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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, June 26, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

It costs a lot of money to look this cheap. - Dolly Parton

Current Racing

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National Championships team reports

We'll start with Cannondale-Drapac's report on Ryan Mullen's double at the Irish Champs:

Ryan Mullen did the double in Wexford, Ireland on Sunday. The 22-year-old parlayed a late race attack into his first elite national road title. It’s Mullen’s first professional road victory and Cannondale-Drapac’s first road title of the season.

“This one means a lot more than the time trial title,” said Mullen. “I fought so hard for it. The time trial is a pride thing. I expect to win. I’m angry at myself if I don’t. The road race, nationals are not your typical race. I’m just really happy I won it.”

With the time trial title his main focus, Mullen hadn’t even looked at the road course map until Friday, but when he bagged the TT title, he decided he was keen to have a crack at the double. He determined an aggressive approach was required.

“It was such a hard race and it was really negative,” said Mullen. “That’s how it goes with nationals. The amateurs sit on the pros and hope if they chase everything down, we’ll tow them to the finish and give them a chance at the victory.

“Normally a breakaway rider gets away but nothing went for the longest time,” said Mullen. “I kept trying and trying and trying. I was tiring myself out and getting pretty angry that everything was being neutralized.”

Ryan Mullen

Ryan Mullen racing at the 2014 Worlds

Midway through the nine-lap, 176-kilometer race, Mullen was in a promising escape of four that gained a gap of nearly a minute. When the peloton proved unable to close down the move, riders began bridging across. Eventually a group of around 15 riders took shape that included all the pre-race favorites.

Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport) was one of the riders that made the junction between the reduced bunch and the break. Rather than joining forces with the break, Dunne powered through it. Christopher McGlinchey (Chain Reaction Cycles) marked Dunne. Mullen allowed Dunne to gain a minute before reacting.

“It took me about six kilometers to catch Dunne and McGlinchey,” said Mullen. “I used those time trial skills to some good effect. Then there were three of us that were a minute up. We had one lap left.”

McGlinchey attacked on what race organisers dubbed “the Wexford Poggio”. The attack dropped Dunne and blew up McGlinchey. “That was McGlinchey’s day done,” said Mullen. “I have a lot of respect for the guy. He rode a strong race and tomorrow at six o'clock he’s back to his day job. I’ll still be in bed well past six.”

Although Mullen would have been happy to allow the race to come down to a three-up sprint, he embraced the opportunity that presented itself. With Dunne gone and McGlinchey weakened, Mullen attacked. “There were four kilometers left,” said Mullen. “It was the right moment. I had nothing left, but I gave myself a small gap, and I managed to hold on to it until the line.

“I remember just looking down at my Garmin and thinking: ‘Hold 450. Hold 450. You can hold 450 for four kilometers.’ And I did,” said Mullen. “When I got closer to the finish line, I started thinking: ‘Hang on a second. Is anyone up the road? Could I have missed someone?’ ”

He hadn’t missed anyone. He had won. Irish road champion. Irish time trial champion, too. Mullen had done the double. “I would have been happy to sprint those guys,” said Mullen. “I was confident I had the best sprint. It didn’t happen that way, so I had to play the card I was dealt. I had no idea how far behind anyone was after I attacked on the climb. I was just emptying myself, hoping it was enough.”

Mullen expects to debut his new POC national champion’s kit at Tour of Austria next month.

“I’m looking forward to working with POC on a jersey design,” he said. “I’m really excited to come up with something good.” 

Here's Team Sunweb's report on the Dutch championships:

Team Sunweb have taken a clean sweep at the men's elite Dutch national championships as Ramon Sinkeldam (NED) sprinted to victory in the road race today.

Team Sunweb executed their plan perfectly to secure another national title at the Dutch championships, their third title during their 2017 national championship campaign. As an initial breakaway went clear, Team Sunweb sent Albert Timmer (NED) and Tom Stamsnijder (NED) out into the leading group to keep an eye on proceedings at the head of the race. As the early break rejoined the peloton, counter attacks were launched with both Tom Dumoulin (NED) and Sam Oomen (NED) involved. The race came back together on the approach to the finale and Team Sunweb were still there with a strong team to place Sinkeldam in prime position for the sprint. After a flawless lead-out, Sinkeldam was able to finish off a successful day of well played tactics to sprint to the victory in a photo finish finale.

