From Rhigos to Roubaix – Looking to 2017 with U23 rider Pete Kibble

Here at Freewheeling we love seeing the up-and-coming riders progressing through the ranks and taking big wins. This year Pete Kibble, riding in the Welsh team jersey, won a fantastic second stage of the Junior Tour of Wales atop Rhigos mountain after a gruelling route packed with climbs and traditional Welsh weather! To make it all the sweeter, it just happened to be his last stage race on UK soil as a junior. Next season, Kibble will be riding with Zappi Pro Cycling at U23 level, after recently signing a new contract. We caught up with Pete to hear all about his hopes for the 2017 season and beyond….

Congratulation on signing with Zappi Pro Cycling! How did that come about?

Getting a ride with Zappi’s came from having a conversation with Flavio Zappi at the Ras de Cymru in Wales. We kept in touch since then and he asked if I would like a ride in the summer. It was a hard decision as I also had an offer from a UK team but I weighed it up and felt as though I would develop more by racing on the Continent in tougher UCI races. It’s the entire lifestyle I’m looking at, living abroad, learning to speak Italian; not just the racing.

What was the highlight of your 2016 season?

The highlight of my year was winning the Junior Tour of Wales Stage 2 up Rhigos mountain, definitely. This was my first real big win and to do it on home soil, at my favourite race, just topped it off. I had a few other highlights but this race really topped it off for me.

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‘This was my first real big win…at my favourite race’ – Kibble wins on Rhigos Mountain, Stage 2 of the Junior Tour of Wales 2016. Photo Credit: Huw Fairclough

How have you changed as a rider over the last 12 months? Was there anything specific that you were working to improve?

I wouldn’t say I have changed as a rider style-wise over the last 12 months, but I have progressed tactically, learning how to race better. I would say my biggest improvement came in TT’s this year, knocking my PB down from a 20:40 to a 19:15 and placing highly in most open TT’s I did.

What are your hopes for the 2017 season?

My aims for the upcoming season are to continue learning, and to put in place the building blocks of experience for my career. It will be a big learning curve and the racing will be a whole new experience. It’s also a big step up into U23s, but I aim to get some top 20 results once I get into the style of racing.

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‘I don’t use power meters at the moment – I just go on feel and heart rate’ Photo courtesy of Pete Kibble.

Describe your riding style – do you go for sprint wins, TTs, mountain stages or GC?

My style is definitely suited to racing for GC. I’m a good climber and I like tough terrain. I haven’t got a great sprint so I like races where the terrain dictates the way in which the race will be won. I also like time trials and I do a lot of them.

Which do you prefer, one-day races or stage races?

I definitely prefer stage racing to one day races as it suits my style of riding a lot more; it’s about being consistent which I feel is a strength of mine. One day races are usually decided in a sprint which isn’t my forte.

Who is your favourite rider in the current pro peloton?

My favourite rider has to be Tom Boonen – he’s just uber cool and is an incredible tactician. I mean it takes a hell of a rider to win Paris Roubaix 4 times!

Which cyclist would you say has inspired you the most?

Most inspirational cyclist for me has be Chris Froome. He seems like the most unlikely person to win the Tour de France looking at his background and where he’s come from. He just lets his legs do the talking and has become incredibly successful, winning the Tour 3 times which is phenomenal.

Did you manage to get to the road-side to watch any of the Tour of Britain stages this year?

I watched this year’s Tour of Britain in the Cotswolds on Dursley hill. It was great to see so many spectators and people really embracing the race.

We notice that you’ve started a blog – how are you finding the writing and blogging side of things?

I enjoy writing the blog as it’s something new. It’s good to do as a distraction from training, it will get a lot better when I’m away racing during the season when I have so many new experiences to write about!

What is your favourite bit of cycle kit – what could you not ride without?

My favourite piece of cycling kit has to be Oakleys – I have quite a few pairs. Probably too many…

Stephen Roche feels that race radios and power meters are making racing less exciting, what do you think about such new technology?

