Cafe Roubaix

Despre ciclismul de azi şi cel de altădată

2015 Giro d’Italia – Stage 19 Preview

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What happened on stage 18

Philippe Gilbert became the first Belgian rider since Roger De Vlaeminck, in 1979, to take multiple stage wins in one edition of the Giro d’Italia, after attacking from the breakaway and soloing to the win in Verbania. On the Monte Ologno – the only climb of the day – Alberto Contador went clear after getting notice that Mikel Landa was involved in a crash and was two minutes back. The Basque rider took back more than one minute, but once he returned to the Fabio Aru group, he stopped, as another attack would have meant that his teammate could risk losing the third place. As a result, Contador increased the gap in the general classification, more than five minutes being at the moment behind him and his Astana rival.

What comes now

This queen stage (Gravellona Toce-Cervinia, 236 kilometers) throughout the Alps features a total difference in altitude of approximately 4800 meters, that is covered almost entirely over the last 100 km, with 3 subsequent climbs, measuring up to 20 kilometers each. The route winds its long journey around the Alpine foothills through the districts of Borgomanero and Biella, and then it enters the Aosta Valley, where the last 150 kilometers of the stage will roll out. The stage course tackles the St. Barthélemy ascent (16,5 kilometers at a 6,7% gradient), St. Pantaléon (a harsher climb: 16,5 kilometers at a 7,2% gradient) and, eventually, it ramps up the Cervinia climb (19,2 kilometers at a 5% gradient).

The last kilometres run entirely uphill. The route rises with the steepest slope just before, and while crossing, the town of Valtournenche. The climb starts to level out gently three kilometers before the finish. With less than 2000 meters remaining to go, the average gradient is 1s4%. The 450-m long home straight, on 7-m wide asphalt road, has a 4% gradient. Over the last six kilometers, the stage course features two well-lighted tunnels.

The headline of the day should be the duel between Alberto Contador and Mikel Landa. The 32-year-old Spaniard is still in the hunt for a Giro d’Italia stage and Cervinia will provide him with the second-to-last opportunity to reach this goal, while his fellow countryman hopes to take his third victory at the race and increase his value for the upcoming transfer period, when many World Tour teams will be ready to fight for his signature.

Steven Kruijswijk and Ryder Hesjedal – who have hit top form in the last week of the Corsa Rosa – are two other strong contenders for the win, with the Dutchman being also interested in the blue jersey, which he wants to take home. If an escape will succeed, then watch out for cyclists like Franco Pellizotti, Carlos Betancur, Stefano Pirazzi, Igor Anton, Darwin Atapuma, Beñat Intxausti, Mikel Nieve and Rigoberto Uran, who hopes to get something from the race.

Cervinia will be a stage finish for the fourth time in 98 runnings of the Giro d’Italia, and will return to the race three years after witnessing an historic moment, the first Costa Rican victory in a Grand Tour. In a breakaway since the start of the day, Andrey Amador outsprinted Jan Barta and scored his biggest win to date.

2015 Giro d’Italia – Stage 18 Preview

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What happened on stage 17

Lampre-Merida confirmed once again that is the most powerful team in the sprints, guiding Sacha Modolo to another win, his second in the space of a week, after the one in Lido di Jesolo. Giacomo Nizzolo came runner-up, ahead of Luka Mezgec, and posted his 9th podium in a Giro d’Italia stage. Still, there was something to be happy about for the cyclist of Trek Factory Racing, as he took the red jersey from Elia Viviani (who came 11th in Lugano), and now has a huge chance to win it in Milan, on Sunday.

What comes now

The stage between Melide and Verbania (170 kilometers) is clearly divided into two parts. The first, flat 125 kilometers run from Melide, along the shores of Lago di Lugano, lead back to Italy and roll across Varese and Sesto, to reach Lago Maggiore. The route skirts around the lake through Arona and Stresa, reaching Mergozzo and Verbania (first time), brushing very close by the finish line. Watch out for a number of obstacles, such as roundabouts, speed bumps and traffic dividers, while crossing urban areas. The route rolls past Verbania and gets to the Monte Ologno ascent that features steep gradients (average slope 9%, maximum slope 13%). The first part of the descent is curvy and technical, but with low gradients.

