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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, September 8, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia. - Charles M. Schulz

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Vuelta a España stage thirteen news

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from second-place Rafal Majka's Bora-hansgrohe team:

There was no doubting how tough today was going to be. Three climbs dotted the stage, with the final ascent – a long, difficult grind to the finish – seeing riders having to tackle gradients of almost 20%. From the drop of the flag, the BORA-hansgrohe riders made their intentions clear, with no fewer than three riders – Rafał Majka, Jay McCarthy and Marcus Burghardt – jumping in the day’s large break. Holding out to the final climb, when the going got really tough, Rafał attacked and set the finale on fire. While he was passed a kilometre from the line, the Polish rider kept fighting and took second after a stellar effort. In spite of slipping three places in the GC, Emanuel Buchmann actually saw the gap between himself and the race leader fall by nearly a minute, ahead of another two hard days in the mountains.

Oscar Rodriguez

Oscar Rodriguez wins Vuelta stage thirteen. Sirotti photo

The Stage
The first of three big mountain stages, this was a day of reckoning for the GC riders. The 174.8km started climbing almost from the start, and it didn’t stop until the finale on Alto de la Camperona. While there were no climbs more difficult than first category, this would still be a long hard day of ascending, with the road continuing to go upwards even where the climbs weren’t categorised. The first crested 21km from the start, while the second, the first category Alto de Tarna, was where the proper climbing started, with an average gradient of 5.8% over its 13km length. To close off the day, riders would have to contend with the first category Alto de la Camperona – where the gradient would hit an eye-watering 19.5%. It would be essential that anyone who wanted to be in a position to take the win or take some GC time was able to gauge their efforts so that they had enough in the tank to stay in touch over the day, as well as have the energy to push hard on the final climb.

The Team Tactics
As the first real mountain test was coming – three sustained days in the bigger mountains – the team was approaching today from two fronts. The first would be to make sure Emanuel was protected in his GC ride and to make sure his rivals in the overall standings weren’t allowed to take time, while the second would be to get in the day’s break and make an impact on the finale. The punchy profile of the summit finish would suit Rafał Majka, and having performed well on previous, similar stages, the Polish rider would be looking forward to seeing what the day brought.

The Race
There were attacks from the start, as riders with their eye on the stage win organised themselves into the day’s break. At the first climb, a small group grew massively to thirty-two riders, with it becoming clear that there was going to be a huge fight going on today. Three BORA-hansgrohe riders – Jay McCarthy, Marcus Burghardt and Rafał Majka – jumped in the move, seeing through the first part of the team’s tactics for the day perfectly. The gap moved out to a little more than seven minutes, and the peloton well aware that the red jersey of race leader was lost to one of the break on yesterday’s stage, and so pushed that little bit harder to try and keep the escapees in touch, but with such a large group, this was proving hard, and their lead went on to hit almost ten minutes. As the day went on, the climbing began to pick off the weaker riders, but all three BORA-hansgrohe riders looked comfortable and at the top of the second climb, the lead was at 6:30, with Rafał even taking a point in the King of the Mountains contest. With just the Alto de la Camperona to go, the mood was subdued in both the break and in the chasing peloton, and depending on their ambitions in the race, this was either going to be where they’d have some fun, or where they’d really be in some pain.

Hitting the lower slopes, Jay and Marcus sat on the front of the group, but with twenty-nine riders still left with whom they could share the efforts, they didn’t want to put themselves into the red too early on. Further back, the peloton was doing a good job of staying in touch and reducing any GC losses, bringing the lead back to a more manageable 3:30, as both Jay and Marcus peeled off the front when the gradient got really high. When the road hit its steepest point, rather than drop back, Rafał attacked, taking one other with him, the road so steep that as the minutes passed, the distance to the finish barely dropped. Passed by another rider a kilometre from the line, Rafał dug deep to try and make the catch, but it just wasn’t possible, taking second after a brutal finale. Further back, the GC group had splintered, and although Emanuel Buchmann had suffered on the climb, so had many of his rivals in the overall race, and while he had slipped a few places in the GC, the actual time gap between the German rider and the top spot had reduced by almost a minute.