With regards to Stephen Roche’s views, I can understand where he’s coming from as there is a lot of data that affects the way races are won – riders become very calculated. In that respect it definitely could be more exciting without the use of so much technology. However there are a lot of plus points with regards to rider safety with the use of radios. Power meters are a really good training tool, and I don’t think a lot of riders will take a lot of notice of their figures during a race. Personally I don’t use power at the moment I just go on feel and heart rate.

Sagan will be riding in the Rainbow stripes for another year after his win in Doha. If you could only win ONE of cycling’s most prestigious jerseys, which one would you choose and why?

My favourite jersey to win would have to be the yellow at the Tour de France. It’s the most prestigious race in cycling and it’s such a large human endeavour to win it. It takes so much to get a result at the Tour de France as it’s 3 weeks of full on racing, and there are so many variables you have to be such a rounded rider and have fantastic support to succeed.

Good luck Pete – we wish you all the best!

Caps Not Hats -Breaking Rule #22 With Walz Caps

Here at Freewheeling, we have a bit of a confession to make…a shocking revelation in fact. So here goes, I’ll share it with you. I, your cycle correspondent of the blogosphere, regularly break The Rules. Specifically, Rule #22 – Cycling Caps are for Cycling. This obviously means I’ll never be accepted as a true member of the Velominati, but that’s the price you pay when you love a good cap. Caps Not Hats indeed.

If it’s a stylish cap you’re after, then look no further than Walz Caps. Handmade in the USA, Walz have a cap to suit everyone, from woollen tweed, perfect for that Eroica ride, to the ‘Map Caps’ range, where you can show off your allegiance to a host of American states or European cycling hot-beds like Belgium or Italy.  And if that hasn’t piqued your interest how about this – that cap you’ve created in your imagination, that design you’ve been doodling in your mind’s eye? Well Walz have it ready to send to you – just log on to http://www.walzcaps.com, click ‘Custom Caps’, and get creating. Yep, that’s right – you can create your very own one-off cycling cap. What could be better than that?

We spoke to Matt, Customs and Wholesale Director of Walz Caps to find out all about the Classic American Cap…Read the interview below!

Describe your role in the company…Currently, my role is Customs/Wholesale Director, which involves inside sales, production, and design.
 
How did the company start, and what was the vision for Walz in the beginning?  The company officially began in 2005 as Walz Caps.  Unofficially, it began with the owner’s aunt, Jackie Walz, who used to sew up welding caps for her husband and his co-workers.  One day a friend and cyclist, saw the caps and asked if she would tweak the design a bit and make something more cycling-specific for him.  She did, and did it so well that word began to spread, and the demand for her “cycling” caps grew.  Her nephew and now the owner of the company, saw that she needed help and offered to purchase the cycling side of the operation from here, and decided to name the company in her honor…Walz Caps was born.
 
Your designs manage to be both fresh, new and exciting, yet fit in with the stylish side of the cycling tradition, how does Walz manage to blend both these features in to the designs?  While we are continually striving to come up with bold, fresh, and exciting designs, we always keep in mind the tradition and heritage that is the foundation for the sport of cycling, and particularly the role that cycling caps have played in that.  Some caps, such as our classic cottons and our ever-popular wools, don’t need to be flashy…they speak for themselves.
 
Where does the inspiration for the Walz designs come from?  It’s truly a team effort.  Anyone and everyone within the company is always welcome to throw new ideas out there.  Some stick, some don’t, but no one person is in charge of product development, it’s a company-wide collaboration.  We also receive numerous ideas from our customers, some of which have ignited the creative spark that’s needed to come up some great designs throughout the years.
 
How do you source the right fabrics?  We work to locate suppliers we believe are the best at what they do.  Our caps begin as raw material, and if that material isn’t the best, there’s no way our caps can be.  And as a company who prides itself on making everything in-house, by hand, and 100% made in the US, we seek vendors and suppliers who are located and manufacture in the US as well.  That’s extremely important to us, and we’ve been pleased over the years to hear how important that is to a large portion of our customer base.
 