As the stage course reaches Alpe Segletta, the second part is wider and easier. The descent ends 5 kilometers from the finish. The last 17 kilometers run along a wide, well-paved downhill road leading from Premeno to Verbania (a former railway with slopes of approximately 5%), up to 5 kilometers from the finish in the built-up area of Verbania. The route rolls past a few roundabouts and traffic dividers, and eventually reaches the waterfront. The last 3,5 kilometers are quite uncomplicated and the finish line lies on a 200-m long straight, on 6,5-m wide asphalt road.

This is a big opportunity for a breakaway, so many riders have the 18th stage marked in their agenda since a while ago. Giovanni Visconti, Ilnur Zakarin, Carlos Betancur, Franco Pellizotti, Fabio Felline, Damiano Cunego, Tanel Kangert and Darwin Atapuma are some of the usual suspects that can mix along, hoping to put a big gap between them and the peloton, before trying to dispatch everyone else in an attempt to score an important victory.

In the pack, it will be interesting to see how Astana will fare now that Mikel Landa lies in second place and has showed that he is the most strongest rider of the team. More than sure, the Kazakh squad will forge at the front and try to isolate Alberto Contador, and then attack him. Basically, Astana will have three goals in the mountains this week: keep both Mikel Landa and Fabio Aru on the podium, score at least one more win and get Contador tired before the Tour de France.

The race will return to Verbania for the first time in 23 years. In 1992, the fight for the victory was an Italian affair, with Franco Chioccioli first, ahead of Claudio Chiappucci and Massimiliano Lelli. In the overall standings, Miguel Indurain kept his pink jersey, which he took to Milan, where he became the first Spanish rider to win the Corsa Rosa.

2015 Giro d’Italia – Stage 17 Preview

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What happened on stage 16

It was yet another crazy and action-packed stage at the Corsa Rosa, sticking to the pattern of the previous two weeks. The race exploded when Alberto Contador had a mechanical problem on a descent right before Mortirolo, which made Katusha and Astana push hard at the front in order to distance the pink jersey. This doesn’t stopped the 32-year-old from coming back almost on his own, after an impressive ascent of the Mortirolo (45:07), where he also took advantage of the fact that Mikel Landa had to wait for Fabio Aru more than once, as the Italian had problems. Eventually, the Basque cyclist got a “carte blanche” from Astana after Contador attacked and the two of them, joined by Steven Kruijswijk, surged at the front. On the final ascent of the day, Landa – who’s out of contract at the end of the season – attacked and soloed to take the win, thus climbing to second in the overall classification (4:02 behind Contador) and becoming only the second rider victorious on Madonna di Campiglio and Aprica, after Marco Pantani.

What comes now

This stage (Tirano-Lugano, 134 kilometers) will partly allow the riders to regain their strength. It is most suitable to sprinters, but it is not completely flat. The only categorized climb of the stage is just after the start, with the Teglio ascent (7,4 kilometers, 6,5% average gradient). The Valtellina scenic route runs across Poggiridenti and leads to Sondrio. Here, the stage course enters the Adda River valley, and runs along it until it reaches the mouth of Lake Como. The roadway narrows all along the lakefront road leading to the short Croce di Menaggio climb. The following stretch of road leading to Lake Como has a few tunnels along the route.

The last three kilometers run across the urban area of Lugano. Watch out for a number of obstacles, such as roundabouts, speed bumps and traffic dividers, while crossing urban areas. The finish runs initially downhill (with two close hairpin bends three kilometers before the line), then along the shores of Lake Lugano, on well-paved roads. The route features one last bend, 750 meters from the finish, on 7-m wide asphalt road.

