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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Sunday, May 31, 2015

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Racing Today

We've had three ongoing stage races. All three finish today.

First, the Giro d'Italia's twenty-first stage. This is a pan-flat run from Torino to Milan finishing with 7 laps of 5.4 km, totaling 178 km. There should be no change to the overall standings. But it will be an exciting, fast race.

The Tour de Belgique/Ronde van Belgie's fifth stage, like yesterday, is a convoluted loop: Sankt Vith - Sankt Vith

The Tour de Fjords in Norway is ending as well. The fifth stage is 186 kilometers going from Hinna Park to Stavanger.

Fabio Aru to TDF?

AFP reports that Giro d'Italia second place rider Fabio Aru might ride the Tour de France, a race that was not on his original season program. Team manager Alexandre Vinokourov said, "We will see how he recovers from the Giro, but Fabio needs to gain experience, to know the Tour. He could also target the best young rider's white jersey." Aru is currently leading the young rider classification in the Giro.

Aru, however, was a bit evasive when asked about riding the Tour. "First I have to think about the last stage of the Giro. Then I'll speak to 'Vino' about the upcoming program." Aru was originally slated to ride the Giro and the Vuelta while Astana would get behind Vincenzo Nibali's attempt to repeat his his 2014 TDF win.

Fabio Aru

Fabio Aru (shown winning Giro stage 20) is currently wearing the best young rider's white jersey.

Giro d'Italia News

With one day left, Tinkoff-Saxo sent this letter:

With just one easy day remaining, Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador is now as close as possible to winning the Giro d’Italia 2015. But the captain had to dig deep and use his experience, as he found himself in difficulties on the towering Cima Coppi of Colle delle Finestre. Now leading by 2’02”, Contador acknowledges that he didn’t have his best of days but remained calm to secure the pink jersey.

Upon crossing the line in Sestriere after the last decisive stage of the Giro, Alberto Contador tells that he at no point believed that the jersey was in danger.

“Today was not a great stage for me. I wasn't feeling good, probably because of the accumulated effort, but I knew I had a good cushion in the GC and, even though there were plenty of kilometers to go before the finish, I preferred to ride at my own rhythm. There was never a moment, where I thought the jersey was in danger. I remained calm because I knew that the difference in speeds between the groups was going to be small”, says Alberto Contador, who lost 1’40” on stage 20.

With nothing, but a disaster, in the way of the overall win, Contador is already directing his focus towards the next big goal in July.

“We'll have a good dinner tonight, although I have to watch my weight for the Tour. This Giro d'Italia is in the bag now, with just tomorrow's stage to come, so I'm already thinking of my next target”.

A dangerous attack from Mikel Landa on the 18.5km Colle delle Finestre saw Contador dropped. On the summit he had lost 1’30” but regained time on the run-in towards the final climb to Sestriere, where Fabio Aru caught up with his teammate and won the stage. Head Sports Director Steven de Jongh admits that there was a moment of tension on Finestre in the team car, but that he regained his calm, as Contador kept a good rhythm.

Alberto Contador on the Finestre

Alberto Contador on the Colle delle Finestre

“Alberto definitely made a good show for the viewers, not so much for us right there on Finestre”, says Steven de Jongh with a smile. “He had a difficult moment and he also said that he found it hard to ride out of the saddle on the gravel sections. Of course, when he also got dropped by Aru, we had a scary moment in the car but as we realized that he wasn’t empty on the descent and the flat part we cooled down again”.

“The gap stabilized and we asked if he wanted gels and energy but he preferred to eat on the downhill section. So we gave him the time references and he controlled the pace very well. Although he didn’t have a good day, we saw the determination and experience of Alberto”.

With just 185km of flat riding left from Torino to Milan and a time margin of 2’02” to Aru, the overall victory seems as close to certain as possible.

