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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall. – Sir Walter Raleigh
If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all. – Elizabeth I

Current racing:

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Tour of Switzerland (Tour de Suisse) stage 3 team reports

Here's Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe news:

For day three of the Tour de Suisse, the race headed west towards Bern, on a route that took in three categorised climbs and some undulating terrain. While the finale was earmarked as a sprint, some hard climbs, as well as an uphill drag to the finish, would make the going tough for the pure sprinters. In spite of looking strong in the sprint, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was unable to find a gap in a close fought battle for the win, taking second and moving up to third in the GC.

Today’s route covered a 159km parcours – more undulating than the previous day’s stage, and with it came more strategic opportunities to go for the win. The stage saw three categorised climbs – the last being close to the finish in Bern, where there was every chance of a late attack. While the final kilometre was far from flat, the stage was classed as a sprint stage, and while not necessarily one for the out and out sprinters, it was one that the all-rounders would have no trouble contesting – as long as they kept their eye on any late attempts to break away, and were prepared for some pavé in the closing 10km.

As to be expected, a break made its way up the road early in the day, building up a significant advantage in a short time. Hitting the first climb, the escapees had almost nine minutes in hand over the peloton, but with only two riders in the break, it would be hard to hold that advantage to the finish. As the day went on, the gap steadily dropped, although the break made it clear they intended to hold out as long as they could. With 19km remaining, the first of the breakaway was caught, and 6km later, the last of the day’s break was brought in and it was all back together.

Tour of Switzerland

Michael Matthews wins the stage while Peter Sagan in his rainbow jersey, was second.

With things ramping up for the finish, the peloton made its way into Bern for the finale. While the UNESCO world heritage city had some beautiful buildings and stunning sights, the urban setting brought with it street furniture, roundabouts and some tight turns to negotiate. Allowing the other teams to drive the pace today, the BORA-hansgrohe riders were working to keep UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, safe in the run up to the finish, making sure he was well protected as the race hit the cobblestone streets in a circuit that rode like a criterium course. Well-placed in the bunch, Peter was keeping his eye on his rivals as the final kilometre brought with it some tough ascents, but sitting around five riders back, the Slovak rider could keep an eye on the other contenders, looking relaxed even as the race hit its final 500m. Kicking with 100m to go, his wheels squirming under the sheer power of his sprint, Peter was just outpaced by Sunweb’s Michael Matthews, having come close to the barriers in his push for the finish line.

From the finish in Bern, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was clear just how tough things were in the sprint for the line. “It was another tough stage at the Tour de Suisse, with a hectic finale on a hot day. The squad perfectly executed the plan we had in the morning. My sensations were good and I gave it my best, but unfortunately in the final sprint, I got closed and took second. We will try again in the coming days.”

BORA-hansgrohe’s Directeur Sportif, Jan Valach, was happy to see the team continue pulling together today. “The squad worked really well today. The plan was to let just a small group break away, and this is what took place. Juraj Sagan pulled at the front, together with BMC, then Maciej Bodnar put in a solid effort and we reeled in the escapees with less than 15km to go. They positioned Peter at the front in the final kilometre but he was pipped on the line by Matthews. Tomorrow we have a short stage for the climbers, with a climb and then a summit finish, and we will try our best with Patrick Konrad and Jay McCarthy.”

Billed as a mountain stage, much of tomorrow’s 143km parcours is a build-up to the climbs of the day. The first climb summits at 109km, where riders will contest the first category Col des Mosses, then a fast and furious descent before the climbing starts all over again for the Tour de Suisse’s first summit finish, and its first Hors Catégorie climb as well, from Aigle – the home of the UCI – to Villars-sur-Ollon, where the climbers and GC contenders will have to put their cards on the table.

Here's the report from John Degenkolb's Trek-Segafredo squad:

John Degenkolb sprinted to third place in a tough uphill finish in stage two at the Tour de Suisse Monday, finishing behind winner Michael Matthews (Sunweb) and Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe).

The peloton faced an ornery ending to the 159-kilometer race that culminated in the center of Bern, giving a rough ride to the line with numerous corners, roundabouts, and medians to steer around until a tricky uphill that topped out 500 meters from the line.

Positioning was crucial, and Trek-Segafredo assembled at the front with 12 kilometers to go to help navigate Degenkolb through the tricky roads.

Once Degenkolb made it safely through all the road furniture and turns, trusted lieutenant Koen de Kort added the finishing touch and pulled full-gas up the steepest part of the climb that started with 1.5 kilometers to go. When de Kort pulled off after a monstrous uphill pull there were 900 meters to go, and Degenkolb eased back a little, needing some respite before his final kick.

"We did a really good job, maybe we were a little too enthusiastic, too motivated, but we were up there," Degenkolb said about the finish. "In the end, the speed was a little bit too high to make it completely up to the last final meters, so I had to drop back a few positions, but the team did really well." 

The road continued to rise to the final 500 meters, and when Matthews initiated the sprint at 150 meters from the line, firing off his teammate's wheel, Degenkolb and Sagan could only battle in his wake.

"We had a good team effort today, and we could not have done more – maybe second, but Michael Matthews was super," echoed director Kim Andersen.

John Degenkolb

Not mentioned in the story, Degenkolb was unhappy with how Peter Sagan sprinted. In this photo Degenkolb is complaining about Peter Sagan

It was a full-team effort, from Matthias Brändle contributing to the early chase of the breakaway, to the sprint team picking up the reins to position Degenkolb perfectly ahead of the finish climb. Even Jarlinson Pantano – who dropped out of GC contention to gastrointestinal issues in stage two – was at the front helping in the chaotic last kilometers, a good sign he has recovered from his stomach ailment.

"I had told Jarlinson he didn't need to do anything today, but it looked like he was feeling quite well and he's back," continued Andersen. "We can hope he can recover a little more and that he can be ready for the mountain stages and try and win one of the hilltop finishes."

Thomas de Gendt wrist injury confirmed

Lotto-Soudal sent me this update:

After Thomas De Gendt had won the first stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné and wore the yellow jersey for five days, he decided not to ride the last stage due to a wrist injury. Today Thomas went to the hospital for an examination. As it turns out he has an intersection syndrome or oarsman’s wrist. Thomas has to wear a brace for three weeks, but is able to train. His preparation for the Tour de France is not endangered.

Thoas de Gendt

Thomas de Gendt at this year's Dauphiné

This afternoon the third stage of Tour de Suisse took place. Tim Wellens has finished in a nice fourth place after an uphill sprint. The stage, with finish in Bern, was a relatively flat stage that ended in a bunch sprint, as was expected. Directly after the start, two riders – Lasse Norman Hansen and Elmar Reinders – escaped from the peloton. Their maximum advantage was 8’20”, but they were caught by the peloton with thirteen kilometres to go. Michael Matthews had a perfect lead-out and he was the strongest in the last kilometre, which was going uphill. Peter Sagan and John Degenkolb were only just faster than Tim Wellens and they sprinted to second and third place.

Tim Wellens: “We knew that the final kilometres were tough and it was up to Jürgen Roelandts or me for today. With this kind of finale, it was crucial to have a good position. It’s clear that I am not a sprinter, but I think I did very well. There were some splits in the peloton when it started to go uphill in the penultimate kilometre. In the end, I finish in fourth place, in good company. Yesterday, I had a difficult day because of the heat. Today, there were more clouds, which made it a few degrees cooler. And now up to the next stages!”

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