finished the Tour with all nine starters, and that’s counting Etixx – Quick-Step despite Tony Martin pulling out on the Champs-Élysées), so managers have a legitimate worry about having enough warm bodies to get through three weeks of racing. And some have suggested that removing one rider per team would make it harder for teams to come to the Tour with a multi-pronged approach of riding for GC and sprints. Cycling’s changed, but it’s always been a team sport.

Takeaway: In fact, the idea of reducing the field by one racer per team might not be enough to deliver the desired effect. Having one fewer rider during the one-day classics and week-long stage races likely will not make that much of a discernible difference, and some suggest that GC teams would create alliances if the grand tour squads are reduced, negating any desired impact. Smaller squads would also mean more room for more teams in the peloton, allowing organizers to invite more wildcard teams (that’s another can of worms). But if teams were whacked to seven or even six starters per squad in grand tours, that would certainly deliver something wholly unexpected and thrilling. Everyone wants to see the GC riders attacking each other, not just in the final few kilometers of Alpe d’Huez but over the Galibier as well. Why stop at eight?

4. Ease enforcement of the 3km rule

It happens every summer: the peloton’s top GC riders line up for what’s hyped to be the battle of the century, only to have one or two major contenders crash out in the first week. Talk about a buzzkill. Crashes are part of cycling and there’s no way to avoid all of them, but there is one easy step to mitigate a lot of the tension and stress during the sprint stages to keep everyone in the race until the good stuff deep into the course: ease up on enforcement of splits at the finish line.

As it stands now, the 3km rule for transition stages (it does not apply to time trials and uphill finales for obvious reasons) is reasonable enough and makes sense. No time is docked for mechanicals or crashes within 3km to the line, but any splits that open up in the bunch are taken at the line (though some argue that the distance is a bit arbitrary, and could be extended to perhaps 5km to go for mechanicals and crashes).

Fair enough, right? Not quite. The real problem with this rule — and the reason why GC riders are “getting in the way” of the sprinters — is how it’s applied when it comes to the splits. The UCI race juries are wildly inconsistent on how they determine a gap. It changes from race to race and even stage to stage. Splits have been taken at the line even when there’s been a crash within the final 3km, when everyone thought they were “safe.” This inconsistency drives teams crazy and universally amps up the tension across the peloton.

Pros: Officially, one full second between bikes is large enough to warrant a split, yet the time gaps are not measured from where the gap opens up, but rather the first rider in the front group and the first rider in the second group where the split happened. So that means simply someone losing the wheel in the final 200m can cost a GC rider five, eight, or 12 seconds if they get caught on the wrong side of the split. That’s why all the GC stars keep fighting to stay in the front even in sprints. Give the peloton more breathing room at the line and the problem is solved.

Cons: Some say one solution is to take the official time at 3km to go, and then everyone can sit up and ride safely to the line while the sprint trains do their thing. That might help, but it could serve only to move the bottleneck to 3km to go and even might create an odd dynamic where nearly everyone in the peloton is sitting up except the three or four teams devoted to sprints, hardly the exciting racing everyone wants to see (not to mention sandbaggers saving their legs for a next-day attack). And jury decisions are always subjective. What constitutes a split varies on the conditions of the day.

Takeaway: This fix is easy, and tackles both safety and race dynamics in one swoop. Give the peloton more breathing room in the sprint finishes and don’t measure splits unless it is an obvious gap of two or even three bike lengths. Tour officials already quietly pushed this in 2016, so expect more of it next season.

5. Add more time bonuses

There was a “purist” movement a few years ago among Tour de France organizers to have the winner based on their “true time.” There were no time bonuses awarded at all, delivering the yellow jersey to Paris with their exact time of racing. In a certain way, there is an almost purist quality to this idea, but, man, was it boring.

Pros: Time bonuses have been part of bike racing almost since its inception. The practice is a highly effective and economical way to liven up any race. Put time bonuses at the intermediate sprints or the finish line and everyone will go for it, from the sprinters looking for a day or two in yellow to the GC riders looking to extract an extra ounce of pain.

Cons: The downside to time bonuses is that they can favor a certain type of rider and can make for some confusing finish-line calculus for fans watching on TV. And it does seem unfair to lose valuable seconds by finishing literally inches behind another rider after flailing up a 20km hors catégorie finish. Though GC battles in grand tours are rarely decided by time bonuses, some say they unfairly tilt the balance toward speedier finishers, so why bother?

