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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Saturday, August 29, 2015

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

One race today, the Vuelta a España's seventh stage.

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Etixx-Quick Step signs Dan Martin

Here's the news from Etixx-Quick step:

Etixx - Quick-Step and Daniel Martin have reached an agreement on a two-year contract (2016 and 2017).

The 29-year-old rider's talent is diverse, with his palmares demonstrating aptitude for the one-day races and general classifications. His one-day race victories include 2014 Giro di Lombardia, 2013 Liège - Bastogne - Liège, and the Japan Cycle Cup Road Race in 2010. Martin's stage race success includes being the overall victor at the 2013 Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, as well as the 2010 Tour de Pologne. Martin is also a two-time Tour de Pologne stage winner, and he won the mountainous 9th Stage of the 2013 Tour de France, which arrived in Bagnéres de Bigorre, as well as the 9th Stage of the 2011 La Vuelta a España, which arrived on the Covatilla summit.

Martin has been a top GC finisher in many races throughout his career, including a 2nd place in the 2014 Tour of Beijing, and 7th place in the 2014 edition of La Vuelta a España. Martin finished 2nd on Thursday in Stage 6 of La Vuelta, and he was also 2nd in Stages 8 and 11 of Le Tour de France this season.

Dan Martin

Dan Martin climbs in Vuelta stage 2

"The arrival of Dan Martin is an important moment for the team," Etixx - Quick-Step CEO Patrick Lefevere said. "He's a guy who was able in the past to win one-day races, but also stage races. He has also been a GC contender at grand tours during his career. He is now 29-years-old, so he is at the peak of his career. He had an unlucky 2015 early season, but it is clear in his most recent performances, even at La Vuelta, that he has a lot of spirit. For the team this is also a key addition because Martin can be a presence in the Ardennes Classics, alongside young French rider Julian Alaphilippe. His contributions can be two-fold for Julian. Julian can learn a lot from a seasoned veteran like him. At the same time, Martin is a guy who has proven he can win at the Ardennes. So the peloton respects his presence as a contender, and this alleviates some pressure for Julian. This can be a bit of an Ardennes 'dynamic duo.' Martin is a complete rider who is able to perform well in stage races, one-day-races, and grand tours, and we are excited to see what he can do with an Etixx - Quick-Step jersey on his back for the next two years."

"I'm really excited to join the team, which has been a point of reference in cycling for years," Martin said. "I hope to be able to take the next step in my career with Etixx - Quick-Step. I would like to improve even more and establish consistency with my performances. I think I am entering an important moment of my career at my age. I feel I am stronger than ever, mentally and physically. Of course my season will be built around the Ardennes Classics, where I can join forces with Alaphilippe. I hope to teach him some things and help him to evolve as a rider, while playing protagonist when I have the opportunity. I also would like to do well in the stage races, and maybe try again once in a grand tour for a good classification. I think I have potential to be a factor in the grand tours, whether it be stage hunting or in the overall classification. I am motivated to add to my top career performances, while proudly wearing the team colors of Etixx - Quick-Step for the next two years."

Vuelta a España stage seven team reports

Here's what LottoNL-Jumbo sent me:

Bert-Jan Lindeman of Team LottoNL-Jumbo delivered a hard-fought victory in the first major mountain stage in the 2015 Vuelta a España. The Dutchman attacked early in the 191km stage with four other riders, and out-dueled his rivals during long, hot 18km summit finale. Johan Esteban Chaves of Orica-Green Edge continues to lead the overall standings. 

Lindeman attacked early in Friday’s stage into Spain’s Sierra Nevada for the third time in this Vuelta, and the third time was a charm for the rider from Emmen. 

“Our goal for this Vuelta was to make an aggressive race with this young team,” said sports director Marijn Zeeman. "Today we had thought to move into the attack with Bennett, but Bert-Jan said directly that he wanted to attack, too. In the first escape of the day, Bennett and Bert-Jan where in the break but Movistar closed the gap. Moments later, Bert-Jan managed to jump into the right break-away with four other riders.”  

The seventh stage of the Vuelta had a difficult profile and a nearly 19-kilometer final climb. The mercury showed 37 degrees in what made the 191-kilometer long stage even more grueling. 

"It was very hot today. I knew we had to take good care of Bert-Jan. Each climb he got a new fresh bottle with cool water, “Zeeman continued. "In this heat, it is important that, in addition to drink and eat, to cool properly. The gap of the five was not a done deal. Therefore it was exciting. On the last climb, which we know from the altitude training that we do here often, Bert-Jan played it smart and he didn’t show his cards. He is the deserved winner. I said to him this is a historic day for you. It’s beautiful that it works out. This is quite nice for the staff to be part of that."