After the victory Sinkeldam said: "This is an amazing victory for me and the team. The guys did an amazing job throughout the whole day and executed our plan to perfection. I was able to stay fresh for the finish and could finish off the team's hard work to take the win. It's amazing to have the support of the staff and team to be able to sprint to the win today, I am speechless."

Team Sunweb coach Arthur van Dongen (NED) added: "We were there throughout the whole day keeping control with both Albert and Tom [Stamsnijder] in the early break. When they dropped we started to chase with Laurens [ten Dam] and Marc [Goos]. The plan was to attack in the final two laps and save Ramon for a sprint situation. The team executed the plan perfectly and Ramon could sprint to victory. The team did a great job and the win wouldn't have been possible without the great work of everybody."

Luka Mezgec won the Slovenian road title. Here's the report from Orica-Scott:

Recent Tour of Slovenia stage winner Luka Mezgec has continued his great run of form by taking out the Slovenian Road Race Championships today. The 28-year-old sprinted to victory in Kranj under rainy conditions to claim his first every elite national title and bring the Slovenian colours to ORICA-SCOTT.

“It was a hard day, the Slovenian nationals are always so hard,” explained Mezgec. “I knew I was in good shape coming into the race but the nationals are always a big lottery, especially this year with six Bahrain-Merida guys so I knew it would never be an easy day. I have been second twice so this is my first time winning the national title and I am really happy.”

With a fairly small field of riders unlike the usual WorldTour races, the race began with many attacks in the opening 30kilometres before a group of seven riders established a gap and successfully stayed away until the finish line.

Luka Mezgec

Luka Mezgec in 2014 at the Tour of Poland

With the pressure on from the chase behind, Mezgec and the other breakaway riders had to fight all day to remain out front and keep in a position to battle for the national title. “The race was only 150kilometres long but with six riders from Bahrain-Merida it was tough,” Mezgec continued. “The guys behind were always chasing so we really had to go deep all day.“

“On the last lap I got dropped on the climb after an attack from Grega Bole (Bahrain-Merida). After I came back we were chasing hard, doing swap offs with Primoz Roglic (Lotto-Jumbo), one rider from CCC and one rider from a Slovenian continental team to try bring him back.

“I knew they would race hard all day against me to try and get away as they know I am a fast rider. In the sprint I had really good legs so it was actually an easy sprint. It was great to have support from ORICA-SCOTT with our soigneur Miha here today, making bottles and rice cakes and doing everything to help me.”

Earlier today Jens Keukeleire finished in fourth place in the Belgian championships, Roman Kreuziger also finished fourth in the Czech championships and Roger Kluge finished sixth in the German championships.

BMC sent this report on the Swiss Nationals:

25 June, 2017, Affoltern am Albis (SUI): After claiming gold and silver at the Swiss Time Trial Championships on Thursday, BMC Racing Team went one better at the road race by securing gold, silver and bronze after Silvan Dillier took the solo win and Stefan Küng and Kilian Frankiny crossed the line in second and third place respectively.

Silvan Diller

Silvan Dillier

BMC Racing Team and BMC Development Team joined forces for the road race with a total of 12 riders, including three former winners in Martin Elmiger, Michael Schär and Danilo Wyss.

Dillier was on the attack from the beginning to form a four-rider breakaway on the second lap of the 15-lap course with teammate Tom Bohli, before Danilo Wyss bridged across to join the quartet.

With 90km remaining, Dillier attacked from the breakaway and established a solid gap on the field to effectively start an individual time trial to the finish line. Behind, the peloton caught the remaining breakaway riders and with 60km to go, Küng and Frankiny jumped clear to set up the eventual all-BMC Racing Team podium.

With three riders ahead, the rest of BMC Racing Team was left to cover the moves behind and as Dillier, Küng and Frankiny crossed the finish line to hear the bell signalling the last lap, the three podium spots were all but assured.

Dillier approached the line with enough time to dismount and carry his BMC Teammachine across the line to celebrate his maiden Swiss Road Race Championship.

Almost two minutes behind, Küng and Frankiny claimed the final podium spots to secure BMC Racing Team's best road race result in the history of the Championships.

Interview with Silvan Dillier:

Congratulations, Silvan! Tell us about the race today.

"It was never the plan to go so early but at that certain moment in the race, I really wanted to take the race in my hands and play my best card. At the end, I was already alone halfway through the race and I had been in the breakaway since the beginning so it was a really tough day. I think this also played in my hands because Michael Albasini (ORICA-SCOTT) was isolated and he was in my opinion, the biggest opponent. I think we made it the perfect race and I was strong enough the hold my advantage when I was alone."

