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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Sunday, July 19, 2015

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

Today's Racing

Today's Tour de France stage, number 15, starts out tough, but the last climb, a second-category beast, comes at the 126th kilometer. From there its a cruise to the finish in Valence. Several teams had their sprinters take easy today with this stage in mind.

Stage 15 profile

Tour de France stage 15 profile

The Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen (Women's Tour of Thuringia) continues. We're posting complete results for this week-long, important stage race.

Today we also have the Italian Trofeo Matteotti (1.1). I've got the start list and stage profile posted.

On Wednesday, the 22nd, the Grand Prix Cerami (1.1) will be run.

David L. Stanley explains Tour stage 14

Tour de France stage 14 had a hilltop finish and some good, hard racing. David L. Stanley tells the stage story and gives it his usual excellent analysis.

Froome doused with urine in Tour stage 14

This from the AP: A spectator yelling "doper" hurled a cup of urine at Chris Froome, the Tour de France leader said, on Saturday's Stage 14 won by fellow British rider Stephen Cummings. Froome blamed "very irresponsible" reporters for whipping up public opinion against him and his Sky team.

Some 50km into the stage from Rodez, the yellow jersey wearer said he spotted a roadside spectator acting bizarrely. "I saw this guy just peering around and I thought, 'That looks a bit strange'," he said. "As I got there he just sort of launched this cup toward me and said (in French) 'Doper'.

"No mistake, it was urine," he said. "That's unacceptable on so many levels."

Just as he did in winning the Tour for the first time in 2013, Froome has faced pointed questions about his dominant performance - and that of his team - along with insinuations of doping.

His Sky teammate Richie Porte said another person, also seemingly a spectator, thumped him with a "full-on punch" a few days earlier on a climb in the Pyrenees. Porte suggested journalists may be putting riders in danger by "whipping up all the rubbish that they are".

Froome echoed that thinking. "I certainly wouldn't blame the public for this," he said. "I would blame some of the reporting on the race that has been very irresponsible. It is no longer the riders who are bringing the sport into disrepute now, it's those individuals, and they know who they are."

Chris Froome

Chris Froome climbs to the finish in stage 14.

He refused to identify specific journalists or reports, but said: "They set that tone to people and obviously people believe what they see in the media."

Generations of dopers, none more famous than Lance Armstrong, have left trust in short supply in cycling and Froome's repeated assurances that he is clean have fallen on deaf ears.

"If this is part of the process we have to go through to get the sport to the better place, obviously I'm here, I'm doing it," he said. "I'm not going to give up the race because a few guys are shouting insults. Unfortunately this is the legacy that has been handed to us by the people before us, people who have won the Tour only to disappoint fans a few years later," he added.

Although such assaults remain rare, Froome is not the first rider in Tour history to have been doused by urine, nor is Porte the first to be punched. The incident put a dampener on a day when Froome extended his already comfortable race lead, with the Alps looming next week as the last major obstacle between him and a second victory in Paris.

Sepulveda out of Tour after hitching lift

MENDE, France (Reuters) - Argentine Eduardo Sepulveda's decision to hitch a short lift in a rival team's car after a mechanical on the 14th stage proved a costly one when he was thrown out of the race on Saturday.

The Bretagne Seche rider broke a chain 57 kilometres from the finish and hopped into a AG2r-La Mondiale car to take him 100 metres up the road to his awaiting team car.

Tour rules forbid any rider to be driven on the route during a stage. "I saw Eduardo in the rear mirror and I stopped," said Bretagne Seche manager Emmanuel Hubert. Instead of walking towards me he climbed in the AG2r car. They did 100 metres so that's the rules, he's out of the race."

Eduardo Sepulveda

Eduardo Sepulveda getting ready to start Tour stage 7. No more Tour starts for Eduardo this year.

Tour de France stage 14 team reports

Here's what Stephen Cummings had to say after winning stage 14:

I wasn’t the strongest today and I knew there were better climbers in our lead group. I had to play the waiting game today as FDJ were looking to set up Pinot for the win. I waited and waited and eventually the last climb arrived which I rode at my own pace. Pinot and Bardet were just ahead and I used them as the carrot dangling in front of me for motivation.

