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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, May 30, 2016

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

Of all acts of man repentance is the most divine. The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle

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Giro d'Italia Stage 21 video

Stig Broeckx update

Lotto-Soudal sent me this update on the rider who crashed so heavily at the Tour of Belgium:

After yesterday’s collision at the Belgium Tour, Stig Broeckx is still in the hospital of Aachen. His condition is still serious and it’s necessary that all parameters are constantly monitored the next hours and days.

Team doctor Servaas Bingé: “Constant monitoring and tests showed that the intracranial pressure has slightly increased, but within acceptable limits. During the next 48 to 72 hours the increase or decrease of the intracranial pressure will be decisive for further treatment. If the intracranial pressure increases, surgery might be necessary. A decrease of the pressure would be a positive sign. The bleedings in the brain have stabilised. The condition of Stig needs to be monitored every hour and the neurosurgical team of the hospital is consulted for the treatment. The secondary injuries – fracture of the eye socket and bruised lung – don’t have a determining influence at the moment.”

At the Giro Lars Bak was the victim of a severe crash. The Danish rider has a complex fracture of the shoulder blade, a multiple rib fracture and a small pneumothorax. At the moment Lars may not travel by plane and so he stays in Italy. As soon as it is medically possible, he will be transported to Belgium for further tests.

Giro d'Italia stage 21 team reports

Here's what Giant-Alpecin sent me:

Nikias Arndt (GER) won the reduced bunch sprint on the closing stage of the Giro d'Italia after Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) was relegated by the jury for moving off his line in the sprint.

Nikias Arndt (GER): "It was again a really hard day. Before the final laps, everything was straightforward but once the final circuit started every team was fighting for positions and it became quite nervous. There was still a break of two riders and the team did a really good job at the front of the peloton.

"In the finale, I had the whole time support from my teammates. The guys did an incredible job to put me in the ideal position and without their help I am not sure if I would have been able to sprint. It wasn't my decision, the jury has got their reasons to take that decision as I just focused on my sprint. I will enjoy this victory with the team and we will make the most of it."

Stage 21 sprint

Giro Stage 21 sprint

Marc Reef (NED): "The goal was to sprint with Nikias. It was a hard final lap and it was difficult to control. While heading to the final circuit, together with the other sprinters’ teams, we took over and controlled the bunch. We were able to keep Nikias in a good position. The team did some great pulls at the front and then we took over on the final lap and did a really great job as we kept the pace high in the bunch. It is a bit strange to win like this but every victory counts. It was a great display of teamwork, the team worked hard for a victory and we deserved it."

Trek-Segafredo had a different point of view:

When Giacomo Nizzolo threw his arms in the air, the first across the line in stage 21 at the Giro d'Italia Sunday, everyone thought the jinx of interminable seconds had finally ended.

But the jubilation of victory all came to an abrupt stop when the race jury reviewed the finish video and relegated Nizzolo for an illegal sprint. Although the degree of the infraction may be questionable, Nizzolo did obstruct a rider's forward movement, and rules are rules.

When the decision was confirmed the heartbreak was heard from afar: how could it be? This time, there was no late crash to impede his way, no late antagonist slipping off the front and stealing the win, no one boxing him in. There was nothing but a white line ahead. It was his.

And, then, it wasn't.

"Great job from the team, and great sprint from myself," said a composed, but hugely disappointed Nizzolo on the verge of tears. "The jury decided not to give me the victory, but I will go home tonight knowing that I was the fastest today."

There was nothing more to say.

Nizzolo continued his interviews, bravely facing the onslaught of journalists and media, and gracefully accepting the red jersey as the winner of the points competition for the second consecutive year.

Giacomo Nizzolo

Giacomo Niccolo earned the sprinter's red jersey.

Nizzolo completed his 5th Giro, accumulating an astonishing eight second places – the last one in stage 17 Wednesday - and 13 podiums before he seemingly clinched his first Giro victory today. But alas, once again it was not to be.

The win will have to wait another year.

Director Adriano Baffi briefly summed up the 2016 Giro d'Italia, which fell short of the team's goals: "I have to congratulate the team who finished the Giro; we gave it everything. We tried every day. Today was again a demonstration that we again believed in Giacomo. We did our race, and today we thought we achieved our win… But it is like that; that's sport. So we still don't have a victory. The red jersey is something, but it was not the main objective.

"We can say that it was not the Giro we expected, of course. It started poorly with Fabian's illness, and then Ryder's. From there, there was never a day where we could relax and profit from that. We showed we were in the race, but not enough to achieve our goals."

