The Long Read – Alexey Vermeulen Exclusive

As the season draws to a close, riders are bidding farewell to teammates and starting to look ahead to 2018, perhaps with a whole new team to adjust to as they complete a transfer.  Others are happy and settled with an established routine, enjoying the camaraderie and familiarity of their existing team.

The latter scenario is exactly what 22-year-old American Alexey Vermeulen was imagining he’d be feeling as 2017 wraps up – the Race of the Falling Leaves has been ridden, the sprinters have had a last fling at Paris-Tours…time to start preparation for 2018 with your teammates right?  Not quite.  Despite having a successful season by anyone’s standard, with a sparkling performance at the Critérium du Dauphiné one of the highlights, LottoNL-Jumbo have informed Vermeulen that he hasn’t been selected for 2018.

“It had been a good season in my mind, but somewhere along the line my team, LottoNL Jumbo, did not see it the same way” Vermeulen tells me.  “I felt loyalty toward the team and believed that they had my development as a 22-year-old as a top priority… but alas, after decisions have been made official and real thoughts have been spoken I know that was not as true as I once believed…. I worked hard and respected the jersey and the job, but at the end of the day, I didn’t see that same respect in return. I understand that cycling is a business, and I want the team to succeed. I am as motivated as I have ever been to stay at the top level of the sport –  I look forward to proving that they made the wrong decision!”

‘The Quiet American’ – Vermeulen came 3rd in the US National Championship Road Race this year.


American Renaissance

Vermeulen grew up in Michigan, and inherited his cycling pedigree from his Dutch grandfather.  2017 represented his second season at World Tour level; fittingly given his background, both seasons were with the Dutch team LottoNL Jumbo.   Vermeulen is one of a host of young riders from the US who are proving themselves with some noteworthy results – indeed, American pro cycling is currently having a bit of a renaissance moment.  Names like Neilson Powless, Brandon McNulty, Taylor Eisenhart and Lawson Craddock are definitely ones to watch over the next few years, with a glittering array of race results already behind them – stages at the Tour de l’Avenir, Best Young Rider jerseys at races such as the Tour of California and Tour of Utah, podium positions at Junior Paris-Roubaix…. the future for USA Cycling, which once looked to be on shaky ground, now seems to be in very good hands indeed.

Compared with the exuberant Eisenhart or the creative artsy streak in Taylor Phinney, Vermeulen was once branded ‘The Quiet American’ by  Much like Greg LeMond before him, Vermeulen is affable and polite, and only too pleased to have a chat and share his thoughts.  The blog he works on during the race season is an engaging read, and Vermeulen is a good storyteller with a self-confessed ‘love for words’.

“I have always enjoyed writing”, Alexey says of his blog,  “When I created my blog, I was heading over to Europe for the first time as a 16-year-old. I saw it as an easy way to keep my family and friends updated with my experiences and adventures. As time went on I have come to enjoy the flow of writing, especially as a cyclist where sometimes we have more time than we need on our hands. Sharing my funny stories about cultural differences or the racing scene leaves constant and never-ending possibilities to write about!”

“It had been a good season in my mind, but somewhere along the line my team, LottoNL Jumbo, did not see it the same way”

American Abroad

Cultural differences were not the only thing the 16-year-old from Michigan had to adjust to.  “European racing is vastly different from the US. It is not harder, or more intense…but different.” Alexey says.

“The roads in Europe are smaller, narrower, so you race closer together, elbow to elbow – positioning is key, knowing where and when to put the effort in. Tactics play a bigger role. In the US, I view it as more of an all-out death race sometimes. At some point in the race, everyone rides as hard as possible and you see who is left. American racing creates really strong riders, some of the best time trial riders, but sometimes it can lead to clumsiness, as we do not learn from a young age how to navigate a cobble section or take on a harrowing alpine descent.

