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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Thursday, June 18, 2015

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Today's Racing

Even more racing today than yesterday.

We'll start with the ongoing Tour de Suisse (Tour of Switzerland). Today is stage 6, 193.1 hilly kilometers going from Wil to Biel/Bienne

There are two other ongoing races, the Women's Tour of Britain and the Dutch Ster ZLM Toer.

And a stage race starts today in France, the Route du Sud.

Lizzie Armistead crashes at Tour of Britain, but will be OK

In the rush to the line at the first stage of the Women's Tour of Britain, Elizabeth Armistead was the fastest, taking the stage and the race's overall leadership.

But, just after crossing the line Armistead crashed badly. She was taken off in an ambulance and her team had to accept her awards.

The Commonwealth champion was taken to Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, but then returned to the team hotel. Armitstead was bruised and battered but otherwise OK.

She was conscious while being treated by paramedics.

After an evening of recovery, she decided she will not start stage 2. She posted this on the Boels Dolmans Cycling Team page on Facebook: "I remember winning with the help of my team mates and then not much else, but I am ok, nothing broken just very sore, thank you for all your kind messages and to the NHS staff who took care of me so well. I won't start tomorrow in the hope of recovering properly for the Nationals.”

Here is a video of the crash

Tour of Switzerland team news

This Swiss Tour report came from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Once again Peter Sagan was among the top finishers, as he grabbed 2nd place in the uphill finale. He launched his sprint in a reduced front group with 200 meters to go and gained enough points to snatch the points jersey. He’s now in 2nd place, tied on time for the leader’s jersey. However, the race heads into the high mountains tomorrow, where it will be Majka’s turn to come to the fore.

After the stage in Tour de Suisse, Peter Sagan says that he had started the sprint a bit too early. “It was quite challenging today, the stage was 193 km long. The first hill was quite good, but the final circuit was harder than we expected. My teammates did a good job. I messed up the finish myself, because I started sprinting too early and then Matthews got ahead of me. I blame myself, I made a mistake, but such is the sport. We'll see what happens in the next stages."

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan won stage 3 of the Tour of Switzerland a few days ago.

Sports Director Sean Yates explains that it came down to the bonus seconds on stage 4. "Today was really a matter of bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints. Second time around, Tom Dumoulin took 3 seconds, Matti Breschel was second and Peter was fourth and then second in the last bonus sprint, which meant that he had to win the stage to grab the yellow jersey. Of course it was a balancing act because we wanted to focus on the final sprint and the stage win. And as we saw, Peter was among the strongest again but Matthews just managed to overtake him on the last 100 flat meters and he finished second. The boys made a good effort and Peter was up there again”, says Sean Yates and adds about tomorrow’s stage in the high mountains.

“Now we have a day, where it’s time for Rafal Majka to test his shape and we’ll see how it goes. As we said before the race, his first objective is to build shape for Tour de France but if he’s going well, we’ll of course not let a good chance go to waste”.

And Tinkoff-Saxo sent this as well:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafal Majka finishes 11th on the queen stage of Tour de Suisse and moves closer to the top ten in the GC after having lost time on stage 2. Despite having felt the effects of a couple of laborious days in Switzerland, Rafal Majka is pleased to see his shape progressing ahead of one of his season goals; the Tour de France.

After having crossed the line atop the Rettenbach glacier near Sölden, Austria in 11th place behind stage winner Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Rafal Majka says that he feels his shape progressing.

“It was okay for me today, I’m not extremely happy and I felt a little bit tired after the last three days here in Tour de Suisse, where I have worked for Peter’s chances and it was also the first days after my return to racing. The most important for me is that I feel that my shape is getting better day-by-day. I still have two important weeks ahead of me before Tour de France and I have to continue to work hard on preparing myself. But all in all, I’m satisfied with my progress and we will continue to fight here in Tour de Suisse”, says Rafal Majka, who moves to 12th place in the GC.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka (in Tinkoff-Saxo dress)

Stage 5 of Tour de Suisse was not just the longest of the race; it also presented the riders with two HC climbs making it the queen stage of the race. For Peter Sagan, who kept his lead in the points classification, the stage was about saving the legs as much as possible ahead of the coming days that will suit his characteristics.

