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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Monday, May 18, 2015

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No Racing Today

Today is a rest day at the Giro d'Italia. And the other stage races we were tracking, the Tour of California, Tour de Picardie and the Bayern Rundfahrt, all finished Sunday.

The Tour of Norway (HC) begins Wednesday, the 20th. We've never reported it in depth before, but we will post complete results for each stage.

With all that racing Sunday, there were lots of team reports.

Tour of California team reports

Tinkoff-Saxo was justifiably happy with how the race turned out:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s team leader Peter Sagan secures overall victory at Amgen Tour of California after a sprint finale worth a Hollywood drama. Finishing third by a few millimeters was enough to secure the bonus seconds needed to regain the top spot. “At first I didn’t believe it”, says Peter Sagan, who takes the biggest GC-win of his career.

Before the stage, Peter Sagan had to finish at least 3rd and ahead of leader Julian Alaphilippe to surpass him in the GC. Equally Sagan had to try to make up time in the intermediate sprints and avoid losing seconds to Alaphilippe. Five meters before the finish line he was 4th, but throwing his bike forward in the last moment, he gained the millimeters on sprinter Tyler Farrar needed to conquer the sunshine state.

“I’m very happy, and I want to pay a big thanks to all my teammates for doing an incredible job. We lost two riders on the third stage, as Michael Kolar had allergy while Maciej Bodnar suffered a bad crash. I’m very happy and relieved as it was so close right until the end. I never would have thought that I could have won the GC, when I started the race so it’s also a surprise for me”, says Peter Sagan and adds about the minutes just after the finale of stage 8: “After the finish I didn’t know if I was third or fourth and I had to wait. My soigneur came running to me and yelled “you’re third, you’re third” and I asked him several times, if he was sure and then the race organizers confirmed it to me three times and in the end I believed them. I am very pleased”, says Peter Sagan.

The race finale was affected by multiple attacks and a dedicated effort from Etixx-Quickstep to secure Alaphilippe’s position. After having received the yellow jersey on the final podium of Amgen Tour of California 2015, Sagan adds that the finale was all or nothing.

“I didn’t have any further strategy in the final sprint, and I just had to go for it, it’s not just Tinkoff-Saxo and Etixx-Quikstep as there were many others trying to get a result and we had to pay attention to many factors and teams today in order for us to secure this win”.

Asked about his overall experience at Tour of California, Sagan notes that it required a consistent effort all the way, while the queen stage to Mt. Baldy was in a category of its own.

Peter Sagan wins Tour of California stage 4

Peter Sagan winning Tour of California stage 4

“All the stages have been incredible and especially yesterday on the queen stage to Mt. Baldy, where I must admit that I felt really good and had to dig really deep. For me the last kilometers yesterday on Baldy were so hard, my legs were burning but I had to continue on the climb, as I knew that it was still within reach of Alaphilippe”, explains Sagan before adding: “I believed that I could do it. I don’t know if it was the hardest effort that I’ve ever done, but it was tough. It was just 129k, while the Classics for instance are much longer and drain your energy slowly. But yes, yesterday I was in pain almost throwing up. But now everything is OK”, finishes the winner of Tour of California with a big smile.

BMC sent this Tour of California report:

Pasadena, California - BMC Racing Team's Daniel Oss secured the first "king of the mountains" title of his career Sunday as the 10th edition of the Amgen Tour of California concluded in Pasadena.

Oss donned the special polka dot classification jersey to the cheers of the crowd in the BMC Racing Team's home state. He first put himself in position to contend for the title by being part of breakaways on Stages 2 and 3 - the second of which earned him the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous jersey. He then took the lead on the penultimate stage of the eight-day race by earning points on the first two categorized climbs on Saturday.

"This was strange for me because I was always in the breakaways, accumulating points," Oss said. "But I am not a climber. I weigh 80 kilos. But I was looking for this jersey after the first breakaway and getting some points. I said, 'this is something we have to do,' so we went after it."

Daniel Oss

Daniel Oss

Oss said he started the race unsure of his form after going nearly a month between events. "I didn't know what I could do," he said. "This was my first race after the classics season. I felt fresh and I felt good and I was just looking to see what I could do to build my shape up for the second part of the season."

In the overall standings, Ben Hermans was the BMC Racing Team's best finisher in 12th place. He was 2:21 behind Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), who used a time bonus for his third-place finish on the last stage to overtake Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) and win the race by three seconds. Alaphilippe's teammate, Mark Cavendish, took his fourth victory of the week by out-sprinting Wouter Wippert (Drapac Pro Cycling) and Sagan at the end of the 105.2-kilometer circuit race around the Rose Bowl Stadium.

Oss is the second rider from the BMC Racing Team to win the king of the mountains crown at the Amgen Tour of California, joining Scott Nydam, who did it in 2008.

And then there was that race in Italy...

This Giro d'Italia report is from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo deflected an array of attacks from its rival teams, while Alberto Contador himself responded to accelerations from Fabio Aru in the race finale. Consequently, Tinkoff-Saxo will spend the rest day still in the lead, while Alberto Contador notes that he already today felt progress with his injured shoulder and knee.