Takeaway: In light of today’s ever-tighter GC battles, time bonuses have settled in at 10, 6, and 4 seconds at the line for transition stages (with no bonuses in time trials or uphill finales), but that hasn’t always been the case. Until fairly recently, there were time bonuses of 20 seconds and even up to one minute. So why not mix things up even more? You could offer time bonuses on mid-race mountain passes, or something special like double bonuses at the line on Bastille Day or over the top of Cima Coppi. That would certainly provoke movement among the GC riders.

Here’s how it would look

Imagine a Tour de France peloton of seven-rider teams, racing without power meters, with all the GC contenders healthy and still in the race because of easing of the 3km rule, lining up for a 114km, three-climb summit finale up Alpe d’Huez, with a double-whammy, 30-second time bonus waiting at the finish line. Who wouldn’t watch that?

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Riders association: Race organizers aren’t committed to safety Thu, 01 Dec 2016 22:19:29 +0000 The North American riders' association says race organizers aren't addressing true safety concerns with roster reduction plans.

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The ASO, RCS Sport, and Flanders Classics claim to be focused on safety, but a prominent riders association says the race organizers’ roster reduction announcement that made waves Friday is more about economics than reducing rider injury.

“Race organizers have not shown that existing races with smaller pelotons are safer. Race organizers are using the issue of safety to pass reforms that are really about economics,” said Michael Carcaise, executive director of the Association of North American Professional Road Cyclists (ANAPRC), which is affiliated with the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA), the international riders association.

Impatient with the UCI’s slow action, organizers said they’ll reduce the size of each team by one (from nine to eight in grand tours and eight to seven in other events). “We wanted to give a signal; we’ve been talking about safety and safety for many years, but the reality is nothing changes,” RCS Sport cycling director Mauro Vegni said. “If the UCI says ‘no’ then that’s not great. They are saying they want safety, making safety commissions, but then they don’t decide anything. [Too many meetings] without ever making a decision.”

“I think everybody agrees with Mr. Vegni’s statement that it is time for the UCI to act,” Carcaise responded. “If race organizers like RCS are committed to making races safer they should support the immediate adoption of new UCI Regulations for safer course design, and for how obstacles and hazards are managed on the course. These new regulations have been on the table at UCI commission meetings over the past 6 months — many of which Mr. Vegni attended personally.”

The CPA first proposed an updated safety plan to UCI commissions in April, but, so far, the UCI has not issued any binding rules to hold race organizers accountable. In that plan, the CPA specifically states that it is not in favor of smaller teams unless “a thorough quantitative study is completed.”

Carcaise added, “It has not been proven that a smaller peloton makes races safer. Whether the peloton is 198 or 175 guys, there are still 45 riders fighting for a space at the front that can only hold five of them.”

He went on to raise concerns that smaller teams in major races will lead teams to cut their rosters, putting some riders out of work. “They should be honest and make the economic case for reducing the peloton, and if it comes to pass it should only proceed with a major contribution from the race organizers to the rider’s career transition fund, because many riders will end their racing career and need training for a new job.”

Currently, the transition fund is covered by only contributions from active riders — five percent of prize money from international elite races.

Caley Fretz contributed to this report.

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Pro riders wary of disc brakes according to new survey Thu, 01 Dec 2016 22:01:37 +0000 According to preliminary results from a survey conducted by the riders association, 40 percent of pros don't want disc brakes in the

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Forty percent of pro cyclists do not want the UCI to restart a disc brake test in the pro peloton in 2017, according to preliminary results of a survey conducted by the Cycliste Professionnels Associés (CPA), the international riders group.

As of Thursday, 546 professional cyclists have responded to the survey, according to an email from the Association of North American Professional Road Cyclists (ANAPRC), which was sent to association members.

The survey notes that the CPA has asked the UCI to make three concessions to safety prior to commencing the second disc brake trial: Disc rotors should have rounded edges; the brakes should be covered by a guard, and all riders should be on disc brakes.

Of the respondents, 15.71 percent said they agree with the trial restart, regardless of whether the three conditions are met; 43.98 percent said they do not agree with a restart unless all conditions are met, and 40.31 percent said they didn’t agree with the UCI’s second trial period under any circumstances. In other words, more than a third of pro riders who took the survey simply don’t want discs in the peloton.

The UCI’s first trial of disc brakes came to an ignominious end when Movistar’s Fran Ventoso crashed at Paris-Roubaix and claimed that a fellow rider’s disc rotor was to blame for the gruesome gash on his leg. His account of the crash was never completely verified or confirmed.

VeloNews has contacted ANAPRC and CPA for comment on the survey results but did not receive immediate replies from either organization.

