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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, July 23, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this. - Bertrand Russell

Current Racing

Latest completed racing:


Tour de France stage 20 team reports

We'll start with the report from stage winner Maciej Bodnar's Bora-hansgrohe team:

Three weeks Maciej Bodnar had been waiting for this opportunity. The BORA-hansgrohe time trial specialist had ridden hard in support of his teammates on every stage of the Tour de France so far, but today was his chance to take centre stage. Smashing the day’s previous best time by over a minute, the former Polish national time trial champion rode a perfect race that stood for the remainder of the day. With his stunning ride, Bodi takes a well-deserved first stage victory at the Tour de France, and BORA-hansgrohe’s second of the race.

The penultimate stage of the 2017 Tour de France was a time trial – 22.5km long and with a course that would challenge every kind of rider, with its long straight sections, a steep, challenging climb, along with some twists and turns on a circuit through the streets of Marseille, starting and finishing in the famous Orange Vélodrome. In spite of three weeks of racing in the riders’ legs though, this would be the last day that there would be a chance to go full gas, ahead of the traditional procession into Paris for the race’s grand finale.

The crowds at the vélodrome finish had already been whipped into a frenzy by the La Course women’s race, and were eager to see the outcome of the men’s time trial. The first riders out on the course were setting times around the half-hour mark, with the early leader having set a time of 29:21. While the first BORA-hansgrohe riders out came in with some strong times, they were still short of the time needed to take the top spot. Jay McCarthy came close, with a time of 29:43 while Emanuel Buchmann and Marcus Burghardt each came in with the same time of 30:41, but it wasn’t enough to unseat the top-placed rider.

This was until Maciej Bodnar hit the course. The former Polish national time trial champion took every corner perfectly and took as much time as he could on the flats, riding at an incredible pace for the final part of the stage. Entering the Orange Vélodrome, Bodi smashed the provisional first position’s time by more than a minute, finishing in 28:15. It was where he stayed, watching intently the performances of the GC contenders as they all pushed hard to take time from each other. The last rider who could beat him was the Maillot Jaune, Chris Froome of Team Sky, but as the overall leader came to the finish six seconds down, Maciej’s first stage victory at the Tour de France, and BORA-hansgrohe’s second of the race, was confirmed.

Maciej Bodnar

Stage winner Maciej Bodnar

Having waited three hours in the Orange Vélodrome for his win to be confirmed, Maciej could finally celebrate his first victory. “It was a really amazing day for me today. I’ve waited a long time for this moment, for my first stage victory at the Tour de France. When I was a child, my dream was to race in the Tour de France, and now I’ve taken a stage! It is a fantastic moment. I'd like to thank my girlfriend who always stood by me, my mother and, of course, my father who, unfortunately, passed away and wasn't able to watch this great moment. Thanks go also to my team, BORA-hansgrohe. This victory is for them. We had a tough start at the Tour this year and this victory goes also to Peter and Rafał. We have shown we are a great group.”

Having watched the day unfold, BORA-hansgrohe’s Team Coach, Patxi Vila, was thrilled. "Congratulations Bodi! That was an amazing ride. We knew that this was a good opportunity. We took some risks because, in our plan, the finish was on the top of the climb and then it was just about surviving. In the Tour de France you never win without taking some risks. Bodi rode a perfect race. He stuck to our plan and I knew from the last days that today we had a chance to take the win, and he did it. He really deserves this win – he has worked so hard during the whole race and put in a perfect ride today."

Tomorrow, after three weeks of hard racing, the 2017 Tour de France comes to an end. The final stage into Paris is more of a procession than a serious road stage, but in spite of the short distance – the stage covering just 103km – the Champs-Elysées is where the race will come to life. The day finishes with eight circuits in central Paris before the final sprint – one of the biggest spectacles of the whole race. With the reduced field for the bunch sprint, the final stage is really up for grabs.

Team Sky took second and third places in the time trial along with retaining the GC lead. Here's what the team had to say:

Chris Froome put in an emphatic ride on the stage 20 time trial to all but secure a magnificent fourth Tour de France title.

The Team Sky rider immediately began to put time into his rivals across the 22.5-kilometre course in Marseille, eventually powering to third place on the day, and extending his lead out to a convincing 54 seconds.

With now only the largely ceremonial run into Paris separating Froome from another landmark success, he stands on the brink of even more history on the Champs-Elysees.

It was a memorable day for Team Sky, with Mikel Landa securing fourth place overall, a single tantalising second off the overall podium. It was equally close for the stage win in the Stade Velodrome, with Michal Kwiatkowski also just one second off victory in the time trial. The Polish champion finished just behind compatriot Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe), with Froome coming in five seconds further back.

Froome crossed the line moments behind chief rival Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), who dropped to third place on the day, 2:20 behind the maillot jaune. Despite a brief crash on the penultimate corner, Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) was able to elevate himself into second place overall.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome turned in a superb ride.