After the damages made by Mortirolo, the weather and the fast pace of stage 16, a breakaway – which can include Marco Bandiera, Silvan Dillier, Simon Geschke, Sonny Colbrelli, Ion Izagirre, Sylvain Chavanel or Luis Leon Sanchez – has a strong chance of going all the way to the line, especially as the peloton can break on the Teglio. If this won’t be the case and the peloton gets to control the escape, then the sprinters will get to fight at the finish for the first time in a week. Sacha Modolo, Elia Viviani and Giacomo Nizzolo are the top three favorites, the last two being interested not only in a win, but also in the red jersey classification.

Lugano returns in the Giro d’Italia for the third time in history. The previous visit here took place in 1998, when the Swiss city acted as finish for a 34-km long individual time trial, scheduled on the penultimate stage of the race. Riding for Cantina Tolo, Serhiy Honchar won on that day and was followed on the podium by Massimo Podenzana and Marco Pantani.

 

2015 Giro d’Italia – Stage 16 Preview

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What happened on stage 15

Mikel Landa landed his first career win in a Grand Tour, after catching Yuri Trofimov and leaving him behind with 600 meters to go on Madonna di Campiglio, where the Corsa Rosa returned after 16 years. Alberto Contador rounded out the podium, with Fabio Aru fourth, the young Sardinian again showing some weaknesses that now leave him trailing the Spaniard by 2:35. If Contador’s maglia rosa seems out of reach, it will be interesting to see if Aru can return to his best in the last week or if Landa will get more freedom from Astana to fight for the podium. Besides the two of them, other riders in contention for a top 3 finish are Andrey Amador, Leopold König, Yuri Trofimov and Damiano Caruso.

What comes now

This is a high mountain stage with as many as five categorized climbs and a total difference in altitude of 4500 meters. The route starts uphill in Pinzolo, clears the Campo Carlo Magno climb (this is largely the same ascent as the previous stage), takes a fast-running descent into Dimaro and goes up again, towards Passo del Tonale (15,3 kilometers at a 6,1% average gradient). The stage course drops down into Ponte di Legno and Edolo, then takes in the first climb towards Aprica, through the village of Santicolo (with gradients of roughly 15% in the first stretch).

After rolling past Corteno Golgi, the route takes the ss. 39 and heads for the first passage on the finish line. The following descent is initially wide and fast, and turns narrower and more technical all the way up to Stazzona. The route levels out briefly while running through Tirano (the only flat sector of the stage), then it tackles the Mortirolo climb (10,9 kilometers, 10,9% average gradient and 18% maximum gradient) along the traditional Mazzo di Valtellina slope.

The Mortirolo Pass will be this year’s “Montagna Pantani”, recalling the great success of June 4, 1994, when Pantani clinched a masterful solo win – his second consecutive stage win, from Merano to Aprica – attracting the whole cycling world’s attention and claiming the podium for that year’s Giro, behind Russia’s Evgeni Berzin.

Mortirolo is followed by a technical descent (on narrowed roadway in the first part), leading to Monno and then to Edolo, where the route will cover once again the 14 kilometers leading to Aprica. The road runs entirely uphill, with remarkable gradients between Edolo and Santicolo (max. 15%), but flattens out gradually while approaching the finish, dropping to 5% with 5 kilometers to go, and to less than 2% over the last 500 meters. The finish line lies on a 7,5-m wide asphalt road, running gently uphill.

We can have two fights on this stage: one is for the stage win, which can be decided from a breakaway that can include Carlos Betancur, Mikel Nieve, Beñat Intxausti, Stefano Pirazzi, Davide Formolo, Darwin Atapuma, Igor Anton, Sylwester Szmyd, Esteban Chaves and Przemyslav Niemiec, many of these being interested also in the blue jersey, which lies on the shoulders of Intxausti.

The second fight of the day concerns the GC cyclists, with Alberto Contador in the spotlight. The rider of Tinkoff-Saxo said that he wants a stage victory, but not with the price of spending a lot of energy for it, but this doesn’t mean he can’t attack on the Mortirolo in order to force a selection. On the other hand, after seeing that whatever they do he can’t lose the pink jersey, Astana can try to push it hard on the climbs to isolate and tire Contador ahead of the Tour de France, where he’ll meet Vincenzo Nibali. Besides them and the other cyclists in the top 10, pay attention to Steven Kruijswijk, who looks close to top form, which can help him make an important jump in the overall classification.

