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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, July 2, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised. - Denis Waitley

Current Racing

Latest completed racing:


Tour de France Stage One team reports

Sadly, Alejandro Valverde crashed out of the Tour. His team posted this update:

1 JULY 2017: The 2017 Tour de France barely lasted seven kilometers for Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) as he suffered a serious crash during the race's opening TT in Düsseldorf, which forced him to abandon.

Transferred by ambulance to the University Hospital in Düsseldorf, examinations confirmed two fractures to his left leg: one in his kneecap and another one in the talus bone. Valverde also suffered a deep wound to his tibia, without any muscle tissue affected by that cut.

The doctors taking care of Valverde's condition have decided to operate on his kneecap fracture tonight, which means that Valverde will remain in Germany for the next few hours and the schedule for his return home is still unconfirmed. The recovery time expected by the Movistar Team's doctors makes it unlikely for the Spaniard to return racing during the current season.

It's Valverde's third DNF in the race, Alejandro unable to complete any of his first two Tours (2005, 2006) but a consistent feature at the overall top-ten of the race, six times in the last ten years, plus a podium finisher (3rd) in 2015.

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana had a good start to the Tour, but he will have to race with about Alejandro Valverde's capable assistance

In turn, Nairo Quintana performed notably in this TT. The Colombian finished 48" behind stage winner Geraint Thomas (SKY) and 36" after the Welshman's team-mate Chris Froome, yet remained close or even better than the likes of Porte (+1"), Bardet (-3"), Aru (-4"), Pinot (-2") or Contador (-6"). The Colombian expressed his sadness towards Valverde's withdrawal: "It's really difficult for all of us - he's a very important human being and a great team-mate. I just hope it's nothing really serious. It's awful to see his race ending that way, so early."

Here's what stage winner Geraint Thomas' Team Sky had to say about the stage:

Geraint Thomas powered into the yellow jersey after an incredible ride to kick off the 2017 Tour de France. The Welshman set a winning time of 16 minutes and four seconds on soaking wet roads in Dusseldorf, not only claiming his first ever Grand Tour stage victory, but the maillot jaune to boot.

After enduring a nervous wait on the hot seat Thomas took the win by five seconds, leading home a superb showing from Team Sky – who placed four riders in the top eight positions.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas turning in a fabulous ride in the rain.

Vasil Kiryienka was the early pace-setter and clocked the third best time on the day, while Chris Froome made a statement of his own with sixth place in Germany, the best of the GC contenders out on course. Michal Kwiatkowski debuted his new Polish national champion's skinsuit with eighth.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” admitted a shell-shocked Thomas after the stage. “I hadn’t even thought about it to be honest I was super relaxed coming in. I felt like somebody was going to beat me.

“I’ve had my fair share of bad luck this year and back home the last month hasn’t been great – my wife and mum have both had a bit of a rough time. It’s amazing to get this win and thanks to everyone who has supported me. It’s a great day.”

In addition to the famed yellow jersey, Thomas also pulled on the green points jersey, with Team Sky taking an early lead in the teams classification. When asked about whether he'd felt a stage victory and yellow was a realistic prospect when he woke up on Saturday, Thomas admitted to Sky Sports News: "I was just thinking about the rugby – about the Lions! And now I’ve got my own little lion!

"The Tour is what got me into cycling in the first place. When I was 10 I remember convincing my dad to get Eurosport so we could watch the Tour and running home from school so I could watch the last 10km. To be the other side of that camera now and taking the jersey is an amazing feeling and I’m still shocked to be honest.

"I’ve had my fair share of bad luck this year and to just not get any was good. I’ve had a tendency to go out a bit too fast sometimes and be a bit too keen. But I think I paced it well and it couldn’t have gone any better.

“I just want to enjoy tomorrow. Any extra day in the jersey is a massive bonus and it doesn’t change the goal of the team. We’ll still ride 100 percent for Froomey and do what we have to do – as if we didn’t have the jersey in the way.”

Here's BMC's Tour report:

1 July, 2017, Dusseldorf (GER): The 104th Tour de France kicked off with a 14km race against the clock that saw Stefan Küng set a blistering pace to record the second-fastest time and inherit the Best Young Rider jersey, while Richie Porte crossed the line safely in the wet conditions.