Orica-GreenEdge had this to report:

An incredible three weeks of racing and excitement came to a close at the Giro d’Italia today with Colombian Esteban Chaves finishing in second place overall.

The result gives ORICA-GreenEDGE, Australia's first and only WorldTour team, its best result and first ever general classification podium at a Grand Tour.

26-year-old Chaves brilliantly won the mountainous Queen stage to put himself into contention and followed up by taking the race leader's pink jersey on stage 19 before battling hard against race winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) on the penultimate day to seal the spectacular second place.

“I have learnt that dreams can come true,” said the smiling Chaves. “If you keep working and never give up then your dreams can come true. That is what myself and ORICA-GreenEDGE are going to continue doing. I would not be in this position without the magnificent work and support of my teammates and everyone involved with ORICA-GreenEDGE, I would like to thank all of them.

Estaban Chaves

Esteban Chaves about to finish stage 21

“These last few days have been the best of my life. This is just the beginning, that is what I told my teammates and this is what I believe.”

From the ‘Big Three’ of Svein Tuft, Sam Bewley and Michael Hepburn to the trio of climbers Ruben Plaza, Damien Howson and Amets Txurruka the whole team were outstanding over the 21 long stages.

The fast men of ORICA-GreenEDGE also played vital roles with 21-year-old Caleb Ewan coming close to a first Giro d’Italia stage win, finishing second on stage 12 before leaving the race as it headed into the high mountains.

Ewan’s second place came after a perfect lead out from Slovenian Luka Mezgec with the two riders developing a great relationship in the sprints. Mezgec unfortunately broke his right scaphoid on stage 11 and after bravely riding on through the pain for five days, was eventually forced to abandon on stage 16.

Sport director Matt White echoed the sentiments of Chaves by looking at the result as a sign of great things to come. “24 hours ago we were disappointed that we had come so close to winning the Giro d’Italia,” said White. “However, 24hours on with everything in perspective no one is more content or proud of the achievement of Esteban (Chaves) and the team.”

“Three weeks ago nobody thought we were going to be in this position, but the preparation for this started last year. Esteban is a home grown talent which is the most exciting thing for us. He has been part of ORICA-GreenEDGE since the beginning and I agree that this is the start of the journey and we’re going to see some incredible battles in future Grand Tours.

“The special moment for me was when Esteban won the Queen stage,” explained White. “That was the first indication that we had the potential to win this race. It’s been an incredible three weeks and I am immensely proud of all our guys.”

How it happened: The largely ceremonial final stage of the 2016 Giro d’Italia took place today with a flat and relatively stress free 163kilometres from Cuneo to downtown Turin.

Up for grabs was the red points jersey and the sprint honours for the stage with the general classification effectively neutralised after yesterday’s epic stage 20. The rain was falling heavily with the wet roads causing a crash that involved riders from ORICA-GreenEDGE and BMC in the first 20kilometres. Thankfully nobody suffered any injuries and all were back on their bikes almost immediately.

As the race approached the first of the eight finishing circuits around Turin with 66kilometres to go, two riders from LottoNL-Jumbo broke clear developing a lead of one minute on the bunch. Another crash occurred in the bunch on the third lap of the finishing circuit involved Chaves and riders from Team Cannondale including Rigoberto Uran. Fortunately Chaves avoided serious injury and after stopping to check on compatriot Uran, he was able to remount and continue.

The field came back together on the final lap of the race with fresh attacks forming instantly and a large group of riders breaking away to contest the sprint.

Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) won the frantic sprint for the stage and also the red points jersey for the race. However, Nizzolo was disqualified by the officials who ruled (Giant-Alpecin) that his sprint was irregular this meant that Nikias Arndt took the stage victory.

Chaves crossed the line surrounded by his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates to take the crowds applause together in celebration of an outstanding second place.

Here's Tinkoff's Giro report:

In a race where the overall GC was finally decided at yesterday’s final mountain stage, today’s stage was one to celebrate the amazing efforts of the past three weeks. With his fifth spot in the GC confirmed, Rafal Majka could afford to take this stage easy and let the sprinters contest the stage win on a slippery finishing circuit in Turin. Pushing hard until the end of the stage, Jay McCarthy ended the day taking ninth in the sprint – his best position in this year’s race.

