Shimano makes synchronised shifting available in Ultegra Di2 and older Dura-Ace Di2

New battery pack works with older systems and includes chip to handle synchronised shift patterns

One of the standout new features of the latest Dura-Ace Di2 R9150 electronic groupset is its ability to provide synchronised shifting. This means that when you make an upshift or a downshift, the mechanism determines whether a change between the larger and smaller chainring is needed too, or will be more effective, so that you end up with less cross-chaining and a more mechanically efficient chainline.

It also means that you can set both your left side shift levers to shift you down your gears and both your right side levers to shift you up, the system dealing with the required front and rear mech changes.

steve cummings cervelo s5 tour de france bike 3t arx ii stem garmin mount di2 junction box

New battery pack gives you synchronised shift options for older Di2 systems

Now Shimano has introduced a new Di2 battery, the sexily named BT-DN110, which works with the older Dura-Ace Di2 R9000 and Ultegra Di2 R6800 to provide the same functionality. The battery pack contains a memory chip that provides the processing power to handle the required shift patterns and user customisation.

>>> Are electronic groupsets necessary?

Having installed the new battery, a firmware update to Shimano’s E-tube control software, via a PC cable or Bluetooth connection, gives you access to the synchronised shifting functionality. You select the shifting mode via the button on the Di2 junction box.

Watch: Shimano Ultegra groupset review

As well as fully synchronised shifting, you have the semi-synchronised option already available in the new Dura-Ace Di2 R9150. In this case, you manually shift between chainrings and the Di2 mechanism shifts the rear mech automatically to put you in the correct rear sprocket to maintain your gear ratio.

>>> Dura-Ace Di2 v SRAM Red eTap: everything you need to know

Shimano’s E-tube Project app or its website can be used to configure the shifting pattern to meet your personal requirements. It’s a neat upgrade for those with Shimano’s older electronic groupsets who may want access to the latest functions, without the expense of a wholesale change of their groupset.

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UCI fines 56 riders for not showing race numbers during cold stage at the Tour of the Alps

Team Sky rider and 55 other racers had to pay 100 Swiss francs each at yesterday’s Tour of the Alps stage three

Former British road race champion Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) and 55 other riders were fined 100 Swiss francs each yesterday as they crossed the finish line of stage three of Tour of the Alps.

The stage was won by the Manxman’s colleague Geraint Thomas, who powered to victory with Mikel Landa in tow to give Team Sky a 1-2 victory and propelled himself to the top of the general classification.

The UCI fined the riders citing article that stipulates that a rider must show their race number or frame number.

However, a Tour of the Alps which has seen stages shortened due to extensive snowfall has also meant that riders have been riding stages in jackets covereing their numbers, with the temperature at yesterday’s summit finish hovering around 1ºC.

Meanwhile some Twitter users questioned how the commissaires managed to distinguish the riders in the first place

Amounting to 5600 Swiss francs (£4388), the total fine will take a considerable chunk of the prize money won by many teams during the five day race.

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Luke Rowe column: ‘When you get urine thrown in your face during a race it’s never nice’

Team Sky’s Luke Rowe talks us through the ups and downs of having an animated fan base.

Being a professional cyclist, and of course part of Team Sky, we have fans. Any pro cyclist or team will have a following and people who admire and respect them.

I would say the most passionate fans in the world are the Basque. Whether you’re the first over the top of the mountain or in the gruppetto they will give you a huge roar and will stay there until the last car in the convoy has passed.

However, the most knowledgeable would have to be the Belgians. They know everything.

>>> Watch: Belgian man stages brave lone protest against tarmacking of cobbled climb (video)

They know each and every rider in all teams, how the races are raced and what to expect from a race depending on things like the weather conditions.

While we may not be footballers, we still get a good crew of people outside the bus at races wanting autographs and photos which is nice and something that I think we should dedicate a few minutes to before signing on and starting the day’s race.

The same goes for when you arrive to the hotel. This is more so at the bigger races such as the Tour where you’ll have a horde waiting for you at the hotel — well more to see Froomey than the rest of us but it’s still nice.

Of course, on the flip side not all fans are great. When you get urine thrown in your face during a race it’s never nice but hey, 99.9 per cent of fans are great and there’s always going to be one plonker in the crowd.

For me the only big no-no for fans is when they approach you at the dinner table. That’s the small part of the day that you get to enjoy your meal and just chill out and have a laugh with your team-mates.

Another addition to the fan frontier is of course social media. It’s great but terrible at the same time.

