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MILAN (VN) — The Giro d’Italia will mix mountains with time trial kilometers in 2015 thanks to a 59.2km stage midway in the three-week race from May 9-31.
The race against the clock through the Prosecco countryside in the country’s north is the longest time trial in six years. Organizer RCS Sport’s inclusion of a 60.6km time trial in 2009 was largely seen as an incentive for Lance Armstrong to race.
RCS Sport included a 55.5km time trial in 2013 that Englishman Alex Dowsett (Movistar) won ahead of countryman Bradley Wiggins (Sky). The inclusion of the Saltara stage helped convince 2012 Tour de France winner Wiggins to participate in the Giro.
Giro race director Mauro Vegni said he wants Wiggins to return again before he retires. Wiggins, however, is planning on bowing out after Paris-Roubaix next season before he switches focus to the hour record and track cycling at the 2016 Olympics.
The Giro d’Italia first included a time trial in 1933, a 62km stage won by Alfredo Binda. Fausto Coppi won the race’s longest time trial of 81km in 1951.
Regardless of the participants, the 17.6km team time trial to open the race in Sanremo and the 59.2km stage from Treviso to Valdobbiadene will balance the Giro’s 2015 edition. It will tip the scales in favor of riders like 2012 winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), and 2013 Tour champion Chris Froome (Sky), if he decides to race.
The Giro often favors climbers — look no further than the featherweight 2014 champion Nairo Quintana (Movistar) — more so than the Tour de France, thanks to its reliance on high-mountain stages through the Alps in the country’s north. Behind Quintana, Urán placed second and Italian Fabio Aru (Astana) was third.
Quintana already decided to race the Tour instead of the Giro in 2015, while Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) plans to race the first two grand tours. Other possible contenders have not yet announced their 2015 plans.
Climbers will find plenty for them in the Giro d’Italia because as usual, the race features several mountaintop finishes (six in 2015), including Abetone, Madonna di Campiglio, Aprica, Cervinia, and Sestriere.
The Abetone stage (stage 5), finishing at 1,386 meters begins the party. RCS Sport saved the best for the final week, though, with Madonna di Campiglio (1715m), Aprica (1173m), Cervinia (2001m), and the gravel climb up the Colle delle Finestre (2178m) ahead of the Sestriere finish (2035m).
Sestriere, which last hosted the finish when Vasil Kiryienka won in 2011, will cement the overall classification with the final 185km stage from Turin to Milan mostly used as a day of celebration for the eventual winner.
Besides the long time trial, the 2015 Giro includes marathon-like road stages. Three of its 21 days stretch over 200km, with the longest at the end of the first week looking more like a one-day monument at 263km to Fiuggi.
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Katie Compton (Trek Factory Racing) grabbed her 99th UCI victory on the second day of action at the KMC Cyclo-cross Festival in Providence, Rhode Island Sunday.
Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Racing) finished second and Rachel Lloyd (Cal Giant) took third.
Compton attacked the two-person breakaway of Arley Kemmerer (PB2 Pro Cycling) and Emma White (cyclocrossworld.com) early in the race, and pulled away from the pair with Wyman hanging onto her wheel. As the race went on, however, Compton — a 10-time U.S. champion — pulled away and rode solo to the finish line.
A chase group formed but broke apart, and Wyman and Lloyd both finished separate from each other to earn spots on the podium.
Compton also won Saturday’s race to open the weekend of racing.
In the men’s race, Stephen Hyde (JAM Fund-NCC) jumped to the front of the race early and eventually crossed the line solo to earn the victory. Raleigh-Clement teammates Jamey Driscoll and Ben Berden placed second and third.
Hyde made his move during the opening lap and immediately took the lead. Lukas Winterberg (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld) was able to bridge the substantial gap and join Hyde at the front, where the pair worked together to stay ahead of the rest of the field.
Winterberg began to slow down with two laps to go, at which point Hyde continued pedaling toward the finish line and the victory. Behind him, several riders were trying to organize a chase to reel him in.
Driscoll put in a big effort to get within five seconds of Hyde on the bell lap, but that was as close as he would get. Berden came across in third.
“This is huge — I’ve been dreaming about this,” Hyde said in a press release. “This is great for the JAM Fund, a development program that’s supported me so much.”
Notably missing from Sunday’s race was Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus), who won Saturday’s opener.
The end-of-season battle for the UCI WorldTour title between Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde, along with their Tinkoff-Saxo and Movistar teams, is going down to the wire.
Contador saw his slender, 14-point lead to archrival Valverde dissolve in a wild finale Sunday at the Giro di Lombardia, with Contador kissing the pavement. Valverde dashed to second behind winner Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp), and retook the WorldTour lead.
Valverde earned 80 points to bounce back into the top spot, with the five-day Tour of Beijing set to decide the WorldTour crown. Contador was well placed in the lead chase group, but crashed in the final corner and missed out on points awarded to the top-10 finishers in the Italian monument. He crossed the line 34th, and was worried after falling heavily on the same knee he injured in his crash at the Tour de France in July.
“In the final corner, someone crashed right in front of me and I didn’t have time to react. I went down and several riders came from behind and crashed into me. There was simply nothing I could do,” Contador said in a press release after the race.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t escape unharmed,” he said. “I’ve sustained an injury to my left knee, which is the same one I hurt in the Tour and I also have some bruises on my elbow. It’s unlucky that it was the knee again but I think it’s not too serious. I’ll put some ice on it and hopefully I’ll be ready to go.”
Contador’s knee was swollen after the fall, and now he might not race the Beijing tour. If he decides not to go, the individual title will be assured for Valverde.
“Right now, the most important thing is to see how my knee feels tonight and tomorrow morning, when the initial swelling has subsided,” Contador said. “Right now it’s not important. He gained points and is now 66 points ahead of me. I will keep my eyes on Tour of Beijing and hopefully I’ll be able to compete.”
Valverde and Contador have been seesawing for the WorldTour lead all season. Contador held an early lead following his phenomenal spring, but his early exit from the Tour de France allowed Valverde to battle back. He backed up his fourth place overall at the Tour with victory at the Clásica San Sebastian to take the WorldTour lead.
Contador took it back with an overall victory at the Vuelta a España, but Sunday’s Lombardia could very well tip the scale to Valverde.
Valverde now leads with 686 points to Contador’s 620. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) is a distant third with 478 points.
On Sunday, Martin uncorked a long sprint to surprise Valverde, who managed to cross the line second in the Italian classic, pushing him back into the WorldTour lead.
“I had the legs to win the race and I’m a bit sad about that, but nothing is taken for granted in pro cycling,” Valverde said in a team release. “Everyone was looking at me when Martin attacked, they left all responsibility on my shoulders to go after him. I just couldn’t control everything in the end and we had to sprint for second place.”
Valverde retakes the WorldTour lead, a testament to his impressive consistency across the 2014 season. In 77 days of racing this season, Valverde has won 11 races, finished on the podium 27 times, and rode into the top-10 another 43 occasions.
Valverde will be in the driver’s seat going into Beijing, which has 100 points up for grabs for the winner, and more for stages and placings.
“I am happy about the day’s result,” Valverde said. “The team worked well, and I achieved the goal of retaking the WorldTour lead. Things look good going into the final race, so we can manage things well in Beijing.”
Movistar also widened its team standings lead to Tinkoff, with 1,440 points to 1,186 points.
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