The final day of the 2016 Giro d’Italia set out in miserable weather conditions. At the start in Cuneo, the skies had opened and riders were in rain jackets and wet weather gear. The clouds were following the race north, and with torrential downpours already taking place in Turin, there was every chance the finish, 163km later, would suffer from the weather as well. With wet roads and slippery cobbles on the finishing circuit, the race organisers neutralised the GC times ahead of the finish. With the GC race over as a result, and a flat route ahead of riders, and little in the way of challenging terrain or twists and turns, this was less a day for racing, and one for celebrating the end of an incredible three weeks of a well-fought race.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka climbing in stage 19

With a leisurely pace for the first hour, it was clear that the main event would take place in Turin over the final 7.5km long circuit. Ridden eight times, it would give the remaining sprinters a chance to take some points and put on a show for the crowds lining the streets of the Giro’s finishing city.

A little under 100km of the day completed and just as the race was entering Turin, the first attacks finally came. A duo from Lotto-JumboNL went ahead up the road, building up a slim lead, but enough to keep the peloton at bay. On the second lap of the finishing circuit, Manuele Boaro pushed ahead of the peloton, taking two others with him to form a chasing group, building twenty-five seconds on the peloton.

While the rain had held off, torrential downpours earlier in the day had made Turin’s streets slippery and treacherous – especially in the cobbled sections. A number of crashes, including some that affected the GC riders, supported the decision to neutralise the GC race.

Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, backed the decision to neutralise the GC times. “This morning it wasn't so nice with the rain, but it cleared up a bit as the day went on. The racing was steady until the final circuit where it went full gas. The organisers decided to neutralise the GC from first time over the finish line, and this was a good decision as the lap was quite dangerous with speed bumps and corners.”

After holding the peloton at bay, Manuele’s chasing group was pulled back in by the peloton with 15km to go. With the pace rising as the race neared its final 10km, the breakaway group was less than ten seconds ahead, and it looked increasingly likely that their time on the front was coming to an end, but as one of the two was caught by the peloton, the other, Jos van Emden, put in an extra push and increased that gap to fourteen seconds, but as the race hit the 8% climb in the finishing circuit, his lead fell apart and it was all back together for the final lap.

With no teams massing their riders at the front, it was likely to be a free for all for the finish, with riders attacking all the way. As the last kilometre came and went, Jay McCarthy was battling his way to the front, looking in control and confident. After initially taking tenth, the Australian rider putting in a great effort, Jay was awarded ninth after the declassification of Giacomo Nizzolo, the stage’s initial winner. With his ninth spot, Jay takes one of his best results of this season.

On the final stage, Hoffman was pleased to see his team up at the front and being competitive after three weeks’ hard work. “The situation was two riders away with Boaro in the chase behind, but it came back together for a sprint, and Jay did well to get up there and finished 9th – a nice result.”

Rafal was pleased to finish with a strong result in the GC standings, and summing up his performance was quick to thank his teammates for all their support in the race. "Of course, we came to the Giro with the goal to reach a podium position but in cycling things don't always play out the way you want. It was a tough race and we all gave our best. I consider fifth place to be a good result and I'm happy for it. The entire squad put in a great effort, we were always in the front and I'd like to thank them for that. Without their support, this wouldn't have been possible.”

Against some very strong rivals – most of whom finished behind him in the GC – Rafal was pleased to have placed in the top five. “In hindsight, I don't think there is anything we could have done differently. It wasn't easy to always be at 100% of my potential, but overall, it is a result that must satisfy us, given as well the very strong adversaries we had.”

It was a hard-fought race, and Hoffman was pleased with his team leader’s performance. “In general the goal was for a podium and a stage win, and although we didn't get this I truly believe the team did a superb job. Rafal was good, but not super to really make the difference on a stage, but he was always there when he needed to be and he did a very good performance.”

Rafal’s teammates were also praised by their Sport Director, who had consistently worked hard for their leader throughout the race. “Same for the other boys - they always did what we asked of them. Only one or two times we missed the break where we wanted to be there, otherwise we were well represented. We got the maximum out of the guys - we had some sickness & crashes but they fought back and all nine finished today. They have to be proud of that, as it's not easy here.”

It was important to recognise all the hard work that goes on at the race behind the scenes, Hoffman said, and was supportive of the people who made everything work both out on the road, as well as after the day’s racing was finished. “On my part it was intense but a really good three weeks with a good team here. Not just the riders, the staff gave their all - some days you stand on the top of a mountain for four hours to pass on one bidon but that's all part of the overall effort and I'm pleased with our Giro d'Italia.”