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Froome to start 2017 with Down Under double Thu, 01 Dec 2016 14:14:53 +0000 The three-time Tour de France champ will compete at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the Herald Sun Tour early next year.

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SYDNEY (AFP) — Three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome will launch his 2017 season in Australia, announcing Thursday he will compete in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the Herald Sun Tour.

But the Sky rider will not line up in the Santos Tour Down Under, which is longer and starts earlier than the other two races on January 17.

Froome, who won the 2013, 2015, and 2016 Tours de France, will kick off his year at the UCI WorldTour’s one-day Cadel Evans race on January 29, before defending his Herald Sun Tour title from February 1-5. Both are in Victoria state.

“I love riding in Australia. The weather is great and the crowds always come out in force to support the riders. That makes it all the more enjoyable,” the Briton said.

“It’s always tough racing and a really strong, competitive field — so it’s an ideal way for me to kick off my year. I took a similar approach last year and felt it was a great way to set up my season.”

Froome won this year’s Herald Sun Tour ahead of countryman and Sky teammate Peter Kennaugh, who claimed the 2016 Cadel Evans title.

Next year, Froome is expected to face stiff competition from Orica – BikeExchange’s Colombian star Esteban Chaves, who has also committed to racing at the Herald Sun Tour.

Chaves had a breakout season this year, finishing second in the Giro d’Italia, third in the Vuelta a Espana, and first in Il Lombardia.

“[Froome] is obviously happy with how he did last season in winning the Herald Sun Tour and then winning the Tour de France, so maybe we can copy that,” Chaves said.

“I have started training early, which is new for me. But the important thing is I’m super motivated, I’m happy to do it, and I’ll go 100 percent.”

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UCI strikes deal for WorldTour stage race in China Thu, 01 Dec 2016 13:47:02 +0000 As part of the wide-ranging deal, China will also host the UCI’s Cycling Gala next year and a women's race in 2018.

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Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, the man who could become cycling’s biggest player, is now officially in the peloton.

The UCI confirmed Thursday what VeloNews reported last month: Wang’s Wanda Sports group is backing a new six-day stage race that will bookend the 2017 WorldTour calendar in October in southern China near the Vietnamese border.

In what’s a huge coup for the UCI, Wanda Sports group has committed to a multi-year deal to help promote professional and grassroots cycling in what is the sport’s largest untapped market.

“We are absolutely delighted to announce this partnership with Wanda Sports which will provide a huge boost to cycling in China,” UCI president Brian Cookson said in a press release Thursday. “The UCI’s main role is to grow and develop cycling globally and China provides us with a wonderful opportunity to engage with literally hundreds of millions more people.”

The scope of the project is expansive, and it marks the biggest deal of its kind with the UCI.

Keys to the deal include:

  • A six-day, WorldTour stage race called the Tour of Guangxi that will be part of the 2017 calendar in October.
  • A women’s WorldTour event will be incorporated in 2018.
  • Commitment to build a cycling center that will serve as a satellite to the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland. According to officials, the center will include a 250-meter indoor track, a BMX track, and a road circuit. It will serve as a grassroots development center, with top talents being sent to the UCI World Cycling Centre in Switzerland.
  • Hosting the first three editions of the UCI’s new Urban Cycling World Championships in October, starting in 2017.
  • The UCI’s Cycling Gala, hosted by Abu Dhabi in 2015 and 2016, will move to China in 2017.
  • Mass participation events as well as a school cycling program in the host region’s Guangxi Province, and a “national promotional tour” across China.

Wang is China’s richest man — Forbes claims he’s worth more than $32 billion — and has quickly become a major player in endurance sports. He bought the Ironman triathlon series and InFront Sports & Media in 2015, and made unsuccessful plays to buy both Tour de France owner ASO and Giro d’Italia owner RCS Sport. In comments in China, Wang said he is not interested in owning a team, and remains committed to events.

“This partnership with the UCI and the region of Guangxi represents a major addition to our sporting portfolio,” Wang said in a release. “We know that China has a tremendous potential in cycling and we are proud that Wanda Sports will be instrumental in realizing that potential, with the support of great partners.”

The move revives the UCI’s involvement in the booming Chinese market following the demise of the UCI-managed Tour of Beijing, which ran from 2011 to 2014. The deal fell apart when Brian Cookson won the UCI presidency and introduced a new policy that cycling’s governing body would not be directly involved in owning or managing major men’s stage racing events — a move that closed down the UCI’s sometimes controversial Global Cycling Promotion in 2014.

