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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, August 26, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame. - W.B. Yeats

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Team Sunweb tosses Warren Barguil out of Vuelta

Team Sunweb has grown unhappy with Warren Barguil's unwillingness to follow team orders at the Vuelta a España. The team's GC man at the Vuelta is Wilco Kelderman. In stage seven (Friday), Barguil refused to drop out of the group of GC contenders to go back help Kelderman, who had flatted. Kelderman lost time and ended up in 14th in GC, down from the 11th place he had started the stage.

Barguil had already negotiated an exit from the team at the end of this season, a year earlier than his contract called for. He will ride for Fortuneo-Oscaro in 2018. Barguil is a very fine rider. He was King of the Mountains at the 2017 Tour de France and won two stages along the way.

With that context in mind, here is the slightly hard to understand press release Team Sunweb put out:

MEDIA RELEASE: TEAM SUNWEB'S WARREN BARGUIL LEAVES THE VUELTA A ESPAÑA

Team Sunweb have decided to withdraw Warren Barguil (FRA) from the Vuelta a España. The 25-year-old talented rider, recent winner of two stages and the mountain jersey at the Tour de France, openly expressed that he didn't race conform to the team's goal, which left Team Sunweb with no other option than to take this decision.

Working according to a team plan with clear goals is deeply anchored in the team's way of working. Since 2008 this has been the basis of the gradual growth and success of Team Sunweb, therefore is a value that cannot be varied. The team appreciates Barguil's openness about his motives at the Vuelta.

Barguil said: "I have to leave the Vuelta by the decision of the team. I feel very well and have good legs. I see myself in different a role and am eager to attack in the mountains, as I did in the Tour. The Vuelta is a great race and it is disappointing to leave but this is a decision from the team that I need to accept."

Together with the talented Barguil the team have had many successes. He is a valued rider, who means and has meant a lot to the team. After the Vuelta, Barguil will pick up his planned race program. 

Warren barguil

Warren Barguil at the end of the 2017 Tour in his KOM jersey.

Vuelta a España stage seven team reports

We posted the organizer's stage six report here.

Here's the report from stage winner Matej Mohoric's UAE Team Emirates:

Stage seven witnessed UAE Team Emirates’ Slovenian rider Matej Mohoric take first place in a strong performance that saw him lead the breakaway before making a final attack which he successfully held descending to the finish line and to victory with great form. Chris Froome continues to hold on to the Red Jersey, whilst UAE Team Emirates’ Rui Costa moves to 19th place in the GC standings.

Commenting on his impressive win Mohoric said: “It’s incredible! It’s been a long time since my last big win. I’ve always worked hard and tried my best, but it is great to have a victory again. I was in the breakaway the other day, I felt very good then and although the stage wasn’t suited to my characteristics I managed to get fourth place. I’m in pretty good shape so today the team wanted me to go into the breakaway, I tried to save as much energy as possible and then just waited until the final which was well suited to my skills. I’m very happy for myself and also for the team who has given me the opportunity to compete in the Vuelta.”

Stage eight sees another mountainous one for the peloton. At 199.5km long it starts in Hellín with a challenging finish – an uphill 5km with some parts at an 18% gradient followed by a sharp descent into Xorret del Catí.

Pawel Poljanski was second. Here's the report from his Bora-hansgrohe team:

After riding already at the head of the race in yesterday’s stage, again today Pawel Poljanski was in the breakaway for almost 200 kilometers. But it was M. Mohoric who went away on the last climb to take the win, while Pawel took the sprint for second in a 3-men chasing group.

Two days in a row, a breakaway was key to success In the La Vuelta, but Stage 7 looked like an opportunity for the few sprinters in the peloton. The 207-kilometer-long parcours between Lliria and Cuenca showed just three 3rd category climbs. However, with the last one being just 12k before the finish, some efforts were needed to keep the bunch together.

Still, like in the last days, a break was expected to form early. But after Pawel Poljanski proved yesterday that BORA – hansgrohe has recovered from the setbacks of the first days, the team was ready to adapt to different race situations. With Andreas Schillinger, Patrick Konrad and Christoph Pfingsten there were plenty of options to try and go into the group of the day. On the other hand, having Michael Schwarzmann in the rows, also a sprint was a welcomed scenario. 

