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Archive for the month “septembrie, 2015”

Conclusions after the 2015 World Championships

Peter Sagan put to rest his inner demons and managed to land a huge victory for which he worked hard, especially in the second half of the season. After crashing out of the Vuelta a España, the 25-year-old Slovak rider of Tinkoff-Saxo traveled to the US and did a recon of the course, as he wanted to make sure of knowing every meter of the Richmond circuit. Then, in the day of the race, he decided to go all in on one card: that of an attack on the penultimate climb of the final lap, which helped him get clear and take the first huge victory of a career which should see many moments like the one in Richmond, especially as Sagan broke the duck and looks to be more mature in the way he thinks and acts during a race.

Michael Matthews was tipped for greatness on the Richmond course, especially as his development throughout the 2015 season was really outstanding. Australia did a perfect race on Sunday, that is until the last kilometer, when Simon Gerrans decided to work for himself and sprint for a medal, instead of chasing Peter Sagan and launching his teammate. It’s difficult to say if Matthews could have won the gold medal in case his countryman would have worked for him, but what happened in the Aussie team will go down in history as one of the many controversies that have emerged at the Worlds. As for Michael Matthews, although he has a bitter taste after Richmond, he should look to the future with optimism, because he’s jsut 25-years-old and other opportunities will surely come and he’ll have the chance of becoming the first U23 world champion to conquer the title in the pro ranks.

Italy entered the road race as one of the most solid, balanced and dangerous teams, despite not having a rider perfectly suited to this type of course. Vincenzo Nibali was in great form and everyone’s money was on an attack of the triple Grand Tour winner, which never came. Diego Ulissi was another name which sprang into mind for a late surge, but it also didn’t happen, the Lampre-Merida cyclist being almost invisible. Actually, the only cyclist of the “Squadra Azzurra” to make himself noticed was Elia Viviani, who followed a dangerous move in the closing stages of the race, without any luck, as his group was caught. Eventually, Giacomo Nizzolo came 18th, a disappointing outcome for Davide Cassani’s team, who needs to wait for at least one more year in order to fight for the gold medal.

The individual time trial provided one of the biggest surprises ever seen at the World Championships. Vasil Kiryienka, already winner of the similar race at the European Games in Baku, more than three months ago, put on a very strong ride in Richmond, which netted him the most important victory of his career. Bronze in Valkenburg, the 34-year-old Belarusian now took gold ahead of an Adriano Malori who proved that he has fully developed and can fight for the rainbow jersey at the future editions, after bringing Italy just its second medal in the discipline at the Worlds (first one came in 1994, when the time trial was introduced). Jerome Coppel rounded out the podium last Wednesday, showing some of the potential that made his countrymen predict a nice career when the French turned pro, back in 2008.

A first year neo-pro, Kevin Ledanois outwitted the pack with an attack on the penultimate climb and surged clear to become just the third U23 World Champion from France, in what was one of the most thrilling finishes the event has ever seen. Showing exceptional grit and determination, the 22-year-old rider of Bretagne-Séché attacked on the hardest part of the course and seized the moment, going all the way and getting a win that will redefine his career up until this point, but which will also add up to the expectations for 2016. Next year, Ledanois is going to be watched much closely and with a huge interest to find out if he can confirm, especially as his contract with the Pro Continental outfit will be up at the end of the season.

One year ago, Mads Würtz Schmitz wasn’t experiencing the best period of his career: the talented Danish rider was hit by crashes and injuries, and was overlooked by the national team for the Ponferrada World Championships, before taking a step back by signing with Continental team ColoQuick, as his team at that time – Cult Energy – decided not to extend his contract, just as it was preparing to apply for a Pro Continental licence. Despite this, Wurtz Schmidt didn’t give up, continued to work hard in order to return stronger, and eventually the results came in the second half of this season: U23 time trial national champion, winner of the ITT stage in the Denmark Rundt and of the world title. Now, after becoming just the fourth rider in history to take the rainbow jersey in both Junior and U23 races, Mads Würtz Schmitz can patiently wait for the World Tour teams to give him a call. More than sure, he’ll be a busy man in the next couple of weeks.