It always goes both ways though; if you put a European rider in a twilight crit, he will not be comfortable. European racing at the highest level is also like football or basketball in America. While you might have a national championship road race in Knoxville, Tennessee where 25 people are watching…races like Critérium du Dauphiné or the World Championships this year in Norway see crowds two and three rows deep lining the roads for kilometer after kilometer! In Belgium during the races there are even betting boards – one of the coolest experiences ever was seeing my name on the top of the board before a kermesse when I first started racing over the pond when I was u23”.


American Inspired

The cool experiences keep rolling in, with Vermeulen now riding alongside cyclists who inspired him when he was breaking into the sport.  “Growing up I was inspired and motivated by Taylor Phinney. I found his drive and his quirky habits to be interesting and something that I could relate to. I always read about Taylor in Velonews or saw him in the press. He worked harder than most people I knew, and he was just perfectly older than me where I was always looking up to him and could use him as a carrot. Still to this day I see him as part of my cycling career.

Another rider I admire is Mark Cavendish. I watched him win in Copenhagen at my first World Championships where everyone said it was too hard for him. He has overcome more adversity in 10 years than most men do in a lifetime”.

As well as looking up to riders in the current peloton, Vermeulen is also fully versed in the fascinating backstory of cycling, its amazing feats of endurance and the compelling characters who achieved them, declaring Gino Bartali as a great inspiration. “Reading about Gino made me realize the grand history of the beautiful sport that I am competing in, and that it was not always as easy as just going out to train. Gino still holds the largest gap between two Giro d’Italia wins”.

Life isn’t all about cycling and cycling history though – it turns out that Alexey is a bit of a mean chef!  “When I am not on the bike, I like to spend my time cooking as well as being outside. Spain has allowed for a good amount of exploring. Rest days spent going to the beach or finding hidden coffee shops and restaurants are rest days well spent. My favorite meal to cook would start with gazpacho, followed by steak, sweet potatoes, and broccolini with feta and paprika on the side, finishing with banana bread warm out of the oven or possibly rice pudding. I have been known to make people drool…”

There’s just time to quiz Vermeulen on his hopes for the future before stomachs start rumbling…..

“Short term I’d love to start and finish my first Grand Tour.  Long term the goal is to go to the Olympics… LA 2028 would be a dream after missing out on the World Championships in Richmond with a broken wrist”.

For the immediate future, Vermeulen is hoping his World Tour dreams will continue after being forced to leave the team he loves and supports, LottoNL Jumbo. So what’s life like as a World Tour rider? “It can be relaxed at times, and offers a lot of free time, plus you get to see the world! but it also includes riding a bike for 30,000 kilometers a year. It can be harder than it looks!”

Well, racing up the Col du Tourmalet or the hairpins of Alpe d’Huez looks pretty darn hard to me. Best fuel up with some good food first….did someone say banana bread or rice pudding?


Photographs courtesy of Alexey Vermeulen



Race to the End of the World

This afternoon one of the most spectacular races in the calendar begins close to the Arctic Circle.

Here’s your guide to the Arctic Race of Norway, with thanks to Eliot Lietaer of Team Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, who’ll be lining up on the start line today.

What is the Arctic Race?

A fairly new addition to the race calendar, the Arctic Race was first held in 2013 as a category 2.1 UCI Europe Tour event. From 2015 the race was classified as 2.HC.  Fittingly, the inaugural edition was won by the Norwegian Thor Hushovd. Hushovd continued to be involved with the event as an official race ambassador.

The 2014 Arctic Race near the city of Tromso (Photo:


What’s the route like?

The route this year is made up of 4 stages, each designed to accommodate different styles of rider.  This is a theme in the Arctic Race of Norway – to date we’ve seen overall victories going to a sprinter (Hushovd), climber (Kruijswijk), GC rider (Taaramaie) and Classics specialist (Moscon).  Last year, Team Sky’s Moscon took home 500 kilograms of fish as well as the winners Blue & Orange Jersey!