It gives everyone an opinion, which can sometimes be good, but also after a bad performance you can come back, check Twitter, and see you’ve copped some abuse.

I rarely check social media responses during races as I can’t be dealing with the trolls but like I said above it’s only a small minority who will get stuck into you — but hey-ho that’s life.

So to the fans out there, thanks for the support!

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Astana rider lucky to escape serious injury in scary Flèche Wallonne crash (video)

Michael Valgren requires stitches to his face after crash

Astana rider Michael Valgren was lucky to escape serious injury after a nasty crash in La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday.

Valgren crashed heavily with 65km remaining in the race, appearing to land on his face before rolling across the tarmac. He was then treated by race doctors as he sat at the side of road with his head bleeding.

>>> Unstoppable Alejandro Valverde wins La Flèche Wallonne for fifth time

According to his team, the Danish rider was then taken to the local hospital where he had stitches to the wounds on his face, but tests did not reveal any fractures or other serious injuries.

Valgren also took to Twitter to tell his fans that he was OK after the crash, even if that assurance was accompanied by a pretty gruesome photograph.

Valgren’s crash was one of a number of unfortunate incidents in the race for the Kazakh team, whose best rider was Jakob Fuglsang in 22nd place.

“Unfortunately, this heavy crash happened and it had a big impact over team’s strategy in the race. We hope, Michael will get well soon,” said Lars Michaelsen, one of the team’s directeurs sportifs.

“But, anyway, it was not the only bad luck for us in this race. With more or less 20 km to go Tanel Kangert got a flat tire. Andriy Grivko provided him his rear wheel and Tanel tried his best to come back in the peloton.

>>> Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2017 start list

“But, it was a bad moment, since the peloton increased the pace significantly starting a hard chase of the break. So, it was really impossible for Kangert to come back. It is a pity, because he felt very good today and was motivated to fight for a strong result.”

Valgren had been expected to be part of the Astana team for Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but could now be out of action for a number of weeks.

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Dr Hutch: What were the origins of the Tour of Britain?

Tired of reading about the history of the Tour de France, the Doc takes a look at its British counterpart

A year or two ago I was reading a very fine history of the Tour de France.

When I finished it, I put it away, on the special shelf I have for histories of the Tour de France. The shelf was full.

Meanwhile the shelf I’ve been saving for histories of other stuff to do with cycling was still 75 per cent empty.

This is a roundabout way of introducing the topic of my new book. It’s a history of other stuff.

I love a fresh take on Eugene Christophe and the small boy and the forge (if you don’t know the story, don’t worry, you will) or the tale of Eddy Merckx being punched by a spectator (ditto) as much as anyone else.

“How come no one pointed out what a stupid idea the penny-farthing was at the time?”

But sometimes I wonder about things like “How come no one pointed out what a stupid idea the penny-farthing was at the time”, or “What were the origins of the Tour of Britain?”

The answer to the former is they did, and often, but penny farthing riders were the Victorian equivalent of parkour runners, and the extreme danger was half the appeal.

It was a bracing view of life in an era when an orthopaedic surgeon’s tools were interchangeable with those of a lumberjack.

A tour amid war

And the Tour of Britain? Well, it started during an air raid. It was in Lewisham, August Bank Holiday 1944. (Yes, they had bank holidays during the war.)

Lewisham is a few miles nearer to Germany than central London, so it tended to get hit by rockets that ran out of puff a little early, which was most of them.

Amid the smoke of a recent arrival, the first stage race ever promoted in the UK, the Southern Grand Prix, set off round Kent.

Not long afterwards an RAF fighter brought down a rocket from directly overhead, throwing shrapnel over the course. It made Paris-Roubaix look like a soft-play area.

The next year the promoters ran a race from Brighton to Glasgow. Stage two was preceded by a formal luncheon for the organisers, which overran.

Watch now: Why pro riders love the Tour of Britain

Tired of standing in the rain, the competitors started the stage for themselves. When the officials finished lunch, their race had already gone, leaving them to catch the train to try to catch up with it.

You remember a season or two ago when we seemed to spend weeks arguing about whether Team Sky’s insistence on taking their own pillows to hotels, and sending their own cleaners in to disinfect rooms was a) marginal gains or b) everything that has gone wrong with the world since the end of the British Empire?

>>> Dr Hutch: Remember marginal gains? They used to be big

Well, in the early UK stage races a different ethos applied. No rooms or hotels were organised in advance.