Describe the Walz ethos and aesthetic….Pride in what we do at all levels.  The moment an individual visits our site, contacts us by phone or email, or stops in to pay us a visit, our goal is to make sure that their experience with us is nothing short of exceptional.  Of course that experience applies to our products, after all, that’s why people contact us in the first place, but as cliche as it sounds, it’s the relationships that we build over the years that matter most to us.  Nothing makes our day more than hearing from our customers how satisfied they’ve been with not only our caps, but our service.  We want people to feel as though they belong to the Walz family, that they’re a part of what we’re doing. 
 
How are the caps made and how long does it take to make one?  Our caps start out as a roll of material.  From there, they’re cut by hand, sewn by hand, QC’d by hand, boxed and shipped by hand.  As you’ve noticed, I’m stressing the fact that every single cap we make is carefully crafted by actual people who specialize in their roles here.  If I had to put a time on how long it takes to make a single cap from cutting, sewing, and passing QC, all uninterrupted of course!…10 minutes.  
 
The ability for customers to design their own caps is really unique. Do you ever come across some really ‘out there’ customer designs? Similarly, have there ever been any ideas, either customer-designed or Walz designed, that just haven’t worked in practice?  I couldn’t list all of those in this interview, and keep it PG-rated at the same time!  Most of our customers designs are incredible, and there have been many that have caused some envy with our designers.  We always make any design that a customers wants, but we do provide input when we believe that a design may not provide the end result a customer is seeking.
 
Have there been any ideas that haven’t worked in practice?  I’ve never kept track, but many for sure.  Personally, I don’t believe that there’s such thing as a bad design, some just work better than others, and more often than not, you don’t really know until you have an actual physical sample in-hand.  We’ve created designs that look absolutely beautiful on a monitor, look great after they’ve been printed, and then look nothing like what we were expecting.  If it didn’t work, take notes of what needs to be altered, and try it again, and keep trying until you get what you’re after.
 
Do you have a favourite Walz design?  I have many.  My personal favorite is the “Triple Cubed”.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I “almost” designed it, but it’s not so much the design that I love, but rather how the design came to be.  Long story short, I was attempting to create a certain look I had in mind, hit a wrong button in Illustrator, the design went haywire on the screen, I couldn’t recover the original, and after staring at my screen in frustration for awhile, all of a sudden I saw something in that mistake that looked incredible, so I let go and let the cap design itself.  I was a bit nervous when it went live on the site, but as it turns out I wasn’t the only one who found the cap to be good looking;)
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What can Walz fans look forward to in the future?  We just launched a new line of caps, a total makeover of our older line.  Our entire line of wool cycling caps now feature a fully lined interior, as well as our entire line of Velo/City caps.  Our recently launched Build-a-Cap program has been so well received that every day is a challenge to keep up with the demand.  And as always, new designs are in the works, that’s something that will never change around here.
 
Thanks for taking an interest in what we’re doing, we truly appreciate it!

 

30 SECONDS WITH……PETE KIBBLE, WHO JOINS ZAPPI PRO CYCLING FROM VELOCITY GLOBALBIKE IN 2017!

Pete Kibble joins the U23 ranks in 2017 – he’s certainly one to watch! We asked him our quick-fire questions earlier, look out for our full length interview soon!

What was your first ever bike like? An Action Man mountain bike that I rode 24/7.
Books or Movies? Both. Favourite Book – Davis Millar, Racing Through the Dark. Favourite Movie – The Kingsman.
What’s on your MP3 Player? I listen to all sorts depending on my mood, I always listen to music while I’m training. I like Two Door Cinema Club quite a lot.
If you could go for a café run with any cyclist from history, who would it be? Mario Cipollini
If I wasn’t a cyclist I’d be… Race car driver.

