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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, March 31, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. - Charles Darwin

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Volta a Catalunya stage six reports

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

Here's the report from GC leader Miguel Lopez's Team Astana:

A perfect team’s work was a key moment during the sixth stage of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (Valls – Vila-Seca, 174.1 km): all Astana Pro Team did its best to keep Miguel Angel Lopez out of troubles and to help him to hold the leading jersey for another day.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews wins Tour of Catalonia stage six.

After the team did a good job during the stage, Miguel Angel Lopez tried himself in a late attack, following the Italian rider Davide Formolo. Once, they were caught back, a massive sprint decided the stage: Michael Matthews won the sprint ahead of Phil Bauhaus and Daryl Impey. Miguel Angel Lopez was able to stay in front and finished 8th, thus, keeping the GC lead.

- Another very fast day, but my team was very strong today. The guys did a great job for me, I was always in front, especially in the tricky final, when the pace increased so much and the peloton split in parts. Indeed, the last kilometers were so dangerous, so when I saw Formolo attacking, I thought it could be a good move and just followed him. In this dangerous final it was better to be I front than behind. Yeah, in general everything was good today and now we are looking forward to the tomorrow stage in Barcelona. I know, that it will be a big fight for the general classification, so let’s see, - said Miguel Angel Lopez.

With only one stage remained in the 99th edition of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Miguel Angel Lopez leads the general classification of the race having 14 seconds on Adam Yates and 17 seconds on Egan Bernal.

The final stage 7 will be held tomorrow in Barcelona: it will be a very hard stage of 143.1 km with 8-time-passed the famous climb Montjuic.

Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this Tour of Catalonia report:

The penultimate stage of the 99th edition of the Volta a Catalunya was expected to become a battle between the sprinters or a breakaway, as today’s parcours was quite undulated. Therefore, the race saw a tough fight for the break of the day right from the start. Five men went clear after 30km, while all BORA – hansgrohe riders stayed in the main bunch today, after two offensive days on the attack.

The peloton kept the five leaders at a steady advantage of just over two minutes. When they finally got caught at the 10km to go mark, everything looked to be set for a bunch sprint. But at a moment of disorganization, Davide Formolo took the chance to launch an attack with 5 kilometers remaining. The Italian from BORA – hansgrohe pushed hard to get a substantial gap between him and the bunch, and with 2km to go his move still looked promising. But the bunch kept going, and just under the 1000-meter banner Formolo was swallowed up by the flying lead-out trains, while Rafał Majka had positioned himself well between the last tricky corners.

On the final uphill stretch the Polish climber was close to the front when he launched his sprint. In the end he had no chance against Michael Matthews, but still scored a strong ninth. With his win, Matthews also took over the lead in the points classification ahead of Max Schachmann.

From the Finish Line:
“The plan was to go for Jay, but he hadn’t the best legs today, therefore we went for Davide in the final kilometres. He was so strong in the last kilometres; his attack was really impressive. Unfortunately, the peloton was fast and caught him at the Flamme rouge. I was in a good position after the last roundabouts, so I took my chance and came in ninth. With this result I also secured my spot in the GC as well.” – Rafal Majka

“We pushed our team pretty hard for this race and the boys delivered well. Today’s goal was to protect Rafal for the top 10 in the GC and to give Jay the possibility in a sprint. Davide used a moment to attack with 5km to go and was only caught 500m before the finish. We played all or nothing, but we were close to achieve the next surprise.” – Jens Zemke, Sports Director 

Wilco Kelderman abandons Tour of Catalonia after stage five crash

This unfortunate news came too late to be included in yesterday's post:

A crash on the fifth stage of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya whilst chasing the break saw Team Sunweb's Wilco Kelderman abandon the race. Team Sunweb physician Anko Boelens detailed his injuries:

"An x-ray has revealed Wilco has broken his left collarbone and suffered a neck vertebrae fracture in the fall. Our first impression is that the fracture is stable. He will most likely need surgery for the collarbone when returning back to the Netherlands. Once we've completed more checks, we will be able to give an update on the estimated recovery time in the coming days"

