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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, August 31, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul. - Douglas MacArthur

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Vuelta a España stage six team reports

We posted the organizer's report with the stage results.

Here's the report from third-place Elia Viviani's Quick-Step team:

Crosswinds and crashes spiced up the final 30 kilometers of Vuelta a España stage six, taking several riders out of contention for the victory, while others got caught off guard and saw their GC ambitions being dealt a big blow at the end of the 155.7km-long day, after losing nearly two minutes. Despite things becoming hectic, Quick-Step Floors were well-represented at the front of the red jersey group, which was shedding riders out the back as the tempo was going up with every kilometer covered.

Neo-pro Kasper Asgreen continued to do an amazing job, after initially setting a steady pace behind the original three-man breakaway that got away early in the stage, ramping up the tempo, increasing the gap over the chasers and paving the way for the Quick-Step Floors sprint train. Unfortunately, when it came down to crunch time, with 900 meters to go, Michael Mørkøv and Elia Viviani got closed a bit and then had to make up ground as at the front the sprint was being launched.

Nacer Bouhanni

Nacer Bouhanni is the day's fastest rider.

Despite coming from way behind, Viviani expertly cut his way through the field at a crazy speed and put in a storming sprint with the line in sight – which unfortunately came too early for the Italian – finishing on the podium behind Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Danny Van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo), a result that got him closer to the lead of the points classification. In the overall, Enric Mas returned in the top 10 and remained the best young rider of the race, which is just days away from the second mountain summit of this edition.

Here's the stage six report from Michal Kwiatkowski's Team Sky:

Michal Kwiatkowski maintained second on GC at the Vuelta a Espana after racing stage six on the front foot.

Tight roads and crosswinds saw the race stretched to breaking point and a number of groups formed on the run in to San Javier. The vast majority of the GC contenders made the front group with Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) the most high profile casualty. The Dutchman lost 1’44”, slipping from sixth on GC to 17th.

Kwiatkowski came in 14th behind stage winner Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) to retain second overall, 41 seconds behind race leader Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), and keep the green jersey.

It was Jonathan Castroviejo who lit the touch paper on the wild finale, hitting the front and pushing the pace once the day’s three-man break had been swept up with 30 kilometres to race.

Unfortunately a crash midway down the peloton, caused by a collision with some road furniture, saw a split form, and from there the race never came back together.

Kelderman and Pinot were the high profile GC casualties as the front group forged clear, with Kwiatkowski and Tao Geoghegan Hart both playing their part. David de la Cruz - now 15th overall - and Sergio Henao also came home inside the front split, as the sprinters battled it out for the stage win.

And here's the Vuelta report Peter Sagan & Emanuel Buchmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me:

After some hard days in the medium mountains, finally the fast men had cause for celebration – the final 20km being almost pan flat meant they would have the chance to push the pace and go for the win. With the break of the day never really challenging, once the catch was made with 30km to go, the BORA-hansgrohe riders squad so hard that the peloton split into three. With the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, fighting for position in the reduced bunch sprint, he was just unable to find a gap, taking 9th, but having been protected well, Emanuel Buchmann finished the day with the lead group to maintain his 3rd position in the overall standings.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan at the stage six sign-in.

The Stage
A flat profile normally means speeds are going to be high, especially when the finale suggests the sprinters are likely to fight amongst themselves for the win. However, at this year’s Vuelta, the speeds, the mountains and the temperatures have all been high, meaning the outcome on today’s 155.7km stage could be very different from the predicted sprint finish. Five days of racing in punishing heat over undulating terrain would have riders already in the red, and in spite of the flatter terrain, there would still be two categorised climbs to ascend and descend during the day – both third category. In the end, the riders themselves would decide how hard the stage was going to be.

The Team Tactics
Only one stage of the race so far had ended in a bunch sprint, and the fast men would be aiming to take full advantage of the flat finish. While it would be difficult to predict how the day would unfold, especially given how tired some of the riders would be, if there was a chance for a sprint, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, would be looking to put himself in the mix, and the BORA-hansgrohe riders would do their best to make that happen. While the team would challenge for the sprint if the opportunity came up, it would be important to protect Emanuel Buchmann in the closing stages, the gap between him and the top spot in the GC having been cut after yesterday’s stage ended.

The Race
The win had come from the break for the past two days, and so the peloton would be reluctant to let the escapees take a third stage. From the start, a watchful eye was kept on the attacks, making sure no-one was going to threaten the GC standings, as well as keeping the size of the breakaway small. In the end, a trio was allowed to go up the road, their attack coming from the drop of the flag, and with the pace in the peloton being fairly slow, they managed to build an advantage that topped out at four minutes before being brought in to a more manageable lead a little above two minutes. For the rest of the day, the break never looked as though it was going to challenge for the stage win, the bunch confident that they would be able to easily make the catch, a few times even coming close to touching distance before making the catch with 30km remaining. There was every chance of a late attack, so the BORA-hansgrohe powerhouses, Marcus Burghardt, Lukas Pöstlberger and Michael Schwarzmann, taking charge on the front to prevent any moves from the bunch, and the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, himself riding on the front to push the pace – the team reading the conditions well and staying up front when the crosswinds came, splitting the bunch and clearly making the other teams struggle. Under the flamme rouge and round a hard left-hand bend on a roundabout, the BORA-hansgrohe riders worked hard to stay in touch, but the twists and turns pushed Peter back, and with the sprinters in front fanning across the road, the Slovak rider was unable to find a gap, taking 9th on the line. Staying with the fast men, Emanuel Buchmann crossed the line safely to protect his 3rd in the overall standings.

