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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, March 4, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

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Strade Bianche team reports

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

The cold and wet weather conditions of the twelfth edition of the Strade Bianche saw riders covered in the grit and grime of the famous white Italian roads. These conditions took their toll on riders, with the weather sapping both energy and morale. In his first race since the Tour Down Under, and his first European race of the season, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was supported well by his BORA-hansgrohe teammates, but was unable to take the victory in Siena, taking eighth position, while teammate Gregor Mühlberger rounded off the top ten in tenth spot.

The Stage
The 184km route would be challenging for a number of reasons. The undulating terrain would sap energy, while the transitions from road to gravel in each of the race’s eleven sectors of ‘Strade Bianche’ would test bike riders’ handling skills to the limit, ranging in length from less than a kilometre to almost 12km. When the weather is good, this race takes in some of the most stunning Tuscan scenery. When the weather is poor, the riders are not only drenched by rain, but also covered in dust from the race’s famous white gravel roads. This both saps morale, but also adds an element of risk, making the road surfaces slippery, while luck plays a much greater role, as riders can be taken out of contention with punctures and mechanical problems. In the end, it would all come down to who would still be in contention for the final brutal climb in Siena for the race’s finale.

The Team Tactics
With some of the team having raced Omloop Het Nieuwsblad earlier in the week, some of the team riding today would have an idea of how the colder weather would affect the outcome. The UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, would be making his first European appearance of the season having last raced at the Tour Down Under in January. This race would be a good opportunity for the Slovak rider to test his form at the start of the Spring Classics season.

The Race
An early break took control early on in the day, and with the conditions as bad as they were, looked as though they might stay out ahead for the whole day – especially after the peloton split in two. The escapees had to ride in the same conditions however, and these conditions had a clear impact, with some suffering in the bad weather, and others dropping off due to punctures. With 60km remaining, the small escape group was caught and the race started heating up. Attacks, counter-attacks and chases saw the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, in one of the chasing groups, with strong support from teammates Daniel Oss and German National Champion, Marcus Burghardt, but as the leaders entered Siena for the final 10km, it was clear that Peter would not be in a position to fight for the win. It was the stronger climbers who were making the most progress on the remaining hills, with Lotto Soudal’s Benoot managing to hold his lead on the front. After a hard ride, Peter finished in eighth position, with teammate Gregor Mühlberger close behind in tenth.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan after the race

From the Finish Line
"There is no doubt that the Strade Bianche lived up to its reputation this year with a very hard day under difficult weather conditions. It was my first race after spending nearly a month at the high-altitude training camp and the sensations were good. We showed we had a strong squad with Daniel Oss, Marcus Burghardt and Gregor Mühlberger doing great work at the front. I'm happy with today's result, although, obviously, we could have wished for more. However, it's just the beginning of my European races and there is a long way ahead of us." – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion

"It was a tough Strade Bianche, made more difficult with the adverse weather. I think we saw that our guys were in good shape and for some of them, it was their first race after a long training period. In my opinion, they were strong but maybe not strong enough, yet, to win the race. With 30km to go, when the attacks came, I feel Peter didn't have the best legs but I'm definitely sure he will get better at the Tirreno-Adriatico as he gets back to racing mode. I'm satisfied with what we achieved today, in a day that in my view was best suited for the climbers. Today's conditions and parcours was more for them." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

And here's what Team Movistar had to say about the race:

Belgian Tiesj Benoot (LTS) opened his pro victory account on Saturday at the 12th edition of Strade Bianche (UCI WorldTour, 184km), a race that will go down as one to remember for many years because of the mud completely covering all riders, due to the rain and snow falling over the province of Siena in the week leading up to the event.

Alejandro Valverde took 4th place, 1’25” behind the day’s winner, in another magnificent display of strength, just six days after winning the Abu Dhabi Tour and following an eventful journey to Italy: the Spaniard was stranded in Barcelona until late on Friday evening, due to overbooking, and was unable to reach the Movistar Team hotel until almost midnight. ‘Bala’ had support in the finale from José Joaquín Rojas, who joined him into the dangerous moves created 60km from the finish -until suffering himself a costly mechanical-, and Andrey Amador, who followed some moves ahead of the favourites’ group before the decisive, final three ‘sterrato’ sections.