Everyone went bananas at the start of the climb but the key was to remain calm and take my opportunity when it arrived. I made contact with the two Frenchman at the top of the climb and knew they might hesitate to chase me if I got the jump on them on the flat part before the finish. I threw caution to wind and just went for it. It paid off and I won the stage.

This is an incredible day for me and the team, with it being Mandela Day the team was motivated more than usual but I don’t think we can quite believe what has just happened. It may take a while to sink in.

Stephan Cummings wins stage 14

Stephan Cummings wins stage 14

Giant-Alpecin's Ramon Sinkeldam abandons:

Ramon Sinkeldam (NED) abandoned the Tour de France today on stage 14 after suffering from stomach problems, which were caused by sickness.

“I got sick overnight, slept badly and nearly was able to eat this morning. Nevertheless in good hope I started but felt bad and after 20km I threw up a couple of times and was completely out of energy,” said Sinkeldam. “I am really disappointed. In my first Vuelta I also abandoned in the second week. My personal goal was to make it to Paris and to help John [Degenkolb], which I physically would be capable of doing. Unfortunately, it will not happen this year.”

Team physician Stephan Jacolino added: "Ramon got sick last night, as a result of the heat and the huge efforts for the team, which were extremely demanding. Today during the stage he paid the price, unfortunately for him and the team."

Here's BMC's stage 14 report:

Mende, France - Tejay van Garderen slipped from second to third overall Saturday at the Tour de France, but the BMC Racing Team's leader said he is not losing sight of a podium finish in Paris.

Van Garderen finished 25th, 39 seconds after Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team), who was out-sprinted at the finish by race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky). Quintana moved into second overall, 3:10 back of Froome, while van Garderen is a further 22 seconds behind.

Van Garderen lost contact on the Côte de la Croix Neuve, a three-kilometer climb with an average gradient of 10 percent that summited 1.5 kilometers from the end of the 178.5 km race.

"I just tried to stay within myself and limit the time loss," van Garderen said. "It is a pity to move down a place on GC (general classification), but the podium is still very much a realistic goal. It was a difficult climb. On those gradients, that is where I tend to struggle the most. The Alps are better suited to my characteristics. I am still looking forward and I am still feeling good.

"Even though I lost time on a couple of guys, I still gained time on Robert Gesink and Geraint Thomas and a few other guys close on GC," van Garderen continued. "So it was not entirely an unsuccessful day. I kind of knew this day was going to be one I had to get through. Now the Alps present more opportunities and more chances to take back some time."

Tejay van Garderen

Tejay van Garderen on Alejandro Valverde's wheel

BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois was also optimistic about van Garderen's chances.

"Tejay lost time, but this climb was very hard and steep, which was perfect for the big climbers like Quintana and Alejandro Valverde," Ledanois said. "The longer climbs - ones that are 15 and 20 kilometers - are better for Tejay. The tour is not finished. We have a very hard week still to come. So we will keep going, step-by-step, toward our No. 1 objective, which is the podium in Paris."

Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) took the stage win by rocketing past runner-up Thibault Pinot (FDJ) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) on the downhill run-in to the finish. The trio was part of a 20-man breakaway that included BMC Racing Team's Greg Van Avermaet, who won his first Tour de France stage Friday. Van Avermaet finished 16th.

"I did not want to be in the break but I ended up in it because there were about 20 guys away and they closed the roads just after me. So I just went on," Van Avermaet said. "I tried to save as much energy as possible. But this kind of finish was pretty hard and I could not make it with the sprinters. It was too steep in the end and too long."

Tinkoff-Saxo sent this report:

Peter Sagan took another step in the right direction towards securing the green jersey, as he extended his lead to 61 points after a laborious but fruitful day in the break. Meanwhile, Tinkoff-Saxo’s team captain Alberto Contador notes that he is satisfied with his sensations on the steep finishing climb in Mende, where he lost 19 seconds to the yellow jersey.

Peter Sagan, who finished fifth on the undulating stage, says that after taking maximum points in the intermediate sprint, he eyed a slight chance on the 3k finishing climb.

“It was really hard because the finale was so tough with a three-kilometer climb of more than 10 percent. I took 20 points in the intermediate sprint and at that point it was really hectic, everybody wanted to break away but I managed to secure the points. It was overall a good day, but the battle for the green jersey is not over. We have seven stages left and we have to pay attention every day. Today, I said to myself that I would try to go as fast as I could on the final climb and I’m okay with the result. The climbers in the group accelerated at the bottom and I thought that I should keep my own pace and perhaps there would be a slight chance that I could catch them at the top. Of course, I would like to win, but it’s not easy for me on a climb like this”, says Peter Sagan before adding about tomorrow’s stage to Valence.