Rafal majka

Rafal Majka on the final climb, headed to his second place. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line
"Nice stage for BORA-hansgrohe and second place, another podium result in this Vuelta. I think it was impressive we had three riders in the big breakaway. Rafał was there and our goal was to bring him to a stage win. It nearly worked, but another rider was stronger. That's cycling and for us, it is a good performance. Emu was in the main group but lost some seconds in the steep climb. I don't consider this to be terrible, we aren't disappointed, we are close to the main GC contenders and more hard stages lie ahead. We have a strong team with a strong mindset and this is what matters for us." – Steffen Radochla, Sports Director

"My form was very good today, I felt very well and the team did a brilliant job in helping me. I'm proud of that. I gave it my all in the harsh final climb to La Camperona but it wasn't enough to take the stage. I'm disappointed because we did everything we had planned but the victory didn't come." – Rafał Majka

"We had a good start to the stage with three of our riders in the big breakaway group. I was feeling well but in the final climb I wasn't able to ride at the pace I would have liked. I lost some seconds to the main GC contenders and it's a pity because I really wanted to stay with the leading group. Tomorrow is another day, the first of the two hard summit finishes in a row." – Emanuel Buchmann

Third-place Dylan Teuns' BMC team sent me this:

7 September, 2018, Valle de Sabero. La Camperona (ESP): Dylan Teuns, who already has three top five finishes at this year's Vuelta a España with third place on stage 9, fifth on stage 11 and fourth on stage 12, showed his tenacity on stage 13 to secure third after leaving it all out on the road once again in the bid for glory.

BMC Racing Team was active at the front of the race in the opening kilometers of stage 13 and as the battle to make the breakaway continued on the day's first categorized climb, the category three Alto de la Madera, Teuns and Joey Rosskopf were able to jump into a large 32-rider group that began to go clear.

The breakaway was working well together and had opened up a five-minute advantage after 50 kilometers, of the 174.8-kilometer course, with race leader, Jesus Herrada's Cofidis teammates setting the pace at the front of the peloton behind.

At the start of the 13-kilometer long category one Puerto de Tarna, the breakaway, which at one point had an advantage of over 9'30", was sitting eight minutes ahead of the now chasing main bunch.

Going over the summit of the climb, with just under 70 kilometers to go, Ben King (Team Dimension Data) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) attacked but in the end, their burst of acceleration wasn't enough to distance the rest of the group, which still included Teuns and Rosskopf, on the descent.

On the plateau that led into the base of the brutal 8.3-kilometer long climb up to the finish line, the Alto de La Camperona, the peloton continued to chase the leaders however there was still six minutes between the two groups heading inside the final 50 kilometers of the day.

The category one ascent, which had an average gradient of 7.5 percent and pitches of an incredible 19.5 percent in places, proved, as expected, to be the pivotal point of the race and it wasn't long before the breakaway, which was still 28 riders strong at the bottom, began to split.

Teuns looked impressive and was unfazed when the attacks began before he followed a move from Rafal Majka (BORA-hansgrohe) on the steepest slopes of the climb with just three kilometers to go. At this point, it looked like Teuns and Majka would go on to battle for the day's honors but in the closing moments of the day, Óscar Rodriguez (Euskadi - Murias) was able to catch and pass the duo to take the stage win.

After digging deep on the final 500-meter kick up, Teuns eventually crossed the line third to secure his fourth top five finish of the race so far. Meanwhile, Rosskopf continued to ride his own pace up to the summit finish and after a solid day in the breakaway, he crossed the line 13th, 1'39" behind the winner.

Dylan Teuns

Dylan Teuns on the day's final ascent.