Aprica has hosted eight stage finishes throughout the years, with the first taking place more than half a century ago. The riders who have won in the Lombardy ski resort are Vittorio Adorni (1962), Leonardo Sierra (1990), Franco Chioccioli (1991), Marco Pantani (1994), Ivan Gotti (1996), Roberto Heras (1999), Ivan Basso (2006) and Michele Scarponi (2010).

2015 Giro d’Italia – Second week stats

– Nicola Boem, Mikel Landa, Sacha Modolo and Ilnur Zakarin took their maiden win in a Grand Tour

– Before scoring this win, Sacha Modolo has recorded 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 place finishes in his previous 70 Giro d’Italia stages

– Sacha Modolo became the 5th Italian rider in 5 occasions to be victorious in Lido di Jesolo

– For the first time since the team was created, Lampre-Merida nabbed a win at a Grand Tour with three diferrent cyclists

– All 15 stages so far have had different winners, a joint record in the history of the race (1953, 1954)

– Fabio Aru (24 years and 323 days) became the third youngest Italian rider in pink in the past 10 years

– Last Friday, Alberto Contador lost the leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour for the first time in his career

– Fifth in stage 13, Eduard Grosu took Romania’s best ever result in a Grand Tour

– Vasil Kiryienka’s win in stage 13 marked the first ever time a Belarusian rider won an individual time trial in a Grand Tour

– 14 riders have abandoned during the second week of the race

– 12 teams are winless with six stages left to go: AG2R, Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, CCC Sprandi Polkowice, Etixx-Quick Step, FDJ, Giant-Alpecin, IAM, LottoNL-Jumbo, Nippo-Vini Fantini, Southeast, Tinkoff-Saxo and Trek Factory Racing

Rider of the week

He came, he saw, he conquered. Ok, maybe not yet, because the Giro d’Italia always is a hectic and crazy affair, but Alberto Contador is very close of winning the Trofeo Senza Fine for the second time in his career, after the 2008 edition, when he came at the start at the last minute and went on to take a hard fought victory. Although he crashed and lost time (as well as the pink jersey) in stage 13, the Spaniard returned at the top one day later in commanding fashion, after what can be described as a very impressive display of power in the individual time trial between Treviso and Valdobbiadene, where all his rivals where put in a striking distance and let to nurse their ego and thus change their objective, after seeing that Contador is out of reach at the moment.

Not only that the Tinkoff-Saxo rider has a great physical level, he is also rock solid when it comes to his confidence, which allows him to land one psychological blow at a time to his opponents. In that matter, he goes for bonifications at intermediate sprints and at the finish, or starts playing with them on the climbs, attacking before slowing the tempo and going at it again, thus reminding everyone of his 2011 form, when he won the Giro with an incredible ease, by more than six minutes (before being stripped of that victory).

It’s true that the hardest week of the race is yet to come – with Aprica, Cervinia and Sestriere on the menu – but what’s frightening for the likes of Fabio Aru and Astana is that Alberto Contador keeps getting better and stronger. On Madonna di Campiglio, although he said that he wants to win in honor of Marco Pantani, the 32-year-old didn’t feel like chasing when Mikel Landa attacked and preferred to keep his forces, but this won’t happen on the next summit finishes, as he wants to cap off what has been an impressive and dominant ride so far with a stage win.

As it goes at the moment, Contador will have no problem in taking the overall win in Milan, which will make him the main favorite for the upcoming Tour de France, even though Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana will be there. Then, later in the season, if he will be victorious also in the Grande Boucle, you can bet on the fact that he’ll line-up at the start of the Vuelta a España, where he’ll be looking for a memorable treble.