Just 19-years-old, Lennard Kämna looks to be the most fascinating prospect of the 1996 generation, his impressive palmares standing as testimony: Junior and U23 time trial national champion, Junior ITT world champion, Bundesliga and German Hill Climb champion, stage winner in Trofeo Karlsberg and the Giro della Valle d’Aosta. In Richmond, riding his first ever U23 World Championships, he came third in the individual time trial – just 21 seconds adrift – and tenth in the road race, two results which underlined his huge stamina, fantastic versatility and unlimited potential (for both time trials and stage races), attributes which are good omens for a great future. An extra reason to follow him closely in 2016, when he’ll turn pro with Cult Energy-Stölting Group.

Rider of the week

A big win has eluded Peter Sagan for a couple of years now. Ever since turning pro, he was destined to greatness, but he seemed to miss on the big opportunities, as was the case in Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders or Tour de France stages. He had all that it took to land a memorable victory, but for some reason the pieces of the puzzle never came together, and this situation led to seeds of doubt being planted in his mind and developing into a huge frustration which eventually put its tool for some time on his ride and results.

Besides that and the criticism coming from his team’s owner, people were starting to question the Slovak’s ability to go all the way in a 250 km-long race and began to dub him the “Perennial Second”. Things didn’t change after the first half of the season, inspite of his Tour of California win, the main reason being his near misses in the same Spring Classics and the Grande Boucle, but a more than encouraging sign came in the Vuelta a España, where he scored a stage victory and showed to be at a very high level, before being taken out by a TV moto.

Coming into the World Championships, Peter Sagan was seen as one of the biggest contenders for the rainbow jersey on the technical and inner-city road circuit of Richmond, despite the fact he had only two teammates and that his best result in the race was a sixth place, at the 2013 edition, in Firenze. But this time, in contrast to other events in which he started as a top favourite, he had a different approach, more commonly known in the peloton as the “ninja strategy”: the 25-year-old stayed “invisible” all day long, but always in the top 20, without chasing the attacks of others and spending his energy in futile actions.

Then, in the final lap, he pounced on the penultimate ascent of the day – the cobbled 185 m-long 23rd Street – and got clear from the pack, leaving behind the only two riders who tried to join him, Edvald Boasson Hagen (the 2012 runner-up) and Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet. Pushing hard in the closing kilometers and never looking back, Sagan managed to increase his lead and hold off the frantic chase, before enjoying his biggest triumph up-to-date, one that he was waiting for too long and which will give a whole new dimension to his career.

After storming to this impressive and spectacular win, which proved he is more mature and down to earth than he was in his first seasons as a pro, Peter Sagan will now have to deal with the huge pressure the world title will bring next year, when he is going to try and earn his place in the elite club of world champions who haven’t been touched by the “rainbow jersey curse”.

2015 World Championships – Road Race Stats

Richmond RR

Historical stats

– Alfredo Binda, Rik Van Steenbergen, Eddy Merckx and Oscar Freire are the riders with the most victories, three

– Rik Van Steenbergen holds the record for the largest time span between the first and the last win: 8 years

– Belgium leads in the nations standings, with 26 victories

– Karel Kaers is the youngest ever winner (20 years in 1934), while Joop Zoetemelk is the oldest one (38 years in 1985)

– Copenhagen has hosted the event five times, a record for the World Championships

– Italy is the country which held the most editions, 12

– Up until this point, 15 countries have had at least one world champion: Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, U.S.A.

– Only six countries from outside of Europe have hosted the event: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Japan, U.S.A. and Venezuela

– Cadel Evans is the sole rider from the southern emisphere to take the victory (2009)

– Five cyclists have successfully defended their title: Georges Ronsse, Rik Van Steenbergen, Rik van Looy, Gianni Bugno and Paolo Bettini

– Alejandro Valverde has the most medals, six: two silver and four bronze ones

– In 1931, there wasn’t a road race, but a 172 km-long individual time trial won by Italy’s Learco Guerra

– Biggest ever winning margin was recorded at the 1928 edition, in Budapest, when Georges Ronsse came home 19:43 ahead of Herbert Nebe

– Longest edition (297,5 kilometers) took place in Copenhagen, in 1937, and was won by Eloi Meulenberg; Denmark’s capital played host also to the shortest one, in 1931 (172 kilometers)

– On 12 occasions, the world title was won by a rider of the host nation

– No U23 world champion has ever managed to take the title in the elite race

2015 stats

– The World Championships are hosted by the US for the second time in history, 29 years after Moreno Argentin’s triumph