Dylan Teuns:
"I didn't know who Rodriguez was before today, but he came back to us. I didn't see him from behind but the moment he passed, it was really impressive and with a lot of speed on a steep climb like this. I, and I think Majka as well, didn't have an answer to this and in the end, I've had too many top ten results but no win. The climb suited me but after the third day in the breakaway, it's not always easy. Actually, it wasn't my plan to go in the breakaway but I was there because it was really chaotic in the beginning. If you go in a big group like this then you know you go in without spending too much energy. I sat there and did my job and I made it at the front on the final climb. In the end, it's disappointing to have another good result but no win, because I really want a stage win."

Sports Director, Jackson Stewart:
"I think Dylan had another amazing day and unfortunately he was out-climbed by a young rider whose abilities we weren't aware of. But, he matched everyone that we thought would be good in the final and he was able to match Majka at the end there. Maybe Dylan and Majka went too hard at first as Rodriguez came up slowly from behind."

"Dylan wanted to win again and it's disappointing for him but now, he has had some amazing days in the breakaway and has really shown that he can race for the win. He must have been a little fatigued coming into today's stage and this breakaway but with how the race played out we needed someone to go and he is one of the strongest guys in the race so it was amazing to have him and Joey representing us and racing for the win."

Tour of Britain stage six news

We posted the report from organizer with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Wout Poels' Team Sky:

Dutchman Wout Poels rode himself into contention on the steep Whinlatter Pass climb, dragging himself back to a trio of attackers before putting in an acceleration of his own to win the stage by two seconds.

That victory elevated Poels into second place overall, 17 seconds back on new race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors). It was the Frenchman who proved to be Poels’ biggest threat on the first category climb, with an early increase of pace that put a number of riders into difficulties.

Vasil Kiryienka helped lay the foundations for victory by forcing his way into the day’s break. The Belarusian was part of a six-man move on the picturesque roads of the Lake District, which was only hauled back as the peloton arrived at the foot of the final climb.

After claiming a fourth stage victory and third summit finish win at the Tour of Britain, Poels said: "I’m really happy with that victory. I’ve done the Tour of Britain four times and each time I’ve won a stage, with three of them uphill. That’s not a bad average!

Wout poels

Wout Poels winning stage six. Sirotti photo

“[Positioning] was really important as it was getting quite narrow there and the team did a very good job of putting me in the front, and it’s especially good if you can finish it off. Jungels went really fast which was a little bit fast too for me. I couldn’t do that the whole climb, so I had to pace myself a bit and try to take him back at the end and do a good sprint."

With Poels now on the overall podium he admits it will be tough to reach the top step with the major climbs now complete. He added: "It’s really nice to [move up on GC]. It’s going to be a hard fight now, with no more finishes uphill - everything is flat, but you never know so we’ll keep trying."

Here's the news from GC leader Julian Alaphilippe's Quick-Step team:

Julian Alaphilippe moved to the top of the overall standings after a tremendous team effort of Quick-Step Floors, who controlled the entire stage 6 (Barrow-in-Furnes – Whinlatter Pass, 168.3 kilometers) from the very start with Fernando Gaviria, Iljo Keisse, Maximiliano Richeze and Max Schachmann, who kept things together despite the numerous attacks until the first intermediate sprint – where the Frenchman showed he was a man on a mission, bagging three bonus seconds and reducing the deficit to the green jersey wearer.

When things calmed down, four men went on the offensive and eked out a three-minute advantage, prompting Quick-Step Floors to show again their colors at the front and take responsibility on the hilly course dotted by several classified climbs, including Whinlatter Pass, which was due to be tackled twice. With the final ascent looming on the horizon, Bob Jungels took over the reins and put down the hammer, a move which resulted in the escapees being caught one by one and the field stretched out on the 7.1% slopes of the 3.2km Whinlatter climb.