While attacks were flying from the start, it took about 15k until a 14-men break established a two-minute lead over the bunch. Not taking any rest after yesterday’s hard effort, it was Pawel Poljanski who was up there again for BORA – hansgrohe. First, Team Sky controlled the pace in the bunch, but took it easy. Therefore, the gap of the breakaway increased to almost 7 minutes after the second KOM of the day.

Going into the last 50k, the gap was still stable at seven minutes and it looked like the winner had to be found among those 14 riders in front, with everybody being focused on the final climb of the day. Several attempts were launched immediately and it was M. Mohoric who went away already in the bottom slopes of the climb, with Pawel Poljanski chasing in a three men group. Being just 50m in front over the top, Mohoric could hold off the chasing group all the way to the finish to take the stage win in Cuenca, with Pawel again taking the runner up position.

Stage 7 finish

As winner Mohoric races for the line, Poljanski can be seen chasing.

“I wanted to go in the group again, because I knew it was another chance. The group worked well and everybody waited for the final ascent. When Mohoric was in front, I felt good on the climb, but I didn’t want to bring Rojas with me, so I hesitated a little. In the downhill the other two guys did not pull 100%, but also Mohoric was strong, so the sprint between us was about the remaining podium spots. This time I was ahead on the line, but it was second place again. My form is good, the Vuelta is still long and a lot more opportunities are about to come. We want to take a win for the team and as I said yesterday, we’ll keep on trying. But the next two stages will be different I think, and I have to take a little rest now.” – Pawel Poljanski

“Again a strong ride from Pawel to be up there. The peloton was flying in the beginning and everybody tried to go in the break. In a first group we had Patrick, after they have been brought back, it was Pawel who went away with the counter attack. I know he is a little disappointed, being second for two times in a row, always close to the win. But I am happy with his performance, he showed real spirit and I am confident that the win will come, if he keeps on riding like this.” – Steffen Radochla, Sports Director

Here's the Vuelta update Lotto-Soudal sent me:

The seventh stage of La Vuelta between Llíria and Cuenca took the riders over three third-category climbs, for a total distance of 207 kilometres. Thomas De Gendt attacked with thirteen other riders and the peloton seemed pleased with the composition of the group, which was granted a maximum advantage of almost eight minutes. De Gendt came first at the top of the two first climbs and consequently took six points in the mountain classification. The Alto del Castillo split the breakaway with ten kilometres to go, and De Gendt, Mohoric, Poljanski and Rojas left their fellow escapees behind. Mohoric went clear a few hundred metres before the top and the Slovenian rider soloed to victory. Thomas De Gendt crossed the line fifteen seconds later in fourth place. Chris Froome remains on top of the general classification.

Thomas De Gendt: "The breakaway was quickly established and we collaborated immediately. We tried to maintain a high pace despite our seven-minute lead. We knew that the last short climb would be crucial and I wanted to save as much energy as possible for that moment. Any attack before that would have been pointless. Everyone was riding full gas on the climb, and Mohoric rode away slowly but surely. He seemed to be a bit fresher than the rest of us.

"The strongest rider won, that’s obvious. Mohoric is known for being a very skilled descender, but so are my two fellow chasers but we still couldn’t close the gap. We had one last chance on the flat, but when we entered the last kilometre, we knew it was over. I gave it my best shot today and the stage win was the only thing I aimed for, another top three position didn’t really matter to me.

"I’m happy that my legs keep feeling better every day. It’s only my first race since the Tour. I will keep attacking in this Vuelta and it will hopefully pay off."

Chris Froome remained the Vuelta GC leader. Here's the report from his Team Sky:

Chris Froome finished safely to retain the race lead after seven stages at the Vuelta a Espana, with Team Sky once again controlling the day.

Froome maintained his 11-second hold on the red jersey and was protected throughout the 207-kilometre test by his team-mates. The GC battle took a back seat on Friday, but Team Sky still worked hard to ensure Froome was perfectly positioned at all times. With a tough final climb, and splits due to crosswinds, Froome eventually crossed the line over eight minutes back on the day’s breakaway winner.

