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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 3, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Predicting rain doesn't count. Building arks does. - Warren Buffett

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Vuelta a España stage 14 team reports

Stage winner Rafal Majka's Bora-hansgrohe team had this to report:

Even once again a break went away in the beginning of the stage, this time the peloton decided to chase them hard. But both BORA – hansgrohe riders in front, Rafal Majka and Patrick Konrad, were keen to defend their lead with a proper fight. On the final 10k Rafal Majka went for a solo, to finish off perfectly the hard work from Patrick Konrad, and take the first BORA – hansgrohe stage win in this year’s Vuelta. 

Two crucial mountain stages await the peloton before the second rest day of the Vuelta. The first one, today’s 14th stage of the race, between Écjia and the Sierra de la Pandera. The parcours was, beginning at just 120m above sea level, all the way uphill, covering one third and one second category climb, before hitting the final ascent, 12k long, to the Sierra in 1820m. 

A day for the climbers, and therefore also for BORA – hansgrohe’s Rafal Majka. Majka should try everything today to breakaway form the peloton early in the stage and take full advantage of his climbing abilities on the final ascent. So, the support of the whole team was his today.

After an intense start with lots of attacks, a group of ten riders went clear from the bunch. For BORA – hansgrohe an ideal situation as the team had with Rafal Majka and Patrick Konrad two riders in the breakaway group. In the peloton, once again Team Sky controlled the pace, which allowed the break to build an advantage of more than 4 minutes after 35 kilometers of racing.

Until the first KOM of the day the gap increased to about 7:30, but then Astana, Bahrain-Merida and Trek-Segafredo set a hard peace in the peloton. Immediately the advantage of the break started to melt down, while Konrad and Majka tried to hang on their lead in the front. On the second climb of the day, also Katusha started to work in the bunch and the gap came down to 2:30.

But BORA – hansgrohe was not ready yet to bury their hopes. First Patrick Konrad attacked, to raise the pace and prepare a counter attack from Rafal Majka. Then, a superior Majka went for 10k solo, holding off all GC Contenders on the final climb, to take a confident first stage win for BORA – hansgrohe in this year’s La Vuelta.

“I am so happy! But not just for me, also for my team BORA – hansgrohe. In the beginning of this Vuelta we suffered a lot, when the whole team had some stomach virus. My GC hopes were gone after just a few stages. But we all kept on fighting, never surrendered. With three podiums, we already had some strong results, but finally we got the win we wanted so desperately. Patrick did an amazing job today, and I knew I had to go early with all the big guys chasing behind. But my legs were really good today and I could control the race from the front on the last 10k. In the end I took this important win for my team BORA – hansgrohe. Now, with my legs finally coming good, I will try to take another stage in this very tough last week of the Vuelta.” – Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka wins stage fourteen.

“What a race, what a performance from the team! It was close till the end, but Rafal was really strong today. After a very hard start for us in this Vuelta, the whole team kept on fighting every day, now all the efforts finally payed off. We knew that today was a good chance for Rafal, and everybody worked hard for this win. Patrick did a stellar job today, always reacting in the right way, to prepare Rafal final move.” – André Schulze, sportlicher Leiter

Miguel Angel Lopez was second. Here's the report from his Team Astana:

One of the most expected stages of La Vuelta 2017 has ended this afternoon on the top of Sierra de La Pandera and the fight between the GC guys has been important.

The Astana Pro Team worked a lot to recover as more time as possible on the breakaway but unfortunately it wasn’t enough and the Polish Rafal Majka won the stage. After 27 seconds only, our Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez crossed the finish line in second position, thanks to the attack he did at 2 km to go.

Fabio Aru suffered a bit at 4 km to the finish line but he recovered in the final and ended 10th at 32 seconds from the GC guys, earning this way one position in the GC. After today’s stage, Fabio Aru is 6th at 3:09 and Miguel Angel Lopez is 10th at 3:48.

Thanks to today's performance, the Astana Pro Team reinforced its leadership in the Teams General Classification and now the gap of the second (Team Sky) is 9:19.

“I have to thank my Team because everyone did a great job – said Miguel Angel Lopez after the stage – the last climb was long and difficult but, just for a few seconds, we missed to catch the breakaway… otherwise it could have been my second victory in this Vuelta.”

“Let’s continue to interpret this race step by step – continued the Colombian – stage by stage and we will see in Madrid what we have been able to do… from my side, I have good legs and I can say, even as a consequence of all the troubles and injuries I had earlier this year, I’m probably one of the most ‘athletically rested’ guy among the GC contenders.”

Tomorrow, 15th stage of La Vuelta 2017: Alcalá La Real – Sierra Nevada, 129.4 km, 3305 meters of positive drop and the two difficult climbs to the Alto de Hazallanas and to Sierra Nevada/Monachil.

Chris Froome was fourth today, allowing him to retain his GC lead. Here's the report from his Team Sky:

Chris Froome impressed once again as he went toe to toe with his general classification rivals, finishing fourth on stage 14 at the Vuelta a Espana.

The Brit rode across a gap to shut down his main adversaries on the tough, special-category La Pandera climb. That ensured he maintained his grip on the red jersey, finishing in a select group of favourites.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome will start stage fifteen in red.

His lead advantage now stands at 55 seconds, trimmed slightly after Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) picked up four bonus seconds for third place. Froome finished on the Italian’s wheel, with Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and new third-placed man Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) also present.

