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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, July 22, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. - Bill Gates

Current Racing

Latest completed racing:


Tour de France stage 19 team reports

Edvald Boasson Hagen gave Dmension Data its first win this Tour. Here's the team's report:

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s Edvald Boasson Hagen crowned an incredible performance by soloing to victory after a powerful attack on the final kilometers on stage 19 of Tour de France.

Knowing that today’s stage was the last chance for the opportunistic riders to shine in the race, it was no surprise to see countless attacks during the first part of the stage. It took nearly an hour of hard racing before a group of 20 riders finally managed to distance the peloton.

Boasson Hagen had been very attentive near the front, covering the most dangerous moves. In theory, the fast Norwegian didn’t have to attack, as he would be one of the favorites in a bunch sprint. However, when the big group went away, he was quick to follow, which proved to be a very good decision.

The breakaway worked well together and as the peloton seemed satisfied with the situation, the gap quickly grew to over seven minutes. As the front group took on the last 40 km of the stage, the riders started attacking each other. Ultimately, nine riders – including Boasson Hagen – got away. The new front group kept splitting up but only for a limited time as it always came back together again.

With about three kilometers left to go, Boasson Hagen was smart and took the right way around in a roundabout while the other riders went left. This opened up a small gap. Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb) originally followed Boasson Hagen but he couldn’t keep up with the Norwegian time trial champion. Boasson Hagen continued alone and he had plenty of time to celebrate and show the iconic five-fingers-salute for Qhubeka as he crossed the finishing line in Salon-de-Provence.

Edvald Boasson Hagen

Edvald Boasson Hagen has reason to smile at the end of stage 19.

The peloton finished over 12 minutes down with the yellow jersey Chris Froome (Team Sky) keeping the overall lead before tomorrow’s 22.5 km long individual time trial in Marseille.

Edvald Boasson Hagen: “This is fantastic. The team helped me a lot before the break went away. They controlled the peloton and on the climb, I was in a good position to follow the attacks. Within the front group, we worked really well together all day. Naturally, at the end, there were some attacks but I managed to close them down a ride quite smartly. I had studied the course and I knew I had to go right in that last roundabout. Afterwards, I managed to go solo and I was so happy when I crossed the line. I’ve been so close so many times. It’s really nice to finally get this victory for the team and for myself as well”.

Second-place Nikias Arndt's Sunweb team had this to say about the stage:

It was a day for the breakaway at the nineteenth stage of the Tour de France, with Nikias Arndt in the thick of the action for Team Sunweb up the road. After a flurry of early attacks were neutralised it was kilometre 35 when the group of 20 went clear. Working together well, the group extended their advantage which went on to peak at ten minutes.

It quickly became evident that the winner of the race would come from the breakaway and after two and a half weeks of working for his team mates, Nikias’ focused turned to his own Tour de France chances.

Whilst it remained relatively quiet in the leading group, Nikias remained tucked safe inside the bunch preserving energy until the finish. On the final categorised climb of this year’s Tour de France the attacks from the breakaway were countless. Despite various attempts, the group stayed together until 15 kilometres to go. When a nine-rider split formed Nikias was once again there holding on to fight for the stage victory.

Knowing that the right of the roundabout was a slightly shorter distance to cover, Nikias used this to his advantage to take a lead over the nine-rider group. One ride followed him around the right-hand side and the duo continued ahead to the finish. His companion upped the pace and opened up a small gap, but Nikias’ race wasn’t over and he continued to push on. After a day in the break at the longest stage of this year’s race, Team Sunweb’s German powerhouse fought all the way to the finish to take an impressive second place.

Both Michael Matthews and Warren Barguil finished the day tucked inside the peloton with both the green and polka dot jersey’s protected for another day.