Matej Mohoric (UAE Fly Emirates) pushed clear of the 14-strong move to take a solo victory in Cuenca, with Team Sky doing a measured job to ensure the breakaway would not threaten the jersey. Jetse Bol (Manzana Postobon) was the best-placed rider in the move, 8:55 back, and found himself in the virtual red jersey inside 20km to go.

But as the pace increased on the run-in that advantage disappeared, with Mikel Nieve, Wout Poels and Gianni Moscon patrolling the front over the final Alto del Castillo and into the finish.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome signs a hat before the start of stage seven.

After the stage Froome admitted he was happy to come through what had proved to be a more straightforward day, with all eyes now turning to Saturday's tough test. He said: “I think we were always in control - a relatively in control day for us - not as crazy as yesterday that’s for sure.

“I think today there should be a special mention for Ian Stannard and Christian Knees and how much work they did on the front, and it’s definitely thanks to them I’m still in red. It was another good day to tick off now and start thinking about tomorrow.

“Tomorrow has a really tough final, there will be ramps of over 18% on the climb before we descend to the finish, its definitely going to be a GC battle tomorrow.”

Gianni Moscon was also a happy man at the finish after helping Froome cross the line without issue. He told Eurosport: “The main goal today was not to lose time to the main GC contenders. There was a little bit of stress in the final because there was some wind, but at the end it was fine and we can be happy.

“Stannard, Knees and Puccio did a really good job today, really strong, I don’t know how they do it. With those guys you can pull all day, like we did yesterday we did today, and we have a strong team and we can try to keep this jersey.”

Richie Porte and Ben Hermans resume training following crashes

Team BMC sent me this good news:

25 August, 2017, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Richie Porte and Ben Hermans have resumed training after sustaining serious injuries in crashes at the Tour de France and Tour of Poland respectively.

BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Max Testa said that Porte is on track after a significant period off the bike. "Richie Porte crashed out of stage 9 of the Tour de France on a high speed descent which left him with a non-displaced right clavicle fracture and a non-displaced right acetabulum fracture. Richie is improving very well. Now that he is back on the road he is starting to increase his kilometers and build his fitness up from scratch. He has limited discomfort in his shoulder but the hip is not bothering him at all. We will continue to monitor his training and form over the coming weeks and then determine if Richie can line up at a race before the season ends. The goal is to see Richie pin a number on his back again before the off season," Dr. Testa said.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte before the start of stage two of this year's Tour.

After a significant block of rehabilitation, Porte is enjoying riding his bike again. "I'm feeling good. Obviously, the collarbone takes a little longer to recover and my elbow flared up a bit but hopefully that's nothing too serious. I'm over the worst of it. Every now and then I still feel some pain in the collarbone and elbow, when I hit a bump in the road for example. But, in general my recovery is on track," Porte explained.

"I started back on the trainers two weeks ago and last Monday I went back on the road for the first time. I've been riding every day and managing a light 2-3 hours. Of course, I've lost a lot of fitness and I'm getting passed on the road but it's nice to get the encouragement as they go by. At this stage, I'm still focusing on making a full recovery and we'll decide down the track whether I race again this year or if a solid block of training is what I need to recover best."

Hermans suffered a fractured right wrist, a fractured left hallux (big toe), a fracture on his sternum and broken teeth when he crashed out of stage 3 of the Tour of Poland. "Ben Hermans has recovered very well from his crash in Poland. His recent scans are all good and he has been given the go ahead from the radiologist. Now he needs to pass the test on the road and begin to build up his training. We will have a better idea early next week of when Ben can return to racing. It could be as soon as ten days so once his fitness is where it needs to be, we will select his race program accordingly," Dr. Testa explained.

Hermans is preparing to return to racing. "I am feeling pretty okay concerning the fractured bones. They are healing well and they don't hold me back from riding the bike. The worst healing process is with my broken teeth. They are provisionally repaired but still bother me so I'm just waiting until they are 100% healed. My neck is still a bit stiff but is loosening up," Hermans said.