Team Sky also wrapped up the Team Classification in convincing fashion after three weeks, having maintained the lead, along with yellow helmets and numbers, throughout the entire race.

"It’s an amazing feeling and atmosphere in this stadium," said Froome after stepping off the podium. "Three weeks of racing has almost come to an end and obviously we have to get to Paris tomorrow, but it’s an amazing feeling.

"It was tough, there were just a 1000 ‘what ifs’ and things that potentially could go wrong and trying to think of all the different scenarios so it was certainly not an easy one coming into today with it being so close. It just feels incredible."

Froome also reserved praise for team-mate Landa, who came so close to joining him on the overall podium in Paris."That’s [missing out] really tough for him. I think that if anything it shows that he’s definitely capable of being on this Tour de France podium and I imagine that will just give him even more motivation in future." 

Team Sky Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford was a happy man at the finish and highlighted the winning personality of Froome, who stands on the brink of a fifth Tour. He told ITV4: “From a personality point of view, when you first meet Chris, he’s a very polite guy and he comes across as a really nice, gentle guy. And then something will happen down the line and you see this sort of steel.

“When he’s not having a good day or something happens. He’s one of the guys who can just turn himself inside out and you can’t shake him off. The moment of the race for me was when he had his mechanical [stage 15] and he had to get back on or he was losing the race.

“Not many people I don’t think could have done what he did [on stage 15] he might not have won a stage, but when you watch that you think ’that was some performance.’"

Team Sunweb is having a superb Tour, winning both the Points & Mountains classifications. Here's their stage 20 post:

It was a day for the fast men to shine at stage 20, as riders contested the final individual time trial at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille. The parcours featured everything from a flat and fast section, a more technical section, a 1.2 kilometre climb and a short fast descent before the run in to the finish.

Stage 20 gave Nikias Arndt the chance to shine once again. After a powerful start he reached the first checkpoint after 12 minutes and 9 seconds, setting the 9th fastest time. Nikias continued to navigate his way around the course perfectly and by the time he reached the second time check he had moved up to 7th place overall. Team Sunweb’s German powerhouse finished the day in a time of 28 minutes and 43 seconds, just 28 seconds down from the fastest time to place him 7th on the stage.

Warren Barguil also put in a solid ride to finish the course with a time of 29 minutes and 24 seconds to further secure his position at 10th in the overall standings.

Michael Matthews navigated his way around the course safely and will wear the green jersey once again for the final stage tomorrow.

REACTIONS:

After the stage Nikias said: “It was a really nice course for a time trial with various different parts such as a fast section, technical section and a climb. The legs are feeling good and I just enjoyed the ride. I’m really pleased to come away from the stage with 7th place.”

Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek said: “Both Nikias and Warren did a really good time trial today. It’s clear that they are both on a really high level coming to the end of this Grand Tour. The course was really technical but the guys managed it perfectly, the climb in the middle was quite challenging so it’s great to see times like this from the guys. Overall a good stage and it’s good to see everyone around the course safely, and we’re all looking forward to tomorrow’s stage.”

Team BMC sent me this stage 20 report:

22 July, 2017, Marseille (FRA): Stefan Küng clocked the ninth-fastest time on the 22.5km Tour de France stage 20 time trial in Marseille, his second top ten stage finish in his Tour de France debut.

Küng was BMC Racing Team's third rider to roll down the ramp and was chasing the early best time of 28'15" set by Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe).

At the first check point, Küng clocked the fifth-fastest time, before dropping to sixth at the second intermediate check point and then putting in a strong finish to cross the line with the provisional fourth-fastest time. Despite the majority of the peloton still to roll out, Küng's time was only beaten by five more riders and he secured ninth place at the conclusion of the stage.

Sitting in 11th on the General Classification before the time trial, Damiano Caruso was the last rider to take to the start line for BMC Racing Team. Caruso navigated the course to clock the 21st-fastest time of the day behind eventual winner Bodnar which was enough to retain his position overall.

The peloton now heads to Paris on Sunday for the traditional sprinters stage finishing on the Champs Elysées.

Stefan Küng:

"It's a bit disappointing because I was coming here today with the hope of a podium spot but it's hard to do such an effort after three weeks. It's my first time trial at the end of a Grand Tour so that's always particular, especially with the steep hill in the middle so it was hard to pace. It's a good experience for me. In general, on a personal note, my first Tour de France was pretty successful. It's my first Tour and I'm coming out pretty fresh so I think it will be a good start to the remainder of the season. To do the race with the 200 best cyclists in the world, it's something else."

"The descent was pretty technical and then the run into the finish was pretty fast. I was holding back maybe a little bit too much because I did it twice in the recon and the hill seemed pretty steep. It was still steep in the race but it takes you half the time to go up there. I think if I could do it again I might have been faster."

Orica-Scott's Simon Yates is headed to Paris in the White Jersey. His team sent me this report:

South African time trial champion Daryl Impey has finished fifth and British climber Simon Yates has all-but claimed the best young rider competition after today’s penultimate stage at the Tour de France.