Porte and Küng were BMC Racing Team's last two riders to start in Dusseldorf and by the time they rolled down the ramp, they were chasing the provisional best time of 16'04" set by Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).

As rain continued to fall, Porte set off and navigated the slippery course conservatively to eventually finish 47 seconds behind Thomas, and clock a similar time to the General Classification contenders who had already finished.

In his Tour de France debut and wearing his Swiss National Time Trial champion skinsuit for the first time, Küng set a flying time to pass the intermediate check point in third place, one second behind.

Küng maintained his speed and power as he approached the finish line and crossed the line five seconds behind eventual winner Thomas to take second place. At 23 years of age, Küng is the first rider to wear the Best Young Rider white jersey at the 2017 Tour de France.

Stefan Kung

Stefan Küng riding to second place

In a day of numerous crashes, Porte's safe passage to the line sees him sit comfortably amongst his General Classification rivals. Nicolas Roche crashed early in his time trial on the slippery roads, however was fortunate enough to escape unscathed.

Stefan Küng: "I would have loved to be in yellow but congratulations to Geraint Thomas. It was a really amazing time. I was down one second on Tony Martin at the intermediate check point and I really tried to pull off a good finish. I put into some time on Tony but Geraint Thomas must have been flying at the end. I did everything I could and second place it is. In a time trial you always have to take risks but there is always a line and you don't want to cross it and lie on the floor. It happened to me already so I really tried to stay upright but also go as fast as possible. I think I managed it ok, maybe not the best, but in the end I tried to make a difference on the long straight."

Richie Porte: "Keep it rubber side down was probably more the goal. I followed Nicolas Roche in the car just before my start and he binned it, so I was petrified to be honest. It was such a slippery course. I would have liked to have done a quicker time but the main thing is to have kept all of my skin. I was a little bit nervous, especially after watching your teammate crash. At the end of the day, I took no risks out there and I think that was the way to ride it out there today. Back at the hotel it looked like it might dry up a bit but it wasn't to be. I think it was the same conditions for everybody so it all works out fair in the end."

Nicolas Roche: "It wasn't great for me. It was a city center prologue and obviously the roads were a bit greasy in the rain which doesn't help. I'm not sure if it was a bit of oil or the tram tracks, as I fell where the tram tracks were. I'm a bit disappointed as I was hoping to do a good prologue, but that's how it is."

Fabio Baldato: "It was amazing for Stefan Küng. We said before the start that a top five would be good and he almost won. He was close to a super Geraint Thomas. We are happy. Richie is safe and close to all of the other GC guys. It was only Chris Froome (Team Sky) who managed to gain some time on the others. But for us, it was a really good day. Now we start the rest of the race with a good car position."

Tony Martin's Katusha-Alpecin posted this:

The opening stage of the 104th Tour de France began in Düsseldorf, Germany with Team KATUSHA ALPECIN’S Tony Martin eager to try for the win in his home country.

The 4-time world champion started thirteenth from the end and clocked up the fastest time of 9:19 at the only check point on the 14km, basically flat course. But coming into the final, the top time of 16:04 held by Geraint Thomas (Sky) slipped away and Martin took third place with a time of 6:12, eventually holding 4th for the final results.

Tony Martin

Tony Martin riding at his limit.

“I am totally on the limit,” said Tony Martin after the finish line. “The TT was difficult for me with all the rain and corners. It disrupted my rhythm a bit, but for everyone it was the same. I will have to analyze my race. I was on the limit the last 4km and lacked a little power in the last two, but that’s a TT, that’s racing.”

Thomas’ top time of 16:04 averaged 52.282km/h for the course. Second on the day went to BMC’S Stefan Küng (+.05) and third to Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), another 2-seconds back. Martin’s fourth place was +.08. Thomas takes the first yellow jersey and is the only Welshman to ever do so.