– The course is 261,4 kilometers-long and has an elevation gain of more than 1600 meters

– Each of the 16 laps includes three climbs: Libby Hill (215 meters, 8% average, 9% maximum), 23rd Street (185 meters, 12% average, 13% maximum) and Governor Street (295 meters, 7% average, 8% maximum)

– 190 riders representing 44 countries will be at the start line in Richmond

– Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert, Rui Costa and Michal Kwiatkowski are the former winners of the rainbow jersey who will line-up for the race

– Etixx-Quick Step is the trade team with the most riders in the event: 13

– Tiesj Benoot (21 years) is the youngest cyclist in the race, while Gonzalo Garrido (42 years) is the oldest one

Tiesj Benoot, guest of the week at Cafe Roubaix

A first year neo-pro and a U23 Lotto-Belisol alumni, Tiesj Benoot rode to an impressive fifth place at the 99th running of the Tour of Flanders, a performance no one would have anticipated before the start. Not only he became the youngest cyclist in the past 42 years to finish in the top 10 of De Ronde, but he impressed with his cunning and aggressive approach in the closing kilometers of the Monument, after the Taaianberg, making all the Belgian media dub him as the country’s next superstar in the Classics.

An economics student at the University of Ghent, the 21-year-old rider of Lotto-Soudal didn’t sleep on his laurels and continued to land some strong results in the following months, when he came second in the Tour of Belgium, ninth at the National Championships, eight in the Eneco Tour, and, more recently, fifth in the Grand Prix de Montreal, his last race before going to the United States. Here, Tiesj Benoot made his debut at the World Championships, racing with Lotto-Soudal in the team time trial, but his most important appointment will come this Sunday, when he’ll line-up for the 259,2 km-long road race.

Belgium has a very strong team for this year’s Worlds – arguably, the strongest in the race – and Tiesj hopes to help his colleagues land the victory in Richmond and thus take the country’s first rainbow jersey in three years. Just a couple of days before the event, Tiesj Benoot – which was one of the season’s revelation – sat down and talked for Cafe Roubaix about his 2015 results, the Worlds and the plans he has for 2016.

– Tiesj, what were your expectations going into this season?

My primary goals were to try to do a good job for the team in the bigger races and get some experience there. Besides that, I was aiming for some results in the smaller .1 races.

– Your breakthrough result came at the Tour of Flanders. What meant for you to finish fifth?

The Tour of Flanders was the race I dreamed about as a child and it still is my favourite Classic, so finishing fifth as a neo-pro was really something unbelievable for me. If someone would have told me in the winter that I’ll get selected for Flanders, it would have already considered it a big achievement.

– Did you feel that the result brought not only a bigger interest from the media and fans, but also extra pressure, as now people are talking more and more about you as a future Classics star?

Maybe the pressure is a bit bigger, but at this moment I think I can handle it and in the same time remain calm under the pressure. Also, it’s very important that the team gives me the chance to grow and develop without any stress.

– One week after Flanders, you line-up for Paris-Roubaix. How did you find the race?

I liked it as well, but I had two punctures on bad moments and that was it, the race was over for me from that point.

– Looking behind, how would you rate your Spring Campaign?

Overall, it was a really big step forward. I feel I have improved a lot. My engine got bigger and I am performing better on shorter efforts.

– Considering your strong string of results on various types of races and terrain, did this season help you make a clearer picture on what races you can target in the future?

After this year, I think I can maybe try to do also the Ardennes Classics in the following seasons and see how I perform there, but truth being told, at this moment I still don’t know which races suit me best.

– Speaking of the future – even tough it’s still early – what are your plans and goals for 2016? Are you thinking about making your Grand Tour debut?

My big goal for next year will be to confirm the results I had in 2015. Going into a Grand Tour is something I will talk about with my trainer and my team in the winter.

– Until then, you’ll race the World Championships in just a couple of days. What do you think of the course?

In my opinion, it’s a nice and demanding parcours, but the weather will have a decisive role. If there’s bad weather I think we won’t have a bunch sprint, but if there’s nice weather on Sunday, then there will be a big chance for a bunch sprint.