How much confidence did you take out of your Route du Sud win?

"For sure, I had a lot of confidence from Route du Sud because it was quite a similar race. Stage 3 with the Tourmalet climb gave me a lot of confidence and showed that I can ride for a really long time at a high rhythm. When I was alone with 90km to go, I thought 'give it a try' because on the Tourmalet I could also do it."

When you heard that it was Stefan Küng and Kilian Frankiny behind you, did you feel like the win was guaranteed?

"At that point I knew that the rest of the bunch must be completely on their limit because otherwise they wouldn't have let Stefan and Kilian ride away without anybody else. So, I just kept my rhythm and it was perfect."

How excited are you to pull on the jersey for the first time?

"I'm really excited to wear the Swiss jersey. It's really special because I had the Swiss champion jersey for the time trial but I could only wear it three or four times a year. Whereas you wear the Swiss champion jersey on the road for 70 or 80 race days and this makes it much more special. I'm really happy that I can wear it."

Stefan Küng: "We had really high numbers in the team today which helped but Silvan Dillier was really impressive. It was the perfect ride for us. Not only with one, two and three on the podium but I think the team really worked well together. We had a good spirit and everybody was willing to help each other which is not always the case at the national championships. Kilian and I attacked about 60-70km out. A few guys tried to attack and I countered and then Kilian joined me on the climb. We were riding really hard and just rode together until we sprinted for the line behind Silvan. It was a perfect day."

Kilian Frankiny: "When Stefan attacked, I also attacked and on the climb I made it up to him and we rode together for the rest of the race which was five or six laps to go. Stefan did most of the work because he was really strong and he was like a train in his time trial position and I was behind him. It was a really nice feeling to be on the podium. Before the start I was hoping that we could take the victory with the team but I didn't expect to be third, and I didn't expect that all three riders would be from BMC Racing Team so that made it really special."

Here's Lotto-Soudal's overview of the Nationals:

The Belgian Championships took place on a flat course of 238 kilometres in Antwerp. The riders had to complete fourteen laps with two cobblestone sections in it. In the second lap, Jürgen Roelandts managed to break away together with two other riders. The peloton let them go and they quickly gained a 7’30” advantage. However, when the peloton increased its pace, the gap decreased rapidly. With sixty kilometres remaining, this front group was caught again by the bunch. The regrouping led to several new attacks, but no-one could get away until thirty kilometres from the finish, when a breakaway of fourteen was formed. Tosh Van der Sande and Tim Wellens were part of this group and the main teams all had a rider in this front group, which caused that the peloton let them ride away. In the penultimate lap, five riders escaped from this group, but Tim Wellens just missed the breakaway. The chase group never came near the five leaders, who would sprint for the Belgian title [won by Ag2r's Oliver Naesen]. After a tough stage, Oliver Naesen was stronger than Sep Vanmarcke and Jasper Stuyven. Tim Wellens crossed the finish line in ninth place. Jasper De Buyst won the bunch sprint and he finished tenth.

Jürgen Roelandts: “We thought that the race would explode quickly and that’s why we tried to be in every breakaway in the first two laps. My teammates missed out on the right breakaway, but I managed to get away on the first try. I had rather been part of a larger group, but I couldn’t change the situation. It wasn’t an option for me to let myself drop back to the peloton either, as I had put my teammates in a comfortable situation. In the end, we didn’t manage to get the result that we wanted, as it is often all or nothing in a championship. It was a very tough race today, with an average speed of 45 kilometres per hour, but I needed this number of kilometres.”

Tim Wellens: “I had a rather good feeling today and I managed to be in the breakaway on the right moments, even though the course was not ideally suited for me. In the finale, my stomach was aching a bit, but I don’t want to use this as an excuse for why I missed out on the final breakaway. I couldn’t follow Naesen and Vanmarcke when they increased the pace and the strongest riders have sprinted for the title today. In the following days, I will try to get as much rest as possible, with only one long-distance training ride on Wednesday, to prepare myself in the best way for the upcoming Tour de France.”

Dutch Championships

In the Netherlands, a group of seventeen escaped in the first lap already. Many teams were represented in this breakaway and they quickly took a six-minute lead. The sprint teams, however, always remained control of the situation and the last escapee was caught again with twenty kilometres remaining. Several riders then tried to go solo on one of the hills in the final lap, but the peloton came back together for a bunch sprint in the final five kilometres. Ramon Sinkeldam won in a very close sprint finish. He beat Wouter Wippert and race favourite Dylan Groenewegen. Moreno Hofland was always on the front rows of the peloton in the final lap and he sprinted to the sixth place.