Despite not seeing the results he aimed for, Tony Martin, 32, was still appreciative of the warm reception and public support shown to him during his ride: “It was absolutely amazing to ride through the streets of Düsseldorf. There was so much motivation for me. I couldn’t hear my radio because everyone was shouting for me. That’s the big thing I take away from here. I still have a few goals to reach for this year.”

The 22 teams will continue racing on Sunday, with stage 2 beginning in Düsseldorf and ending in Liège at 203.5km. The stage should be one for the sprinters.

Here's what Lotto-Soudal sent me:

The 104th Tour de France started today with a fourteen-kilometre long individual time trial in Düsseldorf. It was the fourth time in history that the Grand Départ was organised in Germany. The sky was grey all day long and it rained for most of the time. Limiting the risks was what the Lotto Soudal riders needed to do.

Unfortunately, Tony Gallopin hit the deck in one of the corners and crashed into the barriers. Gallopin hurt his ankle, but has no fractures. He will get the necessary treatment tonight, which means compression, ice and rest. He will try to start tomorrow with a taped ankle.

Geraint Thomas set the fastest time, he covered the course in 16’04”. The Sky rider was five seconds faster than Stefan Küng and seven seconds faster than Vasil Kiryienka. Tomorrow Thomas rides in yellow. Tim Wellens got 24th today, the best result of the Lotto Soudal riders, at 32 seconds of Thomas.

Tim Wellens: “I am glad the Tour has finally started. We arrived in Düsseldorf on Tuesday and today we could finally race! Because of the rainy weather it was mainly a case of arriving safely at the finish. Still, I set a good time. I am satisfied with the feeling I had in my legs.”

“Despite the weather there were a lot of spectators along the course and so the atmosphere was good. Tomorrow we ride to Belgium and that’s a great feeling. We want to try to win the stage with André Greipel. That causes some stress, but we are all very motivated to achieve our common goal.”

And here's the Tour update from UAE Team Emirates:

UAE Team Emirates started their first Tour de France campaign with a wet 14km Individual Time Trial along the streets of Düsseldorf. Diego Ulissi had a solid performance on the slippery route faring better than many GC contenders. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) becomes the first cyclist to wear the coveted Yellow Jersey (Maillot Jaune) as he took first place with a time of 16:04.

UAE Team Emirates’ Louis Meintjes commented: “It went better than previous Time Trials so I’m pleased with that. My legs felt good and I’m just happy to start the Tour. I’m not really an ITTl specialist so for me my focus was to not lose too much time and I think we did that today.”

Stage Two sees the first border change on the Tour, as riders depart Düsseldorf, Germany on the 203.5km route heading to Liège, Belgium – the 11th time Liège has hosted a stage on the Tour de France. Despite being a predominantly flat race, a number of steep climbs dotted around the latter part of the course could have a significant impact on the finishing places and an attacking end to the day could see a bunched sprint finish, as riders say goodbye to Germany and hello to Belgium.

Giro Rosa (Women's Giro d'Italia) News

The race organizer sent me this stage two report:

MONTEREALE VALCELLINA (PN), 1/07/2017: DOUBLE DUTCH TRIUMPH IN MONTEREALE VALCELLINA

The "Oranje" cycling celebrates in the Province of Pordenone: Annemiek Van Vleuten is the winner of the Stage 2 (Zoppola - Montereale Valcellina, 122 km) after a breakaway in the final kilometers with her compatriot Anna Van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans, second) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5, third). The Olympic and European Champion is also the new Pink Jersey for the bonification. Anna is back to wear the Maglia Rosa since she triumphed in the final stage in year 2015 in San Domenico di Varzo.

Today's stage was characterized by the breakaway of Nicole Hanselmann (Cervelo Bigla) and Claudia Koster (Veloconcept), winner of the three intermediate sprints. The two ladies were catched by the peloton at the km 86 then, the decisive breakaway start at km 95, at the bottom of the Forcella di Pala Barzana climb (846 m, cat.2). and a small chasing group was including Amanda Spratt and Megan Guarnier. who were reached by Shara Gillow and Katarzyna Niewiadoma. The gap increased in the descend and the three in the front could sprint for the victory, where Annemiek Van Vleuten was faster. Niewiadoma, leader of the Women's World Tour wins the battle for the place 4 in the chasing group. Van Vleuten, 34 years old, could get another success in her career at Giro Rosa, as she has been the overall leader in many occasions.

