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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, August 27, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

The man who never alters his opinions is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind. - William Blake

Current racing:

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Statement on future of Slipstream Sports

The team sent me this troubling press release. Let's hope they find the additional sponsorship they need.

On Saturday morning, Slipstream Sports notified all riders and staff of the uncertainty of our organization’s future. Yesterday management received some discouraging news about a new partner we anticipated joining us in 2018. Without this partner’s support, we cannot guarantee our financial security and subsequently our UCI WorldTour license for 2017.

We remain hopeful that this situation may resolve itself in the next few days and that the team may find new financial backing; however, without this guarantee, we felt an obligation to the individuals who make up our team to notify them of our current situation and give them time to look for their best options.

All Slipstream Sports staff have been released from any and all contractual obligations for 2018. All 2018 contracts will be honored if our future is secured.

We want to be clear. All of our current sponsors and partners (Cannondale, Drapac, Oath, POC) have remained committed to support our team in 2018. These sponsors have lived up to their promises; however, without additional financial backing, the numbers simply don’t add up.

We remain steadfastly invested in keeping this team alive. We believe in our team ethos, and we believe in the dedicated, passionate, hard-working and talented group we have assembled. We have several opportunities that we are exploring, and while we remain hopeful, we are not comfortable exposing our staff and riders to the uncertainties of our future – which prompted the team-wide email this morning.

We've overcome incredible odds for over a decade and can do it again, but we need someone to step forward and fill in that last piece of the puzzle. It would be an incredible bargain, that’s for certain. We are open to any conversations with new financial partners and supporters at this time.

Vuelta a España stage 8 team reports:

Here's what stage winner Julian Alaphilippe's Quick-Step Floors team had to say:

Julian Alaphilippe is back! After a four-month injury lay-off, which had him skip the Ardennes Classics and the Tour de France, Julian made up for all those disappointing and sad moments by riding to a memorable victory on stage 8 of the Vuelta a España, which took the bunch over the punishing Xorret de Cati (5 kilometers, 9% average gradient), a climb last used in the race seven years ago, but first tackled in 1998.

Julian Alaphilippe wins stage 8

Julian Alaphilippe wins Vuelta stage eight.

The Quick-Step Floors rider was part of a large group that jumped clear after 40 kilometers and established a five-minute lead before the bunch began chasing hard inside the final 50 kilometers. Despite the furious tempo set by several teams, the escapees arrived with a comfortable advantage at the bottom of the ascent, which witnessed a first selection being made after the first kilometer, once the riders hit the double-digit ramps.

Seven kilometers from the finish, Bora-Hansgrohe duo Emanuel Buchmann and Rafal Majka upped the pace, but Alaphilippe responded with fantastic ease and continued to ride superbly and stay there despite several other attempts of the Pole, who dug deep in order to drop the Frenchman; Majka continued to attack, hoping to get a gap over the top, but Julian mastered the excruciating gradients of Xorret de Cati to perfection, showing composure and confidence on a climb he's never ridden before.

In the downhill, the two were joined by Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) and soldiered on to the finish, where the Slovenian accelerated only to be immediately countered by Julian, who with 400 meters to go put in such a strong sprint that he distanced both his opponents and cruised to the finish arms aloft and almost in disbelief, as he nabbed his first career Grand Tour stage victory.

"It's incredible, I don't have words for it, I can't tell you how much this victory means for me after being away for such a long time. I knew I was able to come back, a belief shared with my family and the team, but to get a Grand Tour stage win, my first one, it's really amazing and it makes me extremely happy", a beaming Julian said after becoming the 55th French rider victorious in a Vuelta a España stage.

"The start was really fast and we tried to put someone in the front. In the end, that rider was me, but I couldn't have done it without the help of Matteo. On the last climb I was suffering, but I remembered that with three kilometers to go there was a downhill where I could recover a bit, so I remained focused and motivated, and luckily I was the strongest at the finish", Julian said of Saturday's stage, before concluding with a wry smile: "We had a fantastic Vuelta so far, the team's been really great in this first week and fortunately, the race is far from being over!"

Alaphilippe wasn't the only Quick-Step Floors member over the moon on Saturday afternoon. Sport director Rik Van Slycke couldn't hide his happiness after the team's 13th Grand Tour stage victory of the season.

"It was a very hard day with a lot of attacks already from the start of the stage. Once Julian made it into the escape, we knew they needed around three minutes ahead of the bunch at the bottom of the last climb. Julian was strong today and very intelligent, staying calm on the ascent and playing poker games. Then, after Polanc tried to overtake him in the last kilometer, he jumped on his wheel and was perfectly placed to finish off the job and make it another day to remember for us here", said Rik Van Slycke.