REACTIONS

After the stage Nikias said: “There were a lot of strong guys in the front and when nine riders went clear, there was still some really tough competition with everybody going for the win. I took the right side of the roundabout and could take a small lead, but when the rider following me accelerated I couldn’t hold the wheel. We have four stage victories, two jerseys and now we have another second place. The atmosphere is great and I’m pleased to carry the momentum on for today’s stage.”

Team Sunweb’s Tour de France coach Aike Visbeek added: “Today was a great stage from Nikias. We knew that there was a serious chance of the break going to the finish and we know that Nikias can handle these climbs so he was the perfect guy to have up the road. After giving himself completely to the team’s goals for the past few weeks it’s a shame to not see him take the win but he rode a brilliant race, a great final and we can be proud of the result regardless.”

Here's the report from GC leader Chris Froome's Team Sky:

Team Sky and Chris Froome enjoyed a safe passage through stage 19 at the Tour de France, as the Brit maintained his overall advantage heading into the final weekend.

The longest stage of the race proved to be a straightforward day for the race leader, who will carry a 23-second advantage into Saturday’s decisive time trial test.

With a sizeable breakaway up the road, Team Sky shared the workload across the 222.5km stage, with Luke Rowe, Christian Knees, Vasil Kiryienka, Mikel Nieve and Sergio Henao all combining to set the tempo.

With the best placed rider over 47 minutes back on the maillot jaune there was no need to panic, with the GC contenders all opting to conserve energy as the breakaway’s advantage spun out to over 10 minutes.

In the battle for the stage win, former Team Sky rider Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) proved to be strongest in the break, which split apart on the run into Salon-de-Provence.

The Sky-led peloton rolled in 12:27 back, and with all the race’s categorised climbs now complete, as well as the competitive road stages, the 22.5km time trial around Marseille will decide the race.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome rode a safe and careful stage.

Mikel Landa holds fourth, 1:36 back on Froome, and crucially 19 seconds ahead of fifth placed Fabio Aru (Astana). Having held the advantage in the team GC standings for 19 stages, Team Sky saw their advantage cut to 3:08 as chief rivals Ag2r-La Mondiale put a man in the break. Once again the time trial will prove decisive ahead of Paris.

With attention quickly turning to Saturday's test against the clock, Sport Director Nicolas Portal gave his thoughts on the stage. "It will be a big fight. It’s not about the team, it’s just an individual effort. It’s going to be interesting to watch in front of the TV," he told Eurosport.

"The time trial is generally flat with some turns, and halfway through there is a really steep climb - about 1.2km. There are some 12 and 15% gradients - it’s pretty steep. Then when you drop down there’s a fast, twisty downhill, then you need to get going again. You cannot give everything on the climb.

"For the GC guys, Rigoberto (Uran) is the one we’re a bit more worried about. We know when he’s in form he can be really good on a flat time trial and at the end of the Tour freshness is the most important thing. Some guys who aren’t specialists can time trial well, so Romain (Bardet) could also be a surprise. He’s been fantastic here with the French public behind him. You can’t rule anyone out."

Here's the Orica-Scott team report:

Tour of Belgium champion Jens Keukeleire has finished third from a breakaway on stage 19 of the Tour de France today as white jersey holder Simon Yates finished safely in the bunch ahead of the final two days of racing.

Keukeleire was part of a 20-rider breakaway alongside ORICA-SCOTT teammate Michael Albasini and won the sprint for third place behind stage winner Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Nikias Ardnt (Team Sunweb) who escaped courtesy of a crucial decision at a roundabout in the final three kilometres.

The Belgian rider himself tried to escape the move with 60km to go and his effort was rewarded with a place on the podium as the most aggressive rider of the stage.

“It would have been nicer if I had have won but of course it’s nice to get on the podium,” Keukeleire said. “We did almost everything we had to do. We had to get in the break, that was the first thing, we had to reduce the size of the group, that was the second thing, and the third thing was to finish it off and we just couldn’t manage to do that.