Many in cycling see China as the sport’s most important untapped market, not only for potential sponsorship dollars and growth of TV viewers and a new fan base, but also for development of athletes. China won its first Olympic gold medal in cycling at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in the women’s team sprint, while China will see its first major men’s pro team as Chinese backers take over the Lampre – Merida team for 2017.

The UCI said the world’s most populous country has “10 million active cycling fans, 20,000 cycling clubs, 100 cycling events and 15,000 bike stores. Additionally, the size of the Chinese cycling sports market has grown to $1.5 billion with the industry expecting to reach a growth rate of 20 percent by 2023.”

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Van Avermaet on track for spring classics return Wed, 30 Nov 2016 20:34:09 +0000 Greg Van Avermaet is confident he'll be back to top form in time for the spring classics after breaking his ankle in training this fall.

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Olympic gold medalist Greg Van Avermaet is on track to be ready to race the spring classics following surgery in November.

The 31-year-old Belgian went under the knife November 14 after fracturing his left ankle, and doctors cleared him Wednesday to begin training on rollers, setting him up for a likely return to form in time for the Belgian classics.

“It will be another seven-to-ten days before Greg can ride on the road,” said BMC Racing team doctor Max Testa in a team release. “His recovery is going as planned … [and we] will begin to increase his training load day by day.”

Van Avermaet enjoyed a highly successful 2016 campaign, with wins at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, GP Montréal, a stage and the overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, a Tour de France stage, all capped off with the gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. He suffered a fracture following a mountain bike crash earlier this month.

Van Avermaet is hopeful to be fully recovered in time to take on the spring classics, where he will be the outright leader following the departure of Philippe Gilbert to Quick-Step Floors.

“Everything is going fine. When I ride easy on the rollers I don’t have any pain,” Van Avermaet said. “I think my ankle will heal faster now and by next week hopefully I can do more. We will see how it goes.”

Van Avermaet said he is already looking forward to the spring classics, including the Ronde van Vlaanderen following the confirmation of the 2017 route from organizers Wednesday. Significant changes to the route include a new start in Antwerp, as well as the return of the Muur van Geraardsbergen.

“I look forward to the start and then the Muur van Geraardsbergen, as it’s a climb I like,” he said. “It’s a good thing that they didn’t change the last 80km because it’s pretty important that they keep it the same. I like the final, and we will see how it plays out, but I think the 2017 race has a nice parcours.”

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Giro organizer: ‘Enough meetings, it’s time to make races safer’ Wed, 30 Nov 2016 18:47:25 +0000 The Giro's director says it is time for action, not meetings, which is why major race organizers are pushing to reduce the size of teams.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Forget the formalities, say race organizers. They are tired of the UCI’s stakeholder meetings. They want to make races safer now, for the 2017 season, by reducing the size of the peloton.

Three big organizers — ASO, RCS Sport, and Flanders Classics — made their intentions clear Friday afternoon, saying they would cut the size of team rosters: from nine to eight in the three grand tours and from eight to seven in the others, such as one-day classics and week-long stage races. The UCI shot back Saturday morning saying that the big three would have to wait until their demands are accepted. And that it will not happen in 2017.

RCS Sport, however, told VeloNews that it is now time to change after years of talking and crashes, including the death of Antoine Demoitié this spring in Gent-Wevelgem.

“We wanted to give a signal; we’ve been talking about safety and safety for many years, but the reality is nothing changes,” RCS Sport cycling director Mauro Vegni said. “If the UCI says ‘no’ then that’s not great. They are saying they want safety, making safety commissions, but then they don’t decide anything. [Too many meetings] without ever making a decision.”

The UCI said that any decision would have to be agreed on by the Professional Cycling Council (PCC). The organizers form part of the council and have a say. However, the UCI said, “This subject was discussed at the last meeting in November 2016, and it was agreed to consider in detail the implications of such reduction over the coming months, with no change for 2017.”

Vegni, however, expects the UCI is going to consider it even before the next PCC meeting in December.

“It’s a bit of a provocation,” Vegni added. “Us three organizers are standing together and saying we are ready to do something, otherwise it just stays the same. It’s been three or four years, and we’ve not seen anything.

“Meanwhile, we need to consider some technical aspects. We are at the risk of viewers becoming bored in front of the TV. We want to see riders race and make the race, not the usual escape of three hours, then at 15 kilometers to go, the group takes them. Basta! We need to offer the people something more valid on a sporting level.”

Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere said that 100 cyclists would be out of work by 2018 if the change goes through because the teams would need to hire fewer cyclists. That would trickle down, he said, and teams would hire fewer staff.

“That’s not true,” Vegni explained. “Look at how many races there are, on a given Sunday. You have two or sometimes three races and WorldTour races overlapping. Teams arrive in August unable to fill out the race rosters.”

Jonathan Vaughters and Luca Guercilena, heads of the teams Cannondale – Drapac and Trek – Segafredo, respectively, responded that the change comes too late into the season. Guercilena told VeloNews, “A one-year time window is more realistic. It is too late now, because we are starting next week with training camps, and in January we are already racing the WorldTour at the Tour Down Under.”

“Is there a safety problem or not?” Vegni said. “The roads have changed. The local roads are now full of roundabouts and dividers, signs, and other slowing measures, so the risk of crashing has grown.

“I can understand Vaughters — it’s a bit late, but it’s been going on for four or five years and nothing comes out. I want to give a strong signal, to say, we are ready, but [if] you don’t let us, then do something yourself.”

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Quintana: ‘We’ve learned from our errors’ Wed, 30 Nov 2016 18:07:04 +0000 Nairo Quintana is resolute in his plan to win the Tour de France. With Movistar focused on that goal as well, the dream may come true soon.

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Nairo Quintana remains bullish on his chances to win the Tour de France. Despite falling short in a bid to knock Chris Froome off his throne in July, Quintana’s revenge with a dramatic Vuelta a España victory a few weeks later gives him reason to believe.

As the Colombian star prepares for the 2017 season, including a possible run at a second Giro d’Italia pink jersey, Quintana remains defiant that he will win the Tour sooner or later.

“The ‘yellow jersey’ dream remains alive,” Quintana said. “We keep fighting, and we keep learning. The Tour remains the top goal.”

Those comments came during Movistar’s annual pre-season get-together last month, and confirm Quintana’s top goal next season will be the Tour even if he does decide to race the Giro. Team manager Eusebio Unzué floated the idea of a Giro-Tour double, but the team has yet to officially confirm Quintana’s 2017 schedule.

Last year, Quintana entered the 2016 campaign hoping to become Colombia’s first Tour winner, and unveiled his “sueño amarillo” (yellow jersey dream) campaign to give him extra focus. Things didn’t go as well as he wanted during the Tour, yet he still managed to finish third overall, giving him three podium finishes in three Tour de France starts.

Bolstered by his Vuelta victory over such rivals as Froome, Alberto Contador, and Esteban Chaves, Quintana is even more confident one day that a yellow jersey will be his. And he insists that his hiccups during this year’s deflated showdown against Froome in France had nothing to do with his legs or cracking under the pressure of trying to win.

“It wasn’t a question of pressure, but of health,” Quintana said in Pamplona in meetings to map out his 2017 season. “My body didn’t react the way I had expected. I had some struggles with the allergies, and I couldn’t perform the way I had expected, so I had to think more about the podium than winning.”

Unzué, meanwhile, said the team is fully backing Quintana as its lone GC candidate next season, confirming that Alejandro Valverde will revert to his stage-hunting and support role to Quintana during the grand tours. And Unzué, who helped Miguel Indurain win five straight Tours in the Banesto days, said time is on Quintana’s side.

“After winning the Giro and Vuelta, obviously the next big step is the Tour,” Unzué said of Quintana. “It’s always difficult to win, but one day it will arrive. We believe he will win it sooner or later, because he has a Tour in his legs.”

Movistar teammate Rory Sutherland, who rode in support of Quintana at the Vuelta a España, said he marvels at people who think that Quintana’s Tour was somehow disappointing and said that Quintana is singularly driven to become the first Latin American to win the Tour.

“You just came third in the Tour — that’s disappointing? Really?” Sutherland said. “Nairo left the Tour disappointed, but what does he do? He didn’t mess around with criteriums and stuff like that. He trained hard, and came back to ready to win the Vuelta. Nairo has that taste of nearly winning the Tour, and it’s kind of stuck in him. Nairo is younger, and with the amount of pressure and having an entire nation behind you, I don’t know how you function. It’s something you have to learn to deal with. He’s very ambitious.”

For Quintana, the “yellow jersey dream” remains for much alive.

“I am more confident, the team is more consolidated, and we keep working for the best possible manner,” he said. “We’ve learned from our errors, and we will be even better.”

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Strade Bianche announces 2017 routes, replete with gravel Wed, 30 Nov 2016 17:30:24 +0000 Strade Bianche announces its 2017 race routes. This edition will be the first time the men's race is included in the UCI WorldTour.