Finishing in a select group of favorites with Aru, Landa and Porte behind stage winner Paolo Tiralongo, Alberto Contador comments that he was happy with his sensations on the “unusual stage”.

“For me, it was one of the most unusual stages I have ever experienced. I don’t know how much everybody saw on TV but it was incredible throughout the stage. In the finale, I followed the attack from Aru and we agreed to work together. Aru took one second on me in the sprint, but it’s one second in a long Giro so it doesn’t worry me. The important thing is that I felt better today with my shoulder and knee, which I also hurt in the crash”, says Alberto Contador and adds about the work done to control the race.

“When the big breakaway rode away and extended the lead, we realized that we wouldn’t catch them, but at the end of the day standing here, it seems as if the day wasn’t bad at all and the team did a really good job in controlling the events on a very difficult stage.”

Looking ahead after the first week of Giro d’Italia 2015, the captain of Tinkoff-Saxo says that “the team and I now have a rest day, where we must focus on recovering. This is the first week of the Giro d’Italia done and the next big challenge will be the long time trial after some flatter stages. I’m really happy to have passed these last days and we can start looking ahead.”

The start of the 224km stage 9 to San Giorgio del Sannio was carried out at a roaring pace with high intensity that affected the entire stage, according to Tinkoff-Saxo’s sports director Steven de Jongh.

Alberto Contador fnishes stage 9

Contador finishes stage 9 ahead of Richie Porte

“It was a bloody hard stage and the boys did very well and rode a smart race. We are happy with the situation and how Alberto has made it through these last difficult days. Today we had lots of attacks from the start and a big group of riders took off. We took control at the front but the intensity was very high”, tells Steven de Jongh and adds: “So we sent out Paulinho in an attack after the descent from Terminio with around 100k to go to put pressure on Astana. They brought him back and the bunch took time on the front group. We then waited and regrouped and brought some of our guys back up to the front. In the finale, Alberto did what he had to do and we can be happy with the situation. I said earlier that the goal was to survive these days and now we have a rest day and some easier stages to come.”

After another day of laborious effort, Tinkoff-Saxo’s Chris Juul-Jensen welcomes the rest day. “Today, it all started in a blazing tempo, where we rode at rocket speed to keep everything together. In the first 60k, it was especially tough, as we had attack after attack from Astana. Of course it took its toll but it’s the same for everybody, only difference is that we have to do it from the front and in the wind. But that’s how it is when you are in the leader’s jersey and it’s of course not easier when you have a stage profile like this. I must say that the rest day is very welcome”, concludes Chris Juul-Jensen.

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's Giro letter:

Steven Kruijswijk showed his courage another time in the Italian mountains after his brave performance on Saturday. The leader of Team LottoNL-Jumbo ignored the pain in his legs to chase Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) for second place in San Giorgio del Sannio.

“I wasn’t planning to attack again”, Kruijswijk said. “I was aiming for the mountain jersey a little bit, so I thought to try something later on in the stage. After half an hour of riding, I felt quite good actually. That’s why I chose to attack again. Of course I was a little slowed down by yesterday’s effort, I felt less explosive, and so I wasn’t able to participate in the mountain sprints.”

Sports Director Jan Boven wasn’t surprised at all with Kruijswijk’s performance. “We knew that he had good preparation,” said Boven. “He’s in good form. He was planning to try something at a later moment in the stage, but he proved to be sharp from the beginning. It looked like the breakaway wasn’t able to hold on for a long time. The gap didn’t grow more than five minutes. Afterwards, the pack with the overall riders slowed down. Steven wasn’t feeling good anymore and saved his energy in the rest of the stage, waiting for the top of the last climb.”

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruiswijk attacking in Giro stage 8

“I reached my maximum in the final kilometres,” Kruijswijk added. “I wasn’t the only one who was tired in the end. Unfortunately, second place in the day was the highest possibility at that moment, but I didn’t expect to reach that before the day. My legs and my back were hurting, so I had to rely on my mental strength. I’m tough enough for that. Hopefully I’m able to grab a stage victory this Giro, because I’m good enough for it.”

Kruijswijk will be able to recover from his hard weekend on Monday. “The rest day is welcome for us,” Boven added. “It’s been a very tough first week. I haven’t seen that often in a grand tour.
“The day after the rest day is flat. That will give us the chance to work for Moreno Hofland again. Steven can use it as an extra day to recover.”

The Tour de Picardie ended Sunday, this from Lotto-Soudal

Kris Boeckmans has won the last stage of the Tour de Picardie and is the overall winner. The 28-year-old rider already won the opening stage on Friday, when teammate Jasper De Buyst was second, and yesterday Kris was second behind Andrea Guardini.

After seventy kilometres a front group of four was formed. The last of the escapees was caught at four kilometres from the finish line. Lotto Soudal had controlled the peloton all day long. In the streets of Mers-Les-Bains the third bunch sprint in this race took place. Kris Boeckmans was the fastest. He beat Andrea Guardini and Bryan Coquard.  In the overall classification Boeckmans is ten seconds ahead of Guardini.