“We had talked about a roundabout in the bus. It was better to take the right side but that wasn't really on my mind. I knew the final and I only realised it once we were already on the roundabout. If Boasson Hagen goes, then you know that you shouldn't give him more than 10metres. He's one of the strongest riders in the world.”

Over 12minutes behind the head of the race the peloton rolled through the finish line in Salon-de-Provence, all the general classification riders keen to save their legs for tomorrow’s crucial time trial stage.

The 22.5km race against the clock is a relatively flat but technical course with one short, sharp climb. The stage is the final opportunity to lock in overall placings, with the final day in Paris traditionally a ceremonious one for overall contenders.

“Today the start was pretty hard but once the break went we just kept good tempo and really tried to save the legs for tomorrow,” Yates said. “I don’t know a lot about the course tomorrow. It looks pretty technical on paper and we will go and check it out in the morning before the stage.

“A time trial is always difficult no matter where it is or how it is. You need to put in your maximum and I will be looking to do that tomorrow, hopefully without any issues like mechanicals or crashes.”

How it happened:

With a lot of teams still with nothing to their names as we near the conclusion of the 2017 Tour de France, the battle for the breakaway was on early. Twenty riders eventually made up the move that stuck and it included Keukeleire and Albasini for ORICA-SCOTT.

With no threats to the general classification, the peloton let the group out to seven minutes before it extended to over 12minutes by the conclusion of the 222.5km stage.

The crucial moment came after 220km of racing when eventual winner and second place Boasson Hagen and Ardnt took the right side of a roundabout when the rest of the remaining break took the left.  The decision saw the pair gain an instant advantage and a chase in the last 2.5km wasn’t enough to recover the duo.

Lotto-Soudal sent me this stage 19 report:

The nineteenth Tour stage, with 222.5 kilometres the longest stage of this edition, was an opportunity for breakaway riders to take the win. Many wanted to get in the front group which made it a fast beginning of the stage with a lot of attempts to jump away from the peloton. 35 kilometres after the start in Embrun a front group of twenty riders was established, including Lotto Soudal riders Thomas De Gendt and Tony Gallopin. The peloton let go and gave them up to ten minutes advantage. The winner would be one of the escapees.

It was a smooth cooperation in the front group until the last fifty kilometres of the stage when a climb of third category turned up on the course. Despite several attacks, the front group didn’t fall apart, but the pace wouldn’t drop anymore. With twenty kilometres to go, Jens Keukeleire raised the tempo a bit more and nine riders got a gap. De Gendt was one of them. At less than four kilometres from the end, Edvald Boasson Hagen took a few metres lead on a roundabout and that would be the start of a solo. The Norwegian won the stage to Salon-de-Provence. Thomas de Gendt finished fifth at seventeen seconds. 1’37” after Boasson Hagen Tony Gallopin crossed the finish line as eighteenth.

Thomas De Gendt: “We knew there were two possible scenarios today: let a small group take off and control the gap or join the break if it is large enough. It became the second option. It was not my intention to get in the break today, I thought I would have to pull in the peloton, but after a descent we got a gap. We all worked together and pretty soon we knew we would battle for the stage win. Sky did not give us an enormous advantage as AG2R had a rider in front with Bakelants and that could influence the team classification.”

“I knew whom I had to keep an eye on: Boasson Hagen, Chavanel and Keukeleire. They are dangerous in these kind of situations. I think none of us was very confident, also Boasson Hagen attacked and didn’t wait for the sprint. I felt that I had been in the break a few times before, but everybody is tired. I hope this was an extra push for me to get the Super Combativity Award. That would be a wonderful reward. Unfortunately the fifth place was the highest possible result for me today.”

Upcoming Tour de Wallonie team news

This came from BMC:

21 July 2017, Santa Rosa, California (USA): BMC Racing Team will be looking to make an impact in Belgium over the next five days with a motivated team heading to the start line at VOO Tour de Wallonie tomorrow (22 July).