Impey put in the ride of his life to finish just 20seconds down on stage winner Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Yates finished today’s time trial in 32nd position, in the exact same time as white jersey contender Louis Meinjtes, whilst Chris Froome finished third on the stage to wrap up the yellow jersey.

With the final stage traditionally a ceremonious one, the 24-year-old ORICA-SCOTT rider just needs to roll over the finish line in Paris to officially claim the best young rider competition and seventh position overall.

Simon Yates

Simon Yates did well enough to keep his white jersey.

“It will take some time, but it is starting to sink in,” Yates said about the white jersey. “I’m really happy and a little bit relieved that I have pulled it off too. I came here with the goal of winning this jersey from day one and that was no secret. For me it’s a great thing and I’m sure for the team as well. Also with my brother winning it last year it’s nice to keep it in the family, and we hope we can turn them into another colour one day.

“Every day I have needed to, I went deep. I gave it everything and there were some days that I wasn’t good enough but I really tried to fight as much as possible and do everything I could and finally I have arrived here with the white jersey.”

How it happened:

With just one day to come, today’s time trial was a target for just a handful of potential stage winners and the top general classification riders.

Australian Mathew Hayman was the first ORICA-SCOTT rider down the ramp and he had the eyes of Yates following him in the car in preparation for his ride later in the day.

After a solid result at the first stage time trial, Impey committed to a good ride and crossed the line in a provisional third fastest time with only two riders going faster for the remainder of the day.

The top general classification riders set off to a huge applause from Orange Velodrome, but the only major change to the general classification was Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale Drapac) moving up to second overall and Romain Bardet (AG2R LA Mondiale) down to third.

Yates put in a solid ride to maintain his position on the general classification and hold the white jersey with just the Paris stage to come.

And finally, here's Lotto-Soudal's report:

The penultimate stage was, just as in the previous editions of the Tour de France, an individual time trial. The 22.5 kilometers long course in Marseille was relatively short, with a steep hill towards the end. Taylor Phinney was the fourth rider to start the time trial and he was an outsider for the stage victory. His time of 29 minutes and 21 seconds was a first target time for the riders to come. He kept the best time for about an hour until Maciej Bodnar came along. He completed the time trial with an average speed of almost 48 kilometers per hour, which resulted in a time of 28 minutes and 15 seconds.

This was the winning chrono, as Michael Kwiatkowski and multiple times world champion, Tony Martin, fell short. Yellow jersey Chris Froome couldn't beat this time either. Tony Gallopin and Tiesj Benoot both set a nice result in the time trial. Gallopin finished in sixteenth place, Benoot was twenty-third. Chris Froome remains the leader in the GC and will win his fourth tour de france. Benoot finishes his first Tour de France in twentieth place, Gallopin follows one place behind him in twenty first.

Tony Gallopin: “I have been in a good shape for the entire week already and it was my goal to set the best result possible today. I gave everything I had, but I didn’t take too many risks. There were some tricky corners on the course and I absolutely did not want to crash. I am satisfied with my current condition and I hope that this leads to some good results after the Tour.”

Tiesj Benoot: “After yesterday’s stage, I was twentieth in the general classification and I wanted to defend this spot today. It was remarkable that a teammate, Tony Gallopin, was just one place behind me. This was obviously a topic within the team since yesterday evening. This might well be my best result in a time trial and I was able to defend the twentieth place. Tomorrow is another important stage for the team, as we want to get the highest result we can get with André Greipel. We will have to see how my good form continues after the Tour. There are several races where I might have my chance, such as the Clásica San Sebastián, the BinckBank Tour, the races in Canada and the Tour of Lombardia.”

Plurs: Vanendert and Van der Sande top 5 in Tour de Wallonie

The Tour de Wallonie started today with a tough stage of almost 190 kilometers. Many riders, including James Shaw and Nikolas Maes, tried to escape in the beginning of the stage, but their attempts were unsuccessful. After 30 kilometers, six riders managed to form a breakaway. Boev, Gougeard, Hermans, Koning, Ledanois and Turgis took a maximum advantage of six and a half minutes. In the peloton, Lotto Soudal was one of the teams setting the pace and this caused that their advantage rapidly declined.

The front group only held one minute with 50 kilometers remaining and the last survivor of the break, Gougeard, was reeled in with 33 kilometers left in the stage. Afterwards, Jelle Vanendert and others tried to escape, but it was a group of forty riders that started the local lap of ten kilometers. With three kilometers remaining, Benjamin Thomas saw his chance for an ultimate move. He started the final kilometer, that went uphill, with a twenty-second advantage on a group with three Lotto Soudal riders. Thomas finished the stage strong and kept his advantage. Xandro Meurisse and Dylan Teuns completed the podium. Jelle Vanendert and Tosh Van der Sande sprinted to the fourth and the fifth place in the small peloton. Thomas is also the first GC leader after this victory.

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