The riders will cover a distance of 680km over the 4 stages of the race, cheered on from the roadside by enthusiastic fans, and cycling through some of the most spectacular scenery seen by the professional peloton.  “Norway is a really nice country to race in” explains Eliot Lietaer of Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, who is competing in his second Arctic Race.  “The roads are really good, the hotels are nice – always good WiFi – and there are very friendly people cheering at the side of the road”.

The route this year is well suited to Lietaer’s style of racing, comprising one real climbers day, two for the sprinters – one a pure sprint day – and a rolling stage perfect for puncheurs, which includes some sharp climbs to test the legs.

“I’m really looking forward to the Arctic Race of Norway this year because it really suits me – three relatively flat stages and one mountain top finish where the GC will be decided and where I can show my real strength”.

Lietaer thrives in situations like this, and coming off the back of a great showing at the Vuelta a Burgos, don’t be surprised to see him mixing it at the sharp end.  “I prefer stage races as I do very well at them. My recuperation is very good at the end of a stage race, and I’m still feeling strong and can go for a good result.  The Tour de Wallonie and Vuelta a Burgos were my goals for the season as well as the Arctic Race – after that I’m only racing a few one day events. I hope to do well as I have ambitions to ride for a WorldTour team next year, so every race counts”.


What can we expect to see over the 4 days of racing?

 Amazing scenery, Norwegian flags and some great racing!

“The style of racing is pretty similar to races in traditional cycling countries” explains Lietaer.  One thing that will be different is the amazing backdrop.  “I rode the Arctic Race of Norway once a few years ago, and it was a really nice experience, as we finished one stage at a place called ‘The End of the World’ – the North Cape.  It’s always nice to finish at spectacular places like this.”

The End of the World – Norway’s North Cape (Photo: Visit Norway)

Day one sees the riders starting the race on the island of Andorja, and utilises a finishing circuit last seen in the 2015 edition of the race.  5km before the finish line, the riders will reach the summit of the Skistua climb, which covers 2.3km at an average of 6.6% gradient.  The pure sprinters will be eyeing up day two, which starts at Sjovegan and uniquely finishes on the runway of the airport at Bardufoss.

Stage three is the day for the climbers, with the route heading into the spectacular Lyngen Alps for a summit finish in Finnvikdalen, after 4km of climbing with a 5.5% average gradient.

The forth and final stage starts and finishes in the Norwegian city of Tromso, encircling the settlement with a loop of 118km before tackling three laps of a 13km finishing circuit – including some pretty punchy climbs to ignite the GC competition.


Who’s competing?

The Arctic Race of Norway has a bit of a cult following, and its position in the race calendar makes it an attractive prospect before the Vuelta.  Fresh from victory at the Tour of Poland, BMC’s Dylan Teuns is confident he’ll be able to perform well.  Teams at the Arctic Race are made up of 6 riders, with some, like Dimension Data, choosing to take one or two stagiaires to increase their race experience.

WorldTour teams Dimension Data, Astana, Sunweb, Katusha-Alpecin and Teuns’ BMC will be on the start line, and there’ll be a strong local contingent with a number of Norwegian teams taking part.

“There are a lot of Norwegian teams competing with a lot of talented guys who are really motivated” explains Lietaer.


What are the prizes on offer?

 The race leader will wear the Blue & Orange Jersey, with a Green Jersey on offer for the Points Classification, and the so-called ‘Salmon’ Jersey (a sort of orange colour) for the King of the Mountains.  Prizes are also rewarded to the ‘Most Active Rider’ of the day, and to the best placed team on GC. 


Who’s going to win?

Newly crowned European champion Alexander Kristoff will want to continue the winning streak he started at London-Surrey – especially on home turf. Dylan Teuns of BMC is the Freewheeling pick for the GC however, and don’t count out Rein Taaramäe, the overall winner here in 2015.

When can I watch it?

Eurosport 1 will show live coverage from 4-5pm BST.  This footage will be repeated on E2 at 7pm.

