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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, September 25, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited. - Sun Tzu

Current racing:

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Elite Men's World Championships team reports

Of course we'll start with winner Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team report:

It all came down to this. After a season of hard racing came one of the most important races of the year, where countries would fight it out among themselves to decide who would wear the coveted stripes of the UCI World Champion. Having worn the jersey for the past two years, it looked as though Peter Sagan might have to relinquish his grip on the Rainbow Stripes, with a break leading to the final kilometre. As the last few bends came into view though, the Slovak rider found himself in the perfect position to take his record-breaking third UCI World Championship, confirming his status as a cycling legend.

BORA-hansgrohe riders were representing seven countries today, on the only occasion this season where the team would not be riding a road race in their familiar black, white and teal colours. Today, they were riding for national pride and the chance to wear the coveted Rainbow Jersey of UCI World Champion. The largest representation was for Slovakia, with Peter and Juraj Sagan riding with Baška and Kolar, with the next biggest being the Polish contingent, Bodnar and Poljanski. McCarthy, Burghardt, Bárta, Pöstlberger and Saramontins represented Australia, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Latvia respectively.

The course was one for the all-rounders, with an undulating profile throughout, which featured some tough climbs and fast descents. The race would start with a 39.5km route to a finishing circuit ridden twelve times around the city of Bergen. The biggest climb of the day – Salmon Hill – would be repeated twelve times, sapping energy on the way up and testing bike handling on the descent. While a relatively gentle 6.4% average, the multiple ascents and descents would tax every rider on the course – especially as more of the total 267.5km distance was covered.

As one would expect with such a prestigious prize at stake, the attacks came from the very start of the day. With some countries represented by only one rider, tactics would play a pivotal role in their race, and so this group of ten was a mix of the bigger teams and the smaller players. This group managed to draw out a lead of ten minutes on the peloton, but there was still a lot of racing to go. As the remaining kilometres dropped, so too did the advantage – and with 100km to go, the peloton was dangerously close to touching distance. The race still had 76km to go when the final member of the break was swept up – and this was when the fireworks really started, with so far still to go before the finish, further attacks came thick and fast.

A small break managed to gain a lead on the peloton, and it was clear that the race was really starting to open up, the bunch clearly working to make sure this escape didn’t gain too much time, the gap rising and falling, but never breaking a minute. The efforts of this group weren’t to last, and with just 25km remaining, it was again all back together. The size of the peloton – more than sixty riders – made sure they had the strength to reel in any attacks, and with one lap ahead of them, no single rider had staked their claim on the race. Back in the bunch, Peter and his BORA-hansgrohe teammates had kept a low profile – a sure sign of riders conserving energy for the fight still to come.

The bell being rung for the final lap saw the peloton injected with a surge of pace. While the race was all together, there was clear jostling for position on the front as the final climb of Salmon Hill loomed, where, to be in contention in the finale, riders would have to be in a good position on the descent. 10km to go and a final attack left the bunch struggling to keep up, stretching them to the limit, but with only ten seconds between them and the break, it looked as though this slim advantage might still be enough. Hitting the flame rouge for the final kilometre and rounding the final bends, the peloton was on the wheels of the break, and the reigning UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan was only a few positions back. The finish line in sight, Peter surged ahead, throwing his bike at the line in the sprint to take the ‘Three-Peter’ – three consecutive World Championship wins – his position as a living legend in the world of cycling beyond question.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan continues to reign as World Road Champion

The finale was close for so many reasons, and Peter was quick to confirm that it was a tough finish. “It wasn’t easy! The last 5km, I said to myself it was already done – it’s gone. Then it changed in the front, then I tried to go in the breakaway, and then Gaviria tried to close the gap after which we managed to get it all back together for a sprint. It’s unbelievable. I’m sorry for Kristoff – he’s racing at home after all – but I’m very happy to win again. Three UCI World Championships – it’s special for sure. It doesn’t change anything, but it’s really special.”

“It’s hard to say before a race what will happen. You saw in the climb we were already splitting into two or three pieces. We were being caught from behind and then there was a break in the front, but I was lucky to come into the finish where I did – you can’t predict it – if somebody is stronger in the front, they can easily take the win.”

As always, Peter was quick to thank the people who got him to this win, but also took time to remember a respected rider. “I'd like to thank my national team – Slovakia – and my friends in the group. I want to dedicate my victory to Michele Scarponi – it would have been his birthday tomorrow. It was a sad thing to have happened this year – my best wishes to all his family. I also dedicate this victory to my wife – we’re expecting a baby, and this is a fantastic end to the season. I’m very happy.”

BORA-hansgrohe’s Team Manager, Ralph Denk, was thrilled that the Rainbow Jersey would bear the team’s name and sponsor for next season. "Congratulations to Peter and the BORA-hansgrohe riders of the Slovak team for this extraordinary victory. I think we did a lot of things the right way during our first year as a WorldTour Team and this result proves it. Peter was in very good form throughout the season but the results weren't always what we would have liked because, I think, at times luck wasn't on our side. However, Peter's legendary third consecutive world championship title turned our season from good to fantastic."

