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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Monday, July 20, 2015

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

Today's Racing

Today's Tour de France stage, number 16, takes the race to the coming Alpine stages, where this Tour will be settled. Stage 16 will be will be no walk in the park with its two second-category climbs:

Stage 16 profile

Stage 16 profile

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

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

David L. Stanley explains Tour stage 15

Tour de France stage 15 was a hard, fast day of racing in France. David L. Stanley tells the stage story and gives it his usual excellent analysis.

Greg van Avermaet quits Tour de France

Greg van Avermaet is leaving the Tour de France. The BMC rider might very well be Belgium's best rider. He is going home to attend his pregnant girlfriend for the birth of their first child. BMC team leader Tejay van Garderen made the news known with a tweet.

He initially thought he would leave after last Monday's rest day, but stayed a week longer and won a stage on Friday. He said, "It is time to abandon the Tour. I wanted to stay as long as possible to support BMC, but now I can be more useful on the home front. Normally I would go home tomorrow morning, but my girlfriend said it might be too late. I leave the Tour thus a day earlier and hope to be home in time.

"It's always hard to leave the Tour, but now there is something more important than that. I hope BMC continues to perform well, but I'm pretty sure that will be achieved. Hopefully everyone safely Paris."

Greg van Avermaet wins Tour stage 13

Greg van Avermaet wins stage 13 in front of Peter Sagan.

Tour de France team reports

Lotto-Soudal was clearly happy to send out this release:

The fifteenth stage in the Tour brought the riders from Mende to Valence. Over 183 kilometres, the riders had to cover a sloped course with four ascents. The early breakaway never got much advantage, so the stage ended in a bunch sprint. André Greipel appeared to be the fastest and he obtained his third victory in this Tour de France. Froome maintains the yellow jersey, Gallopin is still ninth in the GC.

There were nine riders in the breakaway, among them green jersey Sagan and Lotto Soudal rider Lars Bak. Their lead never went above the three minutes and at 30 kilometres before the finish they were caught by the peloton. After that, the peloton prepared itself for a bunch sprint. Cavendish didn’t participate in that sprint because he was in a chasing group behind the peloton since the beginning of the stage, with among others Démare and Sieberg. At the end, Stybar tried to get away, but he was caught in the final kilometre. The expected sprint took place and Greipel was the strongest. It’s his ninth victory at the Tour de France. In that way, he also minors his backlog in the points classification, which is lead by Sagan. He’s 44 points ahead.

André Greipel: “The first 18.5 kilometres were very important for me. If I could survive in the beginning of the stage, I knew that I could sprint for the victory. The biggest task was to stay in the peloton during these tough first kilometres, I really suffered. Afterwards there was a plateau and then there was a downhill. The only obstacle left on the course was a climb of the second category.”

Andre Greipel wins stage 15

André Greipel wins stage 15

“Lars was in the breakaway. He didn’t help in the front group and  because of the great work of Katusha in the peloton, the breakaway didn’t get much space. Also the teammates did an excellent job and surrounded me very well. Tim Wellens kept me out of the wind and they nicely guided me to the sprint. It was a different sprint today because Greg Henderson and Marcel Sieberg weren’t there, but Jens Debusschere and the others really did a great effort. I can only be thankful for their work.”

“I suffered the whole day and I had some problems with my knee. But with the finish line in sight, I can always give that extra push. I knew that in the final 250 meters, there was a headwind. My timing was just good enough, although Degenkolb and Kristoff came close. At first, we came to the Tour de France for one victory, the fact that we won three stages now is just a dream. This sprint was the toughest of all sprint stages. The last chance will be on the Champs-Elysées, but first we’ll have to deal with the Alps. We will see what Paris brings.”

Here's BMC's take on stage 15:

Valence, France - Tejay van Garderen of the BMC Racing Team remained in third place overall at the Tour de France as the top of the overall standings did not change following Sunday's bunch sprint finish.

André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) won his third stage of this year's race while van Garderen finished 25th and in the same time. Chris Froome (Team Sky) leads van Garderen by 3:32 with one week of the race to go.

After the last riders from the day's breakaway were overhauled with 40 kilometers to go in the 183-km race, the BMC Racing Team massed near the front inside the final 20 km.

"We knew that there were some narrow passages and a lot of roundabouts coming into the final kilometers," van Garderen said. "So we wanted to make sure we were in the front and not in trouble. Today was another really brutal day. It might not have looked like it. But it was full gas from the start and very aggressive. I am still feeling good and confident for the Alps. I think the Alps are definitely more suited to my characteristics as a rider."

BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said he had cautioned the team about the possibility of a dangerous day due to a possibility of a fast pace and another day of warm temperatures.

"We never have an easy day at the Tour de France," Ledanois said. "It was a hard, fast day for a lot of riders. There was one group with 20 riders that was 15 or 20 minutes behind. But for us, it was perfect. The guys did a very good job until the last two kilometers, keeping Tejay in the top position and making sure we did not take a risk in the final."