“Today was a day in the high mountains and it was Rafal’s turn to do his race. I could maybe relax a little bit more even though we had two HC climbs. As I didn’t go for the stage win, I tried to save energy for the next stages, where I want to try to get another win. I think I have a chance in the next stages and for sure my team supports me very well and we will see what happens in the next days”, comments Peter Sagan.

A group of eight riders constituted today’s breakaway, which in turn was reeled in on the final climb, where the group of favorites quickly started thinning out. Rafal Majka sat firm in the group up until the six-kilometer marker. He then settled into a tempo of his own and finished 1’40” down on Pinot, who secured the stage on the final part of the climb to 2669m. Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Sean Yates elaborates on the stage.

“All in all, it was a solid performance from Rafal. He wasn’t there to compete for the win but he certainly showed that he’s on the right track towards the Tour de France. He has two weeks left to build shape and this process will also continue during the first ten stages of the Tour. Simply said, our blueprint was to put one of the boys next to Rafal to support him and then follow the favorites for as long as possible. The guys did well and we now face some interesting stages, where Peter will come to the fore once again”, explains Sean Yates, who adds:

“We have four days left to race. We will naturally try to seize the possibilities we get to compete for the stage wins with Peter, as we know that he’s going well. And perhaps we’ll look into the possibility of moving Rafal a bit further up in the GC”.

Lampre-Merida's Swiss Tour report:

The 5th stage of the Tour de Suisse (Unterterzen-Solden, 237.3 km) was a key moment of the Swiss stage race. In the queen stage the riders covered the Bielerhohe (Hors Categorie Kom 109.6 km into the race) and battled on the climb to the arrival in Solden (13 km of ascent to the finish line at 2669 meters above the sea level).

For Team Lampre-Merida, today Przemyslaw Niemiec was the rider who succeded in realizing the best performance. He escaped from the bunch after very few kilometers in the race with other 7 attackers and the breakaway reached a top advantage of 10'.

However, in the approach of the final, the bunch, which was led by Katusha, Astana and FdJ, increase the intensity of the chase and reduced the gap, so that on the climb to Solden all the attackers were caught by the top climbers of the Tour de Suisse.

Niemiec was caught by the main cyclists at half-way up theclimb, just after that Durasek was dropped. The Croatian from Lampre-Merida had to climb at a slower pace than the other top riders, succeding in reaching the arrival with a gap of 3'05" to the winner Pinot.

After today's stage, Durasek is out of the top 10. He's 14th, at 3'21" to the new leader Pinot and at 35" behind the 10th place Henao.

Kistijan Durasek

Kristijan Durasek enjoys his Swiss Tour stage 2 stage win.

"We had two targets for today's stage: to have at least one rider in the breakaways in the first part of the course and to try to be with the top riders on the final climb - sport director Pedrazzini said - We were aware it would have been a very demanding day on a tough course, but we succeded in having Niemiec in the main breakaway.

Unfortunately, we could not achieve the second target, since Durasek could not be as competitive as he had been in the past stages. He realized that the pace of the other top climbers were too high, so he had to slow and to set a rhythm which was more suitable for him, limiting the gap.

It's now difficult for Kristijan to come back in the top ten of the overall classification, especially because there's a time trial which won't help him. Anyway, we all want to improve the collection of good performances of the team in this edition of the Tour de Suisse".

Lotto-Jumbo's Ster ZLM Toer Report

Martijn Keizer came within one second of winning the prologue of the SterZLM Toer on Wednesday. The Dutch rider of Team LottoNL-Jumbo had the fastest time for two hours, but was beaten by Robert Kluge (IAM Cycling), who was among the last starters.

“Very annoying”, summed up sports director Erik Dekker after the race. “I wanted it so bad for Martijn. He rode a fantastic time trial. He was really working for this time trial and gave everything he had. Martijn thought that he should be able to win it. And he was so close.” Dekker was doubly satisfied that Maarten Tjallingii and Robert Wagner also delivered good time trials. “We only expected more from Rick Flens, but he too gave everything. Everyone did. Everyone is really motivated.”