“The team has worked really hard for this. Everyday they have been at the front making sure that Alberto was safe and in the right position controlling the race. The amount of work that they’ve done is amazing and I take my hat off for that. At the same time we must recognize that Astana has been the strongest team in the mountains and today they had six guys in the front group on Finestre. But in the end, we have the pink jersey and all of the guys can be really proud”, finishes Steven de Jongh.

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's Giro report:

Steven Kruijswijk placed fifth in a tough mountain stage of the Giro d’Italia another time. The Team LottoNL-Jumbo front man didn’t succeed in his fight for the mountain jersey on the last climbs of the tour, but moved up two places in the general classification. Fabio Aru (Astana) won the stage.

“It was a joy to watch today’s stage,” Sports Director Frans Maassen said after the 20th stage of the Giro d’Italia.

“A lot happened and Steven was good in front again. We were pushing as a team at the front of the peloton in the beginning of the stage to make sure that Steven got his chance to pick up some extra points for the mountain classification on the Colle delle Finestre. We knew that he had to become one of the first three riders who reached the top to win the blue jersey. You have to be good enough for that, for sure. He was so close, but just too short.

“The most important thing is of course that he was 40th after four days and is going to finish seventh overall. The way he fixed it is incredible. He was fighting every day. It’s a seventh place with a silver lining.”

Steven kruijswijk on the Colle delle Finestre

Steven Kruijswijk on the Colle delle Finestre

With that seventh place, the climber reached his goal. “It was my ambition to finish in the top 10 of the general classification,” he said. “I succeeded in a very beautiful way. I wasn’t able to win a stage, but I grabbed many good results. I’m glad with that. I wasn’t good enough to win the mountain classification, unfortunately. We had to make sure that Visconti and Intxausti were forced behind. That went well, but you know that it’s also a race and the others aren’t thinking about your ambitions to win the mountain jersey. But it was a very good Giro for me. I think that the people in the Netherlands got excited about it. I’m glad that I was responsible for that.”

“We gave everything,” Maassen continued. “We’re very satisfied with this. Maybe Steven will be named as the most combative rider of the tour. He should be close to that prize, but we can’t say anything about that. Besides that, we have a ride to Milan tomorrow. Moreno Hofland can go for his chances in that last stage, maybe. He came through this tour quite well and gets another chance tomorrow.” 

Lampre-Merida had this to say about Giro stage 20:

He announced he would have tried to exploit all the residual energies to give exposition to the blue-fuchsia-green colors and so he did: Diego Ulissi was once again in the main breakaway of the day, namely the 20th stage of the Giro d'Italia: Saint Vincent to Sestriere, 196 km, with the climb of the Colle delle Finestre and a summit arrival.

The breakaway could defeat the resistence by the bunch after 38 km, which were covered at a very high speed (48 km/h): Ulissi and 8 riders had a maximum advantage of 2'40", not enough to avoid the chase by the peloton. In fact, the breakaway was neutralized on the Colle delle Finestre. Ulissi completed the stage in 79th position, Polanc (40th) was the first cyclist from Team Lampre-Merida to cross the finish line.

Aru won the stage, Contador is still pink jersey and only the 185 km from Torino to Milano separate him from the victory of the Giro d'Italia 2015.

"Yesterday I explained that I would have use all of my energy to give value to the team and its sponsors in the Giro and so I did today too" - Ulissi said - "I paid attention to all the attack attempts in the early part of the race and, even if it costed a lot of energy, I was in the action which succeeded in escaping from the bunch. Unfortunately, the peloton once again controlled the breakaway, so we understood that we had no chance to reach the arrival.

I think I gave my best in this Giro d'Italia in which I obtained one victory and one third place, which is precious because I was preceded by Gilbert and Contador. The Lampre-Merida team was amazing. We won four times and we always raced in a lively way. Our supporters and our sponsors can be proud".

Sacha Modolo wons tage 17

Sacha Modolo won stage 17, one of four Lampre-Merida stage wins in this year's Giro d'Italia.

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