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RCS Sport, organizer of the Giro d’Italia, announced routes for the 2017 women’s and men’s Strade Bianche one-day classic races, March 4 in Siena, Italy. The race, which is known for its unpaved gravel road sectors, will be part of the men’s WorldTour for the first time.

The women’s race will again be part of the UCI Women’s WorldTour, featuring 30 kilometers of gravel in eight sectors of the 127km route. The 2016 edition was won by Lizzie Deignan.


Strade Bianche women’s gravel sectors

Sector 1: 2.1km, straight and slightly uphill.
Sector 2: 4.7km, short descent and a long climb with gradients over 10 percent.
Sector 3: 4.4km, rolling.
Sector 4: 5.5km, flat to slightly downhill to Buonconvento.
Sector 5: 9.5km, rolling for the first part, ending up with a twisting climb.
Sector 6: 800m, but with a double-digit ramp at the end.
Sector 7: 2.4km, climbs toward Colle Pinzuto with maximum 15 percent gradient.
Sector 8: 1.1km, a demanding descent followed by a punchy climb (max 18 percent gradient).

The men’s route will run 175km, and it includes 62km of gravel roads, spread over 11 sectors. Fabian Cancellara won the 2016 edition, his third victory, and as such, organizers have named sector 8 of gravel in his honor.


Strade Bianche men’s gravel sectors

Sector 1: 2.1km, straight and slightly uphill. (Same as women’s route.)
Sector 2: 4.7km, short descent and a long climb with gradients over 10 percent. (Same as women’s route.)
Sector 3: 4.4km, rolling. (Same as women’s route.)
Sector 4: 5.5km, flat to slightly downhill to Buonconvento. (Same as women’s route.)
Sector 5: 11.9km, hard, hilly, very punchy, and technical.
Sector 6: 8km, only 1km after the previous sector, hilly, with a downhill run to Ponte d’Arbia.
Sector 7: 9.5km, rolling for the first part, ending up with a twisting climb. (Same as women’s route.)
Sector 8: 11.5km, the race’s hardest sector, mostly uphill.
Sector 9: 800m, but with a double-digit ramp at the end. (Same as women’s route.)
Sector 10: 2.4km, climbs toward Colle Pinzuto with maximum 15 percent gradient. (Same as women’s route.)
Sector 11: 1.1km, a demanding descent followed by a punchy climb (max 18 percent gradient).(Same as women’s route.)

Here’s the race’s 2017 sizzle video. As you can tell, Strade Bianche often sees a thrilling finish on the steep final climb back to Siena.

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VN podcast, ep. 6: Are smaller teams better? Cycling on TV Wed, 30 Nov 2016 16:21:18 +0000 Will smaller teams end Team Sky's Tour de France dominance? Plus! Ever wonder why it's often so difficult to watch bike racing online?

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Welcome to the VeloNews cycling podcast, where we discuss the latest trends, news, and controversies in the world of cycling. Executive editor Fred Dreier is your host, along with news director Spencer Powlison and senior editor Caley Fretz.

Will smaller teams end Team Sky’s Tour de France dominance? In episode 6, we are joined by VN European correspondent Andrew Hood to discuss the politics behind trimming team size and what the reduction will do to the tactics of pro bike racing.

Plus! Ever wonder why it’s often so difficult to watch bike racing online? We have the answer.

If you like what you hear, subscribe to the VeloNews podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. Also, check out the VeloNews Fast Talk training podcast with Trevor Connor and Fretz.

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Trek boss: We know a war over team sizes will come to nothing Mon, 28 Nov 2016 21:08:06 +0000 Trek – Segafredo boss Luca Guercilena is worried the proposed changes to team sizes will hamstring his team in grand tours, and he's not

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One less rider per team in the grand tours doesn’t seem like much, but it could mean fewer big names in the peloton.

That’s the takeaway from Trek – Segafredo manager Luca Guercilena in the wake of last week’s abrupt decision by race organizers to push for a dramatic reduction of the size of teams in next year’s grand tours and spring classics.

“It would make a big difference for the grand tours,” Guercilena told VeloNews. “You would have to make a clear decision on your strategy, whether to go for the GC or for stages. And that would mean there would be fewer stars in the big races.”

According to Guercilena, the surprise proposal unveiled last week to reduce the peloton in the name of safety from eight riders to seven for the one-day classics and one-week stage races wouldn’t change things that much. Though teams across the peloton say they largely agree with moves to create safer race conditions, it’s the notion to reduce grand tour rosters from the current nine-rider lineup to eight that would create complications.