Kris Boeckmans

Kris Boeckmans

Kris Boeckmans: “The first hour and a half the pace was really high. When the front group of four was formed our team controlled the chase. In the local lap lay a short hill. Tiesj pulled there and eight riders got a gap, Jasper De Buyst and I were in that group. The peloton could return. The last three kilometres were flat. I positioned myself in the wheel of Andrea Guardini, the only one who could take the overall victory away from me. There was a headwind and he started the sprint with two hundred metres to go, one hundred metres further I got out of his wheel. I beat him with ten to fifteen centimetres. Yesterday Guardini surprised me in the sprint. I had the feeling I could have won that stage as well. The whole team was strong this race, this is just wonderful.”

Kurt Van de Wouwer, sports director: “Our first goal was to win a stage. We did that already on the first day, with a nice second place of Jasper De Buyst. Kris Boeckmans was the leader after day one and of course we wanted to keep that jersey. Yesterday we didn’t have much support, we were the only team that chased. It was only at the end of the stage that Astana came to the front. Their rider Andrea Guardini won the stage and Kris was second. At the start of the last stage Guardini was six seconds behind Kris in GC, so we weren’t sure to win yet. A group took off before the first intermediate sprint, so the bonification seconds were gone. That group was reeled in and four new riders took off. They were caught in time. Magnificent that we won two stages and the overall classification. The whole team did a fantastic job.”

The Tour of Bavaria-Bayern Rundfahrt also finished Sunday

This note is from Giant-Alpecin:

Following a third place in the opening stage on Wednesday, a win in Thursday's stage and a seventh place on stage 3, Degenkolb was the fastest in the bunch sprint in Nuremberg today. After another superb lead-out by the team, Degenkolb laid down a strong sprint to take the win at the final stage of the German stage race.

In addition to his two stage wins, Degenkolb also takes home the blue sprinters jersey.

John Degenkolb: “It was a perfect day, everything went according to plan and I am very happy with this victory. The finale was hectic but the team did well. We stayed together and they guys laid down another good lead-out for me. From 200 meters I started the sprint and won.

"After my small mistake in the sprint of stage 3, by choosing the wrong side in the corner, this is a nice way to set things straight. It is never easy to win a second stage since everyone looks at us and it’s difficult with the pressure that is involved. It was a special victory for me personally, this is close to where I grew up.”

John Degenkolb wins Tour of Bavaria stage 5

John Degenkolb wins the Bayern Rundfahrt stage 5

Christian Guiberteau: "It was a perfect day. To finish the Bayern Rundfahrt like this is really great. All day the race leader’s team controlled the breakaway and we could save energy in the bunch.

"While heading to the local circuits, together with other the sprinters’ teams, we took over and cooperated on controlling the bunch to avoid late attacks in the finale. The local circuits included a small hill which was difficult for a lot of riders since it is the fifth day of racing here in Bayern. After another great job by the team with a very good lead-out. John did a fantastic job to win the stage."

Here's Cult Energy's Bavaria report:

On today’s 197 kilometer long fifth and final stage of Bayern Rundfahrt, Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Christian Mager participated in the long-lasting breakaway consisting of six riders but managed to go solo on the final 20 kilometers. Eventually the stage was concluded in a bunch where teammate and 20-year-old Michael Carbel finished 5th.

After only 6 kilometers of racing leaving Hassfurt behind, the escapees managed to sail away from the bunch to sweep up all bonus seconds on the course. In the peloton, the leading team of Movistar took charge of the pace-making along with some of the sprinter teams as yet another bunch sprint was expected in Nürnberg this afternoon.

Going under the 20 kilometer banner, Cult Energy’s Christian Mager launched a solo attack and prolonged his position in the front of the race. However, the stage was concluded in a hectic bunch sprint where Cult Energy Pro Cycling Dane, Michael Carbel finished 5th.

Michael Carbel reports: "Entering the finale, Rasmus Quaade worked hard to keep me on the front and when things got more hectic, Alex Kirsch and Linus were there to guide and protect me to the finish line where I managed to come in fifth. The finish line was pretty straight forward compared to the other lumpy finals in this race but this was a perfect match. I haven't been racing for almost a month so it's great to be back like this and feel that I have the power to compete. Now, I'm looking that much more forward to the next challenges," concludes Michael Carbel.

Michael Carbel

Michael Carbel

DS, Luke Roberts says: "The stage turned out pretty well for us. Christian simply couldn't resist the urge to attack and he went on a climb in the beginning of the stage to spend most of the day in the break. Entering the finale, the boys did a perfect job setting up Michael for the bunch sprint and he put a good result in the pocket sprinting across the line in fifth position. A demonstration from Michael showing that he's strong enough to compete with the best out there and considering the fact that he's only 20 years old, I reckon that with some more experience he'll be on the top step of the podium eventually," says Luke Roberts.

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