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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, May 28, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, 'Where's the self-help section?' She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose. - George Carlin

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Giro d'Italia Stage 20 news

As I write this on Saturday afternoon, there are six riders at the top of the Giro d'Italia GC within 90 seconds of each other. We won't know who has won the 2017 Giro until Nairo Quintana crosses the finish line.

Here's the Team Katusha-Alpecin report:

With the podium so close he can almost touch it, Team KATUSHA ALPECIN’S Ilnur Zakarin used his team and attacking skills on Saturday to animate stage 20 of the 100th Giro d’Italia. With the final climb topping out at 15k to go, Zakarin made his move on the way up to distance some of his closest general classification rivals, but on the downhill he was brought back with a sprint from the favorites taking place in Asiago. Zakarin took second behind stage winner Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) on the same time of 4:57:58 (38.259 km/h) for the 190k stage beginning in Pordenone.

“I am feeling very well and looking forward to tomorrow. I tried to do everything possible today to make a good result,” said Ilnur Zakarin. The Russian rider retains his fifth place on the general classification at +1.15 to race leader Nairo Quintana of Movistar Team. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) is second at +.39, Pinot is 3rd at +.43 and former race leader Tom Dumoulin of Sunweb is fifth at +.53.

“It’s a strange feeling. On the one side we are so happy with Ilnur and the team. The work they did today was excellent. These last few stages have been all about making the podium in the Giro and the team have worked hard to be in breaks, attack the race and make the selections. So then after all the hard work from the team, we wish the result was a win instead of second place because they deserve to go home with a victory,” said general manager José Azevedo. Teammate Maxim Belkov had a mechanical with a flat tire on the Monte Grappa and later Robert Kišerlovski suffered the same before the start of the final climb, both inc With the podium so close he can almost touch it, Team KATUSHA ALPECIN’S Ilnur Zakarin used his team and attacking skills on Saturday to animate stage 20 of the 100th Giro d’Italia.

Ilnur Zakarin

Ilnur Zakarin climbing in stage 19.

With the final climb topping out at 15k to go, Zakarin made his move on the way up to distance some of his closest general classification rivals, but on the downhill he was brought back with a sprint from the favorites taking place in Asiago. Zakarin took second behind stage winner Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) on the same time of 4:57:58 (38.259 km/h) for the 190k stage beginning in Pordenone.

“I am feeling very well and looking forward to tomorrow. I tried to do everything possible today to make a good result,” said Ilnur Zakarin. The Russian rider retains his fifth place on the general classification at +1.15 to race leader Nairo Quintana of Movistar Team. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) is second at +.39, Pinot is 3rd at +.43 and former race leader Tom Dumoulin of Sunweb is fifth at +.53.

“It’s a strange feeling. On the one side we are so happy with Ilnur and the team. The work they did today was excellent. These last few stages have been all about making the podium in the Giro and the team have worked hard to be in breaks, attack the race and make the selections. So then after all the hard work from the team, we wish the result was a win instead of second place because they deserve to go home with a victory,” said general manager José Azevedo. Teammate Maxim Belkov had a mechanical with a flat tire on the Monte Grappa and later Robert Kišerlovski suffered the same before the start of the final climb, both incidents reducing the help intended for Zakarin.

The final day of the Italian tour brings it all down to the rider versus the clock. The individual time trial for stage 21 is 29.3k from Monza to Milano. Unlike some grand tours that end in a ceremonial final day, Sunday’s stage will be full-on racing from the GC contenders.

“Now we look to the time trial for the final result. There are six riders with less than one minute to each other. This means the level of fitness between these riders is very close so everything is possible tomorrow. Everyone is on the limit. Ilnur shows he is in good shape. The course is 29km and it’s flat. But when you have a time trial on the last day, special things can happen. Ilnur will need to give his maximum and try to reach the highest result possible,” concluded sports director José Azevedo.idents reducing the help intended for Zakarin.

Vincenzo Nibali's Bahrain-Merida team had this to say:

Asiago, May 27th – With his third place at the end of the 20th stage (Pordenone-Asiago, 190 km), Vincenzo Nibali gains a ranking position and he is now second with a 39” gap from the race leader the Colombian Nairo Quintana.

“It was a complicated stage – comments Vincenzo Nibali – very tactical, all of us had little bright days and there was great balance. The pink jersey? Let’s see, tomorrow’s will definitely be a tough day."

Vincenzo Nibali

Vincenzo Nibali finishing stage 19 ahead of Jan Hirt.

"We did a good race – explains sports director Gorazd Štangelj – and we managed to earn a few seconds in GC. Tomorrow can happen everything, Vincenzo is in a good shape and certainly will do a good time trial”.

The Giro d’Italia 2017 will finish tomorrow with a 29 km ITT. The start is set on the home straight of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. After completing one lap of the circuit, the stage will take the road to Milan. The last km will go through the city center ending in Piazza Duomo.

And here's the report from Bob Jungel's Quick-Step Floors team:

Before the individual time trial in Milan, Luxembourger Bob Jungels is ninth in the GC and within striking distance of a second consecutive white jersey.