“Already in the classics, most of the teams support one captain, so that would not be such a problem,” he said. “It is during the grand tours where it would make a big impact. It would be very difficult to go with a team that has a GC rider and a sprinter. For example, you need two or three guys to help a sprinter, and then you need four or five guys to help in the mountains. To take away one rider means that you have to make a clear definition of your goals.”

Simply put, Guercilena said it would be very difficult to bring a diverse, multi-tasking team to the Tour de France with an eight-rider squad.

A few of the major GC teams already bring squads loaded for the singular goal of the yellow jersey, such as Team Sky and Movistar, but most teams, including Guercilena’s Trek – Segafredo, try to bring balanced rosters looking to make impressions in both the GC and stage victories. With eight riders instead of nine, that gets more complicated.

Look at how Trek – Segafredo will stack up next season. For the GC, they will have both Alberto Contador and Bauke Mollema as protected riders, with John Degenkolb for the stages. If he can only start with eight riders, Guercilena could only bring five more warm bodies to try to support his captains across the mountains and sprints. That means leaving someone at home, and being spread even thinner without counting inevitable losses to injuries and illnesses that strike during three weeks.

And Guercilena said that other rationale behind reducing the grand tour teams from nine to eight, in order to lessen the stranglehold the big teams seemingly have on GC (i.e., Team Sky) doesn’t stack up, either.

“I don’t see this helping that one team will have less power to control the whole race, because alliances will form,” he said. “Just as it is now, if there are three teams that want a bunch sprint, there will be a bunch sprint. And even if they reduce the teams to eight, the top GC teams will work together to control the race in the same manner. So what I see more is that if you reduce the size of the teams, you will see fewer big names in the race because you will have to make a clear definition of your goals: GC or sprints.”

The arbitrary decision late last week by the major WorldTour race organizers — ASO, RCS Sport, and Flanders Classics that control all three grand tours and the major one-day classics — keeps rumbling around the peloton.

The UCI has already said the rule has yet to be confirmed through official channels, so it remains unclear if race organizers will stick to their guns in 2017 (perhaps setting off another ugly war going into next year’s racing season). Teams bristled because the unilateral decision comes too close to the start of next year’s racing season, throwing a wrench into their scheduling, training, and racing plans going into next season.

“A one-year time window is more realistic,” Guercilena said about how long a dramatic new rule should be implemented. “It is too late now, because we are starting next week with training camps, and in January we are already racing the WorldTour at the Tour Down Under. It’s not fair, because we invest money in ‘X’ riders to cover all the races of the WorldTour.”

Guercilena said he is not opposed to the idea of reducing the number of riders in the peloton for safety reasons, but stressed that any rule changes should be adopted with “all the stakeholders at the table,” and said that rider safety is more than just reducing the size of the peloton.

“We know that reducing the bunch is one of the steps to make the peloton safer, but it is not the only one,” he said. “There are many issues about safety that need to be discussed in an organized manner, from vehicles in the race, to course safety, to who gets to drive in the race, to having an iron pole in the middle of the road …

“We need to be positive about these discussions,” he said. “We need dialogue, with everyone at the table, and need to find an agreement with all the stakeholders. And I would like to see some statistics, to see if there is a true reduction of crashes when the peloton is smaller. If we just try to take a powerful position, it will just lead to war. And we all know wars come to nothing.”

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Astana boss: ‘You’re going to see Aru racing and winning more’ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 18:11:11 +0000 Fabio Aru says he's learned from his mistakes in 2016. For 2017, the Vuelta winner will prepare early and more thoroughly than before.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Fabio Aru will take a different path to the grand tours in 2017. Team Astana says, “You are going to see Fabio Aru racing and winning more.”

Aru, who upset Tom Dumoulin (Giant – Alpecin) to snatch the 2015 Vuelta a España title, suffered through the 2016 season. He aimed for the Tour de France, but lost time slowly before cracking on the final stage over the Joux Plane. He never looked like the brilliant Sardinian cyclist fans saw in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.

“This year was a strange year; he started a little bit behind schedule in his preparations for the Tour,” Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli told VeloNews.

“He was not relaxed, tired from 2015, etc. You can have those types of years. We want to make sure that he’s ready for 2017, already ready by March to bring in some extra results.”

Martinelli promised fans would see a “Bel Fabio” fighting for wins as early as the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in March.

“The bad year will help him in the future. It’ll help him improve,” Martinelli added.