“Today I was thinking about tomorrow’s stage and I really hadn’t planned to go in the breakaway. But I aimed for the intermediate sprint and suddenly I was in the there and then I stayed, which also meant that I took extra points for the green jersey on the finish line. Maybe I can try again tomorrow but I’m not Superman. So we will see how I feel and for sure we’re going to do our best again, maybe I’m tired and maybe I’m not”.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan climbs to the stage 14 finish at Mende

Stage 14 finished off its 178.5 kilometers by sending the riders up a 3km final climb of 10.1 percent. Here the GC rivals went head to head behind the breakaway, where Steven Cummings (MTN) took the stage win. Team captain Alberto Contador tells that his sensations were better despite losing 19 seconds to the yellow jersey of Chris Froome.

“Despite the fact that I lost time, I’m satisfied because I have a different sensation while I’m riding, I can go out of the saddle, I can plan attacks and I feel more confident. However it’s a fact that we lost time today but although Paris seems to be near, the Tour is a long way from being over. And we still hope to achieve nice things in the following days. I was focused on Froome and Valverde and I knew that they were going to accelerate because Quintana was coming from behind. I knew that if I could get a bit of air, I would catch them again, but in the end their last acceleration was too fast for me and I decided to keep my own rhythm”, says Alberto Contador and continues:

“I could have attacked or followed, when Nibali and Quintana made a move, but I decided to play my cards by sitting on the wheel of Froome. You never know which strategy will be the right one, today I played that card, maybe another day I will play a different card. That will depend on how my legs feel. Today we were supposed to have thunderstorms but in the end it didn’t rain. Rain is an important factor that has a strong influence on the performance of each rider and each rider is affected in a different way. Maybe we have rainy weather in the following days and we can take advantage of that”.

Following the stage finish, Tinkoff-Saxo’s Head Sports Director Steven de Jongh says that nothing is yet certain in the fight for the green jersey.

“It wasn’t planned that Peter should go in the breakaway but it happened, since he was aiming for the intermediate sprint. Rafal and several of our guys were also coming to the front during the stage to assist and at some point Peter found himself in the break and he stayed there and in the end he also took extra points at the finish line. He’s now 61 points ahead but nothing is certain and we have to stay attentive”, says de Jongh and adds about Contador’s chances in the GC:

“In what regards Alberto, I think he did fairly well on the final climb, he couldn’t follow Froome but he was among the first GC guys to cross the line. For him and the team to make a real difference in the GC, we have to hope for rainy days in the Alps”.

And here's what LottoNL-Jumbo had to say about stage 14:

Robert Gesink held his seventh place in the general classification of the Tour de France. He finished 26th and just behind the top five overall in the 14th stage to Mende. Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) won the stage from an escape.

The day didn’t start as well as Team LottoNL-Jumbo wanted. Robert Gesink, Tom Leezer and Laurens ten Dam were involved in a crash early in the stage and Laurens ten Dam fell another time, afterwards. “It was a double setback for me today,” Ten Dam said after the race. “I started the day with antibiotics because I had some respiratory problems. Afterwards, I fell two times and in that second crash those old scars began to bleed again. I hope that my lungs recover quickly and fully because my legs are feeling strong.”

Robert Gesink

Robert Gesink

“The little crash I was involved in was nothing serious,” Gesink added. “I only had to chase for twenty kilometres to return to the peloton afterwards. Besides that, I was feeling fine. That last climb was an annoying one. It was hectic, but I started climbing in a good position at the front of the group. In the end, I finished in a group with my main competitors and I was setting the pace.”

Team LottoNL-Jumbo wasn’t part of the early breakaway of twenty riders, but that was a deliberate decision. “We had other priorities,” sports director, Nico Verhoeven said. “We wanted to deliver Robert in good position at the foot of the climb. He came out at the right place eventually. Of course, we were a little scared after his crash, but there isn’t that much damage.”

Verhoeven expects that the stage on Sunday is going to end up in a bunch sprint. “It’s the last day in which the sprinters have a chance until Paris. I guess they will aim for it.”

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