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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Friday, May 29, 2015

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Racing Today

Up today: The Giro d'Italia's nineteenth stage. This is big stuff. The last 85 kilometers of the 236 km stage has three first-category climbs, including a hilltop finish at Cervinia.

The Tour de Belgique/Ronde van Belgie's third stage goes from Knokke-Heist to Herzele. This 201 km stage is pretty bumpy as well.

The Tour de Fjords in Norway is running as well. The third stage is 166 kilometers going from Stord to Sauda.

Giro d'Italia News

Tinkoff-Saxo sent this understandably pleased letter

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador was well aware of what lay ahead on the decisive climb Monte Ologno, as he launched a strong attack at the bottom with 43km to go on stage 18. The determination would eventually net him 1’13” to his main rivals and at the finish line he had extended his overall lead to 5’15” over Mikel Landa.

While Philippe Gilbert won stage 18 from the breakaway, Alberto Contador extended his lead over his GC rivals after the Tinkoff-Saxo captain had put in an acceleration at the bottom of Monte Ologno – a climb he knew very well.

“Today's scenario was a bit different from what happened on the Mortirolo. Before the climb, my team was working hard on the front and expending energy because I knew that we had to be at the front going into the climb, and we wanted to avoid problems. In the event, Landa was caught behind, for the first time in the race. Overall, I'm very happy to have gained more time in the GC. I'm tired, because after the last climb it was a time trial, but every day is hard here. We'll see what happens tomorrow and the following day”, says Alberto Contador after the stage.

Stage 18 took the riders 170km from Lugano along the Lago Maggiore to Verbania with the biggest obstacle, the climb to Monte Ologno, coming after 124km of riding. With the breakaway approaching the climb more than 11 minutes ahead, it was obvious that the winner would be found out in front. However, that didn’t stop Alberto Contador from launching a planned attack at the 1st category climb.

“We knew that the climb was difficult just like the roads leading into the climb. In the morning meeting we agreed that we wanted a breakaway to go and build up a big lead. There were no riders, who were a danger to the GC, and since stage wins right now are secondary we focused on putting Alberto in a great position going into the climb focusing on the fight for the overall win”, explains Head Sports Director Steven de Jongh, who adds. “Our boys were controlling the race at the front just before the climb and unfortunately a crash happened, where some riders were caught behind. We didn’t know who went down as the guys were at the very front focused on going full gas”.

Alberto Contador on the descent

Alberto Contador follows Ryder Hesjedal on the descent to the finish in stage 18.

“Alberto said before the stage that he knew the climb very well and that it was especially steep in the first part and at the bottom. So the idea was to go full gas, if we were at the front and the guys executed that strategy very well. Alberto went solo and he got company from Hesjedal right at the top, where the climb was more gradual. That wasn’t a disadvantage, especially not on the final flatter section towards the finish line, where they could work together”, adds Steven de Jongh.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Matteo Tosatto notes that the stage started out at a fast pace and from there on it was a matter of keeping the captain safe before the Monte Ologno.

“It was another hard-fought stage, especially in the first hour, which saw a strong pace and an average speed of 48.5kmh. Everybody wanted to break away but we raced well and bridged the dangerous groups. Then the breakaway formed and that was to our advantage. The most important thing was to place Alberto at the front at the start of the first climb, which was a tricky one”, says Tosatto and adds: “In fact, there was a crash and we managed to keep Alberto well positioned and safe. Overall, it was another tough day. However, we raced well and ticked another stage”.

And this came from BMC, the team of stage 18 winner Philippe Gilbert:

Verbania, Italy - Philippe Gilbert captured his second stage of this year's Giro d'Italia Thursday after soloing out of a breakaway that included teammate Amaël Moinard, who finished fifth.

Gilbert earned the BMC Racing Team its 10th victory of the season by attacking 19 kilometers from the finish. He soloed his BMC teammachine SLR01 in 47 seconds ahead of Francesco Bongiorno (Bardiani-CSF Pro Team) and 61 seconds ahead of Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), who won a six-up sprint for third.

"This is definitely one of my most satisfying victories," Gilbert said, "because I had time to enjoy it in the final three or four kilometers. I heard on the radio from (BMC Racing Team Sport Director) Valerio Piva that I had a minute on the chasers. With a minute, I knew the stage was won."