Bert-Jan Lindeman wins Vuelta stage 7

Bert-Jan Lindeman wins Vuelta stage 7

On the final climb, the game of cat-and-mouse began. The five leaders were not able to play too much because Movistar and Astana were setting a high pace. Lindeman was dropped but fought his way back to the head of the race. 

"I played the game. That’s also cycling, and not only to be the strongest," Lindeman said. "I got all the support from the team. I felt I had a really good day and started to believe in my chances. Normally, Amets Txurruka (CJR) is the strongest uphill, so I was a little scared. But at some point he and I were dropped. I saw that he was really empty and then I closed the gap alone to Jérôme Cousin (EUC) and Ilia Koshevoy (LAM). Only at the very end did we know that the peloton would not come back and that we could win. Cousin crashed in the last kilometre, and Koshevoy then went full gas. I felt that I had power left, and in the last 200 meters, I could easily pass him.” 

Lindeman is known as a fighter and grabbed his fourth win as a professional. "I've come a long way. I was not a professional anymore in 2014, but luckily I got a new opportunity at LottoNL-Jumbo. And today I win this tough mountain stage. I've been working hard for this result. I was ten days in Davos for a training camp with Martijn Keizer. That paid off now. I am grateful for the confidence this team has in me and now we will enjoy this victory together.”

Orica-GreenEdge had this to report about the seventh stage:

Two-time stage winner Esteban Chaves has finished sixth on stage seven of the Vuelta a Espana to maintain his ten second lead at the Spanish Grand Tour. The stage was touted as the first general classification test of the 2015 Tour with a 19km category one climb to finish. Chaves crossed the line 36seconds down on Bertjan Lindeman (Team Lotto-Jumbo) who survived from the breakaway to claim the stage.

“I’m really happy,” he said. “Today was a final with a 40 or 50minute climb, really really long, and the team again was fantastic. It’s a big responsibility (to be in the red jersey), it’s important you don’t lose your head and you stay really focused. It’s the first big uphill finish and now it is important to recover.”

Johan Esteban Chaves

Johan Esteban Chaves remains the overall leader

Fabio Aru (Astana Team) attacked the general classification group towards the top of the final climb to gain a few extra seconds, whilst Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing) lost further time off the back. The top three overall places remain unchanged - Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) sits ten seconds behind Chaves with Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) 33seconds adrift.

“(Aru) attacked, but I think it’s not my responsibility to close all gaps,” the 25-year-old said. “All of the other riders want to win, same to me, and finally Aru (gained) some seconds. He is an important rider, obviously, but I can’t go for all riders because I don’t have amazing amazing legs.

“It’s important to save energy for the future. There is a lot of important stages coming, and I say again it’s really important to stay really focused and concentrate.”

How it happened: It was another fast start but the break took much less time to form than on yesterday’s stage. The group of five was immediately allowed freedom, deemed of little threat to general classification with all riders more than 14minutes down on race leader Chaves.

They rode out to 13 minutes advantage with 80km to go and looked certain to contest the stage before Team Movistar and Astana took over the front from a conservative ORICA-GreenEDGE and the advantage started to tumble.

With seven kilometres to go the break looked tired and all of a sudden doomed but Lindeman and Ilia Koshevoy (Team Lampre-Merida) managed to fight and hold on to finish first and second respectively.

Here's Tinkoff-Saxo's news:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s team leader Rafal Majka placed 5th on the mountain stage to La Alpujarra after putting in an acceleration on the last section of the final climb. Having benefitted from a strong team effort that was finished off by tenacious work from Jesper Hansen, Majka took time on several rivals.

As Bert-Jan Lindeman took the stage win from the breakaway, Rafal Majka was powering off at the front in order to bridge a gap to Fabio Aru on the dying meters. Majka took 5th place, 7 seconds off Aru with the remaining favorites just behind, while others were trailing further back.

“It was a positive day and I think we did a good job. The team worked very hard to position me perfectly at the bottom of the last climb. Movistar pulled hard at the front of the peloton on the climb and then Jesper Hansen also worked hard at the front of the GC group to set the pace. It was too late to bridge the gap with the breakaway but I finished with the main GC group.”, comments Rafal Majka, who advances to 13th in the general classification, 1’29” off Esteban Chaves.

Dan Martin and Rafal Majka

Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) and Rafal Majka on stage 7's final ascent

Young climber Jesper Hansen put in an impressive performance by pulling hard for his captain at the front of the favorite’s group going into the final kilometers on La Alpujarra.

“Rafal and I were well positioned in the last climb and when Movistar stopped pulling, I worked to help him in the last five kilometers. I felt in great shape and I think we had very good day”, tells Jesper Hansen.

