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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, July 12, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book. - Marcel Proust

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Tour de France stage five team reports

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

Here's stage winner Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team report:

A dramatic shift in the difficulty of the parcours would be a shock to the system for riders on stage 5, with the terrain closer to an Ardennes classic than a Tour de France stage. This hard route put the win out of reach for the pure sprinters and brought the all-rounders into play, with a hard final climb just before the finish line to contend with. Dropped into position expertly by his BORA-hansgrohe teammates, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, looked the very definition of calm, even when the other teams kicked hard and upped the pace. Timing his sprint to perfection, the Slovak rider left his rivals in his wake, taking the win by more than a bike length to retain the race’s Maillot Vert for the 90th time in his career. In the GC race, Rafał Majka climbed to 10th overall, making the most of the hard terrain.

The Stage
The parcours today was dramatically different from the previous three road stages. In contrast to the flat terrain, stage 5 would see the peloton tackle five categorised climbs. While these were a mixture of third and fourth category, the most difficult being the Côte de Menez Queler’ch at 159.5km, the number of climbs combined with the stage’s distance – an energy-sapping 204.5km – would make this the hardest day of the Tour so far. The stronger all-rounders would have their eye on taking the stage win today, but the mixture of the demanding profile, the hot weather and four hard days of racing meant the outcome was far from decided.

The Team Tactics
It would be a long day in the saddle today, with a lot of work to do before the finish. The intermediate sprint would come at 92.5km today, and so in order to prevent a large group taking all of the points, it was essential to cover the early attacks, with Lukas, Gregor, and Pawel keeping an eye on the breakaways early on, before riding at the front ahead of the sprint to enable Peter Sagan to take as many points here as possible. From there, the plan was to make the race fast, both to draw in the day’s break and to tire out his rivals in the finale. Staying with Peter in the closing kilometres, Rafał and Daniel would be working both to make sure he had a chance at the stage win, as well as to ensure Rafał maintained his GC position.

The Race
The character of the stage was very different from the preceding days, and the peloton started nervously, knowing that after a flat start, the parcours would become progressively harder. A crash in the opening kilometres increased the nerves in the bunch, but shortly after a group of seven made their escape and became the day’s breakaway, quickly building a gap of 2:30. The strength of this group meant the peloton wouldn’t want to allow them too much of a lead, and when this gap hit 5:20, the bunch took action to bring this down, spurred on as well by the intermediate sprint, in which the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, took ninth spot – second from the main bunch to cross the line. An attack from within the escape reduced their number, and it was clear the remaining riders were struggling, in spite of some attempts to bridge. In the bunch, BORA-hansgrohe took to the front, with Daniel Oss, Maciej Bodnar and Marcus Burghardt each playing their part in reducing the gap, with the breakaway being no match for the determined peloton. The catch was made with 10km remaining, and it was all on for the finish. High speeds stretched the bunch, but Peter was there, hovering in the background a few riders back, looking completely calm and untroubled by the climbs and the increase in pace. Finishing more than a bike length ahead, the Slovak rider took the win, making it look easy as only he can.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan wins stage five. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line
“I had really good legs on the first climb and was confident to fight for the win on the Angliru. But when it started to rain again and the temperatures dropped, my back was suddenly totally blocked. I had really bad pain and couldn’t almost finish the stage. That’s a pity, not just because of my good shape, also because the team worked so hard and we were in a perfect position. But Alberto deserved this success and I congratulate a true champion to this last victory.” – Rafal Majka

“What can you do. Today I can just congratulate the team for a good job, because everyone worked as planed in the morning. Unfortunately, such things, like the back pain from Rafal, can always happen. After 3 weeks of racing the body is already on the limit, if you then have a day like today, with just 6 degrees on the Angliru, sometimes the body just does not work anymore.” – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

GC leader Greg van Avermaet's BMC team sent me this report:

11 July, 2018, Quimper (FRA): Tour de France stage 5 delivered an explosive finale in Quimper with BMC Racing Team holding onto their position at the front of the peloton all day before Greg Van Avermaet sprinted to seventh on the line to secure the yellow jersey for a third day.

