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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, September 7, 2019

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician. - Charlie Chaplin

Current racing:

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Vuelta a España stage thirteen news

Here's the report from stage winner Tadej Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates:

UAE Team Emirates’ Tadej Pogačar put on another display of sheer brilliance during stage 13 of La Vuelta, and in doing so took his second stage win in just five days.

Tadej Pogacar

Tadej Pogacar wins stage thirteen.

The unbelievable result also launched the 20-year-old star into third place in the white jersey, as he sits now +17″ on Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) at the top of the Youth Classification.

The day didn’t start out well for the Emirati formation, with news that Fabio Aru would retire from La Vuelta.

However, all that was forgotten as the stage reached the business end and a select group of 29 GC riders hit the bottom of Los Machucos – the seventh categorized climb of the afternoon. With 6.5km of constant climbing – and sections featuring brutal gradients in excess of 25% – it was always going to be a true test of the strongest riders in the bunch.

With 6kms to go Nairo Quintana was the first of the GC contenders to attack, as he closed the gap on Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) who had attempted to solo away a few kilometres earlier. However Pogačar , and his Slovenian rival Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma), proved too strong for everyone as they accelerated away from the bunch and reeled in both Quintana and Latour with less than 2kms to go. With the finish line in touching distance Pogacar managed to find another gear, riding Roglic off his wheel and crossing the line first to take his 7th win and UAE Team Emirates’ 24th win of the season.

Pogačar now sits just over three minutes behind the race leader Roglic and 46” off a second place spot, behind World Champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

On his current form Pogačar said: “At the start I didn’t know I would feel so good on the last climb. In fact, I just wanted to survive because after stage 7, my goal was simply to not lose too much time. But in the end it was an incredible day for me.

"When I heard over the radio that nobody was following me and Roglic, I realised that it was a good opportunity to go for the stage. And with Roglic it’s always difficult to go against him because he’s really strong. I could do that today and I’m really, really happy.”

And here's what GC leader Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team had to say about the stage:

Primoz Roglic has his leading position in the Vuelta a España made more comfortable. The Slovenia rider finished the hard mountain stage from Bilbao to Los Machucos in second place. His countryman, Tadej Pogacar grabbed the victory.

The two Slovenians were left together with 1.5 kilometres to go. Through good cooperation, they managed to open a gap over the other GC competitors. The hard climb of Los Muchucos was too steep for some other GC riders. Roglic showed the world he is the justified and deserved leader by allowing Pogacar to take the stage win.

Sports director Addy Engels saw a hard stage. “It was hard to create a gap on this super steep final climb. I am happy that it worked out for Primoz. He showed us that he is the best time trail rider and now he also showed that he is one of the best climbers in the race. It is great to see that he is taking time on his competitors. Everyone in the team car was very excited, we all screamed Primoz to the finish. That Roglic allows Pogacar to win the stage, is very gentlemanly. We are in this race with one goal. That’s why taking time is now more important than winning stages. Madrid is still far away, but we have done a good job. The team was really strong again today.

Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic is still in red. Sirotti photo

Roglic is happy, but realistic. “It was a very hard and difficult stage, with a steep final climb. On top of that, it was a majestic day for Slovenian cycling. I am feeling better and better. We must keep the focus, if we do that we have a good chance of keeping the jersey. One day less until Madrid but many difficult stages are coming up.”

Rafal Majka's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

Today’s stage was probably one of the toughest the peloton had to face in this year’s Vuelta a España. The course covered 166 kilometers with more than 4.000 meters of climbing. Bilbao, which was yesterday’s finish, was today’s place to kick off the 13th stage, afterwards the race headed over six categorized climbs before the final climb up to the finish on the iconic Alto de Los Machucos, HC category, awaited the riders.

Climb picture

The Alto de Los Machucos was the day's final challenge. Sirotti photo

Yesterday’s breakaway needed plenty of kilometers to get away, today’s big group managed to open up an advantage of more than two minutes after 30 kilometres of racing. Felix Großschartner was on a roll, as he went again in the day’s break and joined 28 other riders at the front. Felix Großschartner went on the attack with 60km to go and managed to lead the race for a short time before he was caught again by his former breakaway companions.

As expected, the race had its showdown as it reached the final climb of the day. BORA - hansgrohe’s GC contender Rafał Majka stayed close to the La Roja wearer in the group of favorites. The favorites closed the gap to Felix’s group and the young Austrian rider helped his teammate to cover a move from N. Quintana. In the last kilometers the race went on fire as several attacks took place, but Rafał Majka was able to follow and stayed with the likes Quintana and Lopez, while Roglic and Pogacar went away. On the top of the climb, it was T. Pogacar who crowned himself as the stage winner for the second time. The polish rider from the German team crossed the line in a strong sixth place and moved up to sixth overall.