"I got green light from the doctors to go riding on the road. So since last Friday I am back on the road and even completing four hour rides. Before that, I did some session on the rollers on days that I was feeling well, especially after the surgery on my nose. So I think I didn't lose too much of form and I am hoping to be fit again soon. We still need to decide together with medical staff and directors when I will be able to make my comeback to racing this year. But for sure I will race again in September or October."

Roman Kreuziger takes the win in Austria's Otztaler Pro 5500

Orica-Scott sent me this news:

Former Czech champion Roman Kreuziger finished off a great team performance by ORICA-SCOTT in the team’s first appearance at the Otztaler Pro 5500 in the Austrian Alps.

Billed as the world’s hardest one-day race, the event covered a truly epic parcours over four alpine passes in 238kilometres and included an astounding 5,500metres of elevation.

Infiltrating the early breakaway with Ruben Plaza before whittling down the favourites group over the subsequent climbs with Damien Howson, the Australian outfit played a strong hand at the perfect moment. First Plaza dropped back as the last of the breakaway was caught before Howson split the group further with Kreuziger delivering the final blows on the last climb and flying into a long and victorious descent to the finish with a healthy advantage.

22-year-old Robert Power capped off a great day for the team by taking fourth place, narrowly missing out on the podium.

“It’s really satisfying to get the victory,” said Kreuziger. “It is my first win this season and I have been waiting for this moment. The team have been winning and performing very strongly throughout the year and I feel like this has been coming. It was important for us having Ruben in the break because it set us up nicely for the final climb, I spoke to Damien and told him I was feeling good and he really set the pace perfectly.

“The descent was almost as hard as the climbs because I was starting to cramp, but I came through ok and thankfully managed to finish it off. Big thanks to all of the team for everything, I feel great and I’m looking forward to a strong end to the season now.”

Sport director Matt White praised the efforts of the team in such a heavy race. “The boys were great today,” said White. “We were pretty happy with how it played out early on with Ruben in the break, but we never really stepped off the front foot and once we arrived at the final climb we still had numbers in what was left of the bunch.”

“Roman spoke to Damo, told him he felt good and from there Damo really set a strong pace and laid the foundation for the final. The climbs were so long and at that altitude it can take a lot out of you, but in the end Roman measured his effort perfectly.

“The win sets us up perfectly for a positive end to the season and going into the next one day races in Canada and Italy with good form and confidence. Rob rode very well and it’s pleasing to see the work he has put in starting to bear fruit, it’s a great sign for the tail end of this season and also for next year. Very happy all round today.”

How it happened:

Sunny conditions welcomed the riders to the start and the early attacks began straight out of the neutral zone with an early breakaway jumping clear with eight riders involved that initially included Roger Kluge for ORICA-SCOTT. Kluge dropped back early on as the break fell apart before reforming, this time with Plaza - the veteran Spaniard using all of his experience to drive the move forward.

Past the halfway point and the group started to split as Plaza pushed on to form a leading duo, gaining one minute over their former companions and some two minutes 30seconds on the heavily reduced peloton with 75kilometres to go.

Howson, Power and Kreuziger held their positions well at the front of the group of favourites as they began to close in on the chasers with Plaza now solo at the front with two minutes in hand. As Plaza hit the final 28kilometre climb, the Timmelsjoch, he was joined by Swiss rider Roland Thalman with the Howson group less than two minutes behind and the tempo being set by Bardiani-CSF.

The gap closed rapidly on the Timmelsjoch as Thalman pushed ahead as the gradient steepened and the Howson group drew ever nearer. With 40kilometres to go Thalman was caught and passed by the heavily reduced chasing group and Howson now setting the pace.

CCC-Sprandi-Polkowice split the group with 30kilometres remaining with Kreuziger and Power both following the attack of the Polish team before Kreuziger put the hammer down. Leading solo as he crested the climb Kreuziger flew into the descent followed by Simon Spilak (Katusha-Alpecin) some 20seconds behind.

Flying down the descent the former Czech champion increased his advantage and powered away for a strong victory.

OTZTALER Pro 5500 results:

1. Roman Kreuziger (ORICA-SCOTT) 06:37:34
2. Simon Spilak (Katusha-Alpecin) +0:43
3. Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF) +1:33


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