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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Sunday, September 6, 2015

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

Today's racing:

Today is the Vuelta a España's 15th stage and the Tour of Alberta has its fifth stage.

Also, we've got the single-day GP Fourmies in France and Tour of Britain starting.

Vuelta a España team reports

Here's what BMC sent me:

Alto Campoo/Fuente del Chivo, Spain - BMC Racing Team's Alessandro De Marchi soloed to victory on a fog-shrouded mountain-top finish Saturday at the Vuelta a España after teammate Samuel Sánchez was forced to withdraw due to an ongoing foot injury.

De Marchi attacked out of a five-man breakaway in the final two kilometers of the 215 kilometer race, the longest of the three-week event. He delivered a victory salute while freewheeling his BMC teammachine SLR01 across the line 21 seconds ahead of Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky) and 32 seconds before José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar Team), who was third.

"With a bit of luck, in the right moment, I had the energy to do a fast attack," De Marchi said. "I was lucky because I do not think I was the strongest."

Alessandro De Marchi

Alessandro De Marchi climbing to his stage win

De Marchi's victory was his first since joining the BMC Racing Team at the beginning of the season. Last year's "most aggressive rider" of the Tour de France was sidelined for four months by tendonitis in his left foot. He only made his return in mid-July.

"I never thought I would be able to win a stage," De Marchi said. "Today was very difficult, first to get in the breakaway and then to take the win. But everything felt great."

Sánchez became the third rider from the BMC Racing Team to leave the race, joining Marcus Burghardt and Tejay van Garderen, who both retired due to injuries from crashes. Dr. Daniele Zaccaria said an infected toenail on Sánchez's right foot had had been bothering the 2008 Olympic road race champion for nearly a week.

"We tried to manage the issue with medication, but in the last few days he was fighting against this problem and no longer able to push on the pedals," Zaccaria said.

Sanchez, who had never before withdrawn from a grand tour in 17 starts, said it was not easy to climb off his BMC barely 20 kilometers into the race.

"This is a hard day for me to have to abandon the Vuelta a España," Sánchez said. "The problem with my toenail made it impossible for me to pedal. Yesterday was a really, really hard day for me. I had a lot of pain in my right leg and today it was just impossible after 35 minutes of the race."

Just as Sánchez was stopping, the day's breakaway with De Marchi was forming. With him was Mikael Chérel (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Carlos Quintero (Team Colombia), Puccio and Rojas. Their advantage peaked at 10 minutes over the top of the day's second climb.

BMC Racing Team Sport Director Max Sciandri said the escapees knew they would survive to the finish, but nothing else was certain.

"It was a bit of nerve-wracking race, because even though we were climbing up all the way to the end, the climb wasn't hard until two kilometers from the top," Sciandri said. "It was there that Alessandro made a bit of a move and it really turned out well. This is a good comeback for him."

De Marchi said he knew he was the marked man of the group when Chérel attacked with four kilometers to go. "Everybody else was was looking at me, so I had to do the big job to bring them back," he said. "Then I had to keep waiting and waiting for the right time."

The victory was the BMC Racing Team's 32nd on the season. It was De Marchi's first since his solo win on Stage 7 of last year's Vuelta a España.

And here's the Tinkoff-Saxo report:

Tinkoff-Saxo team captain Rafal Majka took 10th place on stage 14 of Vuelta a España finishing among the first of the GC contenders on Alto Campoo behind stage winner De Marchi. Despite slipping one place in the GC, Majka moves closer to the podium after a series of attacks on the final, steep part of the finishing climb.

After ascending into the clouds and crossing the finish line, Rafal Majka notes that he was fairly content with his shape of the day, while the long, medium-gradient summit finish suited him less well.

“I’m okay with today and I only lost a few seconds to Aru in the final acceleration to the finish line. It wasn’t my kind of climb, it was fast with a long, not very steep section until three kilometers before the finish. Astana set a fast pace and I think that my teammates, especially Jesper and Pawel in the finale, did a nice job to support me. When Aru attacked the first time, Jesper accelerated with him, he thought that I was behind but he dropped back and pulled at the front until I attacked to catch Aru and Quintana”, comments Rafal Majka and adds about the outcome:

“In the end, I lost a few seconds on the final hundred meters. I think I attacked a bit too soon but I am closer to the podium. For sure, we have some hard days ahead of us. Already tomorrow, we have a mountain finish again. The climb is steeper than today and now I focus on recovering as much as possible”.

Upon entering the final, steeper 4km of the stage after a long, tiring uphill effort, the favorites initiated the action with several strong accelerations. Jesper Hansen first followed, then waited and put in a dedicated effort pulling for team captain Rafal Majka.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka

“I was feeling much better today than the previous few stages. I perhaps had some sickness because the difference I felt today was striking. I wanted to help Rafal as much as I could and in the end he was up there with the other main GC contenders and ahead of some”, tells Jesper Hansen.

“I probably made a small mistake, when I responded to Aru and Quintana’s attack. I was focused on keeping Aru’s wheel and I assumed that Rafal was behind Quintana. When I found out that he wasn’t there, I let go, also riding on my limit and dropped back to give it a last push for Rafal. If I can stay like this with the power I had today, I look forward to tomorrow’s mountain stage. No matter what, I will give it my all to support Rafal”, adds Hansen.

