Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) continued his scorching start to the season with his second win at the Volta ao Algarve, his fifth of 2016.

Kittel conquered on the 194km fourth and penultimate stage, crossing the line luxuriously ahead of Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) and Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal).

“I can’t find the words to express my happiness. We did a great race today and we showed again a fantastic team spirit. We can all be very proud of what we achieved," Kittel said.

“It was a pretty fast and chaotic finale. Fabio Sabatini risked a lot to bring me into a good position, and I can’t thank him enough for his effort."

"He took me to the front with one kilometre to go and did an incredible lead-out, leaving me to open my sprint in the final 200 meters and finish off the job.

"Today’s victory is of the entire team, because the boys looked after me all the time, controlled the race and made sure I'm in a safe position."

With the race leader Tony Martin under their care, Etixx-Quickstep controlled proceedings from the gun, ultimately reeling back an early four-man breakaway of Guillaume De Almeida (Radio Popular), Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk), Ivan Savitskiy (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and Adam Stachowiak (Verva-ActiveJet).

“The stage was more or less relaxed, the riders weren't nervous and everything was under control until the final 25 kilometres, when things became really hectic and many riders crashed," said Martin.

"Even though the last kilometres weren't easy, we did a perfect job and finished safely, which is equally important."

Martin remains in the lead but must hold off on the final stage a motivated Geraint Thomas who is only three seconds in debt. As usual at the Volta ao Algarve, the Alto de Malhão climb could prove decisive. While only under 3km, it has an an average gradient of 8.9%. As he has won the race in 2011 and 2013, Martin is still hopeful.

"Tomorrow it won’t be easy, but I will give my best and will try to stay with Geraint, although I'm sure attacks will come also from other riders. It’s going to be again a hard day, but I can count on a great team and we’ll see how things go," he said.

 

Sunday 21 Feb 2016

Tejay van Garderen (BMC) took the overall lead at the Ruta del Sol after an impressive 21km individual time trial victory. Van Garderen finished the fourth stage in 27 minutes and 5 seconds, two seconds ahead of Wilco Kelderman (LottoNO-Jumbo) and seven from Jerome Coppel (IAM).

As many star riders have found so far in this early season, the victory has given van Garderen confidence.

"It's great to get the first victory of the season early. Now we can take a more relaxed approach going forward. It's a big confidence boost but we definitely have our minds set on tomorrow. We're going to have a tough challenge but we're excited," van Garderen said.

"It was a tail wind on the way out but it was a lot of climbing and it was head wind on the way back but a bit downhill so it was really hard to pace. You couldn't go easy on the way out and you couldn't go easy on the way back, so you just had to put your head down and go.

"When you look at the results you can definitely tell that BMC Racing Team prepared well over the winter."

BMC Director Valerio Piva said this ITT was earmarked before the race.

"From the beginning we came here with the ITT and the GC in mind for Tejay. We came here after Murcia and Almeria and did a recon of today's course to put Tejay in the best position to perform well. Today was amazing not only for him, but the whole team as we had three riders in the top ten. So we are very happy," he said.

With only a two second lead on GC over Kelderman before the final stage tomorrow, a show down is expected on the Penas Blancas summit finish.

"If you look at today's results I think that we easily have the strongest team here so that gives me a lot of confidence that I'm not going to be isolated on the climb," van Garderen said.

An excellent interview with Robert Gesink who after years of struggle says he's "back from zero" and loves riding again. 

After lighting up many a race in 2015, Esteban Chaves holds genuine general classification hopes for the 2016 Giro d'Italia.

Last year, Chaves certainly racked up the Grand Tour achievements. This included a team time trial stage victory at the Giro and two individual stage wins and fifth overall at the Vuelta a Espana. Chaves wore the red leader's jersey for six days. Then it was off to the Abu Dhabi Tour for the overall victory and a win on stage three.

"I'm really looking forward to doing the Giro d'Italia this year and it's a really important objective for me and the team," he said.

"I hope to be able to race at a really good level and we are targeting a result in the GC.

"I really love racing in Italy and the Giro is always something very special. We're all looking forward to continue ORICA-GreenEDGE's great experiences at this amazing race."

ORICA-Greenedge sports director Matthew White said the six days in the Vuelta red jersey developed his skills as a team leader.

“Esteban is rapidly growing into a real GC contender and for every big race he does, he adds a lot of experience," he said.

"We saw him do a fantastic Vuelta last year and this year he’ll be our protected leader in the Giro.

"He still has a lot of development potential in the Grand Tours, but he’s definitely ready to take another big step towards the GC. The Giro is a race that means a lot to us as a team and with Esteban in top shape, we’ll have a strong card to play over the course of three hard weeks."

 

A bold idea, but perhaps it is in fact time to be bold?   

"The Tour de France may be the key event in pro cycling, but it is also an anchor holding the sport back. So why not replace it? It is time to break the deadlock of the sport’s power structure and move it out from under ASO’s de-facto control. And move it toward a more sustainable economic system that expands the revenue potential and creates a model for equitable profit sharing.

There are ways the sport could sidestep the Tour de France. Indeed, if most of the teams and other stakeholders could unite and move away from the overwhelming focus on the Tour, this could potentially solve many of pro cycling’s economic and governance problems — and recast ASO as more of a partner in the sport’s continued evolution.

What more audacious proposal could possibly be made? At first glance, nothing could more quickly enrage cycling’s stakeholders and its millions of fans across the world. Yet it is exactly this kind of “outside the box” thinking that could lead to much-needed changes and new incentives for the sport.

Consider one scenario.

What if Italy’s national race, the Giro d’Italia, was moved to the first part of July — directly opposite the Tour? This would require only two big changes. First, the key pro teams would have to commit to race the Giro, rather than the Tour. Second, Giro owner RCS Sport would have to reschedule its race."

Read the full article online at Business Insider.