2016 World Tour Calendar

19.01-24.01 – Tour Down Under

06.03-13.03 – Paris-Nice

09.03-15.03 – Tirreno-Adriatico

19.03 – Milan-Sanremo

21.03-27.03 – Volta a Catalunya

25.03 – E3 Harelbeke

27.03 – Gent-Wevelgem

03.04 – Ronde van Vlaanderen

04.04-9.04 – Vuelta al Pais Vasco

10.04 – Paris-Roubaix

17.04 – Amstel Gold Race

20.04 – Flèche Wallonne

24.04 – Liège-Bastogne-Liège

26.04.-01.05 – Tour de Romandie

06.05-29.05 – Giro d’Italia

05.06-12.06 – Critérium du Dauphiné

11.06-19.06 – Tour de Suisse

02.07-24.07 – Tour de France

12.07-18.07 – Tour de Pologne

30.07 – Clasica San Sebastian

20.08-11.09 – Vuelta a España

21.09 – Cyclassics Hamburg

28.08 – Bretagne Classic – Ouest-France

09.09 – Grand Prix de Quebec

11.09 – Grand Prix de Montreal

19.09-25.09 – Eneco Tour

01.10 – Il Lombardia

2015 World Championships – ITT Stats

Richmond ITT

Historical stats

– Fabian Cancellara holds the record for the most wins, four

– The same Fabian Cancellara has the most medals: besides the four gold ones, he also got three bronze medals

– Germany leads the nations standings, with six victories

– Youngest ever champion is Michael Rogers, who was 23 at the time he first won the title (2003)

– Bradley Wiggins is the oldest ever champion: 34 years in 2014

– Most editions of the event took part in Italy, who got to host the ITT World Championships five times

– Only four countries from outside of Europe got to host the race: Australia, Canada, Colombia and the United States

– Eight nations won gold at least once: Australia, Colombia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine

– Only non-European riders to land the victory are Santiago Botero (Colombia) and Michael Rogers (Australia)

– Fabian Cancellara, Tony Martin and Michael Rogers are the cyclists who have successfully defended their title

– Fabian Cancellara and Alex Zülle are the only riders who have won the gold medal on home turf

– Largest ever winning margin was recorded in 2009 – 1:27 between Fabian Cancellara and Gustav Larsson

– Smallest ever gap was in 2003, when Michael Rogers and Uwe Peschel were separated by half a second

– Shortest race took place in Lisbon, 14 years ago: 38,7 kilometers

– Longest edition was in Florence, in 2013: 57,9 kilometers

2015 stats

– The course is 53 kilometers-long and has a total altitude gain of 245 meters

– 41 countries will have at least one cyclists in Richmond

– Of these riders, six have scored a World Tour win in a time trial this season: Marcin Bialoblocki, Rohan Dennis, Tom Dumoulin, Vasil Kiryienka, Adriano Malori and Tony Martin

– Australia has the most cyclists in the race – three – as a result of Michael Hepburn’s victory at the Oceania Championships

– Astana is the team which has the most riders at this edition, six

– Tony Martin is the only former winner of the rainbow jersey to be at the start

– If the German comes first, then he’ll equal Fabian Cancellara’s record of four victories

– Stefan Küng (21 years) is the youngest cyclist in the race, while Gustav Larsson (35 years) is the oldest one

Rider of the week

Expelled from the Vuelta a España after being towed by Astana’s technical car on stage two and having to stay outside of races by the UCI rules which prohibit riders eliminated from a stage race from competing in any other event until that race is over, Vincenzo Nibali was under huge pressure since then, with criticism coming from all over the place. On top of that, the Italian was overshadowed by Fabio Aru’s triumph in the last Grand Tour of the season, which made many say that the young Sardinian is now going to be Astana’s main rider for the stage races, as he’s six years younger than the “Shark of Messina” and still has room to improve.

Ironically, his countryman’s victory has helped Nibali escape the media pressure in the past weeks and get outside the spotlight, as he began his preparation towards the World Championships in Richmond. Eager to prove he still has something to say in the season’s finale, the 30-year-old trained hard in Sicily and this helped him line-up in an incredible form for the series of one-day races which usually takes place in the second half of September, where he eventually bounced back from his Vuelta disappointment.

Second in Coppa Agostoni, first in Coppa Bernocchi, third in Memorial Marco Pantani and fifth in Gran Premio Industria e Commercio di Prato were the results Nibali scored in the span of just five days, each time the three-time Grand Tour winner attacking from far, digging deep and putting on an impressive display which not only has helped him get the confidence he was missing, but also recommends him now as the prime pick for the 109th edition of the Giro di Lombardia.