German Championships

The German Championships were held on a tough course in Chemnitz. The riders had to conquer a two-kilometre climb eleven times, on a course of 213 kilometres in total. In the first half of the race, there were several breakaways, but the peloton came back every time. After seven laps, an elite group of 35 riders with all the race favourites, including André Greipel, managed to break away. However, this group split once again in the third last lap of the race, when ten riders attacked on the two-kilometre climb. In the finale, there were several more attacks from this front group, including the decisive attack of the teammates Burghardt and Buchmann. They made it to the finish line together and it was Marcus Burghardt who crossed the line first, in front of Buchmann. Behind them, John Degenkolb managed to secure the third place. André Greipel finished in eighteenth place.

British Championships

Today, the British Championships took place on the Isle of Man. Halfway through the course, the race exploded when six riders, including James Shaw, managed to ride away on an ascent. When the front group reached the ten local laps with 75 kilometres remaining, they were joined by several riders. After several attacks at 30 kilometres from the finish line, this newly-formed lead group also fell apart. Four riders entered the penultimate lap together, but Steven Cummings quickly left his fellow escapees behind. The new British time trial champion soloed to the win in the road race. Chris Lawless and Ian Bibby completed the podium.

LottoNL-Jumbo sent me this report on the Dutch Nationals:

Dylan Groenewegen, after one year in the red, white and blue national jersey, leaves the Dutch Championship in Monfertland third. He charged to the finish line, but Raymond Sinkeldam and Wouter Wippert edged him out in the sprint.

"I came here to win, but those two were faster,” a cool-headed Groenewegen explained. "I have to take pleasure in that. I did not consider Sinkeldam, to be honest, but on this arrival and after such a heavy route, he is the right winner. We lost and everyone is baffled, but I’m leaving here looking forward to the Tour de France next week."

Robert Gesink, Koen Bouwman and Bert-Jan Lindeman formed a large lead group early in the 235-kilometre race. Team LottoNL-Jumbo looked good and forced the other teams to work. With only two laps to go, with the pace going high, the groups joined and prepared for the eventual sprint.

"Koen, Bert-Jan and Robert were attentive and attacked early,” Sports Director Jan Boven said after the race. "It was a clear and clever action that gave us control of the race so we could play several tactical cards. In the last circuit, we controlled the group for a sprint with Dylan. It all came down to the sprint, and if you don’t win, it doesn’t work.”

The 2016 champion fell shy of a second consecutive title by a few metres.

Time trial championships

Tom Dumoulin won the Dutch time trial championships, but right behind were LottoNL-Jumbo’s men, second through fifth respectively: Stef Clement, Robert Gesink, Jos van Emden and Koen Bouwman. On Thursday the team's medal party was completed by Belgian defending champion Victor Campenaerts. Despite a crash he won silver, only seventeen seconds behind winner Lampaert.

And finally, here's Team Quick-Step Floors report on the Luxembourg championships:

For the fourth time in his career, Bob Jungels won the National Road Race Championships.

Bob Jungels was a man on a mission this Sunday, when he lined out at the start of the Luxembourg National Championships, which took place in Schengen, over a 19km-long circuit that included two climbs. The riders had eight laps to cover, and it was on the fourth one that the Giro d'Italia white jersey winner attacked and forged a considerable gap over Ben Gastauer (AG2R) and Alex Kirsch (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect).

Bob Jungels

Bob Jungels at the end of the 2017 Giro d'Italia

The 24-year-old went into time trial mode until the finish, where he arrived arms aloft, celebrating win number two of the season, after the one scored on stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia, in Bergamo. It was Quick-Step Floors' 35th UCI victory since the start of the season, one which ensures our team will go into the Tour de France as the most successful squad of 2017.

"We had crosswinds right from the start, and that made up for a tricky race. I went away with a small group, and then, 75 kilometers from the finish line, I attacked and never looked back. I'm happy for this win and for having the chance to sport the colors of my country in the biggest races of the calendar", explained Bob, who tasted success at the Road Race Nationals for the third consecutive year.

The Luxembourger also gave a detailed view on what's next for him: "I came out of the Giro d'Italia very tired and it took me a while to recover, but today the condition was there, so I gave it a try from the distance and pulled it off. I will now have a few days off and then I will head to Livigno for a training camp; from there, I'll go to the Tour de Pologne, which hopefully will signal the start of a strong second part of the season."

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