Sports Director Marco Pinotti thinks that the race will provide an opportunity for every rider to test their legs.

"This race comes after a midseason break for many of our riders, so there is always a little bit of a question mark around how people will perform but, we have a good idea of where everyone is at, and everyone is motivated. I think we can expect the three Belgians on our roster to be strong over this style of racing but we will take it day by day, and every rider will have the chance to take opportunities. Of course, this race will be an opportunity for our eight riders to put the hard work they have been doing to the test but we are still going into the race with the expectation to do well in terms of both stage wins and the overall General Classification. Apart from stage 4, which looks like a sprint stage, the race is very open, so I think we will see some aggressive racing over the next five days," Pinotti said.

Dylan Teuns is confident in his form heading into the VOO Tour de Wallonie.

"It's a very Classic style of racing at VOO Tour de Wallonie and the local lap on stage 1 is actually part of the Flèche Wallone parcours so, it is a typical Ardennes race, and that is what I like best. These are the races where I believe I show my best form. I haven't raced a lot over the past few weeks, but I was part of an altitude camp, and I think I have definitely benefitted from that. I performed well at GP Pino Cerami, and my condition is good so, I am ready to get started. Of course, racing in Belgium is great, but for me, my main motivation is that I really enjoy this style of racing and I think the parcours suits me well," Teuns explained.

VOO Tour de Wallonie (22 - 26 July)

Rider Roster: Jempy Drucker (LUX), Floris Gerts (NED), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Miles Scotson (AUS), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BEL), Francisco Ventoso (ESP), Loïc Vliegen (BEL)

Sports Directors: Marco Pinotti (ITA), Allan Peiper (AUS)

And here's Lotto-Soudal's Tour de Wallonie preview:

Between July 22nd and 26th, the Tour de Wallonie takes place for the 38th time. There are several hills on the course in all five stages, which makes this stage race ideally for puncheurs who can survive a race on a hilly course.

The first stage of the Tour de Wallonie is the hardest of the five and the riders who aim for a good result on GC, need to be in good shape that day. There are three hills at the end of this stage and the final straight goes uphill as well. The second stage has a similar profile, although the finale is less tough than in the first stage. The third stage suits the puncheurs once more, since it ends on the Mur Saint-Roch, a steep one-kilometre hill. On the fourth day of this year’s edition, the riders face the easiest stage, which will probably conclude in a sprint finish. The last stage might also see a sprint with a large group, although the Mur de Thuin is a treacherous climb in the last kilometre of the race.

Kurt Van de Wouwer, sports director Lotto Soudal: “The Tour de Wallonie is the first race for many riders after a time without competition. Most of them have recently come back from altitude training, so we might have to wait and see which level they already reach in this stage race. The Tour de Wallonie is a perfect opener to the second half of the season and to prepare for the races in the upcoming months.”

“Contrary to the previous years, the Tour de Wallonie starts immediately with a tough stage. I suppose that this stage will already be decisive for the general classification, together with the second and third stage. The course in the final two stages is less tough and I think that these will end in a bunch sprint or at least a sprint with a large group. Jasper De Buyst, Moreno Hofland and Tosh Van der Sande are three riders on our team who have a strong sprint and they can compete for the win in these stages.”

“The main goal is to win at least one stage in the Tour de Wallonie. We start with a competitive line-up that must be able to compete for the victory in every stage. Depending on the results in the first stages, we will see if a good result in the general classification is possible as well. For this, we mainly count on Jelle Vanendert, who finished in fourth place last year at only seven seconds. The French teams are always strong in this stage race and BMC has a strong line-up as well. These teams will probably be our biggest competitors.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sean De Bie, Jasper De Buyst, Moreno Hofland, Nikolas Maes, Rémy Mertz, James Shaw, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Vanendert.

Sport directors: Kurt Van de Wouwer and Marc Wauters.

Stages:

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