Gilbert's other win of the race came one week ago, on Stage 12, when he charged out of the peloton in a driving rainstorm on the uphill finish at Monte Berico in Vicenza.

Gilbert and Moinard were part of an original group of 12 which escaped the peloton about 45 kilometers into the 170-km race. They rapidly built a lead that peaked at nearly 13 minutes before the race headed up the day's major climb, the Monte Ologno.

Moinard was part of a group of four that crested the summit about a minute ahead of a chase group that included Gilbert. On the descent, Gilbert's group caught the leading quartet. The former world road champion did not waste any time venturing off on his own.

"This morning on the bus, we talked about how the breakaway might have a chance," Gilbert said. "At the foot of the climb, the rest went full out. But I knew I had to ride my own tempo. When I made contact with the front group, I started to attack immediately. Yes, I took risks on the descent. But you have to if you want to win a stage in the Giro."

Gilbert led by 46 seconds with five kilometers to go and had plenty of time to celebrate winning two stages in a grand tour for the third time in his career. In 2012, he won two stages of the Vuelta a España (Stage 9 and 19) after first doing it in 2010 (Stages 3 and 19), also at the Vuelta.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert descended to the finish crazy-fast.

BMC Racing Team Sport Director Fabio Baldato said the race went precisely according to the team's pre-race plan, which was to get two riders into the breakaway.

"We are really happy. This was really great," he said. "It was not easy to make the breakaway. It was a 49 kilometers-per-hour average the first hour, which was a really hard start. Silvan Dillier, Brent Bookwalter, Rick Zabel and Marcus Burghardt all tried to make the breakaway. Phil and Amaël made the race hard, they made the attack and they forced the breakaway. For us, it was perfect."

Race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) finished 12th on the stage and increased his advantage over second-placed Mikel Landa (Astana Pro Team) to 5:15. Damiano Caruso remains the BMC Racing Team's best-placed rider, in seventh, 11:05 behind, after placing 16th.

Moinard, who was a late addition to the BMC Racing Team's Giro d'Italia roster after Klaas Lodewyck could not be medically cleared, continues to move up in the standings. He climbed from 15th to 13th Thursday and is 21:15 behind with three days to go. The past Paris-Nice king of the mountains winner said a relaxed approach to his third Giro d'Italia has been the recipe for success.

"I am taking it day by day and have not put any pressure on myself," he said. "I am just following and not putting any pressure for myself for the GC (general classification). I think the mood in the team has helped a lot."

And LottoNL-Jumbo is happy with Steven Kruijswijk's performance so far:

Steven Kruijswijk successfully defended his mountain jersey and eighth place in the overall of the Giro d’Italia today. Philippe Gilbert, who was part of an early break, won the 18th stage. The BMC rider attacked in the final kilometres and soloed to victory in Verbania.

Ryder Hesjedal attacked on at the Monto Ologno on Thursday together with maglia rosa Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). The duo finished well behind Gilbert, but managed to build up a 1-13 minute lead over the other GC riders. Kruijswijk, who ended up 15th, had to go all the way to maintain his lead over Hesjedal. He succeeded, but barely. He now has only eight seconds to the Canadian Cannondale-Garmin rider.

Kruijswijk’s mountain jersey wasn’t jeopardised, because the break managed to stay ahead of the overall riders on the Monto Ologno, the only climb were points were up for grabs. The Dutchman still has a one-point advantage over Beñat Intxausti of Movistar.

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk kept his blue jersey another day.

“Saxo-Tinkoff went full gas on the way to the Monto Ologno,” Kruijswijk said. “Contador’s attack on the climb was impressive. I tried to follow, but he went too fast. There was nothing to do. I was lucky that the break took all the points at the top. I’ll keep an eye on Intxausti, but it’s quite difficult for me, as I don’t want to lose my position in the overall. I shouldn’t waste my strength.”

The 19th stage is indicated as a five star stage in the Giro road book. The riders have to complete 236 kilometres. In the final 86 kilometres, they have to tackle three climbs of the first category.

"We now face two of the toughest stages,” Sports Director Frans Maassen said. “Our men were really attentive today. In the run-up to the climb, there was a crash, but thanks to good teamwork, we came out unscathed. That’s a nice bonus and good for our confidence when you look at the next two days.”

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