The second half of today's undulating course was characterized by five punchy categorized climbs as well as the Côte de la chapelle de la Lorette, the top of which offered riders the chance to claim some bonus seconds, and a steep, narrow final kick up to the finish line that looked set to force gaps on the line.

By the time the race reached the first official climb of the day, the Côte de Kaliforn, the day's early seven-rider breakaway was being held around four minutes up the road with BMC Racing Team in control of the main bunch. It was on this 1.7km climb, which had an average gradient of 7.1%, that Sylvain Chavanel (Team Direct Énergie) attacked his fellow leaders and as he swept up the KOM points, he was 30 seconds ahead of the chasing group while the gap to the BMC Racing Team-led peloton remained steady at 3'50". 

On the approach to the Côte de la Roche du Feu, the third categorized climb, the chasing group split behind Chavanel and three riders eventually joined the lone leader at the front of the race with 62km to go. At the same time, Michael Schär and Stefan Küng took over the reigns behind and started to set a tempo that pulled the four leaders back to within two minutes heading inside the final 50km of the day.

On the penultimate categorized climb, the 3km long Côte de Menez Quelerc'h, Van Avermaet and Richie Porte remained well-positioned thanks to the work of their teammates who still surrounded them.

Attacks at the head of the race saw Toms Skujins (Trek-Segrefedo), Lilian Calmejane (Team Direct Énergie) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) move into pole position with 45km to go and while Skujins and Calmejane were able to stay in front on the Côte de la Montagne de Locronan, they were ultimately not able to hold off the chasing pack. Küng continued to lead the BMC Racing Team train as the two leaders were swept up just before the bonus sprint which saw Van Avermaet take two bonus seconds as the race came back together heading into the final 10km.

Another Team Direct Énergie rider, Rein Taaramäe, went on the attack in the closing kilometers of the race but the determination of the whittled-down main bunch behind ensured he was caught quickly. The roads narrowed quickly with 3km to go and BMC Racing Team's hard work throughout the day paid off with both Van Avermaet and Porte in the first few positions as the road kicked up going under the flamme rouge.

Van Avermaet looked strong as he matched the subsequent bursts of acceleration on the short but sharp climb before sprinting to seventh on the line and securing another day in the yellow jersey.

Porte also finished safely in the first group to move up into 12th overall on the General Classification while Tejay van Garderen remains second, two seconds behind Van Avermaet.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet will start stage six in yellow.

Quotes From the Finish Line:

Greg Van Avermaet:
"I was trying to win the stage that's for sure but it was pretty complicated. Phil [Gilbert] went early and he is up there on the GC so I couldn't let him go and I had to ride by myself. Then, I think I went a bit too early on the sprint. I thought the corner was closer to the finish and that's the thing that went wrong I think. However, we gave it a try and we also didn't lose any time with Richie. The team did a perfect job to put us into position in the final."

"It was a really demanding day for a lot of guys and I think the team did a great job all day. We spent a lot of energy but I think on these kind of days you can lose more time than on a mountain stage so it's better to do that. I think we did great today so we will see how it goes tomorrow. Having the yellow jersey gives us a little more space in the peloton and Richie is the kind of rider who likes to be in a good position up at the front all day. We are still focusing on the podium in Paris but will continue to take it day by day and try to make the best results possible as we go along."

Richie Porte:
"I've already raced here in Finistère this year and it was maybe worse then than it was today because when you're not 100% fit it hurts. But, the guys were fantastic today. They controlled everything and everybody played their part. It was a hot and tough little stage and it's just nice to get through it."

"I felt good today so hopefully tomorrow we can do something. Some of the climbs we did today were just as hard as the Mur de Bretagne, it's just about how fast you are going. Today we raced super fast and it was by far the hardest stage of this Tour so far."

Sports Director, Fabio Baldato:
"The guys did a great job keeping Richie in front and then Greg was able to be up there to try to go for the stage and was able to keep the jersey and even take some bonus seconds. The priority was to keep Richie safe in front and we did that well. Keeping yellow for another day is a bonus."

"Tomorrow could be more about GC riders so it will be important to try and keep Richie up there with the other contenders again but we know Greg can also try to fight to stay there."