Stage 7 of Vuelta a España took the riders 191.1km from Jódar to the category 1 climb of La Alpujarra on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada ridge. Tristan Hoffman, Tinkoff-Saxo sports director, notes that he’s pleased with the outcome of the day and the signs showed by the key team riders for the mountains.

“Rafal was super today. He felt really good and he has been saying that he senses that he is getting better day by day. He made a move in the finale just after Aru attacked and he kept up the pace to the finish line despite the fact that the group behind managed to make contact on the very last meters. Also Jesper Hansen did a fantastic job and surprised everybody by sitting with the last 15-18 guys, while pulling at the front to help Rafal. Paulinho was also there for a long time but, unfortunately, Poljanski had a flat tire. Other than that, we once again saw Bennati, Brutt and Bodnar positioning Rafal nicely before the final climb”, explains Tristan Hoffman before adding about the days to come:

“We now have two stages, where the focus is back on Sagan. Of course, we will have to stay attentive for Rafal and we also realize that it will be difficult to get the win with Peter, as the stages are very tough. We have hard but shorter climbs on both stages, but we want to try. We then have a rest day and afterwards we’re back in the mountains in Andorra, where we will try to move Rafal up in the GC”.

Lotto-Soudal's plans for Sunday's GP Ouest France-Plouay

On Sunday 30 August a part of the WorldTour peloton will ride in Plouay, in the French region Bretagne. In this one-day race the riders have to cover almost 230 kilometres. First, the peloton will do eight loops of 26.9 kilometres, at the end it’s one final lap of 13.9 kilometres. Each time the peloton has to get over three hills: the Côte du Lezot, the Minojenn du Calvaire and the Côte de Ty-Marrec. After the last climb there are about three kilometres left till the finish line.

Bart Leysen, sports director Lotto Soudal: “We have big names in our team. Tim Wellens is in top shape at the moment, he’ll be an important member of the selection. Since the Tour Tony Gallopin only took part in the test race for the Olympic Games in Rio, where he got fourth. We’ll have to see if that’s any reference, but Tony is a rider for this type of races. He gets a free role. Last Sunday Tiesj Benoot did a hell of a job for the team in Hamburg, he’s really strong. He also has the capacity to jump away in the finale.”

“The last lap will be crucial on Sunday. It will be a classic scenario: an early breakaway, a team that controls and catches the leaders by the time of the last lap. We’ll try to get someone in the break, that’s a job for Stig Broeckx, Pim Ligthart and Louis Vervaeke. It’s then up to other teams to take control of the race. I think of BMC for example, who will probably aim for a late attack with Gilbert and Van Avermaet. On that last hill it will be a fierce battle. If it’s still a sprint Jens Debusschere and Jürgen Roelandts have to get us a good result.”

The previous three editions Jürgen Roelandts each time finished in top ten. In 2014 he was tenth, in 2013 fourth and in 2012 fifth. The Belgian is looking forward to the race.

Jurgen Roelandts

Jurgen Roelandts in the 2013 Tour of Flanders

Jürgen Roelandts: “Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish the Eneco Tour due to illness. Last Sunday I took part in the Vattenfall Cyclassics, but with forty kilometres to go I was involved in a crash together with Jens Debusschere and Greg Henderson. I felt pretty good in Hamburg though, and the victory of André Greipel made it an incredible day. Luckily I had no injuries after the crash.”

“Plouay is a race I love. It’s on the course of the World Championships in 2000. The distance, 230 kilometres, is an advantage to me. Just like the course, with the succession of hills. Also the finish zone suits me, especially the fact that the last hectometres are uphill. It’s a tough race, but often a large group of about seventy to eighty riders sprints for the victory. And occasionally an escapee makes it.”

“We climb the last hill on a smaller road than in the past, the gradient is pretty much the same, but it’s an advantage when you can position yourself well. It’s of course more nervous. After the top it’s about three kilometres till the finish, the wind will be an important factor there. It’s slightly downwards, if the escapees have backwind they have a bigger chance to stay in front. With one and a half kilometres to go there are two turns and then it continues going downhill till 400 to 300 hundred metres before the line. Then the road goes a bit uphill again.”

“I hope to be better than in Hamburg and I expect that. I aim for a top ten again. We start with a strong team. Last year Tim Wellens was in front with six others, two seconds later I got third in the sprint of the peloton. In Plouay you have to gamble sometimes, it’s really tactical. In 2011 I was part of a front group of twelve, with Gilbert. We got caught in the last 600 metres. It’s often an exciting last kilometre: will the escapees make it or not? I have a chance when I join a break in the finale as well. In any case, the wind will play a part as well.”

Team Selection Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Stig Broeckx, Jens Debusschere, Tony Gallopin, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts, Louis Vervaeke and Tim Wellens.

Sports director: Bart Leysen.

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary