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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Sunday, September 13, 2015

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

Today's racing:

Three races today: The Vuelta a España will have its ceremonial 21st stage. Barring misfortune Fabio Aru has won the Vuelta. But today's short stage will be fast and furious.

The Tour of Britain will also hold its final stage.

And over in Canada, there will be the GP Montreal.

New Women's World Hour Record

Here's the UCI release on Van Houweling's impressive feat:

The American athlete today broke the 12-year-old women’s UCI Hour Record by covering a distance of 46.274 km at the Velodromo Bicentenario in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Molly Shaffer Van Houweling, 41, rode 209 metres further than the previous mark of 46.065km, established in 2003 by Dutch rider Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel in Mexico City.

The California based rider already held the women’s US Hour Record (45.637km), which she set last February, also in Aguascalientes. In addition, she is a five-time UCI Amateur Road World Champion, most recently winning the road race and time trial titles at the 2014 UCI World Cycling Tour Final in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Van Houweling’s UCI Hour Record comes 60 years after the first mark (38.473km) was set by Soviet athlete Tamara Novikova in 1955. The American is the second female rider – after Briton Dame Sarah Storey – to go after cycling’s iconic record since its rules changed in May 2014.

Molly van Houweling

Wow! 46.273 kilometers. That's further than Jacques Anquetil's 1956 men's record.

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) modernised and simplified the regulations for the record last year by authorising the use of bikes that comply with the regulations for endurance track events.

The new rules have led to an upsurge in interest in the record by riders, with several attempts on the men's UCI Hour Record over recent months before Van Houweling’s perfect hour today in Mexico.

After the attempt, Van Houweling said: "You never know if everything is going to come together on race day. Everyday this week I was thinking, ‘Am I going to be 100 percent? Does my knee hurt? Am I getting the sniffles? Is it too hot? Or too cold?’ I feel fortunate that everything came together today and that I felt in control. I am relieved that everything came together and thankful for everyone that helped me make this –and this live feed – happen."

UCI President Brian Cookson commented: "Molly's performance is splendid. It is a blessing for all those who wanted the rebirth of the UCI Hour Record. This will also remain as a milestone in American cycling history. Less than one week from the kick-off of the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia, Molly’s performance shows how vibrant our sport is in this part of the world.”

Vuelta a España team reports

Here's Astana's report on Vuelta stage 20:

"Once we began the attack I started to pull and I never looked back - we had one opportunity today" Mikel Landa after stage twenty at the Vuelta a España -

Landa and his teammates began the day with Fabio Aru 6 seconds back from raceleader Tom Dumoulin and four first-category climbs until the finish - On the final mountain stage in the final week of the final Grand Tour of 2015, a breakaway of nearly 40 riders rode to an advantage of nearly 14 minutes before Astana Pro Team began to increase the pace in its chasing group.

As the speed increased, Andrey Zeits and Luis Leon Sanchez dropped back from the big breakaway to help go even faster. On the penultimate climb Sanchez and then Diego Rosa, Dario Cataldo and finally Mikel Landa all rode to put Dumoulin under pressure, but the strong Dutch time trialist held on until nearly 50km to the finish.

Fabio Aru ad Luis Sanchez finish Vuelta stage 20

Luis Sanchez (left) and Fabio Aru finish Vuelta stage 20

Then Landa attacked and Dumoulin lost contact. Aru moved clear with several elite leaders in a small group, and until the finish put an advantage of more than 3:45 over Dumoulin to end his time in the raceleader's red jersey.

Ruben Plaza of Italy won stage twenty 3:38 ahead of Aru. Aru now leads the Vuelta a España by 1:14 over Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain with one stage remaining in to Madrid on Sunday.

Alessandro Vanotti started Saturday by announcing that he would withdraw from the Vuelta after a crash on Friday left him with a deep contusion to his coccyx. But as pain decreased after breakfast Vanotti reexamined his decision to abandon and instead took to the start to finish with a large bunch of support riders at the end of the race.

Lampre-Merida, of course, was very happy with the stage's outcome:

Ain't no mountain high enough, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell used to sing anticipating the motto of Rubén Plaza, who realized one of the most exciting masterpiece of the recent years of cycling.

The Spanish cyclist from Team Lampre-Merida, who had already won the Gap stage in the Tour de France 2015, obtained an outstanding success in the 20th stage of the Vuelta a Espana (San Lorenzo de el Escorial-Cercedilla, 175.8 km with four 1st category climbs). He completed a solo attack of 117 km, after having covered 58 km in the first breakaway of the race together with other 37 riders.

After few meters in the stage, a breakaway of 38 riders escaped from the bunch and Lampre-Merida could rely on three riders, namely Conti, Oliveira and Plaza.

On the first part of the second climb of the course, the Puerto de la Morcuera, Plaza decided to begin a solo action which seemed foolish and which, on the other hand, meter after meter, climb after climb (second passage on the Puerto de la Morcuera and the Puerto de Cotos) became an impressive winning feat.
No other former member of the breakaway could join the Spanish cyclist from Lampre-Merida, who reached the finish 1'07" ahead of Goncalves and 1'08" on De Marchi.

Plaza obtained the 23rd victory in his career (2nd in 2015, both in Grand Tours) and gave Lampre-Merida the 25th joy of the season. The team of manager Brent Copeland has 7 successes in the Grand Tours (4 in the Giro d'Italia, 1 in the Tour de France and 2 in the Vuelta a Espana). It's the winningest team among those that gained victories in the Grand Tours.

Ruben Plaza wns Vuelta stage 20

Ruben Plaza wins Vuelta stage 20

In the overall classification, Nelson Oliveira, who obtained a very good 11th place in the stage (at 2'42" to the winner Plaza), climbed up to 21st place, at 44' 44" behind the new leader Aru.

"I was aware that attacking at more than 110 km from the arrival was quite foolish, but my feelings were so good, I knew well the course and I wanted to exploit all the remaining energies in the last suitable left stage in order to aim to a victory - Plaza explained - I noticed that the breakaway group was not united any more and so I decided that it was the best moment to attack, despite the distance to the finish.

The advantage became immediately fairly large, I focused my attention on my performance and, thanks to my legs, I defended it and I obtained such amazing victory. I'm living a perfect season, I thank my teammates, my team and all the fans".

The flip side of all that good news was Giant-Alpecin's Tom Dumoulin's misfortune:

The Vuelta a España was one mountain stage too long for Tom Dumoulin, as he dropped on the penultimate climb to lose 5′and the race lead. The last obstacle before heading for the finishing stage of the Vuelta in Madrid was a difficult challenge. Stage 20 contained four 1st category climbs along the 175.8km route from San Lorenzo to Cercedilla.

On the third climb, Tom Dumoulin had difficulty following the attacks from the GC group and dropped with the summit in sight. In the descent he was on his own and unable to come back. Tom finished 5’ behind the GC contenders and dropped to 6th overall. After a 120km solo Ruben Plaza (Lampre – Merida) won the stage and Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team) took over the GC lead.

“It was too much today,” said a disappointed Tom after the stage. “I fought for all I was worth. After the first attack by Aru I had difficulties countering him and closing the gap. I was on the limit. When he went again it was over and there was a gap at the summit. I almost came back on the descent after the next-to-last climb. Too bad the descent wasn’t more technical, because on technique I could have come back.

“In the valley Astana pulled with three guys and I knew it was over. I was able to counter the attacks on the previous stages, but today I was unable to. I kept on fighting for the podium or top five and went full on to the finish, but there was nothing left in the tank. I was out of energy and it was one day too long.”

Tom Dumoulin after stage 20

Tom Dumoulin just after finishing stage 20

Coach Addy Engels explained: “It was OK until the moment Aru attacked and Tom couldn’t follow. The Vuelta was one day too long and Tom had a difficult day. In the beginning we took control for a while, but MTN Qhubeka then took over because their top-10 place in the GC was endangered by the large breakaway group.

“We knew that Astana was planning this and we simply didn’t have the team to take the initiative on a difficult course like today’s. It then came down to Tom himself, as in the earlier stages in the Vuelta. But unfortunately he didn’t have the legs today.

“We were close, and it’s too bad we lost the lead on the last difficult stage. Nevertheless, we have had a fantastic Vuelta, with two amazing stage wins and the overall lead for a long time. A third stage win is possible tomorrow, and we’ll hope for the best.”

Here's BMC Vuelta news:

Cercedilla, Spain - BMC Racing Team's Alessandro De Marchi was third and teammate Amaël Moinard finished fifth riding out of the breakaway on Saturday's penultimate stage of the Vuelta a España.

Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida) soloed more than 100 kilometers of the 175.8-km race to take the stage win. José Gonçalves (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and De Marchi arrived 1:07 and 1:08 later, respectively, with Moinard at 1:30.

"In the morning, we thought it would be good to try with Amaël and see what would happen," De Marchi said. "We knew that it could be hard, so it was a good day for a breakaway."

More than three dozen riders were part of the escape move, which enjoyed a lead of more than 13 minutes at one point.

Alessandro de Marchi

Alessandro de Marchi heads to the start of Vuelta stage 20

"With Amaël, we tried to save energy for the last two climbs," De Marchi said. "He did a good job in the first part of the climb and then I tried to follow Movistar because they were strong. We tried to catch the Lampre guy (Plaza), but it was too late. He was too strong, so to close the gap was too difficult. For me, it is like a victory after what happened in the spring. We have fought every day and every stage. So I think everybody can be happy."

De Marchi had been sidelined for four months this year with tendonitis in his left foot. He only made his return in mid-July. Last week, he soloed out of a breakaway to win Stage 14, earning his first victory with the BMC Racing Team.

In the overall standings, Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team) displaced race leader Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant-Alpecin), who lost nearly four minutes. With only Sunday's stage into Madrid to go, Aru leads Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha Team) by 1:17 and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) is third, 1:29 back.

LottoNL-Jumbo had this to report about Vuelta stage 20:

George Bennett was part of a big breakaway group for the third time this Vuelta a España. The New Zealander finished it off with a 15th place, 2min 44sec behind stage winner Ruben Plaza (Lampre – Merida).

“The most important thing today was to be part of the breakaway with George,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said. “That succeeded. He was part of a big leading group and gave everything he had afterwards. When a small group of riders escaped at the penultimate climb, George tried to bridge the gap. He almost made it, but broke fifty metres shy. He couldn’t have done anything more, he did a good job. George rode a beautiful Vuelta.”

“It was frustrating that I wasn’t able to close the gap,” Bennett added. “It was a hard stage and I did the best I could, but I was hoping that I was able to take more out of this situation. I really wanted to win a stage in this Vuelta, but there are some positive things about my performance in these three weeks. I’ve reached a high level.

George Bennett

George Bennett

“But the race isn’t over yet. Tom Van Asbroeck will get another chance tomorrow and I want to give everything, another time, to help him.”

“We’re counting on our lead-out for Tom, tomorrow,” Zeeman continued. “Tom rode a good Vuelta and he definitely has a chance to win the stage. He made his debut in a grand tour and it’s right that he makes it to Madrid. Our two other rookies made it too and we’re very proud of them.”

Tinkoff-Saxo had a good day at the Vuelta:

Rafal Majka proved his physical stamina and mental perseverance on the penultimate and decisive stage of Vuelta a España. On his birthday, Rafal Majka finished the stage as the first GC contender and now moves to 3rd place overall, just 12 seconds off Rodriguez in 2nd place.

Crossing the line after a final burst of sheer willpower, Rafal Majka discovered that he had made it onto the podium with just one flat stage into Madrid to go.

“I am so happy right now because this is my dream. To reach the podium of a Grand Tour is very special for me. I want to thank my teammates, without them I wouldn’t be on the podium and I also want to dedicate this win to my family and my wife. Movistar and Astana set a fast pace on the first climbs and everybody were on their limit so I decided to attack and follow Quintana on the last climb. It was Astana’s job to drop Dumoulin and it was the Tinkoff-Saxo’s and my job to reach the podium”, says an exhilarated Rafal Majka.

“We were pushing and pushing and on the top I met up with Jay McCarthy, who pulled very hard for me and on the finish line, I was only 12 seconds away from second place in the GC. It’s a pity since it’s such a small margin but it doesn’t matter, I am just so happy with the podium right now. We did it on the final day! I was on my maximum pulse on the last kilometers after attacking with Quintana but I kept going as fast as I absolutely could only thinking about gaining as much time as possible. I had a setback on the time trial but as I said, the Vuelta would not be over after the time trial. I reached the podium and I’m extremely happy”, adds Rafal Majka, who finished 12th on the stage – first of the GC riders after having dropped his rivals together with Nairo Quintana on the final climb.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka

Stage 20 of Vuelta a España offered a spectacular race conclusion on the 175.8km route that featured four cat. 4 climbs followed by a rapid descent. Tristan Hoffman, Tinkoff-Saxo sports director, elaborates on the outcome.

“We are very, very happy. We came here to win a stage and finish in the GC top five only hoping for the podium. We got the stage win with Peter and now Rafal made his way onto the podium. The team didn’t stop believing for a single second. We were on the podium before the ITT, then there was a moment of disappointment after the time trial and today Rafal found the spirit and the legs to make the difference. The whole team fought and Jay McCarthy did a fantastic effort in the breakaway during the entire day and timed his effort to perfection so Rafal caught up with him exactly on the top of the final climb. Jay was then able to pull hard on the long gradual descent”, explains Hoffman before concluding:

“After the time trial, where we slipped to 4th overall, we said that we wanted to take risks to make it onto the podium. Today we took calculated risks, as it was up to Astana to get rid of Dumoulin, which they did, and ultimately Rafal was able to attack on the last climb at a time, where everybody was in the absolute red zone after a crazy stage and hard Vuelta. Rafal was so strong today, everybody was tired but his performance shows that his ability to recover is extraordinary. The doctor said that it only took five deep breaths for him to get his breathing under control after he crossed the line. He had the legs and he has raced in a very active fashion – he really deserves this result”.

Tour of Britain team reports:

Here's BMC's Britain Tour news:

Ipswich, Great Britain - The BMC Racing Team lost Floris Gerts and Dylan Teuns to a crash Saturday at the Aviva Tour of Britain while Taylor Phinney withdrew from the race before the start. The crash with Gerts and Teuns happened as the race diverted onto a runway at Wattisham Airfield for an intermediate sprint in the 224.1-kilometer race, the longest of the eight-day event.

"I hit a hole and lost hold of my handlebars because it was a really big hole," Teuns said. "I totally lost control so I did not have a chance. I just went to the ground."

Teuns landed on his head, as did Gerts, BMC Racing Team Dr. Scott Major said.

"Because of the concern about a head injury, we took them to the hospital as a precaution," Dr. Major said. "Neurologically, both riders are fine. But we are going to have them under close observation the next 24 hours."

Teuns was the more seriously injured of the two with abrasions on his left side and a large gash to his left elbow. X-rays on the elbow were negative, but Teuns did require some stitches to help close the wound, Dr. Major said.

Phinney did not start due to fatigue. "It has been a hard race with long stages and long transfers," Dr. Major said. "Coming back from such a long layoff and injury and competing in his third straight stage race, we felt it was important for his worlds' preparation to get some much-needed rest and recovery."

Taylor Phinney

Taylor Phinney

Stefan Küng, who joins Danilo Wyss as the only two BMC Racing Team riders remaining in the race, also crashed Saturday in a separate incident. But the world individual pursuit champion was not seriously hurt.

BMC Racing Team Sport Director Fabio Baldato said it was unfortunate to lose Teuns - who had been sitting fifth overall - and Gerts, a stagiaire who had been as high as third place overall earlier in the week.

"Dylan was enjoying a good result for a young guy," Baldato said. "Now we will arrive in London with two guys. Fortunately, it looks like the injuries are not too bad. That is the only good thing."

André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) won Saturday's stage in a photo-finish with Elia Viviani (Team Sky) while Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) held onto the overall lead.

This came from Lotto-Soudal:

André Greipel won the seventh stage in the Tour of Britain. He defeated Elia Viviani after a very close sprint. Three escapees went clear after a very fast first hour: Dowsett, Briggs and Cullaigh. Before halfway they got a maximum of nine minutes on the bunch, where Lotto Soudal controlled the race. The gap of the escapees went down and at ten kilometers from the finish they were caught. Sky, IAM and Lotto Soudal were the dominant teams during the preparation of the sprint, but André Greipel was the fastest of the whole bunch, his sixteenth victory of the season, the thirty-fifth for Lotto Soudal.

André Greipel: “It was a close victory, but the photo finish was clear I think. We took control of the race from the beginning, no other team wanted to help us. When the gap was nine minutes, one rider of IAM also started to pull. Frederik Frison and Sean De Bie kept the peace high so nobody could attack. Pim, Sibi, Jens and I did the preparation and the sprint. I think we deserved the victory, Sky won already three stages. The first stages we wanted to help Jens to a victory, but we had some bad luck. Because the teams started with six riders and some lost already two or three, it’s difficult to control, also because everybody is tired after a hard week. Tomorrow we try again, but not without help from other teams. They predict rain, we’ll see if Jens or I will sprint.

In the Vuelta the ultimate mountain stage has shaken the ranking. On the third of four climbs of first category, Fabio Aru attacked. Tom Dumoulin couldn’t follow, also saw his other opponents pulling away, and almost lost four minutes. He’s sixth in the general classification now. The stage was won by Ruben Plaza, who attacked at the second climb of the day from a big lead group of 38 riders, among others Adam Hansen, Jelle Vanendert and Jasper De Buyst. After an impressive solo of 115 kilometers, Ruben Plaza arrived alone in Cercedilla. Bart De Clercq couldn’t follow the favorites when the stage exploded, but tried to keep a steady tempo. He’s still fourteenth in the general classification.

Cult Energy had this to say:

Today’s Tour of Britain marathon stage covering 227 kilometers from Fakenham to Ipswich put the entire peloton to the test. With his overall podium spot to defend, Cult Energy Pro Cycling's Rasmus Guldhammer was especially on his toes to stay in the front and he managed to nail another top-10 result.

First, a front group trio including Gabriel Cullaigh (GBR), Graham Briggs (JLT) and Alex Dowsett (MOV) took some time in the sun but the distance of this seventh and penultimate stage took its toll on the escapees. Going under the 20 kilometer banner, it was game over for the front trio but new attacks went flying from the bunch and Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) launched a promising counter-move.

However, the Cult Energy Pro Cycling riders immediately went to the front of the pack to reel him in and from that point, the sprinter teams took control of the finale and after 227 kilometers of racing, it all came down to a bunch gallop where CULT Energy’s Rasmus Guldhammer came in 7th and defended his overall third position.

Rasmus Guldhammer

Rasmus Guldhammer

Tomorrow’s final stage in London won’t be an easy one: “It’s not going to be a tourist cruise in the streets of London tomorrow. There are quite a few bonus seconds on offer and my guess is that most of the top-10 riders will be fighting for seconds in the intermediate sprints and I think Rasmus is going to sprint himself in order to retain a spot on the overall podium. Naturally, we’ll support him in every way possible so we can leave here with a podium place in the pocket,” says DS, Luke Roberts after the stage.

The stage was won by André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).

Lotto-Soudal's GP Quebec release:

Rigoberto Uran won the GP Québec, the first of two Canadian WorldTour races. Just before the last kilometre he escaped and stayed ahead of the sprinting peloton. Michael Matthews was second, Alexander Kristoff third. Lotto Soudal rider Tony Gallopin finished as eighth.

It was already in the first of sixteen laps that a front group of six riders was formed: Ryan Roth, Adam De Vos, Wouter Wippert, Perrig Quemeneur, Cesare Benedetti and Darren Lapthorne. After thirty kilometres they reached their maximal lead of 9’10”; it shrunk lap after lap due to the work of BMC and Trek. In the twelfth lap the front group fell apart, after Wippert and Lapthorne had already been dropped. Benedetti tried it together with Roth, but the peloton was only thirty seconds behind. In the fourteenth lap a nice front group was formed thanks to Lars Bak and Kuznetsov. Other riders in the group: Barguil, Bardet, Alaphilippe, Taaramae, Bookwalter, Kreuziger, Felline, Dillier, early escapee Roth and Jürgen Roelandts.

There was attack after attack, but none was successful. Kelderman and Fuglsang stayed in front a bit longer than the others, but with five kilometres to go they were caught as well. Under the banner of the last kilometre Rigoberto Uran took his chance. The Colombian only had a few seconds advantage, but that turned out to be sufficient to take the win in Québec. Today the peloton travels to Montréal to ride the GP Montréal tomorrow.

Herman Frison, sports director: “I can’t be disappointed with the performance of our riders, although I had hoped for a better result. As expected, the race was closed for a long time, the attacks came in the last two fast laps. The group of twelve with Bak and Roelandts seemed a good attempt, but Orica and Katusha weren’t represented. Tiesj Benoot had problems on a  bad moment and couldn’t play a role anymore, Tim Wellens didn’t have a good day. At the end it was a fight between the better riders, and it was a strong performance of Uran to take that win. An elite group of strong classics riders sprinted for the other top results. When you take a look at the results you see that these are the riders with ambitions for the World Championships. Now we go to Montréal, to race on a similar, maybe a bit tougher course, but I expect a same kind of race.”

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