30 SECONDS WITH……KRISTIAN HOUSE OF ONE PRO CYCLING!

Tour of Britain star Kristian House answers our quick-fire questions below…

What was your first ever bike like? My first ever bike was a little steel trike. Red and white with solid wheels! My first racing style bike was something I bought out of a newspaper second hand for 150 bucks. It was a pretty basic steel frame with down tube shifters and mid/low range Shimano. I spent most of that year replacing parts one bit at a time as I had money available. Haha…
Books or Movies? Films mostly. I do love reading, but I’m quite picky about it, so if I start a book and after 20-30 pages I’m not hooked I tend to put it down, whereas a movie, I’ll sit through the most dreadful movie ever, all the way to the end!
What’s on your MP3 Player? So much stuff. I really like a wide variety of music, from Outkast, to Bruce Springsteen, to Tiesto and Bob Marley. A real wide mix.
If you could go for a café run with any cyclist from history, who would it be? Honestly, probably the squad from Rapha Condor in 2009/10. We were only a small squad, but we were pretty tight. It would be cool to have them all back together for a cafe ride.
If I wasn’t a cyclist I’d be… Wishing I was? Haha, I don’t know. I’d have been a runner if it wasn’t for cycling. More than likely outside of sport, it would have been something in computers.

EXCLUSIVE – ONE Pro Cycling’s Kristian House On The Tour of Britain, Home Crowds, and Why Split Stages ‘Suck’…

All photographs courtesy of Trevor Mould (Twitter: @MouldyPix)

The 2016 edition of the Tour of Britain was action packed and dramatic, held together by captivating and numerous narratives: Would Dimension Data’s Steve Cummings maintain his lead of less than a minute by the end of the Stage 7 time trial?  Who would be wearing the Chain Reaction Points Jersey on the final podium?  Would Mark Cavendish recover from a bout of illness to take a sprint victory in London?

There was laughter as Sir Bradley Wiggins ‘did a Chris Froome’ and ran up a section of the climb aptly named The Struggle, and sadness that this would be his last ever road race.  Mark Cavendish – who describes himself as ‘fast talking’ – showed the sharp edge of his tongue to a so-called fan who shouted insults to the sprinter from the road side.   And amongst all the drama, there were 8 stages of superb cycling as the race traversed the country.

Each year the Tour of Britain grows in popularity, with road sides packed with spectators, and finish lines ringing with claps and cheers.  One rider who has been a staple of the Tour of Britain peloton in recent years is ONE Pro Cycling’s Kristian House.  We asked the rider what it is that makes the British tour so special.

“Racing your home tour is always going to be special. It’s hard to put into words what makes it special, but it’s like a sense of pride. We travel all over the world racing in other countries… often racing against the same people in their country… so to have a home tour when they come and race here and see how much support it gets is pretty cool. On top of that, having the opportunity to race on your local roads is something pretty special”.

Racing home roads was something that House was able to do on Stage 3 from Congleton to Tatton.  Passing a matter of metres from his own street, the race swept through the village of Middlewich with huge crowds at the road side.  To compete the once-in-a-lifetime race experience, House was one of four British riders in the breakaway that day, eventually securing his highest ever Tour of Britain finish as he crossed the line to take third place.

“Racing through the lanes where I train and live, was pretty special. My village was unbelievable in how they came out to support it. The street was lined from before the start of the town to well out of it. Most of the schools came out with all the kids, people took days off work, it was pretty special. The fact I managed to get in the break that day, and stay away for 3rd was pretty special too”.

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The crowds continued to provide huge levels of support at the road side as the race Wiggins called the ‘hardest Tour of Britain ever’ travelled down the country from the start line in Glasgow on Day 1.  “This year was probably one of the harder ones I’ve done in terms of terrain” explained Kristian.   “I was not 100% for most of the tour, so that added to the feeling. What was pretty amazing was that the crowds were even bigger than the years before… and that was something I was pretty surprised about!”

The numbers turning out to watch the race have increased year on year as the Tour has developed from the early years as the Milk Race, through to the 2.1HC categorized race that it is now.  Have the riders noticed a change in the way the race is perceived, both within the peloton and by the fans?  “Absolutely” says Kristian, “A few years ago, you could tell the riders that came were there mostly because the team had interests in the UK, rather than the riders really wanting to race flat out. You had a mix of riders that were just going through the motions of finishing the year out, and ones that were chasing a contract. Over the last couple of years, the level has stepped up a lot. You’ve got World Tour riders racing aggressively, going for breaks, and actually valuing the quality of the race and the importance of it.  Most years it slots in perfectly with preparation for the Worlds as well, so it becomes even more important for a lot of riders. One of the things the riders have noticed is that the crowds over the last few years have gotten huge. I’ve had riders from all over come up to me and say the crowds are better than the Tour de France! It’s pretty amazing how the UK people, and not even fans necessarily, come out and support the racing”.