Michael Matthews abandons Tour

Matthews' Team Sunweb sent me this bad news:

After falling ill early this morning, Team Sunweb's Michael Matthews (AUS) is forced to abandon the Tour de France before its fifth stage, suffering from sickness and a high fever.

Matthews said: "I'm really disappointed to not start this morning. I've been really ill this morning and tried all I could to make it to the start line, but feeling like this, it's simply not possible. I will now go home to recover and will continue cheering for the guys from there."

Team Sunweb physician Mannes Naeff (NED) said: "Unfortunately Michael got sick this morning, he has been vomiting and as the morning progressed he has become more ill. We wanted to see how he would feel but with a high fever, we made the decision that it was just not possible for him to take to the start line this morning."

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews willl not start TDF stage six.

Team Sunweb coach Tom Veelers (NED) said: "Michael was up early this morning being sick and was unable to keep any food down. At breakfast we tried to get some more nutrition into him, but again, he was unable to keep it down. Our doctor checked him just before the start and he had a fever, and for us this means that he cannot start. Michael is not only a strong guy in going for day results, but he's also of huge value to the team on the difficult stages so it is a huge blow for us to lose him. Still, we will to continue to fight with seven guys and we wish Michael all the best in feeling better soon."

Amanda Spratt takes a solo summit victory and moves into the Giro-Rosa race lead

Spratt's Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this race report:

Emakumeen Bira winner Amanda Spratt took an incredible solo victory today for Mitchelton-SCOTT on the first summit finish at the Giro-Rosa to move into the overall race lead.

Spratt launched an attack with five kilometres to go and held on to take her first ever victory in the Italian 'Grand Tour'.

Teammate Annemiek van Vleuten crossed the line 29seconds behind in second place to move up into third place overall after six-days of racing.

Amanda Spratt

Amanda Spratt (shown at the 2018 Tour Down Under) is now the Giro Rosa GC leader.

With the finish of the race on a 13-kilometre climb, averaging six percent up to the summit finish in Gerola Alta, many riders wanted to be in the day's early breakaway which made for a fast and aggressive start. Despite many attempts, no correct combinations formed and the peloton remained attentive not giving any riders freedom and the peloton reached the bottom of the climb together.

After a fast pace with lead-out trains into the bottom of the climb, attacks started as soon as the road went up and immediately the peloton shattered into various group.

Due to the high pace, the bunch whittled down to leave just 16 climbers at the front with seven kilometres still to go. Van Vleuten attacked and kept driving for one kilometer which caused more riders to drop off the back leaving just Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Mavi Garcia (Movistar) and Spratt at the front.

With knowledge of the climb, Spratt waited patiently for the road to take a steep kick up with around five kilometres to go, and successfully jumped away from the front elite group.

As the road flattened slightly, Spratt put it in a big gear and drove further away from the chasers and to a solo win. Van Vleuten also displayed her great form to cross the line in second place and give the team a one-two on the sixth stage.

Spratt now leads the race by 30 seconds and also leads the mountain jersey classification

Amanda Spratt - Stage 6 winner:
“We couldn’t have asked for anything better from all the team today, they all rode so well to set up myself and Annemiek before the climb.

“It is a little bit surreal to be in the pink jersey, we wanted to see today if we had an opportunity to take time. It worked out well, there were quite a few attacks and it was hard and Annemiek really set me up for the attack when I went and it worked out perfectly.

“We actually came and rode this climb a couple of weeks ago and I think that really paid off. We knew when was good to attack, we knew it would get steeper and we just had to stay patient until then. I went into the big ring because I knew it flatten off after and I am so happy to take the jersey."

Annemiek van Vleuten - 2nd place on stage 6
"We weren't going to give away the stage win today, and it was possible to take some time. I attacked and then Spratty attacked and took over in a really good moment and she showed today she is really good shape.

"I just had to follow once Spratty had gone, so that was good then I could take some bonus seconds too with second place. I think we will both go with a lot of confidence into tomorrow's stage, you never know how the legs are so today was a good test and we can go to sleep tonight with a lot of confidence."

Giro-Rosa stage 6 results:
1. Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 2:57
2. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:29
3. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla) +0:32

General classification after stage 6:
1. Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 15:38
2. Ruth Winder (Team Sunweb) +0:30
3. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:33

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