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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 24, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent. - Jimmy Carter

Upcoming racing:

Latest completed racing:

Liège-Bastogne-Liège team reports

We'll start with winner Alejandro Valverde's Team Movistar report:

The first part of Alejandro Valverde's outstanding 2017 season has come to an end in the best possible way, as he claimed his eleventh win of the year -108th of his 15-season professional- career at the 103rd edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a perfect, early present for his 37th birthday next Tuesday.

Valverde added another landmark success to his impressive palmarès by conquering 'La Doyenne', one of cycling's five Monuments of the classics calendar, for the fourth time. The marvel from Murcia's victory makes him the most successful rider ever (9) in the Ardennes duo (Flèche + Liège), and puts him just one win down on Eddy Merckx at the hills trio, also considering Amstel Gold Race. Valverde also becomes the first rider in history to win both in Huy and Ans three times in the same year.

The impressive action from the Movistar Team leader -the Blues have already got to 20 victories this year, their best-ever start to a season- came at the decisive slope of Ans, where Valverde jumped away from the group of favourites with less than 500 meters to go. 'Bala' caught Daniel Martin (QST), who had launched his own acceleration seconds before, and sprinted to the top of the podium, shared with the Irishman and third-place finisher Michal Kwiatkowski (SKY). Before that decisive moment, the Movistar Team worked to perfection all over the 258km course in Wallonia, Belgium. A dangerous eight-man break, whose last survivor Stéphane Rossetto (COF) was caught only at the foot of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas, 6km from the finish, forced Erviti, Herrada, Soler and Sutherland to work hard from early in the race.

At the decisive climbs of Roche-aux-Faucons and Saint-Nicolas, Betancur continued to follow the moves he had been keeping hold of earlier, while Rojas and Dani Moreno controlled the race sensationally well, even after the last ascent, to set their leader up in perfect position to continue writing history. Winning Liège for the fourth time -one short of Eddy Merckx, equal now to Moreno Argentin- rounds off a glorious spring campaign for 'Bala', who will now enjoy some rest before starting his build-up for the Tour de France, the next goal of his season.

Alejandro Valverde

Valverde gets a clean win

Alejandro Valverde: “This victory is a tribute to Michele Scarponi. I was close friends with him and it made me really, really sad to see him go pass away so young, in such tragic circumstances. I just couldn't believe it when I saw the news. It wasn't just me, but the whole team, the whole cycling world. All prizes I get here today will go to his family.

"It's a historical win - to be honest, it was a perfect week for us, even though it was so hard to get the victory today. Just like we did Wednesday at Flèche Wallonne, we took command of the race from the very beginning, yet there was a moment we left the front for other teams to take their turns, because the break was a big one and it would have been much more difficult to bring it back without help. Everyone was on the limit today.

"At the final slope in Ans, Martin really went hard to win solo, but I was looking for my distance to sprint, and with 300 meters to go, I just went on full steam to chase him down. Even though I saw Albasini sitting on my wheel, I had no doubts about carrying on. I was able to catch Martin, breathe for a few seconds and sprint to the line. Because of everything that happened yesterday, it's undoubtedly my most special victory here. I want to thank my whole team, because they were incredible once again, and fulfilled their tasks perfectly so I could focus on pulling this off."

Here's what Dan Martin's Quick-Step team had to say:

Following an outstanding spring campaign, Quick-Step Floors is sure to go into the month of May as leader of the World Tour classification.

The 103rd edition of Liège–Bastogne–Liège concluded this season's Spring Classics, and Quick-Step Floors was once again on a high level, controlling the race with the likes of Gianluca Brambilla and Petr Vakoč, before Dan Martin made a late surge on the finishing drag to Ans. The Irishman, a winner of cycling's oldest Monument back in 2013, was caught by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) before the final left-hand bend, but held on to finish runner-up and take his second podium of the week, after the one in Flèche Wallonne.

Up until that point, the race had a big breakaway in the spotlight, with the riders in the front taking a huge lead of nearly 13 minutes before the move was nullified in the last 10 kilometers. Other attacks soon followed, as several riders tried to get a gap on the elite group before the run-in to Ans. Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac) put some daylight between him the the chasers with two kilometers to go, but Dan attacked off the front and overtook him, before eventually notching his seventh top-3 finish at a World Tour race, ahead of former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky).

Dan Martin

Dan Martin on the podium

Lotto-Soudal sent me this:

Lotto Soudal didn’t ride anonymously in the 103rd edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Bart De Clercq was part of a long breakaway and Tim Wellens animated the deep finale. Eventually Jelle Vanendert became the top finisher of the team, as nineteenth. Alejandro Valverde won the race.