If you were among the first finishers, you got first pick of the B&Bs. If you were late, you got last pick.

If you were really badly off the back you’d get nothing at all and have to quite literally sleep under a hedge. Of course, Team Sky would have brought their own hedge.

One stage, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Glasgow, was meant to be 100 miles. You can’t even do that in a straight line.

It was actually 150 miles, much of it over gravel roads in the Scottish borders. It took eight hours rather than the expected four-and-a-bit.

But did anyone complain? You bet they did. The whole French team would have gone home in a huff if one of them hadn’t won it.

All the same, that was the race that just a few editions later became the Milk Race, which was for decades the only British bike race most people had ever heard of. And I just love that its whole history started amid falling bombs.

The book, should you fancy it, is called Re:Cyclists – 200 Years on Two Wheels (Bloomsbury Sport).

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Boels-Dolmans back on top after Deignan and Van der Breggen dominate La Flèche Wallonne

Van der Breggen and Deignan deliver Boels-Dolmans 1-2 on the Mur de Huy

When Anna van der Breggen received the winner’s flowers on the Flèche Wallonne podium on Wednesday, she was handed them by the boss of her team’s sponsor.

Boels Rentals is based in the area and their orange logo adorns everything at the three hilly classics in and around the Ardennes. The team’s kit matches everything from the winner’s gantry to the hoardings – even the mobile toilets display their unmistakable moniker.

Winning these races was important for Van der Breggen’s Boels-Dolmans team.

And win they did. Emphatically.

Wednesday’s result was a carbon copy of Amstel Gold Race where Lizzie Deignan took second place behind her Dutch colleague, and puts the team firmly back on top.

By the standards of last season, when the Dutch outfit dominated the spring, with only one victory the opening five WorldTour races, they have not performed well. But the Olympic champion’s victory in Huy and at last Sunday’s Amstel Gold has put them back on course.

>>> Anna van der Breggen beats Lizzie Deignan to win her third women’s Flèche Wallonne

Despite three wins at last week’s Healthy Ageing Tour on the flatlands of the northern Netherlands, team manager Danny Stam believes the confidence came at Ghent-Wevelgem.

However this week’s performances have been more than just confident.

“We have had some hard times, so it is easy to keep the feet on the ground,” explained a smiling Stam. “I had planned to be good this week and the girls planned to be good in this week. All I can say is ‘chapeau’ to them that they are in good shape at the right moment.”

Wednesday was the third consecutive Flèche Wallonne victory for van der Breggen, though she cannot put her finger on why the race suits her so well.

“I have no idea,” she laughed, amid the noise of the men’s podium celebrations. “You need to have goof shape because it is a really hard race and I like these races if I am strong. A big thanks to Lizzie of course, because she could also have won this race.”

>>> Lizzie Deignan opens up about British Cycling: ‘They let me down big time’

Second placed Deignan, whose illness issues have blighted her spring preparation, was surprised by her form, “I’m miles ahead, if I could do some training god knows what could happen,” she smiled before explaining how the race panned out.

“It was not a particular plan for it to be Anna one and me two, but we wanted to be with two over that climb [the penultimate Côte de Cherave] and play the game

“I put put in an attack and then Anna did, I guess once Kasia [Niewiadoma, third placed] chased me down she didn’t have the legs anymore to chase Anna, so an easy ride into the finish for me.”

Looking around at the orange banners Deignan then added, “We are used to the criticism, but you have to keep your head down and keep working hard. We always knew that this is the most important week for us, look around, it’s all Boels Rentals, so as long as the sponsor is happy then that’s the most important thing.”

The team will line up with a similar team and similar ambitions for Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

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Dan Martin rejects calls for Flèche Wallonne route change after finishing second to Valverde once again

Irishman hopes race will continue with Mur de Huy finish.

Despite finishing on the podium for the third time, Dan Martin believes the Flèche Wallonne finish line should stay where it is. The Quick-Step Floors rider finished the classic in second place behind Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on Wednesday, but says the race has character and should not be changed to stop one man winning.

Valverde took his fourth successive win – the fifth of his long career – extending the record number of wins he set last year, and Martin has been on the on the podium behind him on three of those occasions.

Indeed, the race suits the Irishman nearly as well as it does Valverde, he finished in the top ten every time he has finished it as well as also placing fourth when stage 3 of the 2015 Tour de France finished in Huy.

>>> La Flèche Wallonne organisers urged to move finish line to prevent another Valverde victory

“I think the Mur is definitely an art to get right and I haven’t mastered it yet,” 30-year-old Martin said.