The group finished 31 seconds back on stage winner Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), who dug deep to hold on under intense pressure from the day’s breakaway. Team Sky again set about controlling the 175km test – setting the early tempo. Yet the arrival of representation from Trek-Segafredo, Astana and Bahrain Merida signaled a peloton that was intent on pushing on.

That meant that the 10-man breakaway, who had at one point looked odds-on for a stage victory, quickly saw their advantage slashed ahead of the two final climbs.

Katusha-Alpecin set a hard pace up the Alto Valdepenas de Jaen, and heading onto the final climb Froome had Mikel Nieve and Wout Poels left for support. Poels impressed setting a hard pace and keeping attacks from Nibali, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) at arm’s length. Froome then released the pressure by riding across the gap to cover off his rivals.

With Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) chipping clear to wrap up second, Poels fought back to the front again briefly (eventually finishing eighth) before Froome did the rest, marking his rivals to retain the lead ahead of an even more imposing test on Sunday.

After the stage Froome explained the chess match on wheels that was the final climb. He said: "When Alberto Contador, Nibali and Chaves kicked on there with 4-5km to go we knew it was a long way to go, with over 10 minutes still of climbing. So I was very much in control with Wout, and also thinking a little bit about tomorrow as that's a massive day - a really really massive day. Even though it's shorter it's going to be explosive and we're expecting fireworks again. That was a great day for us - a good one to tick off and to come out without having lost any major time. Four bonus seconds to Nibali that's alright - I'll take that for today and safe my legs for tomorrow.

"I think we've really managed today really well. The guys were able to save their legs today - we didn't have to do too much work as other teams came to ride - so we're very much in control and looking forward to one more hard day before the rest day. For us it's really just about maintaining the position we have. And if we see an opportunity then we'll go for it."

Sam Oomen abandons Vuelta

Team Sunweb sent me this unhappy news:

Riding his Grand Tour debut for Team Sunweb at the Vuelta a España, the young Dutchman Sam Oomen was forced to abandon the race on its fourteenth stage due to sickness.

22-year-old Oomen has had an impressive Vuelta so far, supporting Wilco Kelderman (NED) uphill far into the finales, as well as sitting at 13th in the overall himself. This morning Oomen began to feel unwell and despite trying to complete today's stage, was unable to continue with the race.

Team Sunweb's Physician Mannes Naeff (NED) explained: "Unfortunately this morning Sam was suffering some stomach problems, due to a virus. We had hoped that he would be able to finish but with the hot conditions and a tough stage ahead, he wasn't able to continue anymore after two hours of racing. The recovery process will take a few days then he will return to training again."

Oomen said: "I don't think I have ever been more disappointed than what I am today. I wasn't able to eat or drink during the 35 degree heat today and it became impossible to continue. The Vuelta has been a great experience where I have learned a lot and hopefully I can come back stronger one day."

Team Sunweb coach Arthur van Dongen (NED) said: "Sam has come down with the same sickness that forced Lennard [Hofstede] to abandon two stages ago. He started the stage with hope, but he couldn't eat or drink and had no power. After 60 kilometres he was totally empty and had to climb off the bike. Sam has done a great debut so far and he will be missed. However, we will continue to fight and now everyone's role becomes even more important. Tomorrow will be another crucial day for the overall classification and we will use Monday's rest day to make our plans for the final week."

Lotto-Soudal previews Tour of Britain

The team sent me this release:

The peloton will meet in the United Kingdom between September 3rd and 10th for the Tour of Britain. This year’s edition starts in Edinburgh and finishes in Cardiff, which means that the race won’t stop in London for the first time since 2012. The course consists of eight stages and provides plenty of opportunities for top sprinters such as Mark Cavendish, Fernando Gaviria or Alexander Kristoff. Each stage features three intermediate sprints during which bonus seconds will be up for grabs. These can therefore have a major impact on the general classification. The first stage will be a first opportunity to shape the general classification, with three second category climbs on the menu, including Redstone Rig, which is eight kilometres long and averages 3.5%. There will also be a thirteen kilometres time trial on the fifth day, which can be a day for time trial specialists Tony Martin or Stefan Küngs.

The finale of the seventh stage might also be a crucial moment for the GC riders, as the peloton will come across Cleeve Hill in the last ten kilometres, a second category climb with some parts up to 25%. This race is for many riders a great preparation for the World Championships, of which the road race will take place two weekend later. With no less than ten WorldTour-teams and riders such as Edvald Boasson Hagen or Geraint Thomas at the start, this year’s edition of the Tour of Britain will certainly make for some hard racing.

Bart Leysen, sports director Lotto Soudal: "This edition is slightly less challenging than the previous years. Stage one and Stage seven are the only two tougher days, and there will probably be sprints in all the other stages, except for the fifth stage, which is a time trial. Nevertheless, it certainly won’t be an easy race. Some teams will come here with very strong riders who will go for the overall classification, but our main objective is to win a stage. We will see afterwards if a good result in GC is possible for any member of our team. The World Championships are just around the corner and lots of riders will come to the UK as a final preparation, but many others will chase stage wins as well, so I expect a strong opposition."

"For Senne Leysen, trainee at our WorldTour team,  this will be his first stage race with the pros. This race is a last preparation for the Worlds and he will try to ride a good time trial, but he will mainly work for the team, like all young riders do. That’s the most important thing for us. Just like his teammates, he will also try to be part of breakaways, but his main goal is to gain experience."

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Kris Boeckmans, Senne Leysen, Nikolas Maes, James Shaw, Marcel Sieberg and Enzo Wouters.

Sports director: Bart Leysen.

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