From the Finish Line
"The stage started quite slowly but in the final kilometres it got fast with many splits in the peloton. I wanted to try for the sprint but I wasn't very well positioned in the last straight to the finish line. I tried to recover positions but it wasn't possible." – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion

"The first 130km of the stage were quite boring, with the sprinter teams in control. Then in the final 20km we had a crosswind section where the peloton got really nervous. At that point, the whole team was in a very good position, at the front of the bunch. Unfortunately, Rafa had a puncture and dropped back to the second group, losing about 1:20 minutes. There was a tricky roundabout 700m to the finish and Peter most probably wasn't perfectly positioned there, so he found himself quite far back for the final sprint." – Steffen Radochla, Sports Director 

Lotto-Soudal headed to Brussels Cycling Classic

The team sent me this update:

Saturday, September 1st, the Belgian capital will be the stage for the Brussels Cycling Classic again. The 98th edition of the Europe Tour race will start at the Jubelpark and finish near The King Baudouin Stadion. After covering a distance of 201 kilometres, including thirteen ascents, the race will probably see a sprinter taking the day’s honours. André Greipel succeeded in winning the race twice, but will not line up for this year’s edition as he participates in the Tour of Britain, starting on Sunday. Lotto Soudal still has a versatile team with riders that can try to escape the peloton and a fast man who can contest the race when it comes down to a bunch sprint.

Arnaud Demare

Arnaud Démare wins the 2017 edition.

Herman Frison, sports director Lotto Soudal: “Previous editions almost always ended in a bunch sprint and saw a sprinter taking the win. Last year it was Arnaud Démare who claimed the victory and in 2013 and 2014 we won with André Greipel. It’s an undulating course, but you don’t have to be a climber to win this race. If the race finishes in a bunch sprint, we’ll play the card of Jens Debusschere. But before heading to a sprint, all of our other six riders get the chance to escape the peloton and try to win the race themselves.”

“The race and its outcome will depend on the list of participants. Since the Vuelta is underway and the Tour of Britain starts the day after the Brussels Cycling Classic, many WorldTour teams won’t participate or line up with their best sprinters this Saturday. If a team like Quick-Step Floors brings along a sprinter like Gaviria, they will definitely try to control the race and to bring everything back together towards the finish line. If the best sprinters and their team won’t be at the starting line, we might get a different scenario and see the chances of the breakaway increase. A group of ten riders might stay ahead of the peloton and contest the victory. Hence, we have to make sure to always be in the breakaway.”

“Yet, the sprinters’ teams will most probably keep the breakaway under control. The ascents are short and also situated quite far from the finish line, which will increase the chance of a sprint with a group of around 50 to 70 riders. Our guys who work the entire year for the leading men of the team will be given the chance to animate the race, take their chance themselves and try to win the race.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Lars Bak, Jens Debusschere, Frederik Frison, Nikolas Maes, Rémy Mertz, Marcel Sieberg and Enzo Wouters.

Sports director: Herman Frison.

BMC targets Tour of Britain team time trial

Here's the team's news release:

30 August, 2018, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Tejay van Garderen will return to racing at the OVO Energy Tour of Britain this Sunday, 2 August where he will make his debut at the eight-day stage race, which features a 14km team time trial.

Van Garderen and his teammates will target victory in the team time trial on stage 5, Sports Director Valerio Piva said. "The main objective for the team is a stage win, particularly the team time trial on stage 5. It will be good practice for the upcoming UCI World Championships and with the uphill finish it will be a hard course. The OVO Energy Tour of Britain always attracts a strong field and it is a difficult race to control, particularly with only six riders and often bad weather, so for the General Classification we will take things day by day," Piva said.

"Tejay van Garderen will make his debut at the race and he of course can do well and we also have Stefan Küng, who was third overall last year, so these two will be our protected riders. For the sprints we have Jempy Drucker and Jürgen Roelandts and for breakaways we have Paddy Bevin and Miles Scotson. All six riders will have opportunities across the eight days so we're looking forward to a great race."

Van Garderen is excited to race in Britain for only the second time in his career after the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France. "I decided to forgo the Vuelta a Espana for the OVO Energy Tour of Britain in order to best prepare for the World Championships, in particular the team time trial and individual time trial. The fast, rolling terrain, as well as the stage 5 team time trial, should offer the perfect build up," van Garderen explained.

"The only time in my career that I have raced in Great Britain was at the 2014 Tour de France and I remember the crowds were amazing, unlike anywhere else I've ever seen. I'm looking forward to that ambiance out on the road. As far as personal ambitions go, we will obviously aim high in the team time trial, and if that sets us up for a good General Classification result, then that's all the better."

OVO Energy Tour of Britain

Rider roster: Paddy Bevin (NZ), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Stefan Küng (SUI), Jürgen Roelandts (BEL), Miles Scotson (AUS), Tejay van Garderen (USA)

Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA), Maximilian Sciandri (ITA)

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