The popularity of cycling has also impacted upon the standard of domestic racing as a whole, with weekend races having to turn people away due to over subscription.  “When I look back to domestic racing back in 2006, there was really only John Herety’s Recyling squad that would go abroad, and had the goal of moving riders on whereas now you have 4 or 5 teams working much closer to that level.” Kristian explains. “Obviously as the sport has become more popular with the public, more money has come into the sport at that level and allowed the teams to grow. I think there’s a couple of reasons for that. The obvious one to me is the success of the Olympic teams over the last 8 years, as well as the Tour de France success with Wiggins, Froome, and Cavendish. British Cycling have also invested a lot of time and money through the lottery funding into grass roots, and so the whole level of riders coming through has been at a higher level. Combine all that with increased TV coverage, not just for World Tour races but also for things like the Tour Series, and it’s really just blown up. In my opinion the Tour Series is perfect for the UK as it is short enough to keep the attention span of a non-cycling fan, but still exciting enough for the people who follow the sport. It’s also easily accessible for locals to come and watch”.

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Speaking at the 15th anniversary Cycle Show event in Birmingham this September, Tour of Britain Race Director Mick Bennett compared the current attitudes to the sport to those that were held 30 years ago.  “In the 1980s, you had to go cap in hand to the Local Authorities to get them to recognize cycling as upwardly mobile”.  Nowadays, it is those same Local Authorities who help to fund the Tour of Britain coming to their region.  Manager of the JLT-Condor team John Herety, who lives near Kristian House in Cheshire, explained that the roads in the area were resurfaced as a result of the Tour visit, highlighting a direct benefit to local residents, not to mention the revenue raised through the tourists it attracts.

“We do three route drives with a police officer in preparation for the race” Mick Bennett explains.  “Every roundabout, junction and pot hole is logged”.  That inspires Local Authorities to provide repairs and high level maintenance to those areas affected – after all, who wants to be known as the Local Authority who didn’t repair the pot hole which felled a World class bike rider?  “Some regions are desperate to host the Tour of Britain” Bennett continues, “they bring their maintenance programmes forward as a result”.

The huge popularity of the race has put pressure on the race organisers, as the media and the UCI float the idea of removing the Tour from its current position as part of the UCI Europe Tour programme, to part of the World Tour calendar, which is something the organsiers do not want to see happen.  “I think the formula for the race as it is, is absolutely right” explains JLT-Condor Manager John Herety.  “The mix of teams – World Tour, Pro Continental, Continental, plus six man teams provides an interesting dynamic” agreed Race Director Mick Bennett.  “Eight man teams can make a race predictable”.  Herety agrees, noting that shorter stages, such as Stage 7b held in Bristol this year, also provide the race with excitement.  “The Bristol stage was the best stage.  It was a short stage, with a climb, a good breakaway…I’d advocate shorter stages”.

The Bristol stage was a split stage, with the second half that Herety refers to held in the afternoon.  The morning had seen the riders undertake an individual time trial along the same route.  “Split days suck to be honest!” states Kristian House. “Even though they are generally shorter stages, they are a long day. On top of that because the road race is much shorter, it tends to be flat out… and in Bristol’s case, very technical. That makes it not just physically tiring, but also mentally. Ironically, despite them being so different to a standard day, your process of preparing doesn’t change much for you as a rider. I think it changes a lot more for the support staff to be honest! In between the stages you generally just chill out on the bus, make sure you eat enough, but not too much, and just recover from the morning efforts. Everyone is different, but I try not to sleep, but just listen to music and relax”.