Winning his first Flèche in 2006, Valverde has a spectacular record on the steep, narrow climb which – on its famous bends – ramps to over 20% per cent gradient. However, it is not just his dominance that prompted calls for a change.

The climb is so tough that the peloton often waits for the final 300 metres to make their move. This year, however, organisers changed the route to tempt attacks and it nearly worked.

After Quick-Step Floors massed on the front of the peloton as they climbed the Mur for the penultimate time, Martin’s team mate, Luxembourg champion Bob Jungels attacked, catching BMC’s Alessandro De Marchi and holding his advantage until the bottom of the final climb.

Watch: La Flèche Wallonne 2017 highlights

“We tried to take advantage [of the route change], to really tire the legs of our competitors, and then have Bob go, but it didn’t work,” explained Martin. “In the end it was the headwind, it made things a lot more difficult and made the race quite negative until the last 200 metres when Alejandro went.

“In my experience I know I need to get the jump on Alejandro, but with the headwind it was always going to be hard to beat him.

“I don’t think they should change the race so one guy doesn’t win. This is the one race that really has a lot of character and it has its trademark. We’ve seen in years before that races lose their identity when they change too much. Organisers tried to make it more aggressive and if it wasn’t for the wind…”

>>> The Mur de Huy: where La Flèche Wallonne is won and lost

On Sunday Martin will line up at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a race he won in 2013 and came close to repeating the following season. His nemesis on the Mur de Huy – Valverde – won there two years ago and has the form to do so again.

In the meantime Martin is again left to ponder what has to do to beat him at Flèche Wallonne.

“Obviously I hope that I can beat him one day, but I’ll have to wait until he retires maybe.”

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Team Sunweb announce long list for Giro d'Italia

Team Sunweb have announced a long list of riders for the Giro d’Italia, with 11 riders in the frame to support Tom Dumoulin’s bid for the pink jersey.

There were 13 riders named on the long list on Wednesday, including Dumoulin and Wilco Kelderman, who both confirmed their participation at the 100th corsa rosa back in January. That leaves 11 riders fighting for the final seven places in the nine-man team.

In alphabetical order, those riders are: Phil Bauhaus, Johannes Fröhlinger, Simon Geschke, Chad Haga, Sindre Skjøstad Lunke, Georg Preidler, Tom Stamsnijder, Laurens ten Dam, Mike Teunissen, Zico Waeytens, and Max Walscheid.

Ten Dam, a veteran of 13 Grand Tours but just one Giro, and Haga, the 28-year-old American who has ridden the last two editions of the Giro, look shoe-ins for selection after joining Dumoulin on an altitude training camp in Tenerife over the last couple of weeks.

Beyond that, the statement from the German-registered team indicated a weighting towards ‘home’ riders. “For this special Giro d’Italia a core group of German riders will be part of the final selection of the German Team Sunweb, which aims to inspire German and international fans during the three weeks of very prestigious racing in Italy,” read the statement.

The Germans on the long list are Bauhaus, Fröhlinger, Geschke, and Walscheid.

Geschke is considered one of the strongest and most dependable riders at the team and looks set to make the cut, while the coaches will have to weigh up the balance of the squad when deciding whether to hand 23-year-old sprinter Walscheid his first taste of Grand Tour racing. Bauhaus represents more youth, 22 years old with no Grand Tours under his belt, while Fröhlinger is another experienced figure, 31 with 13 Grand Tours.

Belgian rider Waeytens and the Dutch duo of Teunissen and Stamsnijder were all part of the team’s cobbled classics squad and provide horsepower, while Austrian Georg Preidler impressed at the Giro last year, with third on one of the mountain stages. Lunke, the Norwegian, rode the Vuelta a Espana last season in his neo-pro year.

“Our long-list consists of a mix of experienced Grand Tour riders and some who could potentially make their Grand Tour debut,” said coach Aike Visbeek.

“From this we will select the strongest possible team to support Tom throughout the three weeks of racing at the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia. The course this year is challenging and demanding and will for sure go down in history. The last week is crucial but with a lot of spectacular stages early on in the race, the GC riders have no opportunity to relax.

“It will be a different approach for this year’s Giro in comparison to our ambitions in previous Grand Tours, when we aimed for stage successes. We need to be focused all race long and that will be even more demanding for the team.”