From France to Spain – Your Post-Tour Survival Guide

The time between the end of the Tour de France and the start of the Vuelta a España is packed to bursting with excellent racing -which is great news if the finishing circuits of the Champs-Elysées leave you feeling flat and uninspired. We’ve already seen some one-day action with RideLondon hosting the World Tour level London-Surrey Classic and Michal Kwiatkowski’s brilliant win at the Clásica San Sebastián since the Tour finished in Paris.  As for stage racing – the Tour of Poland, Tour of Utah and the Vuelta a Burgos are currently in full flow!

We’re still a few weeks away from the Vuelta, but there’s plenty of road racing to keep you busy. Here’s your post-Tour survival guide to take you from France to Spain each year.

Tour de Wallonie                                                                                          

 22nd – 26th July 2017

The Tour de Wallonie travels through the French speaking part of Belgium, and is part of the UCI Europe Tour. From 1974 to 1995, the race was for amateurs only. This year saw BMC’s Dylan Teuns take the overall win – fittingly for a Belgian!

Clásica San Sebastián                                                                                                 

29th July 2017

This year, Team Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski won the one-day classic in Spain’s Basque region, a race which is famed for its stunning coastline scenery and tricky climbs. Part of the UCI World Tour, San Sebastián usually clocks in at around 220km in length, with the race often being decided on the slopes of the Alto de Jaizkibel, a climb which the riders tackle twice and which makes its second and final appearance around 20km from the finish line.

Lance Armstrong won here in 1995 before his cancer diagnosis; other famous winners include Casagrande, Jalabert, Indurain and Valverde. British rider Adam Yates won the 2015 edition.

London-Surrey Classic                                                                                              

30th July 2017

The annual London-Surrey Classic grew out of the hype around the 2012 Olympics; the first edition of the race was run in August 2011 as a warm-up for the Games. The inaugural London-Surrey race was relatively short for a Classic, covering approximately 140km and taking in many of the same roads as the Olympic events a year later. Once out of the city, the riders enter the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and tackle a number of circuits of Westhumble through to Ranmore Common and on to Box Hill. The famed climb of Box Hill is not the only incline on the route, which also includes Leith Hill and a 50 mile circuit in and around Dorking.

This year the London-Surrey Classic joined the UCI World Tour as part of an ever expanding calendar of races. The race has become a favourite with the riders for the iconic locations taken in over the 200km course – as well as Box Hill, the route also passes through Westminster, crosses Putney Bridge, and finishes on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace. Amateurs get the chance to ride the same roads as the pros immediately prior to the Men’s race on the Sunday of the RideLondon festival of cycling.

The race is well suited to sprinters – Mark Cavendish won the inaugural edition, this year the honours went to Katusha Alpecin’s Alexander Kristoff.

Tour of Poland                                                                                        

9th July – 4th August 2017

First held in 1928, the Tour of Poland is a week long stage race. Like the Tour de Wallonie, the race began life as an amateurs only event, eventually becoming a pro race in 1993. Now classified as part of the World Tour, the Tour of Poland has earned a reputation as a top quality, well organised race.

Inspired by the Tour de France, the original race even had the backing of a newspaper like it’s French counterpart; the Warsaw Cycling Club teamed up with Przeglad Sportsowy, a sporting newspaper, to organise the first edition.

The 2016 edition was won by Belgium’s Tim Wellens, and I expect by the time you read this we’ll know who the winner of the 2017 edition is!

Tour of Utah                                                                                          

31st July – 6th August 2017

Nicknamed ‘America’s Toughest Stage Race’, the Tour of Utah is relatively new on the scene and notorious for its difficulty – half the competitors did not finish the 2010 edition. The race is made interesting and tough through a combination of extreme weather and high altitude, which are often the deciding factors in the General Classification competition.

Founded in 2000, the inaugural edition was only open to amateurs. In 2004 that changed, and the race became known as the Tour of Utah. The format was bought and promoted by Larry H Millar Investments in 2007 – ironically, the ’07 edition was postponed due to a lack of sponsors.

One of the only UCI sanctioned stage races in the US, the Tour of Utah attracts a mainly American field, and the results table is reflective of this – Levi Leipheimer and Tom Danielson have won two editions each. Last year the race was won by Australia’s Lachlan Morton in a break from the usual US dominance.

