Endurance: Cycling

Five key stages in 2015 Tour de France

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
Lars BoomAP Photo/Bernard PaponCobbled sections played a big role in this year's Tour de France and will do the same in 2015.
PARIS (AFP) -- Following the announcement of the 2015 Tour de France route in Paris earlier this week, a look at five key stages where the race will be won or lost next summer.

Stage 2: Utrecht to Zeeland, 166km
This is one of two stages where the weather could play a crucial and decisive role in determining the outcome not just of the stage but the whole Tour. Along with the sixth stage from Abbeville to Le Havre, in which there will be 100km of racing along the cliffs of Normandy, this stage, which takes in the Zeeland Delta in the Netherlands, is at severe risk of high winds.

High winds create the possibility for splits in the peloton that can quickly grow into gaps that count minutes rather than seconds. The favorites will be on high alert.

Stage 4: Seraing to Cambrai, 221km
Tour director Christian Prudhomme likes early stages that animate the course rather than simply ending in a bunch sprint, and this is one such stage with its seven cobbled sections totaling 13.3km.

Back in July, we saw what cobbles can do on a stage as Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) laid down a dominant marker, taking more than two minutes out of all his major overall rivals after a brilliant ride on the cobbles.

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Evelyn Stevens Harry How/Getty ImagesEvelyn Stevens is proving how much women riders can handle, and her team is innovating financially.
Evelyn Stevens can’t enter a three-week-long bike race like the celebrated Tour de France, which finishes up in Paris on Sunday. That choice has been made for her by cycling’s international governing body, the UCI, which limits women’s multiday or stage races to less than half that duration.

This is not something that sits well with many top women around the world, including Stevens, who gave up an investment banking career on Wall Street seven years ago to become a professional cyclist. Her own stock gained value quickly. Stevens has won two national time trial titles, a world silver medal in the time trial, several stage races and the Fleche-Wallonne one-day classic.

She didn’t know how her body and mind would react to a longer event, but she heard it might help her endurance in the long run -- that’s what the guys say -- and she chafed at the idea that she couldn’t test her limits.

So Stevens organized her own Grand Tour, the longest, hardest stretch she could string together on the calendar: Back-to-back races in Europe that totaled 17 straight days and 959 miles of racing.

She wobbled in the first one, by her own high standards. She won the second. She feels different, more impervious to mental and physical exhaustion. And she thinks she made a statement more emphatic than any written manifesto.

"The point of it is, the female body, we can race Grand Tour lengths," Stevens said from her home base in the Bay Area. "We’re not going to get weaker throughout it.

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American Horner in line for Tour spot

June, 23, 2014
Jun 23
Chris Horner AP Photo/Paulo DuarteDefending Vuelta a Espana champion Chris Horner appears set to ride the 2014 Tour de France.
Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) is all but certain to race the Tour de France next month despite a harrowing crash that knocked him out of the Giro d'Italia.

Lampre general manager Brent Copeland confirmed to VeloNews that Horner, 42, is among 11 riders on the team’s long list to make the Tour Nine, but suggested the team is already planning on making Horner one of its protected GC riders.

“For the Tour, I personally think he’ll be in good condition, and he’s certainly convinced he’ll be in good condition, so that’s why he’s on the list,” Copeland told VeloNews by telephone. “We have 11 riders, so that means we have to take two riders off, but the idea now is go to the Tour with Rui Costa and Chris as the GC leaders, and Sacha Modolo for the sprints.”

Horner returned to racing last week in the opening prologue at the four-day Tour of Slovenia. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) won the 8.8-kilometer test against the clock, while Horner didn’t take any risks and came in 43 seconds behind to finish 68th.

Copeland said Horner’s quick return from a potentially devastating training crash in April is a testament to his tremendous recovery skills and determination to race.

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Armstrong testifies in SCA bonus case

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
Lance ArmstrongAP Images/Harpo StudiosMillions of dollars are at stake in the ongoing lawsuit against Lance Armstrong.
LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Lance Armstrong gave sworn testimony Thursday as part of a Texas firm’s effort to recoup millions of dollars it paid the disgraced American for what he later admitted were drug-fueled Tour de France victories.