However, before going to the “Race of the Falling Leaves”, Vincenzo Nibali will race the World Championships; it’s true that the Richmond course isn’t as selective as he would have liked, but Italy – which comes at the start with a very strong team – can make the race hard, in order to prepare an attack of his leader, preferably before the last lap. If this happens and Nibali has the form showed thus far, there’s a fair chance the gold medal will go to the “Squadra Azzurra” for the first time in seven years.

World Tour standings after the Grand Prix de Montreal


1 – Alejandro Valverde – 615 points

2 – Joaquim Rodriguez – 474 points

3 – Nairo Quintana – 457 points

4 – Alexander Kristoff – 453 points

5 – Fabio Aru – 448 points

6 – Chris Froome – 430 points

7 – Alberto Contador – 407 points

8 – Rui Costa – 324 points

9 – Greg Van Avermaet – 324 points

10 – Richie Porte – 314 points


1 – Katusha – 1526 points

2 – Movistar – 1419 – points

3 – Sky – 1254 points

4 – Etixx-QuickStep – 988 points

5 – Tinkoff-Saxo – 925 points

6 – Astana – 916 points

7 – BMC – 810 points

8 – Lotto-Soudal – 702 points

9 – Orica-GreenEdge – 695 points

10 – Giant-Alpecin – 653 points


1 – Spain – 1833 points

2 – Colombia – 1069 points

3 – Great Britain – 1041 points

4 – Italy – 1006 points

5 – Belgium – 906 points

6 – Netherlands – 848 points

7 – France – 781 points

8 – Australia – 777 points

9 – Germany – 587 points

10 – Norway – 453 points

Best Grand Tour of the 2015 season

2015 Vuelta a España – Third week stats

– Fabio Aru is the sixth Italian to win the race, following Angelo Conterno, Felice Gimondi, Giovanni Battaglin, Mauro Giovannetti and Vincenzo Nibali

– He is the youngest champion (25 years and 72 days) since Melchor Mauri (25 years and 41 days), in 1991

– Aru – the first cyclist from Sardinia to be victorious in a Grand Tour – will get 112 000 € for winning the race

– This is Italy’s 84th triumph in a Grand Tour, way ahead of France’s 51

– For Giuseppe Martinelli, Fabio Aru’s sports director, the Vuelta is his 8th Grand Tour victory

– Five riders got to don the red jersey: Peter Velits, Esteban Chaves, Tom Dumoulin, Fabio Aru and Joaquim Rodriguez

– Rafal Majka became the first Polish cyclist to finish on the podium of the race

– Tom Dumoulin is the seventh rider to take the leader’s jersey three times at a single edition of the Vuelta a España

– Ruben Plaza became the 12th Spanish cyclist to win a Tour de France and a Vuelta a España stage in the same season

– His victory in Cercedilla came after a 117 km-long solo breakaway

– Louis Meintjes is the first African rider to finish in the top 10 of a Grand Tour

– For the first time since the 2000 Tour de France, Netherlands has won four stages in a Grand Tour

– The individual time trial in Burgos was the 155th in the history of the race

– Adam Hansen is now the rider with the most completed Grand Tours in a row: 13

– AG2R’s Alexis Gougeard claimed his maiden Grand Tour win, in Avila

– Alejandro Valverde finished seventh, his worst general classification in the nine editions he has completed

– John Degenkolb became the active rider with the most stage wins in the Vuelta, 10

– A total of 12 teams have scored a victory in the three-week race: AG2R, Astana, BMC, Giant-Alpecin, Katusha, Lampre-Merida, LottoNL-Jumbo, Movistar, Orica-GreenEdge, Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo and Trek Factory Racing

– Giant-Alpecin, Orica-GreenEdge and Trek Factory Racing are the teams who leave Madrid with the most stage victories: three

– Tom Dumoulin was named the most aggressive rider of the race

– Nine cyclists have abandoned during the final week of the Vuelta

– Eight of the 19 road stages were won from a breakaway

– Caja Rural is the squad with the most combativity awards, six

– Average speed of the race during these three weeks was of 40,19 km/h

– No Pro Continental team got to land a stage victory

– The end of the Vuelta a España marked Europcar’s 1152nd day in a row without a Grand Tour win

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