2015 Giro d’Italia – Stage 15 Preview

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What happened on stage 14

Vasil Kiryienka – a world bronze medalist of the discipline in the past – won the individual time trial between Treviso and Valdobbiadene and nabbed his third stage victory at the race, but the news of the day was Alberto Contador putting on a huge performance and getting the pink jersey back, after he lost it in the 13th stage. Thanks to his ride – one of the best of his career in an ITT – the 32-year-old has a commanding advantage in the overall classification over Fabio Aru, of almost two and a half minutes. Surprisingly, Costa Rica’s Andrey Amador is third, with Rigoberto Uran and Jurgen Van Den Broeck more than four minutes behind, while Richie Porte is out of contention, now that he is almost nine minutes adrift.

What comes now

On Sunday, the peloton will tackle a high mountain stage with a summit finish – Marostica-Madonna di Campiglio (165 kilometers). The route initially passes through Valdastico, clears the La Fricca KOM climb, and then runs down the long descent leading to Trento, where it takes in the first kilometres of the Monte Bondone climb. From here, the route then heads towards Sarche, Terme di Comano and Tione di Trento. With 40 kilometers remaining to the finish, the bunch will be confronted with the very challenging Passo Daone (8,4 kilometers) climb that features an average gradient above 9% and peaks reaching as high as 14% in the central sector. This is followed by a difficult descent, on a narrow mountain road, with some hairpin bends, and generally steep slopes up to Spiazzo.

The route starts to rise again, first with a deceptive false-flat drag up to Pinzolo, then with an average 6% up to the last three kilometers, after crossing the urban area of Madonna di Campiglio. Starting in Carisolo, the final climb has a length of 15,5 kilometers, with steady gradients of around 6,5% up to Madonna di Campiglio. The route runs across the urban area of the town (with a short setts-paved stretch); the highest slopes (12%) are found outside the town. The last two kilometers run at a 7% gradient on a well-paved asphalt road (with a 5,5-m width at the finish).

Is the most important altitude finish of the race so far, but despite of that, many are saying the GC men will not fight for the victory, opting to let the breakaway have a shot at glory. If this happens, then Darwin Atapuma, Stefano Pirazzi, Diego Rosa, Beñat Intxausti, Ilnur Zakarin, Franco Pellizotti and Carlos Betancur are very likely to feature, the Colombian rider of AG2R having an extra motivation, as he is in the hunt for the mountains classification, where he is currently sitting in third.

After putting such a large gap between him and the other contenders, Alberto Contador can play it safe and try a defensive approach, but if the chance arises, be sure that the Spaniard will go for a stage victory, which would be his first in the Giro d’Italia. On the other hand, Fabio Aru also wants a win and to reduce the advantage of Contador, so he’ll be very interested in sending Astana at the front to trim the peloton and launch him on the Madonna di Campiglio.

Once the individual time trial – which he finished in 55th place – was done and dusted, Richie Porte began weighting on the fact if he should continue the race or stop and go home to prepare for the Tour de France, where he’ll act as Chris Froome’s key lieutenant. Finally, Sky’s captain has decided to stay in the Corsa Rosa and now can try to get a stage win that could nurse his hurt ego after what was a horrible second week.

16 years ago, when the Giro d’Italia visited Madonna di Campiglio for the first time, it was the Marco Pantani Show, as the Mercatone Uno rider – winner of the Giro and Tour de France in 1998 – took his fourth stage at that year’s edition, after attacking 5,5 kilometers from the end. After putting more than a minut between him and the likes of Massimo Codol, Laurent Jalabert or Gilberto Simoni, Pantani – leader of the overall standings back then – said at the press conference that he “sensed a state of grace” during the stage. Unfortunately for him, it was all over a day later, once he was expelled of the race due to the high hematocrit level, of 51,9%.

 

Mihkel Räim: “My goal is to turn pro in 2016”

Mihkel Räim

How many of you have heard of Jaan Kirsipuu? Most likely, many, as the former rider from Tartu was an important figure of the peloton more than 15 years ago, when he was fighting at the Tour de France sprints, scoring along the way four stage wins, while riding for AG2R and Crédit Agricole. But how many of you have heard of Mihkel Räim? At the moment, not many can say that, but be sure you keep his name in mind, as the 21-year-old is flying this season and the results he scored so far are helping him build a nice CV that ultimately will take the Estonian cyclist to the pro ranks.