Jeffrey Dorough, general counsel for Dallas-based SCA Promotions, told AFP that Armstrong had given a sworn deposition in the case in Austin, Texas, although he said a protective order had been issued that prevented him from discussing what the testimony was.

Armstrong’s attorney, Tim Herman, also declined when asked for comment by USA Today.

Armstrong has fought to block SCA’s bid to recover $12 million in costs and bonuses it paid him before his spectacular fall from grace.

He had no choice but to give the testimony, though, after the Texas State Supreme Court denied his motion for temporary relief in the case last month. Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping and handed a lifetime ban from the sport, eventually admitting last year that all seven triumphs were fueled by banned performance-enhancing drugs.

SCA withheld a $5 million bonus it was scheduled to pay after Armstrong’s sixth Tour de France win in 2004 because of doping allegations then circulating in Europe. Armstrong took SCA to court and won the case in arbitration.

But since his ban and admission of doping SCA has sought to recoup the money from Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service cycling team’s parent company, Tailwind Sports, along with legal fees and interest.

Tillotson has said that Armstrong’s false testimony was too long ago for him to face perjury charges under the statute of limitations, but he said SCA Promotions wants Armstrong sanctioned for his lies by the same arbitration panel that handled the previous case.

“Our position is simple,” Tillotson told USA Today on May 30. “No one should be able to relentlessly perjure themselves and get away with it.”

In a separate fraud lawsuit filed by the federal government, Armstrong was scheduled for another deposition on June 23, USA Today reported. But the government recently said it would postpone that deposition and others it had scheduled for this month, including Armstrong's friend John Korioth, Armstrong publicist Mark Higgins, Armstrong's friend and former Oakley employee Stephanie McIlvain, and cycling coach Chris Carmichael.

Froome, Wiggins apart before Tour

June, 4, 2014
Jun 4
Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome JOEL SAGET/AFP/GettyImagesChris Froome, right, has had a contentious relationship with Bradley Wiggins since 2012.
LONDON (AFP) -- Team Sky said star riders Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins have been selected in separate Tour de France warm-up races this month.

Wiggins became the Tour’s first British winner in 2012 and was succeeded a year later by Froome, who will lead Team Sky in the 101st Tour, which begins in Leeds on July 5.

With the Tour just over a month away, Froome will defend his title in the Critérium du Dauphiné, a prestigious Tour warm-up Wiggins won in 2011 and 2012, from June 8-15. Wiggins will be at at the Tour of Switzerland from June 14 to 22.

Froome is joined by Richie Porte, Vasil Kiryienka, David Lopez, Mikel Nieve, Danny Pate, Geraint Thomas and Xabier Zandio in the eight-man Dauphine squad, with all seven likely to accompany him at the Tour, leaving space for one more rider.

“Both the Criterium du Dauphine and Tour de Suisse are WorldTour events and we are looking to perform in both races,” Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford said. ”Bradley heads to Switzerland with a strong team after a great win in California and we've got the right group for the Dauphine, especially considering the nature of the course.”

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Quintana pads Giro lead with time trial win

May, 30, 2014
May 30
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won the uphill Stage 19 time trial at the Giro d’Italia on Friday.

The Colombian padded his overall lead in the race with two days remaining after finishing the 26.8-kilometer route with the top time. Fabio Aru (Astana) was 17 seconds behind Quintana in second, while Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) took third at 1:26 back.

Quintana now leads Uran by 3:07 and Aru by 3:48 in the overall GC standings.

“I couldn’t let this stage go past without winning it; my family came here from Colombia to watch me, gave me an extra gear,” Quintana said. “The team and preparation, this TT went very well.”

Friday’s stage began in Bassano del Grappa and featured 7.5K of flat road before the course pitched toward the sky at the base of the Category 1 Monte Grappa climb and its 28 hairpin turns. The 19.2K climb had an average gradient of 8 percent but featured several sections, particularly in the final 3K, above 10 percent.

Riders chose a mix of gear for the course -- some began on road bikes, others started on time trial setups and switched to a road bike when the climb began. Other riders used a road bike with clip-on aero bars to take advantage of the flat beginning.

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Arredondo climbs to Giro Stage 18 win

May, 29, 2014
May 29
Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing) won stage 18 at the Giro d’Italia on Thursday, a 171-kilometer route that ended with the Cat. 1 climb of Rifugo Panarotta.

The Colombian, who was first atop the opening two climbs of the day, crested the final ascent by himself to claim victory.

Fabio Duarte (Colombia) was second at 17 seconds back, while Philip Deignan (Sky) was 37 ticks behind in third.

“After San Luis, where I won two stages, the Giro became my principal objective for the season,” Arredondo said of the Tour de San Luis, which Quintana won. “It’s going better than I could have dreamed. I have a stage, and I have the climber’s jersey. I am so happy. I still cannot believe it.”

Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who finished 10th at 2:46 back, stayed in the pink jersey and will ride in Friday’s 26.8K mountain time trial as the race leader. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is 1:41 behind Quintana in second. Pierre Rolland (Europcar), who attacked the maglia rosa group late on the finishing climb, moved into third place at 3:29 back.

Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) struggled on the day and dropped from third to ninth in the GC standings and now sits 4:59 behind Quintana.

Final climb fireworks
The ascent of Rifugo Panarotta saw some of the best bike racing of this Giro. With a large escape group riding off the front, the maglia rosa group containing the GC contenders and some of their teammates seemed content to let the breakaway stay right where it was.

At the base of the climb with 16K remaining, Thomas De Gendt (Omega Pharma) attacked the break and started a solo effort up the steep slope that featured gradients averaging 8.5 percent and as high as 14 percent.

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Canola wins Giro Stage 13; mountains loom

May, 23, 2014
May 23
Marco Canola (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) won the 13th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Friday.

Canola was part of a six-man breakaway group that formed at the start of the stage. Eventually it was whittled down to three, and the trio was able to hold off the chasing peloton at the finish by mere seconds.

Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli) took second and Angelo Tulik (Europcar) was third.

“I hope that this will be the first of many wins,” Canola said. “I wasn’t in great form in the last stages, I felt that I lacked energy and my legs felt empty, but with that grinta, it pushed me through. I kept patient for this day, I got the right day.”

Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) will wear the pink leader’s jersey for another day as the race hits the mountains this weekend. Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) is 37 seconds back in second and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) is third at 1:52 back.

“Never an easy day in the Giro, it was still a dangerous stage,” Uran said. “We didn’t want to take any risks today so we rode at the front all day, but we were not riding to control the breakaway. Tomorrow and Sunday, the Giro starts, I hope the legs are good.”

The three leading men held a 1:19 lead over the peloton with 10 kilometers remaining in the 158km route from Fossano to Rivarolo Canavese. The gap held steady around a minute as the peloton failed to organize a real chase.

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Uran wins Giro time trial, takes race lead

May, 22, 2014
May 22
Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won the Stage 12 time trial at the Giro d’Italia on Thursday and climbed into the race lead.

Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), who entered the day with a 57-second advantage over Uran in the GC, lost time throughout the course and now sits second overall at 37 seconds back. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) remains in third, 1:52 behind Uran.

Uran scorched the course, finishing in 57:34, which was 1:17 faster than Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), who held the previous best time and seemed poised to win the stage. Evans crossed the line 1:34 behind Uran in third.

Cool temperatures and rain early in the day led to an uncomfortable ride for many in the field. The roads were wet and both braking and control were affected. As riders screamed around the technical turns of the 42-kilometer route from Barbaresco to Barolo, the screech of wet brakes on carbon rims pierced the air.

By the time the top GC men started, the rain had subsided and the road was drier. There were, however, still sections of the road with either standing water along the edge or a thin layer of water in the middle.

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Attack wins Giro Stage 11 for Rogers

May, 21, 2014
May 21
Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) won stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday.

Rogers attacked with 21.5 kilometers left on the descent following the final climb, managing to stave off the chasing peloton in the closing kilometer to win the 249Kkm stage from Correggio to Savona by 10 seconds over Simon Geschke (Giant-Shimano) and Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox).

“It was certainly a beautiful moment,” Rogers said afterward. “The team tried really hard today. A great opportunity for me and I was able to take advantage of it.”

Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) remains in the leader's pink jersey, holding a 57-second lead over Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and a 1:10 advantage over Rafal Majka (Tinkoff).

The peloton caught up with a breakaway group of six riders with 24K remaining in the stage, right before a fast descent took the riders down into Savona. When the road pointed downhill about a half-kilometer later, the field was strung out in single file as everyone navigated the sweeping turns down the backside of Naso di Gatto.

With 21.5K to go, Rogers swung wide of the group and surged ahead.

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Bouhanni gets third stage win at Giro

May, 20, 2014
May 20
Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) won the 10th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday.

A crash near the finish took down several riders, and the first group to cross the line was relatively small. Bouhanni was ahead of the crash and was not affected. Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) was second and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) took third.

Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) remains in the pink jersey, holding a 57-second lead over Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and a 1:10 gap over Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo).

With 1 kilometer left in the 184K stage from Modena to Salsomaggiore, the race was anyone’s to win. A medium-sized group of riders was at the front and was navigating a series of turns en route to the finishing straight.

As the road turned right, the front third of the group sliced through the curve at high speed. But in the middle of the pack it appeared that Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) got tangled with another rider and went down hard on his right side. With the field tightly packed, riders next to and behind Farrar had nowhere to go but down.

Bouhanni, who was expected to contend for the stage win after already grabbing two victories (Stages 4 and 7) in this race, then dashed to the line first to complete the hat trick.

“It’s never easy,” Bouhanni said. “It was pretty fast in the final sprint. Nizzolo attacked but I was able to go past him.”

Evans finished ninth in the stage.

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Weening's late push wins Stage 9 at Giro

May, 18, 2014
May 18
Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge) beat Davide Malacarne (Europcar) in a two-up sprint to win Stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday.

The two were on their own in the finale of the 174 kilometer leg from Lugo to Sestola, chased by Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale), who had jumped away from the diminished peloton containing race leader Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).

In the rush to the finish Weening took the inside, shorter line and edged Malacarne for the stage victory as behind, Pozzovivo took third on the day and nearly a half-minute back from Evans and the other contenders for the overall.

“The last few days I lost some time after a perfect first week but I’m not here for the overall rankings,” said Weening. “I was a bit tired yesterday but today was a perfect day to do something nice. I could see I wasn’t one of the best climbers so I decided to attack with 20km to go, but Malacarne was very strong on the last climb and I had to wait right until the end to attack.”

Stage 9 saw a big break go after a pileup 40K in: Malacarne, best placed at 9:27 overall; Weening; Julien Berard (AG2R La Mondiale); Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli); Eduard Vorganov (Katusha); Leonardo Duque (Colombia); Salvatore Puccio (Sky); Jonathan Monsalve (Neri Sottoli); Oscar Gatto (Cannondale); Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida); Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Belisol); David Tanner (Belkin); Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF); and Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli).

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Sprint helps Bouhanni win Giro Stage 7

May, 16, 2014
May 16
FOLIGNO, Italy -- Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) won Stage 7 of the Giro d’Italia on Friday, overatking Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) in a bunch sprint to close the 214-kilometer leg from Frosinone.

Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing)) was second and Mezgec third.

“My team did a great job in the last 50K or so,” said Bouhanni. “Of course, the climbs near the end weren’t easy, but I managed to hang on, and the team did the rest, really.”

Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) finished fourth to maintain his overall lead.

Five riders comprised the day’s long escape: Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida), Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF), Robinson Chalapud (Colombia), Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), and Björn Thurau (Europcar). The breakaway’s advantage topped out above eight minutes, but the peloton’s hunger for a final sprint before the Giro hits the mountains Saturday was insatiable.

The gap was down to one minute with 10K to go and Haas attacked, sparking the escape to up its pace. Thurau surged with 6.2K to go, but the five men again regrouped. With 2.5K to go, they were finished.

Orica upped the pace in the bunch, with Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) sitting third wheel behind a teammate.

“It was a little bit more technical than we originally thought, so we tried to be in the front of the bunch from 5K to go,” said Matthews. “I just didn’t quite have the legs after yesterday to get over the line, but another very good day for the team.”

Lined up side-by-side, Giant-Shimano and FDJ.fr took over with 2K to go.

The Dutch team led into the final 800 meters, with Tom Veelers pulling Mezgec. Mezgec opened the sprint 150 meters from the line, but Bouhanni snuck through a narrow gap along the barriers to take the victory.

“I was close into the corner, but again, with 30 meters to go, I managed to just get in front and just take the win,” said Bouhanni.

The 97th Giro d’Italia continues Saturday with the 174K eighth stage, from Foligno to Montecopiolo and the race’s first summit finish.

Phinney's magic Stage 5 in California

May, 16, 2014
May 16
SANTA BARBARA, California (VN) -- Taylor Phinney’s talent has long been evident. He won a junior world time trial title at age 17, and he is the son of two former professional cyclists, Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter. Still, Thursday’s victory into Santa Barbara at the Amgen Tour of California was only the second time Phinney has won a road stage in the pro ranks.

More typically, Phinney’s best results have come in the time trials. His career highlights include winning the prologue and wearing the maglia rosa at the Giro d’Italia, a silver medal in the world time trial championship, and two elite world titles on the track in the individual pursuit.

Though he twice won the U23 Paris-Roubaix, victory in the elite ranks has come more slowly. In part, this reflects the difficulty of the races that suit Phinney’s talents. The monuments such as Paris-Roubaix or the Ronde van Vlaanderen tend to reward weathered experience over youthful exuberance.

Phinney’s highest finish so far at Paris-Roubaix is fifteenth in 2012, which was his début appearance. Though he has yet to better that result, Phinney’s performances at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Gent-Wevelgem this season suggest that he’s steadily growing into his talent in the classics. Phinney’s trajectory is not unusual, either. Fabian Cancellara won the Tour de France prologue at age 23 before eventually developing into one of the best one-day riders of his generation.

And it looks as though Phinney has added a new weapon in his arsenal. The late, solo attack is the classic tactic of the time trial specialists, whose best chance to win races is a long, hard, lonely effort. Phinney won his first road stage last year at the Tour of Poland in just this way. It’s not an easy move to pull off; impeccable timing, the right terrain, and stellar legs are essential. When it works, it’s certainly memorable.

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Stage 6 win keeps Matthews in Giro lead

May, 15, 2014
May 15
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) won stage 6 at the Giro d’Italia on Thursday, a 257-kilometer route that culminated in a steep finishing climb at Montecassino.

Matthews pulled around Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) on the final left turn with 40 meters left in the stage and easily sprinted to the win. Matthews remains the overall race leader, holding a 21-second lead on Evans and a 1:18 gap on Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

Matthews and Evans were part of a small group that jumped ahead at the base of the 8.5km finishing climb that featured seven hairpin turns and grades as high as 10 percent. The group opened a gap of around 40 seconds on a pack of chasers that included Nairo Quintana (Movistar), a pre-race favorite.

Eventually the front group was whittled down to four riders, with Evans leading the charge at the flamme rouge. Matthews was glued to his wheel and it was obvious that he was looking for the stage win. With Evans in no hurry to seize the pink jersey, he paced Matthews up the final section before his countryman passed him and grabbed the win. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol) placed second in the stage ahead of Evans.

“I felt really good coming into the climb,” Matthews said in a team release. “When BMC hit the front, it was all about being in the right position. I knew I had the chance to win when we came into the last kilometer and still felt pretty good.”

Late crash fractures peloton
With 11K left, just after the speeding peloton swallowed up a four-man breakaway that spent much of the day at the front of the race, several riders went down in a series of crashes. More rain created another slippery surface and, with brakes and wheels coated with water the ability to stop quickly was virtually impossible.

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