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Whether or not split stages become a feature of the race in years to come,the future for Britain’s very own Tour looks bright.  As JLT-Condor’s John Herety declared, the formula for the race is just right, leading to a fantastic event that can only build upon its successes.  As the Tour of Britain’s most capped rider, we hope to see Kristian House racing on Britain’s roads next September with the rest of the ONE Pro Cycling Team – the race wouldn’t seem quite right without him!

UCI World Championships 2016 – Elite Men’s TT Round-Up

Photo Credit: AFP Photo/KARIM JAAFAR

Wednesday saw the elite men take to the start ramp in Doha for the 2016 UCI World Road Race Championship Time Trial. There were a number of pre-race favourites, including 3-time winner Tony Martin, defending champion Vasil Kiryienka, Australian Rohan Dennis and Tom Dumoulin, who wore the Dutch national champion’s jersey. Dennis was looking to erase memories of his Olympic time trial in Rio, where his handlebars broke, costing him a precious 30 seconds. He ended up in fifth position that day, missing out on an Olympic medal by 8 seconds. Tom Dumoulin was the Olympic silver medallist behind Fabian Cancellara, a medal which had looked to be in the bag for the Australian, who had been in second place until the incident.

For much of the World Championship TT, 22 year-old Irish rider Ryan Mullen was in the leader’s seat. Mullen was riding for the first time at elite level, and outperformed some of the World’s best time triallists with a time of 46:04 in the searing heat. “I saw all these big names coming in and they’re behind me and I’m thinking ‘ did I take a shortcut or something, have I missed part of the course?'”. Mullen eventually finished in 5th place, ahead of riders like Rohan Dennis and Tom Dumoulin, who finished in 6th and 11th place respectively. The Irish cyclist remained in the leader’s hot seat for over an hour, having been 10th out of the blocks and riding at what was the hottest part of the day. “I was sitting in saunas on the turbo trainer for a week prior to coming here. I had the radiators on trying to emulate the humidity and heat”.

Another rider who undertook heat specific training was eventual winner Tony Martin, who claimed that his friends thought he was ‘crazy’ for “training in the bathroom with the heater on” to adjust to the high temperatures in Qatar. Martin’s ‘crazy’ training schedule clearly worked, as he stormed into first place an astonishing 45 seconds ahead of Vasil Kiryienka in second place. Jonathan Castroviejo of Spain completed the podium, 01:10 behind the winner.

Martin’s World Championship title was all the sweeter given that the past few years have seen the German’s grip on the time trial discipline slip somewhat. After losing 3:18 to Fabian Cancellara at the Rio Olympics, Martin decided to return to his previous position on the bike, which, although not as aerodynamic as his newly adopted style, was much more comfortable. Reverting to his previously successful position obviously felt more natural, as Martin took his first TT victory this season at the Tour of Britain in September, soon after making the decision to switch back. “The changes have been serious. I had my hands very high up and my elbows low down, but it wasn’t for me. Now, I feel much more comfortable again. One has to accept that the aerodynamics are not everything, but the comfort plays a very, very important role. If your body does not work well, then aerodynamics means nothing”. Although Martin’s newer style, which he adopted last year, was more aerodynamic, the German believes that he lost between 5 to 10% of his power due to not feeling comfortable on the bike.  He conceeds that trying the new position was not necessarily wrong, but that he “just couldn’t get used to it”.

When asked about his time trial victory, Martin was ecstatic. “After three hard seasons, I am once again able to show my best”. On a par with Fabian Cancellara’s four World Championship titles, Martin exclaimed “I do not care about records. The most important thing for me is that I will be able to wear the rainbow jersey again”.

Wiggins Pulls Out of Upcoming Abu Dhabi Tour – Or Does He?

It appears that Bradley Wiggins has decided not to compete in the Abu Dhabi Tour, after claiming last month that it would be his last appearance in a road race. It’s not the first time that Wiggins has changed his mind in relation to his race calendar – fans of the Tour of Britain had watched this year’s edition believing it to be Sir Bradley’s final road race. The Tour de France winner then surprised the cycling world when he was announced as part of Team Wiggins for the Abu Dhabi Tour, which starts on 20th October.