The next step for Rafal was to concentrate on his preparations to ride for Alberto Contador in July. “My sights are now set on the Tour de France, the team's primary goal for the season, where my role will be to provide the best possible support to Alberto Contador."

BMC sent me this short update:

29 May, 2016, Torino (ITA): That's a wrap on the 2016 Giro d'Italia! From Apeldoorn, The Netherlands to Torino, Italy, it's been an action-packed three weeks of racing.

So how did the Giro d'Italia pan out for BMC Racing Team? 

Darwin Atapuma finished in ninth place on the General Classification, his first top ten result in a Grand Tour.

It was rare that Daniel Oss wasn't in the breakaway which was rewarded with winning the Breakaway and Intermediate Sprint Classifications.

Rick Zabel finished in the top ten on a stage four times, including his seventh place on Stage 21 in Torino.

And here's what LottoNL-Jumbo had to say:

Steven Kruijswijk finished fourth in the Giro d’Italia today in Turin behind winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s race began with three impressive days in the Netherlands, Maarten Tjallingii wore the blue jersey one day, Primoz Roglic won a stage and Steven Kruijswijk was the race’s leader four five stages.

“The Giro began beautifully,” Sports Director Jan Boven said. “The start in Apeldoorn was amazing. Primoz Roglic delivered an unexpected second place. There was disappointment about Jos van Emden’s crash on the other hand. Because of the fan’s support on the roads, we had two great days afterwards. We raced better than we thought we were able to and we were focussed. We were able to keep on doing that when we entered Italy.”

Tjallingii wore the blue jersey during the first stage in Italy. He grabbed took it by winning the mountain sprint on the Posbank, during the first Sunday. “That was my personal highlight of this race,” Tjallingii said. “We experienced a lot of highlights in these three weeks and fought for the victory, every day.”

Primoz Roglic: That fight earned a victory in the ninth stage of the race, with Roglic’s time trial in Chianti. “I didn’t know what to expect from my first big tour, but it was an amazing experience,” the Slovenian said. “A lot happened. It started with my second place in the prologue. That was more than I expected. There was a little bit of disappointment because I was so close to the victory. My crash in the third stage wasn’t too frustrating for me. I didn’t aim for the general classification, but winning the second time trial was a very special moment. I have no words to say how beautiful that was.”

Six days later, Kruijswijk delivered another strong mountain stage in this race and rewarded himself with the overall lead. “The day I grabbed the pink jersey and gave a knock to my competitors, was my highlight this Giro d’Italia,” Kruijswijk added. “I felt great the whole day. I actually planned to save as much energy as possible to be as fresh as possible during the uphill time trial the day after, but because everything went so well, I decided to attack. I’m proud of the way I was able to race in this Giro. The leader’s jersey brings another sort of joy. Everyone’s watching you and wanting to take that jersey from you. There is nothing more beautiful than beating the favourites and riding in that position.”

Steven kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk, showing the effects of his crash, finishes stage 19.

Kruijswijk held his pink jersey until the 19th stage. In the descent of the Colle dell’Agnello, he crashed and lost a lot of time. “I knew that Nibali was going to go strongly on the descent,” Kruijswijk continued. “I wanted to follow him, but wasn’t able to look through the turn very well because of the snow. I made a mistake, slipped away and rode into that wall of snow. Before this Giro, I might have been happy with this fourth place, but you have to take the chances you get. I failed at doing that in this race and that’s a shame.”

Kruijswijk experienced team-mates praised their leader. “Let’s hope that Steven will have more of these highlights in his career and that he will be able to finish it off beautifully with a pink jersey,” Tjallingii said. “Steven might be able to learn from this. The team will grow because of this race, as well.”

“It’s very unfortunate that he didn’t take the Giro victory, but I have to take my hat off for Steven,” van Emden added. “Every rider knows how hard it is to move on after such a crash. I think that he delivered a great final part of Friday’s stage when you look at the circumstances.”

“Kruijswijk showed strongly, but it’s really disappointing that he didn’t win the Giro,” Bram Tankink added. “That’s the predominant feeling now, but still we must acknowledge how beautiful this Giro was.”

“I’m tired,” Enrico Battaglin said. The Italian was one of the most important team-mates for Kruijswijk during the mountain stages. “We did a great job this Giro. Steven’s crash is very unfortunate. That was a hard moment. We did the best we could as a team. That’s why I’m disappointed about missing the victory. It was a dream to win the Giro with the team, and we were so close to making this dream come true.”