And here's what Tinkoff-Saxo had to say about stage 15:

Peter Sagan was once again proactively seeking the win on stage 15 to Valance, as he took part in the breakaway of the day, where he also scored maximum points in the intermediate sprint before being caught by the chasing peloton. In a hectic sprint, Sagan took 4th place behind main green jersey rival André Greipel and now leads the points classification by 44 points.

Peter Sagan took his 10th top five result of this Tour with a fourth place on stage 15. After the stage, Sagan notes that he wanted to pursue his possibilities in the breakaway.

“From the start it was a hard parcours and it all ended in a crazy sprint. I wanted to change my bike from my lighter climbing Specialized Tarmac to my fast new Venge for the sprint but a motorbike with a TV crew got in the way between me and my team car, which slowed down my bike change. Meanwhile the group was going at full speed but my teammates came down and supported me. It was very hectic in the sprint and there was a lot of movement but that’s how it is in a sprint, it’s like a lottery sometimes. I wanted to win today and I tried to go in the breakaway because it had a chance to stay away to the finish”, says Peter Sagan, who now leads the points classification by 44 points.

“Katusha and Europcar were pulling at the front and in the end Greipel won. But nobody from the team crashed or had bad luck so it’s okay. At the finish we had headwind and in the final corner I was too far back. We all know that Greipel is a hard man to beat. It was very hectic in the last 500 meters, where everybody came to the front and I tried to gain positions but Kristoff was in the way and I was fourth. I had hoped that today could have been better but I took some points and it was important that I didn’t crash. Now, we are looking forward to tomorrow and then we have the final rest day”, adds Sagan, while team captain Alberto Contador notes:

"I feel satisfied with the way I raced in this stage, we had a day with no incidents or crashes. There is no doubt it was a hard and tiring stage, as we covered 183km in less than four hours adding up the fatigue of two weeks of racing. This could lead to a surprise in the final week. What I can assure is that I will try to do my best to create situations in the race and achieve something nice”.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan's hard racing earned him the combativity prize, the red number.

Stage 15 of Tour de France featured 183 kilometers, where the final 45km flattened before the sprint into Valence. Entering the last 35 kilometers of the stage Peter Sagan and the team sports directors opted to perform a bike change for the more aerodynamic new Venge, better suited for the fast sprint. However, a motorbike broadcasting the race got in between Sagan and the team car, clearly obstructing the team’s work. In the turmoil, team sports director Sean Yates was suspended for one race day – a decision that Head Sports Director Steven de Jongh accepts however not without noting that the motorbike’s position was in clear violation with the race regulations.

“Peter stopped for the bike change but the TV broadcaster’s motorbike had forced itself in between him and our car and we could not perform the bike shift efficiently. Peter signaled the motorbike three times to continue but without response. The outcome is that Sean can’t participate in the race on stage 16. It is the jury’s decision and we have to respect it. However, it’s imperative to underline that all teams including us must be able to do our work. It’s very clear that motorbikes should stay to the left leaving the riders and teams to perform on the right side. That didn’t happen today, so we hope and expect that this scenario won’t play out again”, comments Steven de Jongh before adding about today’s performance.

“I think the riders did a good race and performed well as a team. Peter was very proactive and made a big effort to ride the stage from the front of the race. He took maximum points in the intermediate sprint before the break was caught on the descent from the final climb. In the sprint he was blocked going into the final 500 meters and ended up a little too far back after that last corner. He tried to get around, but I think he can be satisfied with his effort. Now, we look forward to tomorrow, which will feature a challenging finale”, finishes de Jongh.

LottoNL-Jumbo sent me this stage 15 update:

The fifteenth stage of the Tour de France began with a large escape that included LottoNL-Jumbo rider Steven Kruijswijk and ended in a bunch kick, won by André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal). Paul Martens placed 14th behind Greipel.

“It was a tough day,” Kruijswijk said after the race. “I was part of a big leading group, but we didn’t get much space. I knew that it was going to be another day in the peloton at that moment. Nine riders escaped out of our leading group of 27, but Team Katusha made sure that the gap to the escape stayed very small. It wouldn’t make sense for me to try to follow those nine riders. It’s a pity because I was feeling good today.”

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk

When it became clear that the stage was going to end up in a bunch sprint, in spite of the though profile in the beginning, Paul Martens thought that it was in his advantage. “I was expecting that the sprinters were suffering a little more than I was,” he added. “That’s why I wanted to go for it. I was well placed, but it was a headwind finish so many men were able to make it to the front. I was scared for a while in the sprint. Peter Sagan and Bryan Coquard touched each other and that almost caused a crash. Unconsciously, you’re quieter when something like that happens.”

“We knew that there was a chance that it was going to end up in a bunch sprint,” Sports Director Nico Verhoeven said. “Team Katusha worked hard for it. Everything came back together with 30 kilometres to go. Some of our men were trying to be part of the early breakaway, but the tough profile in the beginning of the stage made it difficult.

“Tomorrow, it’s going to be the opposite. That stage starts quite easily, but turns hard in the end. When you’re in the breakaway, you have to be a good climber to hold a lead.”

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