The Abu Dhabi race organisers were understandably pleased that the Olympian would be attending the 4-day race, and on Wednesday (12th October) Wiggins was still listed as an attendee. Representatives of Sir Bradley had a different story by Thursday, stating that the rider “had never committed” to the race, and that the team list which had included his name was only provisional. It was stated that Bradley would not be in attendance as he didn’t want to ‘jeapordise’ his preparation for the London Six Day, a track event which begins the day after the Abu Dhabi Tour ends.

The organisers of the race in the Emirates released a statement on Thursday evening announcing that they were ‘surprised and disappointed to see different stories in the media regarding Bradley Wiggins and the Abu Dhabi Tour’. The statement goes on to say that, in common with all major races, ‘flights and accomodation have been booked in the name of Bradley Wiggins and those accompanying him’. Wiggins’ name had been included on the Official Enrolement Form, which was submitted last week.

Race organisers explained that ‘the long-standing expectation has been that Sir Bradley will be riding the Abu Dhabi Tour’, and that all preparations in the run up to the event ‘have been based on that expectation in good faith’.

UCI World Championships 2016 – Tuesday Round-Up

As you’ll no doubt be aware, the World Championship Road Races are underway in Doha.  The courses are pan-flat due to the terrain; however, the time trials are technical due to road layouts.  This weekend sees the World’s best cyclists attempt the road races, with pure sprinters provided with their best chance to secure the rainbow stripes in years.  We’ve already seen the team time trials, Junior Women’s ITT and the U23 Men’s ITT; here’s a little round-up of some of the events thus far….

U23 Men’s TT

Last year, Mads Würtz Schmidt took the U23 title, and returned to the start ramp this time round in defence of his title.  Alas it was not to be, as German powerhouse Marco Mathis set a blistering pace as only the second rider out of the blocks, securing victory with a time of 34:08 minutes, 18 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, compatriot Maximillian Schachmann.  Miles Scotson of Australia rounded off the podium 37 seconds behind the winner, dashing hopes of a German1-2-3 with Lennard Kämna missing out on third place by 5 seconds.  Last year’s winner Schmidt eventually took 21st, a full 02:02 minutes behind the victor.

Yet again vehicles found their way into the action, now a common feature of 2016 racing.  As Mathis approached one of the roundabouts on the technical course, an ambulance which had been travelling ahead of him in the opposite lane started to cross into his path, a move which most certainly had the potential to knock Mathis from his bike.  The rider, making a quick decision so as not to lose his rhythm and speed, managed to nip in front of the ambulance, tucking in behind an official race vehicle that had tried to communicate with the ambulance driver in an attempt to grant the rider safe passage.  The incident caused Irish cyclist Ryan Mullen to question Mathis’s dominant ride, suggesting on Twitter that the German had benefited from drafting in the slipstream of the race vehicle.

Additional controversy stalked the race as Roxanne Knetemann, participating in the Women’s TTT for Rabo-Liv, described the high temperatures as “like riding in a sauna”.  The UCI had already announced before the start of the Championships that the weather conditions would be continually monitored due to unseasonably high temperatures persisting across the country.

Women’s TT

The USA’s Amber Neben rode an inspirational World Championship time trial in Doha, winning in a time of 36:37 minutes as the oldest rider in the field.  Neben, who missed out on a place in the US Olympic team earlier this year, battled soaring temperatures and a technical 28.9 kilometre course to triumph over her younger rivals at the age of 41 – eight years after winning her first World Championship title in Italy.

As with the U23 Men’s TT and the Women’s TTT earlier in the week, the high temperatures were concerning.  Neben explained that she’d been specifically training for such conditions.  “I was in California when temperatures were up in the 90s – it was probably pretty comical to see somebody riding in a rain jacket and knee warmers when it was 95 degrees outside, but I was trying to get my body to adapt”.