Although young, Mihkel Räim – who rides for Team Pro Immo Nicolas Roux – doesn’t lack the confidence which is so important in such a tough sport, where everyone is trying hard to make a name for themselves. On top of that, he’s hard-working and displays each time a very aggressive style (which is a trademark of Baltic cyclists), and that has helped him get not only some impressive results, but also many plaudits. Recently, Mihkel accepted to sit down and talk for Cafe Roubaix about his first years in cycling, his 2015 season, the most interesting and funniest situations encountered so far and his goals for the future.

– Mihkel, how did you start cycling?

Actually, it’s not surprising that I discovered cycling. My father is an ex-rider, he owns a bike store, and he is DS and President of a cycling team (Saaremaa Jalgrattaklubi Viiking) in my home island. He organized one of the most popular cycling races in Estonia, named Saaremaa velotuur for over 20 years. All my uncles have been cyclists at different levels, so it was pretty obvious that I have to try it.

– At that time, did you have an idol or a rider you looked up to?

I had plenty of idols, depending on the day. Some days, my biggest idols were my uncles. Some days, when I watched races on TV, it was Marco Pantani. In the flat races I was always supporting the Estonian cyclists, like Jaan Kirsipuu and Lauri Aus.

– How were your first years, what do you remember from back then?

When it all started, I only raced the local events. When I began for good, I didn’t win races, I was just in the top 6 sometimes. When I got a better bike, I started to win local races, and one of my favorite memories is when my father helped me make custom cycling clothes. It was a really nice day, he made the custom ones, because cycling in Estonia wasn’t very popular back then and there weren’t proper racing clothes for me in the bike stores. Afterwards, when I went to national races with my dad, I finished in top 10, but the victories came a couple of years later.

– How popular is cycling in Estonia nowadays? Did something change?

It has really changed a lot. Cycling is very popular in Estonia and it keeps getting bigger and bigger and I am really proud of that. For example, our national cycling calendar is packed with races, so the riders have to choose if they want to do MTB race or road race. There are even week-ends when you have to choose from two road races. Honestly, I am really looking forward to the development of cycling in Estonia.

– How would you describe yourself as a rider? What are your strong points and what would you still like to improve?

That’s a tricky question. First word what comes to my mind is aggressive: that means I really like to attack and make others suffer. Also I am pretty good in the sprint, I have the sprinter’s speed, but sometimes I am not too crazy to fight with the elbows before the sprint. Breakaway sprints are for me, that’s my cup of tea. This year I made some important progress on the climbs, so I can get over some climbs now and this is very big for me. In the past, when the road began to rise, I was immediately suffering at the bottom of the ascent and then was dropped in a flash. This year, in France, there have been situations when I have made even some climbers suffer and that’s cool. If I can go over the climbs with skinny guys, then it’s pretty easy to sprint with them. My weakness is the time trial and of course I believe I can be better on the climbs also. I think I am psychologically strong, but I have also cracked in the past. It happens.

– After a couple of years in your home country, you came to France. How did this happen?

For an Estonian cyclist is a natural step to move to France after he graduates school. There are a lot of guys who did it before me and I am pretty sure that in the future there will be plenty of guys who will follow in my footsteps. After having strong results in the 2012 Juniors Paris-Roubaix, where I finished in 12th place, a local French cycling enthusiast, Jean-Claude Comby, contacted with me and made me an offer to come to France. He came with a nice racing schedule, gave me place to live and it was all perfect for me to prepare for the World Championships. So I did some good races in France, won two of these and got several podiums. Then I signed with a French DN1 team CR4C Roanne. It was my first foreign team.

– Some riders have a cultural shock when changing countries. Was it the same with you? 