After the opening attack from Thomas De Gendt it was Bart De Clercq who got in the early breakaway. There were eight riders in the front group. One man tried to catch them, but it turned out to be a chasse patate. Bart De Clercq and his companions got up to thirteen minutes advantage. With fifty kilometres to go, six minutes were left of it. But then there were still some hard climbs to come. On La Redoute, Anthony Perez went solo. His teammate Stéphane Rossetto joined him on La Roche-aux-Faucons. Also in the background there were a lot of movements. The peloton reeled in Bart De Clercq and the other guys who were left from the early break. In the uphill section after La Roche-aux-Faucons, Tim Wellens became part of a chasing group, after he had already responded to some accelerations on La Redoute.

With ten kilometres to go, Tim attacked and bridged to Rossetto. Perez had been dropped. Tim and Rossetto had fourteen seconds lead on the peloton at the bottom of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas and that was not enough. Next, Davide Formolo attacked. He didn’t succeed in staying ahead of a chasing group with Jelle Vanendert. The steep final kilometre in Ans was just too hard. In the end it was Alejandro Valverde who triumphed. Dan Martin finished second, Michal Kwiatkowski was third. Fourteen seconds after Valverde, Jelle Vanendert was the nineteenth rider to cross the finish line.

Bart De Clercq: “In our team several riders were given the task to try to join an early break. It was not easy to get away. First, Thomas had attacked and afterwards I had a go. I got in front with seven others. We cooperated well. We had a maximal advantage of more than twelve minutes. On La Redoute, Perez rode away from us. He was strong, although I think that if we would have stayed together, we could have remained longer in front. Perez and his teammate Rossetto are left empty-handed now as well.”

“I never really dreamt of the victory. At La Redoute we had five minutes advantage left, but you know that when the team leaders who are still fresh raise the tempo the gap will shrink quickly. Then it depends of how many riders join you at the front. That turned out to be many, so a top result wasn’t possible for me anymore. Still, I am satisfied with my race, because thanks to my presence in the front group, my teammates could stay relaxed in the peloton.”

Tim Wellens: “I am less disappointed than Wednesday after the Flèche Wallonne. I knew I would not be able to follow the best at Saint-Nicolas, so I decided to anticipate. When I got in a chase with eight we formed a nice group, but we didn’t cooperate well enough. If we would have worked better together, we might have been able to ride the absolute finale like was the case in previous Classics. I bridged to the leader on my own, but at Saint-Nicolas I got caught. It was the best opportunity I had to stay ahead or to go to the finish with the best.”

“After all, I can be satisfied with my attempt. I am also not unhappy about the Brabantse Pijl and the Ardennes triptych, but I didn’t get the aspired result. That’s the difference with the top riders. In the Amstel and today, I was able to play a role in the finale, but I was just not strong enough to battle with the best for a top result. I hope to set that step in the future.”

Kilian Frankiny to undergo procedure to correct heart rhythm problem

BMC sent me this news:

23 April, 2017, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Following an impressive ride at the Tour of the Alps, Kilian Frankiny will be sidelined from racing as he undergoes a heart procedure this week to correct a heart problem identified during the race.

BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa said Kilian has been experiencing short and self-limiting episodes of SVT (supra-ventricular tachycardia), events that are not uncommon in athletes.

"In the last few weeks Kilian experienced some "jumps" in his heart rate during races. He was still able to perform at a high level and he didn't experience any worrisome symptoms. We did some stress tests and heart ultrasounds, which showed that his heart is healthy. However, the episodes continued, so we decided to put an Electrocardiography (ECG) recorder on him during one of the Tour of the Alps stages. We were able to document the cause of his heart rate jumps."

"Kilian will undergo a radiofrequency ablation this week to prevent any episodes in the future. The recovery time for an athlete after this procedure is around one week to ten days. However, we will follow the recommendations of the specialists at the University Hospital of Bern, where the procedure will be performed, to determine the exact recovery required. We will take every precaution necessary with Kilian's recovery and won't rush to have him back at the start line before he is fit to do so."

Frankiny said the surgery will give him peace of mind on the bike. "The first time I really felt it or saw it on my SRM PC8 power meter was in Catalunya. I can't really explain the feeling, it's a special feeling, but you can feel that something is not quite right. We checked my files and saw that my heart rate would go up to around 220-230 beats per minute for 10-20 seconds," Frankiny said.

"When I've had the episodes recently I've been worried and when you have something like this you always think about it, so it will be good to get it fixed so that I can concentrate on racing again."

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