Neben’s heat specific training clearly worked, as she took victory ahead of Ellen Van Dijk of the Netherlands, who claimed a podium spot, 6 seconds behind Neben.  Australia’s Katrin Garfoot completed the podium line up, 8 seconds behind.  Annemiek Van Vleuten, returning from her devastating crash in the Rio Olympics, was involved in yet another controversial incident, as if rogue ambulances and soaring mercury weren’t enough.  Van Vleuten was coming up to a roundabout when Thailand’s Phetdarin Somrat, ahead of her on the course, did not move over to allow the Dutch rider through.  Van Vleuten had to reduce speed which disturbed her rhythm and concentration, losing valuable seconds.  Somrat, who had missed her allotted start time due to a mechanical, was disqualified from the race, compounding a frustrating day.

Hannah Barnes was the best British finisher in 14th place behind Anna Van Der Breggen, with Hayley Simmonds in 25th.

Team Time Trial – Elite Men

For weeks, participation in the TTT had been in doubt, as we reported last month.  After the UCI agreed to provide start fees to all teams that entered, and stopped the event from being compulsory, there was enough interest from 10 of the 18 World Tour teams to make the race viable.  In the end, the TTT proved to be a closely fought and exciting race, as the favourites for the title, BMC Racing, took on the young pretenders in the form of Belgian-based team Etixx-Quickstep.  BMC have dominated the team time trial discipline in recent years, having won the World Championship title in back-to-back editions – 2014 and 2015.  Prior to this, it was the Belgian team who were renowned TTT specialists, also having won two back-to-back World Championships in 2012 and 2013.  Both Etixx-Quickstep and BMC were vying for a record-breaking third title.

The route, a 40km course undertaken in desert heat, proved to be technical despite its pan-flat profile.  Etixx-Quickstep riders Tony Martin, Marcel Kittel, Julien Vermote, Yves Lampaert, Niki Terpstra and Bob Jungels rode a blistering pace, crossing the line in a time of 42:32 with an average speed of 56 kilometres per hour.  The first section of the course contained technical corners and turns, and the Etixx team proved the most adept in handling these aspects, setting the fastest time at the first split.  The BMC team, made up of Rohan Dennis, Stefan Kueng, Daniel Oss, Taylor Phinney, Manuel Quinziato and Joseph Rosskopf, were 4 seconds down on the Etixx boys at this point.  The straighter sections helped BMC to draw level, as both teams registered a time of 27:56 at the 27km point.

Etixx lost Vermote and Lampaert as the course once again grew technical in the closing stages, meaning the team crossed the line with the minimum number of riders, the German pairing of Tony Martin and Marcel Kittel driving the pace during their turns on the front.  BMC had pulled into the lead by a slim margin towards the end of the course, but Etixx-Quickstep showcased their superior horsepower under such testing conditions, fighting the extreme heat to eventually win by 11 seconds from BMC.  Like the Belgian team before them, BMC dropped down to the minimum of 4 riders in what was a risky yet pre-planned move.  After the race, BMC’s Taylor Phinney confirmed that the team had anticipated ending the race with “four or five riders.  Everybody is deep in the pain cave by then…. strategy can only take you so far”.

Like the teams in the prior events, the riders found themselves affected by the desert heat.  Etixx-Quickstep’s director, Tom Steels, explained that he’d never seen his team so depleted after a TTT, testament to both the effort that had been expended and the searing hot weather.  Also riding the sweltering course, fellow World Tour team Orica-BikeExchange came in third, 37 seconds down, with Team Sky in forth, 54 seconds back.

The win was poignant for the Belgian-based boys of the Etixx-Quickstep team, as Tony Martin moves to his new team Katusha next season.  “It’s a really emotional victory for me” explained Martin, “it was the last race for the team, and it’s become a family in the last five years…it’s a dream that came true…the perfect final for me, the perfect moment to leave the team with a fantastic memory”.  Martin will be hoping to repeat his TTT victory when he competes in the individual time trial on Wednesday, although he has stiff competition in the form of riders like BMC’s Rohan Dennis and Giant-Alpecin’s Tom Dumoulin.  British hopes will lie with Tour of Britain winner Steve Cummings and Movistar rider Alex Dowsett.