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Michael Woods delivers best performance in years by North American rider in Flèche Wallonne

Woods’ 11th place the best result by American or Canadian since 2010

Improving on his finish from 2016 at La Flèche Wallone by one spot to 11th place, Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) delivered the best result in years by a North American rider in the Belgian race.

The bright green Cannondale-Drapac garb of Woods and his teammates Tom-Jelte Slagter and Rigoberto Uran were well placed entering the third and final ascent of the famed Mur de Huy.

As Team Sky upped the pace to bring back the Luxembourgish escapee Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) all three Cannonadle-Drapac riders were sitting pretty in the top ten.

>>> Unstoppable Alejandro Valverde wins La Flèche Wallonne for fifth time

While Slagter and Uran faded as the pitch steepened, Woods remained strong riding close to the eventual winner Valverde at the front of the depleted peloton before an attack from David Gaudu (FDJ) forced a small gap that he couldn’t come to terms with.

Although Woods may have hoped for more than an 11th place finish, it’s the best placing by a North American rider since 2010 when Chris Horner (Team Radioshack) finished seventh that year behind the winner Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team).

For the 30-year-old former runner from Canada, his form is clearly evident heading into the arduous, 258km Liège-Bastogne-Liège this Sunday. A non-finisher last year’s edition, Woods will be looking to jump into the top ten and his Cannondale-Drapac teammates are primed to continue their relatively successful 2017 Classics campaign.

>>> La Flèche Wallonne organisers urged to move finish line to prevent another Valverde victory

Valverde who already has seven stage and three general classification wins this year, is clearly firing on all cylinders heading into Liège-Bastogne-Liège and is no doubt the favourite.

He’ll hope to secure his fourth win there after finishing a disappointing 16th in 2016, but don’t be surprised if Woods spoils the party in the final Spring Classic of the season.

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Geraint Thomas: ‘I knew everyone was at their limit, so I just went for it’

Team Sky rider very happy to take victory ahead of team-mate Landa in Tour of the Alps stage three

Impressed by the way that Michele Scarponi had cruised past him as the Italian claimed victory on day one of the Tour of the Alps, Geraint Thomas was even more eye-catching in the way that he emulated Scarponi by taking the stage win and the leader’s fuchsia jersey in Funes on stage three.

Until a kilometre from the line, it appeared that the Welshman’s Sky teammate Mikel Landa and Ag2r’s Domenico Pozzovivo would go head-to-head for victory on the final steep ramp up to the finish. But Thomas’s blistering attack inside the flamme rouge gave Sky the numbers up front that left the diminutive Italian with little hope of glory.

“Landa and I spoke to each other before the last climb. We both felt pretty good, so he had his chance to attack,” Thomas said of Sky’s tactics in the closing kilometres.

“That allowed me to follow in the wheels and not do too much – to bide my time. After a few attacks I knew everyone was at their limit and so I just went for it.”

>>> Team Sky and Geraint Thomas ‘too strong’ for opponents at Tour of the Alps

Thomas admitted that he didn’t expect to get across to Landa and Pozzovivo, “but I thought I should at least try. It was a surprise to get up to them,” he said. “Then I took a few deep breaths and thought: ‘Sod it, I’ll go again.’ I didn’t expect it but it feels really nice to take the win.”

Thomas said after the first stage that having six riders on the Sky team against eight on most others wouldn’t be too much of a handicap as long as all six are in very good form. Once again they were, and he was delighted with that.

“It’s a great team here. We’re all getting along really well and can all speak English really well, so that makes a huge difference,” he said. “I think we’re in a good place. Morale is good and that’s reflected in the way that we race.

“We’ve got six really strong guys and the plan was to set a good tempo up the penultimate climb,” he continued. “Pete [Kennaugh] and Bos [Ian Boswell] did a great job there. Then we had Phil [Deignan] and Kenny [Elissonde] to ride tempo as well and set up Landa for his attack.”

>>> Geraint Thomas: ‘I hope I’ve got all my bad luck out of the way before the Giro d’Italia’

Thomas revealed his late attack had been made with both the stage win and GC in mind. “I also wanted to attack to see how I was and if I got time on GC then great,” he said.

“I didn’t think about it too much. I was just racing, giving it 100 per cent. For sure it’s a huge bonus to win the stage, take the jersey and have a nice little buffer on GC over Pozzovivo and [Thibaut] Pinot.”

Looking ahead, Thomas said Sky’s plan now is straightforward. “Tomorrow is another tough day, with a lot of climbing, but we’ll try to defend the jersey all the way to the end, that’s for sure.”

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