European Road Race Championships                                    

2nd August – 6thAugust 2017

The European Road Championships have been regulated by the European Cycling Union since 1995. Riders are chosen by their national governing body and wear national team kit.

The winners receive a Champions Jersey reminiscent of the EU flag – blue, emblazoned with gold stars. This year the event takes place in Herning, Denmark, with the 2018 event scheduled to be held in Glasgow.

The 2016 European Time Trial was won by Castroviejo, with Victor Campenaerts in second place. This year, Campenaerts has just won the Time Trial, with Maciej Bodnar, fresh from Tour de France TT victory, taking second place. In common with national and World championship competitions, the European Championships also hold U23 and Women’s events.

Fun fact – Marcel Kittel won the U23 Time Trial in 2009!

BinckBank Tour (formerly Eneco Tour)                                              

7th-13th August 2017

The BinckBank Tour grew out of the Tour of the Netherlands, which was stalling and losing popularity in the early 2000s. The race as we now know it started life in 2005 when the Eneco energy company came on board as a sponsor. The original idea was to join forces with the Tours of Belgium and Luxembourg, and to roll all three races into one Benelux Tour. The idea faltered, and all three remain as separate races.

Bobby Julich won the newly named Eneco Tour in 2005. The race has always suited Edvald Boassen Hagen’s riding style, and he has won the General Classification twice. Last year Niki Terpstra took the GC honours, with Oliver Naesen in second place and Sagan completing the podium.

The Arctic Race of Norway                                                                    

10th -13th August 2017

The Arctic Race is organised by ASO, who also run the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España amongst other high profile races. A relative newcomer, the inaugural edition was held in 2013. Fittingly, the first edition was won by the Norwegian Thor Hushovd, who is now the race ambassador. The 2016 race traced the edge of the Arctic circle and was won by Team Sky’s Gianni Moscon.

The Arctic Race takes place in northern Norway and features some of the most stunning and spectacular scenery in the whole of the UCI calendar. The 2017 edition covers 680km across 4 stages, aiming to provide terrain for sprinters and punchers, with a bit of climbing thrown in for good measure.

The Arctic Race celebrates Norwegian culture and heritage, and is proud of its reputation as a ‘race with a crazy touch’. Stage 2 will be one for the pure sprinters with an unconventional finish on the runway of Bardutoss Airport. The Norwegian fans are very vocal in their support of the race, which is fast becoming a highlight of the UCI calendar.

Colorado Classic                                                                                        

10th – 13th August 2017

A series of 4 one-day races, the Colorado Classic is a new event which is said to fuse the best elements of ‘Colorado’s lost Red Zinger Bicycle Classic, the Coors Classic and the USA Pro Challenge’. Red Zinger and the Coors Classic were popular American criteriums, whereas the Pro Challenge was the perfect made-for-tv extended advert for the Colorado tourist board, taking the viewer on a spectacular journey of the Colorado high lands.

For a state obsessed with all things bicycle, stage racing has never really found its feet in Colorado. The new initiative hopes to address this anomaly, and includes a ‘three day street party’ in Denver called Velorama. The organisers see Velorama as the perfect vehicle to relaunch road racing in the public imagination, relying heavily on advertising slogans such as ‘Pro Cycling is Back’, and ‘100+ cyclists, 3 cities, 1 giant party’. Colorado is well known as a creative outdoor hub, and it seems fitting that something as unique and intriguing as Velorama is taking place here.

Local lad Taylor Phinney and his teammate Rigoberto Uran of Cannondale-Drapac will be amongst the number of pro riders making an appearance, fresh from Uran’s 2nd place at the Tour de France.

Lance Armstrong and JB Hager will be covering the Colorado Classic for the Stages podcast, a perfect match as both the Velorama event and Stages take a new and pioneering approach to road racing, which could be just what the US scene requires to inject some much-needed enthusiasm at grass roots level. The 2017 Tour de France only included 3 American riders; hopefully initiatives like Stages and Velorama will go some way to rectifying this perceived lack of depth in US pro cycling.