Alexander Kristoff was a very close second. Here's what his Katusha-Alpecin team had to say:

The 2017 World Championships came to a close on Sunday with the final event of the men’s elite road race taking place in Bergen, Norway. Team KATUSHA ALPECIN rider Alexander Kristoff, representing Norway on his home turf, put up a tremendous fight in his attempt to claim the top spot, but fell short by only a few centimeters to end up in the silver position. Peter Sagan of Slovakia took gold for the third time in a row.

In front of a huge and enthusiastic home crowd, Kristoff opened up his sprint first and was quickly joined by Sagan in a two-man battle for the title. A photo finish gave the win for Sagan by one-quarter of a wheel width with a time of 6:28:11 (42.738 km/h). The bronze medal went to Michael Matthews of Australia.

World Championships

Sagan didn't beat Kristoff by much.

The long 276.5km course in Bergen capped the 8-day series of events in the 90th Worlds. Included in today’s course were 12 ascents up Salmon Hill before the final time across the finish line.  Team riders Viacheslav Kuznetsov and Ilnur Zakarin, representing Russia, were 16th and 23rd in the final.

Michael Matthews won the bronze medal. Here's the report from his Team Sunweb:

The final race of this year’s World Championships saw the riders face 267 tough kilometres. The day started with a ‘Tour de Region’ through Bergen’s stunning countryside, before entering the race circuit for 11 laps. From the offset a 10-man breakaway went clear. They were allowed a generous advantage of ten minutes at most, though this was whittled down over the first few laps until they were caught with 75 kilometres to go. The next few laps saw several other attacks gain small advantages, but the peloton were wary not to give them too much space.

Michael Matthews

The podium, from left: Alexander Kristoff, Peter Sagan and Michael Matthews.

With two laps of the circuit remaining, the newly-crowned World Time Trial champion Tom Dumoulin attacked on Salmon Hill. This ignited the race and saw many other individuals roll the dice for victory. It looked like a lone rider was heading for victory, but a chasing group containing Michael, Tom, Simon Geschke, Warren Barguil and Søren Kragh Anderson was able to bring back the solo escapee. With the race now heading for a certain sprint finish, Michael moved into a great position towards the front of the group for the final corner. He unleashed his sprint with the finish line in sight to add a bronze medal to his gold in the Team Time Trial last week.

For a while it looked like Julian Alaphilippe's solo attack might win. Here's the report from his Team Quick Step:

Bergen – the venue of the World Championships this year – witnessed an exciting race unfold on Sunday afternoon, especially in the final two laps, after Belgium, with a fantastic and in-form Julien Vermote, stopped controlling the hostilities, leaving the race wide open. A plethora of attacks soon followed, but other teams stepped in each time and made sure of bringing the riders back, so it was only inside the last 15 kilometers that the first significant gaps were created.

Julian Alaphilippe was the one to bring the race to life with a strong and impressive attack on Salmon Hill (1500m, 6.4%), which left everyone else in the dust, incapable of responding. It was only on the descent that a rider, Gianni Moscon, managed to bridge across and help build a ten-second gap together with Quick-Step Floors' Frenchman.

As they left the outskirts of the city behind and approached the final four kilometers, Alaphilippe dropped the Italian on a short cobbled section and continued to power ahead, motivated by the thought of becoming the first French in two decades to win the coveted rainbow jersey. Unfortunately for the 25-year-old, his dream came to a halt with around 1500 meters remaining, when the peloton – who in the meantime got organized and started a full gas chase – brought him back.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe on his daring escape.

The reduced bunch sprint was won by Peter Sagan (Slovakia), who beat home rider Alexander Kristoff and Michael Matthews (Australia), while multiple Vuelta a España stage victor Matteo Trentin came agonizingly close to a maiden World Championships podium finish, concluding the race in fourth. Fernando Gaviria was also in the mix, taking eighth, a solid result considering the long injury lay-off he had to endure in August.

Despite leaving everything out there on the road and digging deep for every ounce of energy which could have propelled him to the biggest victory of his career, it was no glory at the end of the day for Julian Alaphilippe, who completed the 267.5km-long race in tenth place. Even though it wasn't the result the young Frenchman had dreamed of, he was upbeat at the finish.

"I really gave everything. Of course, I am disappointed, but I don't have any regrets after today. I tried something from the distance, as the tempo in the final lap wasn't too high, favouring the sprinters at that point", said Julian after his fantastic energy-draining effort. "So I gave it a go on Salmon Hill and went full gas in the kilometers to the line. After getting caught, I tried to hang on to get into position for the sprint, but I didn't have too much left in the legs, so all I could do was finish tenth."


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