“You always have to wait until the last one”, Martijn Keizer said after he had the fastest time for two hours. “We chose to start early after we saw Weerplaza. If some rain was coming, I would have been later in the evening. A lot of the favourites for the win today were not as fast as me, so I started believing in winning this time trial. One of the last riders beat me in the end. That’s a big disappointment.”

There won’t be many chances for Keizer to grab the leader’s jersey in the second stage of the Ster ZLM Toer. “Probably not”, Dekker surmised. “I expect the second stage to be a hectic one. The roads are narrow and, with the local circuit in it, a lot of damage can be done. But I am sure that it will end up in a bunch sprint.”

The Route du Sud Starts today

Here's Cult Energy's Route du Sud news:

From Thursday 18th to Sunday 20th of June, Cult Energy Pro Cycling take on the French stage race, Route du Sud. The hilly stage race takes place in Southern France in and at the foot of the Pyrenees where big names like Laurent Jalabert, Michael Rogers, Daniel Martin, Nairo Quintana and Nicholas Roche have prevailed in the demanding terrain. The first edition of the race was held in 1977 and has traditionally been used as a last preparation before the Tour de France.

Cult Energy Pro Cycling enters the race with a solid mix of riders for all terrains; Rasmus Guldhammer, Linus Gerdemann, Romain Lemarchand, Karel Hnik, Christan Mager, Michael Reihs, Mads Pedersen and Michael Carbel.

Rasmus Gudlhammer

Rasmus Guldhammer

DS, Luke Roberts expects an open race: "We are entering the race with a strong team and with both Linus and Rasmus in the line-up, we'll have a decent chance for a good overall result. There's only one big mountain stage but without a mountain top finish, which doesn't favor the pure climbers. However, our priority is not the GC. We're better off looking for stage results as we have Carbel here for the sprints. I think the absence of the biggest sprinters leaves an open door for him. There's also a solid chance of breakaway success if the break can eventually outfox the bunch," says Roberts.

Tinkoff-Saxo will be there:

Tinkoff-Saxo is set to start Route du Sud as defending champions. This time, team captain Alberto Contador will spearhead the race as preparation for the Tour de France. Contador will get the backing from a proven squad of climbers and all-rounders.

According to Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Patxi Vila, the Route du Sud holds primarily two main objectives for Tinkoff-Saxo.

“Firstly, it's the first race after the Giro for Alberto Contador, Ivan Basso and Michael Rogers and these three riders need to compete before the Tour. The main objective for Tinkoff-Saxo is that they compete and enter into race-mode once again. After nearly three weeks of break they have to get into the mindset of a competition”, says Patxi Vila and adds:

“Secondly, these four days of racing will provide a very good assessment of their form, especially for Alberto. The real test will come in the third stage. It's the race's queen stage with three Cat 1 climbs, including the famous Port de Balès and will give a very good indication of Alberto's form. He will, obviously, fight to be in the front and being a very competitive athlete, we don't rule out the possibility that he might try to go for a stage win. However, there will be other, fresher, riders from other teams that will give their best because the GC will most probably be decided there”.

Tinkoff-Saxo lines up Alberto Contador, Ivan Basso, Michael Rogers, Sergio Paulinho, Chris Juul-Jensen, Ivan Rovny, Jesus Hernández and Oliver Zaugg, who makes his first appearance after crashing out of the Vuelta al País Vasco.

Sergio Paulinho

Sergio Paulinho will start the Route du Sud

The Route du Sud features four days of racing with a total of 692km in Southern France. About the route, Patxi Vila asserts that Tinkoff-Saxo will focus on building race shape on the first days of racing.

“The first two stages are fairly flat and suited for sprinters. Tinkoff-Saxo will not bring sprinters to the race and as a result these initial 350km of racing will be used to bring the riders to race-mode and prepare for the third stage. If Alberto feels good on the third stage, he will obviously need the entire squad to help him and that will be their task. The fourth and final stage is also fairly flat and will provide the last, real-race training for Alberto prior to the Tour de France”, finishes Patxi Vila.

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