  • Keep your eyes peeled for the Freewheeling Arctic Race special with Eliot Lietaer of Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise

Cav’s Catalogue of Unfortunate Events

Following the controversial crash at the end of Stage 4 of the 2017 Tour de France, which ended the involvement of both Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish in this year’s race, Freewheeling looks back at some of Cav’s other race-changing incidents….

  1. A Stain on the Jersey





    After winning an amazing 6 stages at the 2009 Tour de France, Mark Cavendish left Paris without having secured the prize he most coveted – the green jersey. Despite being on top form, Cav’s designs on the maillot vert came to an abrupt – and controversial – end, when he was disqualified from the Stage 14 results, deemed to have been riding dangerously by steering his rival Thor Hushovd into the barriers.

    Cav complained loudly about his disqualification, believing that Hushovd had not played fair by making an official complaint about the Stage 14 sprint. The dispute between the two riders rumbled on throughout the rest of the Tour, with Cav telling the press “this guy thinks so highly of himself that he thinks I’m trying to cheat to beat him…I said to him ‘you’ve won the green jersey, but that’s always going to have a stain on it’…”

  1. Flicking the V in Romandie


    v romandie

    After Cav’s 6 wins in the ’09 Tour, the lack of the green jersey in Paris started to simmer below the surface for Cav and his team, and they were not ashamed to be vocal about targetting the maillot vert for the 2010 Tour de France.

    Following the usual pattern however, Cav’s path to glory was far from smooth, and his claim on the jersey looked to be on shaky ground from the off. Cavendish contracted a nasty dental infection in the off-season, which impacted upon his ability to train during the winter months, when most pro racers are laying the foundations for the rest of their season. Cav and cohorts were understandably frustrated going into the early season races, concerned about the impact his truncated training period would have upon his Tour de France ambitions. Some sections of the media began questioning Cav’s commitment, and suggestions were circulating that Mark’s volatile emotional responses – to racing, to questions from journalists, to the actions and statements of his rivals – were hampering his ability to reach his undoubted potential.


    The press were keen to focus on what some saw as a question mark over his form, given Cav’s inability to defend his Milan-San Remo title in March 2010. His rocky relationship with team mate and fellow sprinter, Andre Greipel, was generating the column inches which, in a perfect world, would have been filled with a host of early season wins. Cav felt that the media had failed to understand the nuances of pro racing and the impact his dental problems had had upon his training and early races. All these ingredients were swirling around in the pot when Cavendish was selected by his team HTC-Columbia for the Tour de Romandie, a stage race in late April.

    Storming to a typically impressive sprint victory in Stage 2 in Switzerland, as he crossed the line in Fribourg, Cav flicked the V sign, the gesture clearly aimed at his critics in the media. In case anyone was confused, Cav told the post-stage press conference that he wanted “to send a message to commentators and journalists who don’t know jack shit about cycling”.

    Cav raced Stage 3 – a time trial in which he finished 139th, however HTC-Columbia pulled him from the race soon after, citing “inappropriate actions” when flicking the V in Fribourg. Cav was forced to make a public apology, “I did want to make a statement to my critics but realise that making rude gestures on the finish line is not the best way to do that”.

  1. Ragin’ Renshaw


    Following his expulsion from the Tour de Romandie at the end of April 2010, Cavendish remained undeterred in his green jersey ambitions. The HTC-Columbia team had perfected the art of the lead-out, with the Aussie Mark Renshaw as the last link in the chain, the man to take Cav up the final few metres towards the finish line before swinging away and allowing Cav to leap from his slipstream and dart towards the line with his incredible power and natural sprinting ability. HTC-Columbia’s lead-out was the envy of every sprinter in the peloton, a well-oiled-and-well-drilled machine, with tactical prowess and the ability to accurately read race situations before allowing Cav to power to the line with a frightening acceleration. Going into the 2010 Tour de France, you’d have been mad to suggest that the maillot vert had a destination other than the Manxman from HTC-Columbia.