“I think that we delivered a very strong Giro,” Martijn Keizer added. “What happened in the final week is tough. You don’t want to lose the jersey in a way like that. We can be proud of ourselves, though. We really rode like a team. I’ve prepared for this Giro at altitude together with Steven and Primoz. During the race, I did what I was able to to help Steven. The whole team was very strong this race and we can be happy with that.”

Twan Castelijns made his grand tour in this Giro. “It was my first big tour and a very beautiful one. The way it turned out with Steven is a shame. We fought for it so that was tough for me. I wasn’t in my best form anymore during the final days of the race. That I’m able to finish this Giro is a personal highlight. I wanted to give everything I had for the team, but I wanted to complete the race myself, as well.

“The days in the Netherlands were impressive. The passion with the Italian fans was quite intense, too. Those things, and the publicity around Steven’s pink jersey and riding through the highest mountains, made this a very special experience for me.”

“We delivered a fantastic Giro with the team,” Addy Engels added. “We should absolutely be proud of that. We were so close to the victory, but we reached our goals. Steven finished fourth and we won a stage. We weren’t expecting Steven to do such a great job after Friday’s stage. It’s a pity that he fell out of the top three, but fourth place is a lot more than we were counting on.”

Elvin takes a consecutive victory in Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik

This came for Orica-AIS:

Former Australian champion Gracie Elvin has taken a consecutive win in Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik, a UCI 1.1 category race.

Starting the race as the defending champion after her courageous win one year ago, Elvin was able handle the added pressure today to successfully defend her title in Gooik after a spectacular performance from the whole ORICA-AIS team.

"We were really in control the whole race today," said Elvin after her victory. "It was great for us to have so many cards to play and then actually finish it off. I tried to keep a clear head going into the race, we had a good team plan before the race. We've really been working since the camp on our tactics and communication so we ticked all the boxes today and we had a lot of confidence in our selves and each other which is also something we have really been working on.

"It just all came together today so it really was perfect for us. Everyone's in a really good place, good form, training camp went so well, we've all been working hard but super lucky to have our great staff who have been facilitating all of this. We are all very happy at the moment and it's exciting to keep moving forward like this."

Elvin's teammate Annemiek Van Vleuten made the day's main, long breakaway along with Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5) which provided to be the perfect tactical scenario for the team, leaving Elvin to sit comfortable in the chasing group saving her legs to sprint for the victory.

"It was a great day for the team," said Van Vleuten. "I was able to go with Emma when she attacked on the uphill cobbles with around 50 kilometres to go. It was close in the final, I was ready to sprint and then suddenly we were caught. Amanda Spratt did a fantastic counter attack which worked perfectly for us as Boels-Dolmans then had to chase.

"They closed in and I fought back with Gracie on my wheel and started the sprint around 400m to go. I am happy I was still able to lead her out for the sprint and that she was able to win. Overall it was a really amazing day for the team."

How it happened: Similar to last year's race the peloton were given wet, harsh conditions for the 136.2km course.

ORICA-AIS took to the start line as the defending champions, beaming with confidence after Van Vleuten's gutsy ride two days early were she fought to finish in second place at the Boels-Rental Hills Classic.

The typical Belgian race, much like a spring classic, meant the riders had to contest with twisty narrow roads and a selection of tough cobble climbs which included the famous Muur, Bosberg and Congoberg climbs.

An early breakaway of four riders kicked off the day's proceedings and as their advantage grew ORICA-AIS saw the danger as Elvin and Van Vleuten were able to bridge across in a small group to form a leading group of eleven riders.

The peloton raced over the continuous section of climbs and the chasing group worked well together led by Boels-Dolmans to close in on the leaders.

It wasn't long after when Van Vleuten, along with Johansson, broke away on the Congoberg and rapidly rode out to a one-minute 30second advantage, a dangerous move which looked likely to stay away.

However it wasn't to be, as the chase group slowly began to reel in the duo and with just eight kilometres remaining the pair's advantage dropped down to just 10seconds. With the chasing group in sight they held on until the final kilometres.

This set the scene for a perfect scenario for ORICA-AIS and with just two kilometres remaining with around 20riders still in contact, Australian champion Spratt launched an attack causing the remaining bunch to string out giving Elvin a smooth run to the line.

The victory today highlights the consistent spring for the whole ORICA-AIS team, placing on the podium in the previous three races.

Last week the team took third place from Sarah Roy, followed by second place for Van Vleuten and capped off with today's first place for Elvin. Not to mention Rachel Neyan's victory yesterday in GP-Plumelec where she won solo racing with the Australian National Team.

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary