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OVERIJSE, Belgium (VN) — Philippe Gilbert timed it to perfection. Not only did he launch an early sprint to hold off Michael Matthews and win Brabantse Pijl Wednesday, but he did so on the eve of the Ardennes classics.
“I know this race is not the same as the Ardennes classics, but a win is good for my confidence,” BMC Racing’s former world champion said. “I was second here last year, this year first. A win makes the difference and is unique.”
The win on the outskirts of Brussels marked Gilbert’s first for 2014. It came much earlier than last year, as well.
As world champion, he had to wait until the Vuelta a España in September to flash his rainbow jersey in a victory salute. With today’s win, Gilbert showed off his red and black team colors, just four days before the Amstel Gold Race, the first of the three Ardennes classics.
“Getting that first one each year is hard for him. He’s always up there, but sometimes he just misses the right moment or anticipates it a little bit,” team director Max Sciandri told VeloNews. “Getting a win will help for the Ardennes classics. It gives you that extra confidence when you got a win under your belt.”
Gilbert last scored in Overijse in 2011. That win was part of his magical season that included the Ardennes treble. After Davide Rebellin in 2004, he was only the second cyclist to win all three Ardennes classics. Gilbert stormed through the rest of the season, scoring 18 times, earning Tour de France yellow for a day, and winning the UCI WorldTour overall.
That winter, ahead of the 2012 season, he left Lotto for BMC. Other than his three Vuelta stage wins and his 2012 world title, he has struggled since (those four wins would make a career for many riders, of course). In fact, Gilbert has won only five times since that 18-race haul in 2011.
“This is a good test ahead of the Ardennes classics, but this is also a great race in its own right,” Gilbert said. “The best riders in the world, though, will be at Amstel, Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. On Sunday in Amstel, it’s going to be a different race.”
Gilbert could have lost Wednesday’s race with a late gamble to catch a group containing Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge). The Belgian attacked and bridged solo to Gerrans’ group, but the escape did not survive, leaving just 11.4 kilometers to recover ahead of the finish.
“It’s real impressive because we were chasing. He got antsy and attacked on his own. We were thinking, ‘what are you doing? No,’” teammate Peter Stetina told VeloNews. “I was scared at first, then once the field came back up to him, and he said, ‘I’m still ready to play,’ we just committed again. He had me ride him into the base of the second-to-last climb with three kilometers to go, into the wheels, then it’s all power from there.
“He’s finally got everything flowing and motivated for the week to come.”
Gilbert refused to blow the midweek Brabantse Pijl out of proportion. As he said, several of the big favorites that will be in Maastricht for the start of the Amstel Gold Race were not in Overijse.
“We are going to have to wait until after Liège-Bastogne-Liège finishes to draw conclusions,” Gilbert said. “I’m motivated by today’s result, but that doesn’t’ mean that we are going to work overtime in the Ardennes. We are only going to sacrifice one BMC rider at the front to control the race, not one more. I’m ready to lose upcoming races, but not ready to lead the races for my rivals.”
The rivals are many, from Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) to Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp). As Sciandri explained, though, an early win gives Gilbert confidence for the coming week.
The post Brabantse Pijl victory a needed Ardennes confidence boost for Gilbert appeared first on VeloNews.com.
SITTARD, THE NETHERLANDS — Workers bustled about at the finish line of the Amstel Gold Race Wednesday, unloading pallets of beer, putting the finishing touches on VIP tents and decks. Red Amstel flags billowed in the ever-present wind, and a few cyclists took to the finale of the Amstel Gold Race.
But it was oddly quiet here. Maybe the Dutch are just getting ready for the party on Sunday. It’s the biggest race held in The Netherlands, and this is a country that loves cycling fiercely. Cyclists jump on wheels when passed, and attack at the bottom of the Cauberg, the climb that will certainly shape Sunday’s podium.
The home nation will have much to cheer for when the starter’s pistol sounds Sunday morning in Maastricht. Home team Belkin brings an effective unit to battle, and Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was the first Dutchmen to win Paris-Roubaix since Servais Knaven in 2001, surely adding a bit more passion to the local scene. The last Dutchman to win Amstel was Erik Decker, in 2001. Jan Raas, also of the Netherlands, has the most wins at AGR, with five.
It’s an important race on the calendar for many a rider, but perhaps none more than a Dutchman.
“The Amstel is perhaps the best race of the year for a Dutchman. The fans show up in large numbers and they are very enthusiastic,” said one of Belkin’s danger men, Bauke Mollema. “After Niki Terpstra’s victory in Paris-Roubaix, I think things will be extra special. After our success in last year’s Tour de France, people will be excited to see us race as well. It could become a wonderful edition. As a team, we hope to provide the people with a good result.”
Belkin brings Laurens ten Dam, Jos van Emden, Jonathan Hivert, Paul Martens, Lars Petter Nordhaug, Bram Tankink and David Tanner to Amstel, with high hopes for Mollema, who finished sixth in last year’s Tour de France.
Mollema tuned for Amstel at Pais Vasco, picking up steam toward the end of the week after a tough start. “During the final stages, I gained a lot of confidence. I finished fifth in a mountain stage with an uphill finish and one day later, I was in a break until very late in a tough stage,” he said in a team release. “It proves that my condition is fine and that I’m at my level. I’m really looking forward to Sunday.”
In the last two editions, Mollema has finished tenth. That wouldn’t be enough this time around. “If I finish tenth again, I won’t be in a jubilant mood. Last year, I often finished between the fifth and tenth place in the Walloon classics. It would be nice to get a top five this year,” he said. “I like the new finish, it makes the race more open because now you can also attack after the Cauberg. Last year it wasn’t in my favor, as I arrived at the top of the Cauberg in fifth position, while I ended up tenth at the line. Next time, it could well be the other way round, though.”
Even Belkin’s director Frans Maassen comes from this region and — of course — won the race in 1991. “We haven’t won the Amstel for a long time and we won’t be the biggest favorite on Sunday, but we are 100 percent motivated and will do whatever we can,” Maassen said. “Bauke is our captain. Paul Martens and Lars Petter Nordhaug also have a free role. We have guys with knowledge of the course and experience and we really want to show ourselves. We want to compete for the win.”
Kona is no stranger to titanium, having made titanium hardtail mountain bikes starting in the ’90s, so with the ti market for ’cross and gravel—think bombproof bikes that can withstand almost anything—growing, the company decided it was time to get utilize the super metal to create a new gravel bike in the form of the titanium Rove.
The Rove isn’t new to the lineup, as Kona launched the model back in 2013 with a steel frame and fork. Designed for ride-anywhere cyclists and gravel racers, not necessarily cyclocross purists, the geometry is similar to Kona’s Jake series cyclocross geometry, but with a 5mm lower bottom bracket and 5mm longer chainstays.
Of course, Kona isn’t a stranger to cyclocross, and the high-end carbon Super Jake was just reviewed as one of our favorite bikes in Issue 24—it also won one of the Editors’ Choice Awards for high-end race bike in the same issue. The one complaint we had on the Super Jake was that the bottom bracket was a bit high, so for those in agreement with our tester, the Rove might be a better option with its 6.5cm drop that hits the sweet spot.
The titanium version of the Rove will be available as frame only for $2000, and those of you familiar with titanium will know the name of the company tasked with making the frames: the Rove will be made in Tennessee by Lynskey. The full carbon disc fork from Kona will also be available at only $200, which is a relative bargain in this day and age of $500 forks.
We’re hoping to put this update of the Rove through the cyclocross (and gravel) paces soon. With the line between cyclocross and gravel racing bikes being blurry if not invisible, finding a bike that can do both well is a fun goal for the or cyclist who tackles both.
Check out the slideshow below for more details on the 2015 titanium Kona Rove.
Kona 2015 Titanium Rove Gravel / Cyclocross Bike Photo Gallery:
Check out all of our tech goodies from Sea Otter 2014, and keep checking as we start to get rolling into the long weekend.
Philippe Gilbert won De Brabantse Pijl, the final tuneup ahead of the Ardennes classics, Wednesday in Overijse, Belgium. Gilbert (BMC Racing) won the 203-kilometer semi-classic for the second time in his career, landing a confidence-inspiring victory ahead of the hilly one-day races serving as his top objectives in 2014.
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) was second, missing out by half-a-wheel in the sprint, and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) was third in the 26-climb midweek contest, which started east of Brussels in Leuven.
“Matthews was the fastest, but I played it well because he had to close the gap to (Björn) Leukemans and (Wouter) Poels in the descent and that cost him power,” Gilbert said in a team press release. “I also saw he was closed in in the last corner, but I waited, because I knew from the last times (up the climb), I didn’t want to make the same mistake. It was perfect.”
Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare) was the last of the survivors from the day’s breakaway when a half-dozen riders ripped past the American with little more than 40km remaining.
Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), Pieter Serry (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Mathias Brändle (IAM Cycling), Björn Leukemans (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Mauro Finetto (Yellow Fluo), and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) pushed ahead to nearly a minute’s advantage, but couldn’t cut the leash from the peloton.
Forty seconds behind the leaders with 30km to go, BMC Racing and Giant-Shimano threw all they had at the chase. The former glued the front of the race back together and with 8km to go, the bunch reset for an explosive finale.
An onslaught of attacks ripped at the peloton over the handful of kilometers leading to the final climb at Schavei, but no rider could shake loose.
American Alex Howes led into the 700-meter final ramp for Garmin. Serry took over with 700 meters remaining, but Gilbert led out the sprint onto the 200-meter finish straight and held onto victory over Matthews.
“It was a difficult race with everyone attacking when we got to the [finish circuit] laps. I had to bide my time for the sprint,” said Matthews. “I had a good sprint in the finish, but Gilbert was quicker today.”
Ben Berden has become, in the past few years, a staple in the American ’cross racing scene, and as a Raleigh-Clement racer, of course he was at the start line of the Raleigh Cyclocross race at Sea Otter last weekend. From the holeshot to the finish, Berden was untouchable, and we caught up with the race winner to find out what he’s been up to in the offseason.
Cyclocross Magazine: So, you took the win—how was it?
Ben Berden: I don’t fool around! Five months of not doing this, just base miles. It was fun.
CXM: Cyclocross in April?
BB: It’s fun for me!
CXM: This is it until September though? [Teammate Jamey Driscoll just announced his intention of racing mountain bikes for Raleigh-Clement in the offseason.]
BB: The next one is going to be Vegas or something. But we’re doing a lot of gravel racing this summer. We’re doing a 12 hour mountain bike race, Nicole [Duke] and I. And we’ll do some gravel. I can handle a mountain bike and I enjoy it, but I’m not racing.
CXM: How was the course?
BB: Like this winter—dry! Hopefully next season will be muddier.
To get a sneak preview of what Berden will be riding in the fall, check out Raleigh’s new upgrades to their lineup, unveiled at Sea Otter.
Check out all of our tech goodies from Sea Otter 2014, and keep checking as we start to get rolling into the long weekend.
Movistar released its list of 10 riders from which it will choose to support Nairo Quintana at next month’s Giro d’Italia.
In total, nine riders will make up the squad’s roster for the first grand tour of the year, the race through Italy that will begin with three stages in Ireland starting on May 9.
After months of debate, it was determined that Quintana would focus on the Giro this season instead of the Tour de France, despite his impressive performance in France last summer that resulted in a second-place overall and a first in the mountains and youth classifications.
“I would have liked to race the Tour again this year, but the team wants me to go to the Giro,” Quintana said in February. “The one who pays has the final say.”
Movistar will pick from these 10 riders for the rest of its Giro roster: Italians Adriano Malori and Eros Capecchi; Polish climber Sylwester Szmyd; Costa Rica’s Andrey Amador; and Spaniards Fran Ventoso, Pablo Lastras, Igor Antón, Jonathan Castroviejo, Gorka Izagirre and José Herrada.
This year’s Giro features five mountaintop finishes, several mid-mountain stages, and three time trials. Quintana will need to rely on Movistar’s climbing specialists — Anton won a mountain stage at the 2011 Giro and has registered two top-10 GC results at the Vuelta — to escort him through the challenging terrain.
Herrada was 12th in last year’s Vuelta, while Szmyd has finished all 22 grand tours he’s started. Amador triumphed in a mountain stage at the 2012 Giro.
“I hope to make another podium, and if it’s possible, to win the Giro,” Quintana said. “I believe it will go well because I will have a strong team supporting me all the time. … I am still young, so it’s better to go step by step.”
The post Movistar names provisional lineup to support Quintana at Giro appeared first on VeloNews.com.