“You’re going to see Aru racing and winning more. He’s been training on his bike since November 1, about 15 days ahead of last year. He will spend less time in training camps, even if I’m in favor of these camps because you are with your trainer and calm. You can prepare better than racing to certain conditions.”

After he pulled off a Vuelta upset on the final mountain day, the penultimate stage ahead of the Madrid finish, Aru, 26, raced for another month. He competed in Italy, in the sponsor’s home of Kazakhstan, and in Abu Dhabi. It had been a successful 2015 run with two stage wins and second overall in the Giro d’Italia behind Alberto Contador, and the Vuelta title, but the season left him drained for 2016.

“I’m turning my back on an ugly 2016 season, when I made many mistakes,” Aru said at a team press conference Wednesday.

“The big reason for my bad 2016 season is that I started off behind in training, maybe I was still tried from 2015, when I truly gave my all to win the Vuelta a España.”

Aru may have bitten off more than he can could chew with the Tour. He is one of the few grand tour winners in the peloton, but still not shoulder to shoulder with Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana, or Chris Froome. Like a fine Cannonau wine from Sardinia, that could come with age. With another Giro d’Italia in his legs, and perhaps a win, he could consider a Tour run again in 2018.

In 2017, the beginning Astana’s post-Nibali era, Aru will aim at the Giro and Vuelta. Dane Jakob Fuglsang will lead the Tour team.

Part of the pull for Aru’s Giro’s participation is that the race celebrates its 100th edition in 2017, and it makes a rare appearance in Sardinia. The big island 200 miles off Italy’s west coast will host the first three stages. The difficulty of the three-week route surprised Aru at the presentation.

“This Giro is hard, hard, hard,” Martinelli added. “You will need to arrive with your batteries well-charged.”

Aru will likely begin 2017 with the Volta a Valenciana in Spain, February 1. He will build to the Tirreno-Adriatico mid-March and Milano-Sanremo. He could take aim at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, too, five week later.

Martinelli said, “If he goes it’ll be at 99 percent form, otherwise, it’s better to just finish the Giro del Trentino and focus on the Giro. He’d like to try winning Liège, and why not?”

He will still sneak away to the high altitudes on Spain’s Tenerife island at the end of March and again, perhaps at another location closer to home, before the Giro.

“He’s always traveled to altitude camps ahead of those big grand tours that he’s had. It doesn’t bother him, whereas other riders get tired of being there. Take away 2016, he’s never erred heading into grand tours.”

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Colombian tests positive for EPO at Red Hook Crit Mon, 28 Nov 2016 16:04:03 +0000 A Colombian cyclist tests positive for EPO in a Red Hook Crit, held in Milan at the start of October. He is banned for life from the series.

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Colombian cyclist Mario Paz Duque was snared by an in-competition anti-doping test at the Milan round of the Red Hook Criterium on October 1. The Colombian racer tested positive for EPO, according to a release from race management.

Per the Red Hook Criterium’s rules, Duque is now banned for life from the fixed-gear criterium series.

The positive test is the first doping revelation for the Red Hook series, which is comprised of fixed-gear races in Brooklyn, London, Milan, and Barcelona. Red Hook was launched in 2008, and in 2013 became an international series.

“It’s unfortunate — we always wanted to believe that the Red Hook Crit represented a new way in cycling, but you can’t be naive,” said David Trimble, the series’s founder. “When we started to get crossover from road racing we knew it was a risk.”

In recent years, the fixed-gear race began attracting riders with professional road racing credentials. Paz Duque competes on Paraguay’s Vivo Team Grupo Oresy road team, which is registered as a UCI Continental team.

Trimble said he began testing at the Red Hook race in Milan starting in 2014. The race sends its samples to the WADA-accredited Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) in Salt Lake City, Utah. For 2016, Trimble extended testing to all four races. Officials perform doping controls on the top-3 men and women, and then also test random finishers.

Duque, who finished 38th at the Milan round of the fixed-gear criterium race series, was snared by a random test, Trimble said.

Trimble forbids athletes with any doping history from competing in any round of the Red Hook Criterium, and said that he often removes riders from the start line at this races. In previous years he has prevented former ProTour riders Riccardo Ricco and Carlos Barredo from participating. Both men previously received sanctions for doping.

“Obviously this news sucks but it shows that we’re taking it seriously,” Trimble said. “If someone is thinking of doping and coming to the Red Hook Criterium, they’re going to be worried now.”

The Red Hook series has popularized fixed-gear racing in the last decade, in part due to its grassroots appeal.

Read more about the growth of the Red Hook Crit series >> 

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