Tomorrow there is the stage 3, San Fior - San Vendemiano (100 km), with the "Muro di Cà del Poggio" in the first part of the race.

RESULTS STAGE 2 GIRO ROSA 2017:

1. Annemiek Van Vleuten      3h11'51''
2. Anna Van der Breggen               st
3. Elisa Longo Borghini                   st

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 2:

1. Anna Van der Breggen       3h26'32''
2. Annemiek Van Vleuten              +18''
3. Elisa Longo Borghini                 +26''

THE JERSEYS OF THE GIRO ROSA AFTER STAGE 2:

PINK Jersey COLNAGO: Anna Van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans)
CYCLAMINE Jersey SELLE SMP: Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott)
GREEN Jersey PURPLE by GLOBAL STOCK: Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott)
WHITE Jersey COLNAGO: Floortje Mackaij (Team Sunweb)
BLUE Jersey GSG: Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5)

And here's the stage two race report Orica-Scott sent me:

Newly crowned Dutch time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten showed her intentions for the 10day Giro-Rosa today by taking an impressive victory on the mountainous second stage.

Annemiek van Vleuten win stage 2

Annemiek van Vleuten wins stage two

The day featured a tough second category climb with 25kilometres remaining where the 34-year-old ORICA-SCOTT rider displayed her form, breaking away alongside good company in Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) and Elisa Longo-Borgini (Wiggle-High5).

The trio opened up an advantage of one minute and 45seconds with Van Vleuten proving to be the strongest of the day winning the sprint to take a stage victory.

“Today was a really good test for my legs so I am really happy to take the victory,” explained van Vleuten. “I didn’t really know how my form was uphill as I haven’t had the chance to test my legs uphill for almost four or five weeks.”

“I know I have had really good preparation coming into this Giro Rosa and I felt really strong on the climb, on the descent and also in the final 20kilometres where we had to ride really hard. I was only thinking about taking time and not the stage victory. I am thinking more about the overall than stages and today is a really good sign that my preparation went really well."

With a clear ambition to race for general classification success, Van Vleuten was pleased with the support from her ORICA-SCOTT teammates and their full commitment to the plan.

“I feel that the whole team is really committed and really believe in me which is great feeling,” Van Vleuten continued. “The girls are always putting me in a good position into the beginning of the climbs and it is an amazing feeling, I feel really supported."

“It is the first time for me to target the GC and the first time to have the team riding for me which is a really cool new experience and I am really happy today that I showed that we can do something special here together.”

Sport director Gene Bates echoed van Vleuten’s praise and acknowledgement of her teammates efforts today, all contributing to the overall target. “The team rode sensational today, everybody really contributed to the victory,” said Bates. “Everyone had a clear role and they all executed it perfectly and this is why you get these special victories.”

“Some of the big favourites where missing from that front group, it was the perfect situation for us as we also had Amanda Spratt in the next chasing group in case it came back together again. We knew it would be close in the finish and it was a case of who jumped first with the narrow roads. Van Vleuten should move into second overall now and claw four seconds back on van der Breggen which puts us in a great position early on.”

How it happened:

The first road stage provided an opportunity for an early general classification shake up with a challenging climb and technical descent the key features of today’s stage.

Within the opening 20kilometres, two riders Claudia Koster (VeloConcept) and Nicole Hanselmann (Cervelo-Bigla) broke away and opened up a maximum advantage of just over two minutes.

The duo hovered a couple of minutes ahead for the majority of the stage, with the peloton unwilling to give them any more freedom.

Eventually the pair where reeled back in ahead of the second category climb which saw the peloton quickly reduce down to just 40 riders. Van Vleuten led over the summit of the climb, taking maximum points in the mountains classification and found herself ahead of the bunch with two others.

The trio built up an advantage of 45seconds as they made their way down the technical descent, and increased it out further as they approached the finish line.

Van Vleuten claimed the stage win which jumps her up to second place overall with Van der Breggen moving into the overall race lead after day two.

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