Stage 14 sent the riders of La Vuelta back into the mountains finishing at 1980m altitude atop Alto Campoo after 18 kilometers of climbing on average gradients. While Alessandro De Marchi took the stage victory from the breakaway, the GC contenders went toe-to-toe behind. Tristan Hoffman, Tinkoff-Saxo sports director, underlines that the team can be content with the outcome, while stage 15’s summit finish will present a big challenge in the light of today’s effort.

“Rafal was there, he lost one spot but the time differences were very small. The other day in Andorra, he gained time and today he lost a bit to Quintana and Rodriguez but I reckon that tomorrow, with the much steeper climb, will be harder. Today, Jesper Hansen did a really good job for Rafal and stayed with him for a long time. He followed an attack but came back to pull for Rafal, who could then attack and bridge the gap to Aru and Quintana. Today, the favorites were waiting for the final kilometers, where it was possible to create a selection and we also saw that some of the GC riders dropped. Now, we focus on recovery, as we have two hard mountain stages coming up”, finishes Tristan Hoffman.

I got this Vuelta update from LottoNL-Jumbo:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo put a tough day behind them in the fast mountain stage to Alto Campoo Fuente del Chivo. The team played no significant role, instead the glory went to Italian Alessandro De Marchi (Team BMC). He won the 215-kilometre summit-finish stage and Fabio Aru maintained his overall lead.

It got off to a flying start, after 16 kilometres neutralisation, several riders fought to get out of the clutches of the peloton. After 60 kilometres, five riders managed to break clear, and calm was back in the peloton. "It was a tough day. It was war from the beginning and it took a long time before a group got clear,” said Sports Director Merijn Zeeman.

"We fought to be in the break, Timo Roosen tried hard. When the five men were finally clear, the peloton was happy because it was hard and the riders had suffered a lot. The day was hard enough with that distance (230km) and the climbing metres. Our men have finished in the big gruppetto, and now it’s on to tomorrow."

Dennis van Winden was the first rider of LottoNL-Jumbo to cross the line at the fog-filled Alto Campoo. "Even after the five broke away the peloton kept a really high tempo till the third category climb," explained Dennis van Winden. "Only after that climb rest came. In the end I was in the ‘gruppetto’. It makes no sense to hold on. There will be following more difficult days.

Tomorrow finishes on a summit again. The stage is 175-kilometres long and finishes up the steep Alto de Sotres. "Tomorrow we will see if someone has the legs for attacking. We are now at the stage where everyone has to divide his strengths," added Zeeman.

“We didn’t have an easy day in this race and always tried to attack. The riders are feeling that.”

Tinkoff-Saxo will be at the Tour of Britain and sent this:

With Tour of Britain becoming increasingly demanding, Tinkoff-Saxo lines up with climber Robert Kiserlovski as the tip of the spear gunning for the general classification. The Croat will be accompanied by Michael Mørkøv looking to get in the mix during the fast days and finishes.

The route for the 11th edition of Tour of Britain, more undulating and extensive than in recent years, challenges the riders with 1,447 kilometers and a proper mountain top finish. As a consequence, Tinkoff-Saxo will bring one of the team’s climbers, Robert Kiserlovski, in the role as GC captain.

“We’ll be taking on the Tour of Britain with Robert Kiserlovski as our tip of the spear in the fight for the general classification. The race has grown in stature during the years and we will face tough competition both in terms of stage wins and for the overall win. Nevertheless, we start the race with hopes of a top GC result for Robert and, if everything works out, a stage win for Michael Mørkøv, who will be leading the team ambitions on the flatter stages and receive support from guys like Trusov and Juraj Sagan”, says Nicki Sørensen and adds:

“Chris Anker Sørensen will be critical for Robert on the tough and hillier days, where the climbers and puncheurs are in their element. After a hard race in Colorado, we expect Chris, with his big experience, to support Robert in the finales. In addition, our stagiaire Antwan Tolhoek has proven himself very capable in difficult terrain and we hope that he will be there for Robert as well”.

Robert Kiserlovski

Robert Kiserlovski racing at this year's Tour of Poland

Tinkoff-Saxo’s complete line-up for Tour of Britain is Robert Kiserlovski, Michael Mørkøv, Nikolay Trusov, Chris Anker Sørensen, Juraj Sagan and stagiaire Antwan Tolhoek.

During eight days of racing, Tour of Britain adds up to a grand total of 1,447 kilometers combined with long days of transfer in order for the race to visit Scotland before the finish into London. According to Nicki Sørensen, stage 5 to the top of Hartside Fell will likely prove decisive for the teams competing for the overall lead.

“It’s the hardest and longest climb of the race. With 8 kilometers, it’s a proper summit finish with a very decent average gradient. It will be an important day and I expect to see a very reduced front group, preferably with Kiserlovski in it, crossing the finish line. This is obviously a day for Robert and Chris as well. Robert says that his preparations have been coming along well and that he feels ready”, comments Nicki Sørensen before finishing:

“We got fairly tough climbs on some of the other days, where we will see time differences, if the intensity is high enough. Other days, on paper, look certain to turn into classic sprinter stages, where Mørkøv will try to benefit from his speed. In addition, it will be a hard race with many long transfers that, in the end, take their toll on the riders”.

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