I think I have adapted well. Of course, there were some funny things that happened along the way. For example, shaking hands with teammates in the morning and when you leave. It was weird, we do it sometimes in Estonia, but mainly we just say “Ciao” and wave hands. The second thing was eating white bread. Oh, my God, how many French people eat that, and in considerable amounts. Third thing was kissing the ladies on the cheek when saying hello. There were also the never ending dinners, almost 5-hour long, which was softly brutal. I am sure there were some more things, but these are the ones I remember very well.

– Of the many wins you got so far, which was the most important for you?

It’s a tough question, because every victory is special. Tour de la Region de Lodz stage victories and win in GC are special, as those were my first successful international races. Winning a stage in the Baltic Chain Tour was also important, because it was my first – and I hope not the last – pro win. Stage victory in the Saaremaa velotuur was psychologically important, because my father and mother have organized this race for many, many years and it was like gift to them. But I really hope that best victories will come in the future.

– How about the most interesting or unusual situation you encountered in a race? 

I think it happened this year in Flanders, when I ran up the cobblestone climb of Koppenberg. When I started to ride it, I thought “damn, this is not real”. Running it in a cycling race it was fun, but because of that I lost a top three placing there. Looking behind, I’m sure that I had the legs to win Flanders.

– This year, while riding for Team Pro Immo Nicolas Roux, you already scored a victory, three podiums and finished 6th in Flanders. Was this first part of the season above your expectations?

I am surprised by my strong first half of the season, but on the other hand I worked really hard in the winter, so I think I deserved it. Being 6th in the Tour of Flanders was like the cherry on the cake. Inside my heart I believed I can have results like that, but there were still some question marks. When I raced Flanders for the first time, in 2012, I knew that this can be a race where I can do well.

– What’s next for you?

I recently finished the Tour d’Azerbaijdan, and although I didn’t got any super results there, I saw that I can ride well at this level and opponents didn’t underestimate me. Now I have some Elite races in France, then the Tour of Estonia (UCI 2.1), the European Games in Baku and the National Championships. Of course, there are also the European Championships, which will be held in Estonia, at Tartu. My goal in these races is to get strong results and I hope that some pro team will see me and I can sign a good contract.

– So your big goal is to join the pro ranks soon.

I was pro once before, in 2013, with Amore&Vita, and that year was really difficult for me, both from a physically and psychologically point of view. I really hope it’s going to happen at the end of this year. If not, then I will try again next year. If I can’t do it then, I don’t really know what to say, maybe I’ll have to stop cycling. It depends on what conditions I can ride in the French amateur level and what will my motivation be. But one thing that’s certain is that I am doing all that I can in order to earn this desired pro contract.

2015 Giro d’Italia – Stage 14 Preview

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What happened on stage 13

There’s no such thing as a quiet day at the Giro. Those who still believed that got to see the truth on Friday, when both Alberto Contador and Richie Porte crashed with just 200 meters before going in the last three kilometers – where they would have been safe – and so lost time to Fabio Aru and Rigoberto Uran, the only important GC riders who were left unscathed. As a result, the Italian took the pink jersey and now has a 19-second advantage over Contador, while Porte is more than five minutes behind and looks like he is out of the contention for the trophy. At the finish in Lido di Jesolo, Lampre-Merida’s Sacha Modolo defeated Giacomo Nizzolo and scored his first victory in a Grand Tour, at the age of 27.

What comes now

Stage 14 brings the sole individual time trial of the 98th edition, between Trevio and Valdobbiadene (54,2 kilometers). This long and challenging ITT is raced against the background of the Prosecco vineyards. The stage can be clearly divided into two halves. The first 30 kilometers, from Treviso to Conegliano, run along level, wide and straight roads, with a few roundabouts in between. The following 29,4 kilometers are indeed challenging, with a climb of approximately three kilometers at a 7% gradient just past Conegliano, and an ever-undulating route, winding its way across the hills on narrow yet excellently surfaced roads.

The last three kilometers of the stage run downhill up to 400 meters from the end. A challenging left-hand bend 750 meters before the finish is followed by a right-hand bend with 500 meters to go (still in the downhill sector). Just 400 meters before the finish, the last bend leads into the home straight of Valdobbiadene: 400 meters with a 5,5% gradient, on 6-m wide asphalt road.