    If you listen to Cav’s post-race interviews, you’ll notice something – a sentiment that he’ll repeat no matter the outcome of the stage. Mark Cavendish will always thank his entire team for their role in delivering him to the line, their individual roles as crucial as Cav’s sprinting skill. So it was a bit of a concern (to say the least) when Renshaw was expelled from the 2010 Tour de France after a headbutting incident during a bunch sprint to the finish of Stage 11 in Bourg-les-Valence.

    Renshaw was leading Cav to the finishing metres of Stage 11; the HTC-Columbia train having worked to perfection. Other teams had tried to match HTC-Columbia’s organisation, and everything was set up for an exciting bunch sprint. The Garmin- Transitions team were working for their sprinter Tyler Farrar, who had his lead-out man, New Zealander Julian Dean, ride up alongside Renshaw as the riders hit the 400m to go mark. In the frantic and frenetic final moments of the finishing straight, Renshaw headbutted Julian Dean – not once, not twice, but three times, before cutting into Farrar’s race line, impeding his sprint. “He carried on after (the headbutting incident) and came across Tyler’s line and stopped Tyler from possibly winning the stage” Dean said after Renshaw’s disqualification. “It’s dangerous behaviour, and what we do is already dangerous anyway…if there had been a crash it would have caused some guys serious damage”.

    Despite the antics in the bunch, Cav took the stage victory, with Renshaw’s result immediately declassified. Race officials reviewed the footage of the final 400 metres, and deemed Renshaw’s actions unacceptable. “We have decided to throw him off the race” stated race official Jean-Francois Pescheux. “This is a bike race, not a gladiator’s arena”.


Photo credits: Top – Getty/Tour of California, Stain on the Jersey – Telegraph, Flicking the V – Telegraph, Ragin’ Renshaw – Eurosport/ASO