From the Finish Line:
“I knew the finish as we were here two years ago. Pawel was again strong and brought me onto the final climb. Felix, in the breakaway, was also attacking and then helped me in an important moment. Really good job from the team again. I think with today’s result and the overall, we can look confidently into the final week of the Vuelta. Tomorrow will be a chance for Sam again, and we will try to help him as much as we can.” – Rafał Majka

“We knew the last climb from 2017, Rafał took 5th here. I think the boys showed a really good performance today. Felix was on a roll and went again in the big breakaway group and afterwards he helped Rafał. On the final climb, Rafał stayed with the other GC contenders and was able to follow. at the end he moved up to sixth place overall. Sure, we still have some tough mountain stages ahead of us, but I think we are on the right track for a good result. Tomorrow all eyes will be again on Sam and we will work for another good result.” – Patxi Vila, Sports Director

Ben Swift extends with Team INEOS

Team INEOS sent me this release:

British champion Ben Swift will compete in Team INEOS colours for the next two years.

Swift has spent eight years with the team, across two spells, and his latest contract will take him through to the end of the 2021 season. And the 31 year old openly admits that this current season has helped him ‘find himself’ again as a professional rider, having returned to the team at the beginning of the 2019 campaign.

“I feel like I’ve found a renewed enthusiasm and motivation for the sport this year, so this new contract feels rewarding for many reasons,” he said. “I think that’s down to the team and the way I’ve been riding this year. When you’re really happy somewhere and the environment of the team suits you like it does for me here, it really helps you to get the very best out of yourself.”

Ben Swift

Ben Swift racing in the 2017 Dauphine. Sirotti photo

Indeed, Swift has enjoyed a happy homecoming this year, despite an early season training crash that resulted in a ruptured spleen. Since then, he’s gone on to enjoy a season to remember, bouncing back in style with a deserved British national road race title.

“I don’t think anybody was expecting me to get back to the levels I’ve achieved this year,” he said, “so it's hugely satisfying. It’s been a really pleasing season so far.

“It’s been a really targeted process for me all season – I sat down with my coach, Conor Taylor, at the start of the year and mapped it all out. That relationship has been key and he’s really got the best out of me this year. We’ve stuck to the plan, even when the crash slightly disrupted things, and now we’re working towards the Tour of Britain and the World Championships.”

As well as being a key rider in his own right, Swift’s knowledge and experience has helped play a crucial role in guiding the next generation of young riders on the team’s roster this season – and it’s a role he’s relishing.

“It’s just about leading by example really, and hopefully showing them the right path, be it returning from crashes; preparing for races; being in the heat of the battle – those things can really help the young guys. It’s really satisfying and rewarding to see this young group of riders developing as well as they are,” he said.

Whilst he’s always planning with – in his own words – ‘one eye on the present and one eye on the future’, the World Championships in Yorkshire later this month are in the forefront of his thoughts between now and the end of the 2019 season.

“The Worlds in Yorkshire aren’t far from where I grew up, so it’s massive opportunity for me to try and improve on my fifth place in Bergen two years ago,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough ask, it’s going to be a very difficult race – but I’ll do everything I can.”

Team INEOS Coach, Conor Taylor, added: “To bounce back and race at a consistently high level so soon after the serious accident he suffered in February is testament to Swifty’s attitude and professionalism on and off the bike.

“He is an exceptional role model to our next generation of riders and we believe his best years are still ahead of him. We look forward to seeing Swifty race for Team INEOS in the British National Champs colours next season.”

Yuzzu new sponsor of Lotto-Soudal

Here's the team's press release:

Following the extensions of the partnerships with Lotto, Soudal and G&V Energy Group, the team now welcomes a new partner. Yuzzu – the new name of Touring Insurances – will be visible on the bib shorts of the Lotto Soudal riders as of tomorrow during the Brussels Cycling Classic. The collaboration will run at least till the end of 2021, by which Yuzzu will be visible on the shirts as well, from next year onwards.

Kenneth Vansina, Chief Customer Experience Yuzzu: “This is the real start of Yuzzu, the new name of Touring Insurances, Belgian market leader in direct insurances. Our goal is to market our new, fresh name as a reliable insurance partner in the daily lives of our clients, and for us Lotto Soudal seems like a perfect partner. Cycling is a sport which is close to the people and very popular in Belgium. With this partnership, we hope, besides Wallonia – where we already have a considerable market share – to further grow in Flanders.”

“The roots of our company lies in mobility, something we’ll definitely recognize at Lotto Soudal. From now on, we will start with our communication and activation campaigns, of which the sponsoring of Lotto Soudal is a really important one. We have met with the other partners and we noticed a family but passionate atmosphere, in line with our key value ‘dynamic’. Also in the talent development which characterizes the team, we recognize an aspect of insurances which we highly value, namely ‘care’.”

John Lelangue, general manager Lotto Soudal: “The moment of the start of the collaboration is very accurate. Yuzzu starts to activate its new name and we will already ride with the logo of Yuzzu on the bib shorts at tomorrow’s Brussels Cycling Classic. Next year, that visibility will be further extended on the shirt. For them, it means the first ever collaboration in sports and we are of course delighted that this happens with Lotto Soudal. Yuzzu has a strong link with mobility, a feature that is also applicable to us. They are a Belgian company, with an important market in Wallonia as well as in Flanders, we are thé Belgian WorldTour team. We hope that they, just like our name sponsors and other cosponsors can become a loyal partner!”

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