Wilco kelderman

Wilco Kelderman racing in the 2018 Vuelta. Sirotti photo

Jens Keukeleire talks about his expectations in Gent-Wevelgem

Keukeleire's Lotto-Soudal team sent me this:

Gent-Wevelgem often is a spectacular race due to the notorious Plugstreets, the Kemmelberg as a decisive climb and possible strong winds. After starting in Deinze and a detour via Veurne and De Moeren, the riders subsequently arrive in the hill zone in the south of West Flanders. Despite the ten climbs and the course of 251.1 kilometres to be covered, it regularly comes down to a sprint in Wevelgem. Last year, Peter Sagan clinched his third win. Jens Keukeleire, second in 2017, gives his view on the 81st edition.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan winning Gent-Wevelgem in 2018.

Jens Keukeleire: “This will be my third WorldTour race in five days, so that is a rapid succession. The E3 Harelbeke was an intense race, but we had beautiful weather conditions. I experienced Brugge-De Panne as a bit more peaceful, until my hard crash. Luckily, I recovered well from this and I could do major efforts again on Friday. The fact that I was still present until the actual finale began, is a good sign. On the decisive moment, I was not able to follow though, which gave me mixed feelings.”

“Gent-Wevelgem probably is the spring race that fits me the most of all. It is also to my advantage that I know the course perfectly, because this region is a regular training route. Besides, the profile enables to have some rest between the various hills, which makes the race less aggressive. During the last few editions, it was an elimination until the second time Kemmelberg. I have always had a good feeling here, even when echelons were formed.”

“More wind is predicted on Sunday. That is a factor which could make the race exhausting for the helpers and the sprinters, causing them to arrive less fresh in the hill zone. It would surprise me if a large group will sprint for the victory. Ideally for me, about twenty riders remain after the Kemmelberg and then the difference could be made. Tiesj Benoot and I would like it if the pace is kept really high all the time. Nikolas Maes is very important to the team as well. He is in excellent shape and that is why I believe he should be capable totop the Kemmelberg along with the best riders.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Adam Blythe, Frederik Frison, Jens Keukeleire, Nikolas Maes, Lawrence Naesen and Brian van Goethem.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

UAE-Team Emirates announces riders for Tour of Sicily

The team sent me this:

Team UAE Emirates will fly many flags when it races the Giro di Sicilia stage race from April 3 to 6. Among the seven riders in the roster, six nations are represented, including one from the sponsor’s home.

Bruno Vicino (Ita) will direct the team with former Sicilian professional Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) lending support:
– Kristijan Durasek (Cro)
– Roberto Ferrari (Ita)
– Yousif Mirza (UAE)
– Sebastian Molano (Col)
– Ivo Oliveira (Por)
– Simone Petilli (Ita)
– Jan Polanc (Slo)

The race covers four stages on the famous island: Catania-Milazzo will suit sprinters, Capo d’Orlando-Palermo will favour an escape group, Caltanissetta-Ragusa and the final Giardini Naxos-Etna stages will be geared to attackers and climbers.

Among the roster, Jan Polanc stands out since he won the Mount Etna stage in the 2017 Giro d’Italia. “It’s always beautiful for me to return to Sicily and above all, to Etna,” he said. “I’d like to repeat that show that gave me the Giro stage win. I like that climb and my condition after Tirreno-Adriatico is still good. I’m not going to be under any sort of pressure, but I’ll ride with optimism and courage“.

Jan Polanc

Jan Polanc racing in this year's Tirreno-Adriatico. Sirotti photo

Emirates rider Yousif Mirza added, “I maintained my race rhythm that I had at the UAE championships, so I’m going to be heading to Sicily with good form. The team is competitive, and I’ll try to give my best and I’m motivated to race in Italy“.

Of note, Sebastian Molano is returning after he recovered from a wrist fracture. He suffered it in a crash at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad early in March.

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