Bob Jungels was one of the MVP's of Giro d'Italia stage 20, the last one to give the pure climbers a chance to shine and gain important seconds ahead of the ITT which is set to bring the race to an end on Sunday afternoon. Not only that Bob produced one of his most convincing and impressive displays since the start of the race, but he showed a level of maturity beyond his 24 years of age in the way he remained calm in the stage's hottest moments and controlled the attacks which came from the maglia rosa contenders.

The course contained two big climbs, Monte Grappa (24.2km, 5.3%) and Foza (14km, 6.7%), from the top of which only 15 kilometers remained until the finish in Asiago, but before the big battle between the GC contenders erupted, the breakaway took center stage. Six riders got away, including Dries Devenyns, who attacked not far from the summit of Monte Grappa, grabbing maximum KOM points there and becoming the first Belgian to win the prestigious climb.

"My only reason to be out there today was to support Bob after Monte Grappa. I tried to save some energy, but when the group caught me I couldn't help him too much, because the race for the general classification was already on", said Dries Devenyns. "On a personal note, it was nice to pass first on Monte Grappa and enjoy the Giro's great and unique atmosphere. It's something I will never forget."

Bob Jungels

Bob Jungels before the start of stage 20

As the peloton meant business on Saturday's stage, Dries Devenyns and Dylan Teuns (BMC), the last two riders to survive from the day's breakaway, got caught on Foza, despite possessing three minutes at the bottom of the ascent. Attacks came inside the last eight kilometers of Foza and they were sparked by Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin). Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) were next to jump and open a 20-second gap, but the trio were reeled in by a fantastic Bob Jungels, who took the front of the chasing group, driving it on the tough slopes of the climb.

When the three went again, taking half a minute, same Bob was at the head of proceedings, as he was vying for a second stage win. Over the top of the climb and on the plateau leading to Asiago, Quick-Step Floors' rider clawed back considerable ground, but the quintet managed to stay clear until the finish, where Thibaut Pinot prevailed, while Nairo Quintana retained the pink jersey.

The impeccable Bob came home in sixth place, for his eighth top-10 finish at this edition, and cemented his ninth place in the general classification. More importantly, with a 29.3km-long individual time trial on the table in stage 21, he has a chance of erasing the 28 seconds that separate him from Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) and winning the maglia bianca.

"I had another good day and I'm happy for that. My goal was to try and go for the stage victory, but unfortunately we couldn't close the gap, despite working together on the climb and in the final 15 kilometers", said Bob Jungels, who also talked of his chances of winning another white jersey: "When we started this race three weeks ago, my goal was to come in the top 10 overall and I'm there now, which means a lot considering the high level of the race this year. On top of that, I took a stage, which is really great. Tomorrow, I will try to cap it off with the white jersey; it won't be easy, because Yates is a great rider, but I will do my best."

Another Quick-Step Floors rider very close of taking home a jersey is Fernando Gaviria, who leads the points classification by a clear margin after notching four stage victories along the way: "It's an unbelievable feeling to know that I'll arrive in Milan with the cyclamen jersey. I'm over the moon and tomorrow I will enjoy every moment of it."

And finally, here's what Tom Dumoulin's Team Sunweb had to say about the day in the mountains:

Team Sunweb remained tucked inside the bunch whilst a breakaway spent the day up the road. An injection of pace on the Monte Grappa saw a group of favourites go forward, with Tom Dumoulin making the selection. After a multitude of attacks were neutralised, it was more-or-less stalemate in the group of favourites until the last climb of the day. A regrouping after the Monte Grappa saw Laurens ten Dam and Simon Geschke rejoin Tom in the peloton, and with the final climb looming the team placed him in a prime position ahead of the fireworks.

It was on the Foza that the contest for the Maglia Rosa began with attacks from the general classification favourites flooding in by the dozen. After being momentarily distanced, Tom lead the charge to chase the first move down. There was no pause to the action with more attacks coming in that Tom was unable to follow. As the gradient intensified, Tom’s group began to organise and set up work to limit losses. The gap between Tom’s closest rivals fluctuated between 7 to 27 seconds on the climb, but on the plateau to the finish the Dutch time trial champion rebounded from a tough climb and limited his losses to just 15 seconds. Tom now stands fourth overall, 53 seconds down on pink ahead of tomorrow’s final time trial in Milan.

After the stage Tom said: “I’m proud of how I rode today, I feel mentally and physically much better than I did yesterday which is good. I need a really good day tomorrow to get that gap, it’s not going to be differences like in the last time trial because I’m really tired after this week in the mountains. It’s going to be tight with five of us so close but I will just focus on my own ride and see what happens.”

Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek added: “There was a lot at stake today. Tom bounced back from a really tough day yesterday and showed some fighting spirit. The team were on a high level which was important, they were managing the breaks lead towards the beginning and then Laurens and Simon were up there on the climbs with Tom. The team for sure gave Tom the extra motivation he needed and pushed him that little bit further. We are still in contention and have a really serious chance for tomorrow which was our main goal.”

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