Behind the escapees, the GC contenders had their own fight, which was ignited by Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), who attacked eight kilometers from home. Red jersey Chris Froome (Team Sky) responded and soon the peloton disintegrated, as the two continued to trade punches on the steep Xorret de Cati.

David De La Cruz was among the ones to lose contact with the duo, but the 28-year-old Spaniard didn't panic and rode a smart and pragmatic race in the closing kilometers, conceding less than half a minute by the time he rolled over the line. With one stage to go before the race's first rest day (Orihuela – Cumbre del Sol, 174 kilometers), David is seventh overall, 27 seconds from the Vuelta a España podium.

Second-place Jan Polanc's UAE Team Emirates sent me this report:

Stage eight delivered an exciting day of racing with UAE Team Emirates’ Jan Polanc launching an attack, supported by his team mate Przemyslaw Niemiec, to lead the breakaway of the day after 35 km in the stage alongside 19 other riders.

The breakaway group managed to stay away from the peloton and on the final climb Polanc succeeded in limiting the gap between him and the counter-attackers Alaphilippe and Majka, joining them in the short descent to the arrival.

In the restricted sprint, the Slovenian rider from UAE Team Emirates obtained the second and as a result moved up in the GC standings by 14 places to 13th.

The stage victory went to Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) while Froome (Team Sky) retained the overall leader’s Red Jersey and Niemiec was awarded most aggressive rider.

Today’s efforts mark the fourth day in a row for UAE Team Emirates’ in or leading the main breakaway and second consecutive day a Slovenian rider from the team stands on the podium.

Commenting on his podium finish, Polanc said: “It was a very hard and warm stage. Today we had some headwind, but there was a good group in front and we akll worked together to maintain our position. The last climb was hard and steep so when we reached the bottom I had to do it at my own pace keeping keeping a distance to the guys in front of me but chasing as best as I could and coming in second. Towards the end it was impossible to beat Alaphilippe as he is a great sprinter but I’m very pelased with the second place”.

The 176.3 km route of stage nine is identical to the route of the seventh stage in the 2015 edition of the race. Tomorrow’s stage, the last before the first rest day, is another summit finish with a much flatter preface than today. Startingn in Orihuela the peloton will travel on flat roads from Torrevieja to the finish line in Cumbre del Sol.

And here's the stage 8 report Lotto-Soudal sent me:

It was again very hot on the eighth day of La Vuelta, where the peloton rode from Hellín to Xorret de Catí. The course featured two third category climbs but the stage’s highlight was the first category climb with top at three kilometres from the finish line. After a few kilometres, a group of twenty-one riders, including Bart De Clercq and Maxime Monfort for Lotto Soudal, finally broke away from the peloton. The breakaway collaborated efficiently throughout the day, but the group fell apart on the steep slopes of the Alto Xorret de Catí with six kilometres to go. Majka accelerated several times but the Pole never managed to drop Alaphilippe. The duo crossed the summit together, but were joined by Polanc in the last kilometre.

Alaphilippe was the strongest of the three in the sprint, and the Frenchman consequently took an emphatic stage win. Maxime Monfort and Bart De Clercq crossed the line in seventh and eighth position respectively, about half a minute after Alaphilippe. The leader’s jersey remains on the shoulders of Chris Froome, who extended his lead in the general classification. The Britton attacked with Contador in the finale and the two riders crossed the line seventeen seconds ahead of the other favourites.

Maxime Monfort: "A top three was not achievable today, there were other riders who were stronger than me. Ultimately I finished in seventh place and I can be satisfied with that. I crossed the line only a few seconds from the fourth place. On the Alto Xorret de Catí it was basically every man for himself, I tried to find my rhythm as quickly as possible. I knew that if I went into the red, it would have been over. I accelerated a couple hundred metres before the summit.

"It’s great that the breakaway managed to stay up front. I was worried that Trek would want to close the gap, but when our advantage once again went from four to five minutes, I knew we would keep it until the line. I will keep attacking, but I haven’t ticked a stage in particular. I take it one day at a time.

Bart De Clercq: "The tempo was really high in the first part of the race. Even though I wasn’t in top shape I still managed to make it to the front group, so that was a good signal. Maxime was also there, so our team was well represented. We maintained a nice rhythm despite the crosswind. We knew that the final climb would be decisive. Just before the climb riders started accelerating. Majka and one of his teammates went clear on the first steep parts, but Maxime and I were unfortunately not explosive enough to keep up with them. The gap remained relatively small, but it was impossible to join them. I think that this stage shows that I feel good at the moment, but I hope I can get a better result in the upcoming stages of this Vuelta."


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