Tiejs Bennot

Tiejs Benoot gets a great solo win.

Valverde and other big names, such as Peter Sagan (BOH) or Michal Kwiatkowski (SKY), were nevertheless anticipated by Wout Van Aert (VWC) and Romain Bardet (ALM), who opened a serious gap in front of the lack of cooperation behind, and got to the finish with almost one minute over the second chasing group. Alejandro always tried to make the race harder and made up much terrain in the finale, together with Zdenek Stybar (QST), to bring back many groups until coming just short of a podium finish.

EF Education First-Drapac previews Paris-Nice

This came to me from the team:

The 76th edition of Paris-Nice promises to be an attacking affair designed to keep the general classification open until the race’s scenic conclusion in sunny Côte d’Azure. The eight-day “Race to the Sun” offers an unpredictable course with something for every type of rider.

“Paris-Nice has all the technical elements of a Tour de France condensed into one week of racing,” said sport director Charly Wegelius. “It isn’t by chance that often winners of Paris-Nice go on to perform well in July. Over the week, all the key skills of riders are tested, often in challenging weather.”

EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale has assembled a core group of classics riders in Mitch Docker, Matti Breschel, Sebastian Langeveld and Tom Scully to support Dan McLay in the sprint stages. Lawson Craddock and Pierre Rolland will have free reign in the hillier stages that come in the second half of the race.

Pierre Rooland

Pierre Rolland winning stage 17 of last year's Giro. Sirotti photo

“The whole group has made a solid start to the season, and we have always been active,” said Wegelius. “We will continue on this line. Dan McLay has good shape, although it’s important to note that many of the sprint stages are far from straightforward. Lawson and Pierre have made a solid start to the season and will have the space to show themselves.”

Paris-Nice opens on Île des Impressionnistes with a stage that should see a breakaway forge clear and a selection contest the finale. Two likely sprint stages follow, but nasty weather conditions could see a deviation from projections.

The fourth stage is an 18.5-kilometer time trial with a technical finish. The first general classification gaps are expected to open here.

Stage five stage is a transitional stage as the race moves away from flatter ground and heads toward the mountains. Both stages six and seven feature uphill finishes. The race concludes with its traditional finish into Nice.

“It’s a very difficult race and one of the toughest stage races in the spring,” said Breschel. “The first couple of stages can be crucial for the overall results. Just south of Paris, it’s very open and there can be a lot of crosswinds, so staying together in the front is very important. The whole bunch is always very nervous at Paris-Nice, so we have to be awake at all times. When we get to the mountains later, we’ll make sure to protect our climbers and help them we everything we have. The time trial is pure pain. Paris-Nice has everything!

“Personally, I’m looking forward to the first couple stages,” Breschel continued. “I like when the racing is rough, you know, when I can use my elbows a bit. The mountains will be survival for me, but of course, I’ll help my teammates whenever I can.”

“I think all the stages will be interesting this year,” Rolland added. “With a sprinter this year, we have opportunities every day. Personally, I’m going to look to do something after the time trial.”

Filippo Ganna wins individual pursuit world title

Ganna's UAE-Team Emirates sent me this news:

Filippo Ganna was waiting for the big ride today after yesterday helping Italy to the team pursuit bronze medal in the Alpeldoorn world championships and he didn’t let down. He won the individual pursuit gold medal in the Dutch track, setting two Italian records: 4-13.622 in qualifying and 4-13.607 in the final against Portuguese Ivo Oliveira. Oliveira recorded 4-15.428 and 4-12.365 in qualifying.

The Verbanese repeated the title he won at the 2016 London worlds. Third place went to Russian Alexander Evtushenko, 4-13.786. “I wanted to finish as soon as possible because I was suffering so much,” said Ganna. “He started so strongly but I relied on my coach and on the plan that we had.

“When did I realise I passed him? When I did it. In those moments you don’t have much time to make important reasoning. You are going all out from start to finish and the only thing you can do is just keep yourself on the track.

“I’m happy but I am tired. It was a long week now I want to rest for a few days before I am back on the road, and that will be next week in Tirreno-Adriatico.”

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