After being led out by the Luxembourg Champion, 26-year-old Alaphilippe – second overall at the start of the day – didn't waste any time in showing his intentions and as soon as the gradient stiffened, launched a devastating attack to which only two riders could respond. Noticing that race leader Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) got distanced, the Frenchman sacrificed his chances of repeating the stage 3 victory, focusing instead on attacking relentlessly and extending the gap over the Slovenian.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe winning stage three of this year's Tour of Britain

Quick-Step Floors' rider continued to keep the speed high and pull hard at the front of the three-man group, not holding off in his efforts of taking the green jersey, which eventually landed on his shoulders after crossing the line in second place, behind Wout Poels (Team Sky). Having enjoyed so far an annus mirabilis, which saw him win Flèche Wallonne, Clasica San Sebastian and stages at Colombia Oro y Paz, Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France, Alaphilippe is now just two days away from wrapping up the general classification at the Tour of Britain

"First of all, I want to thank to all my teammates, who were once again fantastic and fought hard for me! They protected me today and did a great job on what was a very tough and hectic stage right from the start. The plan was to take the green jersey and having succeeded gives me immense joy", said Julian, who enjoys a 17-second margin over his closest opponent ahead of the weekend. "I knew the final climb was the only place where I could make the difference, and that's why we had Bob – who is like a brother to me – take the front and set that fierce tempo which immediately created some significant gaps. I was thinking only of the GC, so I gave everything on this hard finale until the last meter, and seeing that our tactic and amazing job paid dividends makes me proud of the entire team."

Team BMC reports on GP de Québec

We posted the report from winner Michael Matthews' Team Sunweb with the race results.

07 September, 2018, Quebec (CAN): The top step of the podium at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec continued to provide elusive for Greg Van Avermaet, who today claimed second place at the race for the third consecutive year.

Attacks started as soon as the peloton rolled out for 16 laps of the 12.6 kilometer course and immediately five riders went clear. The peloton, evidently happy with the formation of the breakaway, sat up and allowed the group to go six minutes down the road.

With Van Avermaet as one of the pre-race favorites, BMC Racing Team hit the front of the peloton to control the race and allowed the breakaway to maintain their six-minute advantage for the first 100 kilometers of the 201.6km kilometer course.

Team Sunweb and Astana Pro Team contributed to the chase and with five laps remaining, the peloton started to pick up the pace to bring the breakaway back.

The breakaway's advantage had been halved to three minutes with four laps to go and by the time they passed the finish line for the last two laps, the breakaway had split and Pete Kennaugh (Bora-hansgrohe) launched the first attack from the bunch.

Kennaugh passed under the finish line on the bell lap with a narrow advantage while behind, Michael Schär hit the front of the peloton to bring back a six-rider chase group that has established between Kennaugh and the bunch. On the last lap, Kennaugh managed to hold a 20-second lead until the final two kilometers when the favorites started to close in at the top of the climb and had him in their sights.

Van Avermaet hit the front under the flamme rouge and with 300 meters to go, at which point Kennaugh was caught, the Belgian launched his sprint. Matthews managed to come over the top of Van Avermaet in the final meters of the race which saw Van Avermaet settle for second place for the third consecutive year and his fifth podium result at the race.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews takes the race.

Greg Van Avermaet:
"It's frustrating to get second again, especially because I was second to Peter Sagan the last two years and last year I beat Michael Matthews so this year, I was hoping to win. Matthews was really strong in the sprint. It's always frustrating to get second because you come here to win and when you are second three times in a row, you can't be really satisfied. The positive is that the parcours suits me and I'm always good at the race, but there always seems to be someone who is a bit faster than me in this finish."

"It was a long sprint but on this kind of sprint, it's more about the legs than the timing. There was a headwind but if you are waiting too late, you can be boxed in. So sometimes it's better to give it a go earlier. It's always super hard. Matthews came over me pretty fast and kept the speed until the end so he deserves it."

"I'm happy with my legs. I had good feelings. You always need to get into the rhythm after a period of not racing, but I was really happy with how my legs were responding the whole day and I felt pretty fresh in the last few laps. The race has changed in the last few years. There is less attacking and everyone is more focused on the sprint which suits me. I'm looking forward to Sunday's race in Montreal. It is a harder parcours but it's also one that suits me. The climbers are more favored there and there is definitely the possibility to avoid a bunch sprint. It's a really hard climb and a very different race to the race here in Quebec. I'm hoping for a more open race. I think here in Quebec there are only about five riders who have a good shot at winning, but in Montreal there are many more."

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