After a difficult first week, Rigoberto Uran will be fired up to come back into contention and do a great time trial, that will bring him not only the win, but also a place on the podium. National champion of Colombia in the ITT, Uran should make a great race – if he feels good – and create some big gaps between him and the pink jersey rivals. For Richie Porte, it’s going to be a tough task to be on the top spot at Milan, but one thing certain is that the 30-year-old Aussie will try to bring a smile on his face with a strong ride and a victory in stage 14, at the end of which he can partially relaunch his Giro d’Italia bid.

On Friday, Alberto Contador lost the leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour for the first time in his career, after being involved in the same crash as Porte. The Spaniard hit his left shoulder, but it isn’t anything serious, so this means he will be fine and very motivated at the start of the time trial, in order to regain the top position, which is held by Fabio Aru. The Italian isn’t known for his skills against the clock, but he worked hard on it during the past winner, so he can surprise everyone with a ride that can help him limit the damages.

When it comes to other cyclists who can fight for the win or the podium, Ilnur Zakarin – a former ITT national chamion – Dario Cataldo, Luke Durbridge Vasil Kiryienka and Ion Izagirre are the men to watch out for.

Valdobbiadene has hosted a Corsa Rosa stage only once, in 2009, when Alessandro Petacchi scored one of his last victories in the race, after finishing ahead of Tyler Farrar and Francesco Gavazzi.

2015 Giro d’Italia – Stage 13 Preview

T13_Jesolo_alt

What happened on stage 12

BMC did an excellent work in the last 20 kilometers and Philippe Gilbert made sure he won’t let his teammates down, by finishing first and taking his 8th career win in a Grand Tour, and Belgium’s 155th in the Giro d’Italia. Once again, Fabio Aru didn’t feel good and Alberto Contador noticed that, so he accelerated on the final 500 meters, which helped him increase his lead in the general classification. Thanks to his impetuous action, Contador now has 17 seconds over Fabio Aru, who said after the stage that he couldn’t hold wheels because of hypoglycemia, reassuring everyone this situation won’t repeat in the following days.

What comes now

Stage 13, between Montecchio Maggiore and Lido di Jesolo (147 kilometers), is one of the shortest of the 2015 Giro d’Italia, and it is also entirely flat. The route runs across the Venetian Plain, from Montecchio Maggiore through Vicenza, Piazzola sul Brenta, Mirano, Mestre and Musile di Piave to Eraclea, where the final 20 kilometers begin. Watch out for a number of obstacles, such as roundabouts, speed bumps and traffic dividers, while crossing urban areas.

The stage has a fast-running finale on level roads. After crossing the Piave River in Eraclea, the route first hits the city of Jesolo and then reaches Cortellazzo via the road that rolls along the riverbank. Here in Cortellazzo, the road turns right onto a bridge with narrowed roadway. The stage course then takes wide, flat and straight roads, “sprinkled” with roundabouts with different diameters, that lead to the finish line. The home straight is approximately 500-m long, on 7-m wide asphalt road.

André Greipel is the favorite, considering he is the most powerful sprinter on such a finish, but also that he has Greg Henderson in the team, who can provide an excellent lead-out, just as he did in Castiglione della Pescaia. On the other hand, Sacha Modolo can be advantaged by the technical finale, which can help him overcome Greipel and get his first Grand Tour win. Giacomo Nizzolo has a strong train, but he needs to be well-positioned, which happens rarely with him in the last hectic meters of a stage. Other candidates for the victory are Luka Mezgec, Moreno Hofland and Elia Viviani, who will try to take back the red jersey, which is now sitting on Nicola Boem’s shoulders.

Lido di Jesolo will host a Giro d’Italia finish for the fifth time. At the previous occasions, only home riders got the win: Rino Benedetti (1955), Dino Zandegu (1970), Paolo Cimini (1987) and Alessio Di Basco (1988).

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