Spain, Salads, and Steve Cummings – On the Start Line with Pete Kibble

Last year, we caught up with the U23 rider Pete Kibble just as he was preparing for the next stage of his career, having signed on with the development team Zappi Pro Cycling. After his first six months with the team, we caught up with Pete to hear how he’s been getting along – and to find out what it feels like to be on the start line at the National Championships with Cav and Steve Cummings!
Freewheeling – Hi Pete, when we last spoke, you were just about to join the Zappi Pro team.  What have you been up to since then?
Pete Kibble – I started off the year in Calle, Spain, with pre season training, then we headed across to Italy for our racing campaign, which consists of mostly UCI 1.2 level events and Italian nationals. I’ve also been back home for a stretch focusing on the national road and TT championships.
F – What is the average day like with the  Zappi Pro team?
PK-  Well this isn’t the average day for cyclists, but it’s our routine. At 8am I get up then go and weigh-in in front of Flavio (Ed – Flavio Zappi, Italian ex professional cyclist who formed Zappi Pro as a development team for young riders in 2009). Then we go for a 30 minute pre-breakfast walk, before coming back to have breakfast. Afterwards we have a few hours before our ride where I usually try and sneak a coffee and wifi access. We then go out and do whatever training ride we have planned. When we come back we have a salad – that is exactly the same every day, no exceptions! After lunch we have an afternoon nap, then a few hours to ourselves. We have dinner at 6:30 which we prepare and make each day, then we have to be in bed by 10. Not the most glamorous life I know!
F –  Sounds pretty good to me! How many races have you competed since joining the team?
PK – I can’t remember how many races I’ve competed in off the top of my head, but it’s a fair few and mostly UCIs in Italy. These races are so hard it’s even an achievement to finish – there are around 200 starters in each race, and usually only 30-50 finish.
F – Wow, that sounds pretty hardcore! Speaking of hardcore, you achieved excellent results at the Nationals on the Isle of Man.  What was the experience like?
PK–  It was a great experience, and so cool to be lined up with the likes of Cav and Steve Cummings. I really enjoyed the race even though it was pretty brutal –  the experience of racing around the famous Isle of Man TT circuit was something else (be it a lot slower than the likes of Guy Martin)!
F – There was some confusion towards the end of the National Road Race, with riders being pulled from the course.  Are you able to shed some light on what happened and how it affected the U23 riders?
PK–  There was a rule that if the leaders gained over 8 minutes on another group, that group would get pulled out the race. Our group was second on the road, and didn’t get any time checks or warning of when we were going to get pulled until we were black flagged. This meant that a lot of us –  and a large contingent of U23s –  didn’t have the chance to compete for 3rd place in the U23 race.
F – What a shame! It sounds like a great experience overall though! How has working with the Zappi team changed your riding, both in terms of physically being on the bike, and your mindset?
PK –  I’d say I’m a pretty single minded individual, and know where my strengths lie so I don’t feel the team has changed me much as a rider. I definitely feel it has changed my mindset though, I’ve been learning lots about continental racing. I’d also say that on the downside I’ve become a bit over obsessive with my weight when I’m away.
F – What are your long and short term goals in cycling? 
PK – My long term goal is to become a pro cyclist and race Grand Tours. My short term goal is to progress into a bigger U23 development team within the next 2 years.
F -What do you hope to achieve next season?
PK – Next season’s goals will be to build upon the learning curve of this test and try to gain some good results.
F – Since we last spoke you’ve started to write a blog, which has been a great read and such a good way to keep people updated. How have you found writing about cycling?
PK –  I’ve quite enjoyed writing the blog as it’s nice to have somewhere to record my memories. I also think my family and friends find it interesting to see what I’m up to when I’m away.
F -Top tip for the Tour?!
PK –  I think Richie Porte has a great chance this year. But as a Welshman seeing Geraint’s success,  I’d love to see him go all the way to Paris!
F – We think Porte has the legs for it this year too! Thanks so much for your time and good luck for the rest of your season – we can’t wait until the day we see you racing on the Champs- Elysees!
To keep up with Pete’s European exploits, check out his blog here
For more information on Zappi Pro Cycling, please visit the website

Who are….Wanty-Groupe Gobert?

Of the four wildcard entries into the 2017 Tour de France, only one comes from outside of France.  The Wanty-Groupe Gobert team is based in Belgium, and makes its Grand Tour debut in the 104th edition of the Tour de France.

Vital Stats

  • Wanty-Groupe Gobert was founded in 2008 as the Continental level team Willems Verandas.  The team took on its current name in 2014.


  • The team currently rides at Pro Continental level, and were the only Pro Continental team to win a WorldTour one day race in 2016, with Enrico Gasparotto’s victory in the Amstel Gold Race.


  • Wanty-Groupe Gobert have never ridden a Grand Tour, and each of the 9 selected riders is making his Tour debut.


  • The Tour team features: Frederik Backaert, Thomas Degand, Guillaume Martin, Marco Minnaard, Yoann Offredo, Andrea Pasqualon, Dion Smith, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Pieter Vanspeybrouck.

Stage 2 Spoils

With todays stage finishing in Belgium, it seems fitting that a Belgian team ended the day as leaders of the team classification.  Yoann Offredo was awarded the Most Combative Rider after his excellent ride in the two-man breakaway, which he rode with Cannondale-Drapac’s Taylor Phinney.  “I studied the race book and immediately saw that an escape would leave early.  When the break was formed, I wondered why I was in front.  It was raining the whole day, but the feeling was good…some talked about a breakaway for publicity but that was not my main goal.  In my mind there was something else.  The stage victory.”  Unfortunately for Offredo, the peloton caught the break with 1k to go.

Speaking of Offredo’s ride, directeur sportif Hilaire Van der Schueren said “I am more than satisfied.  This is the scenario we dreamed of! I saw the sponsors in tears…such days are not common”.

Only two days in to the 2017 Tour and Wanty-Groupe Gobert already have much to be proud of!


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’.