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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, August 26, 2016

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Only the gentle are ever really strong. - James Dean

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Vuelta a España stage 6 news

We'll start with the report from stage winner Simon Yate's Orica-BikeExchange team.

Ordiziako Klasika winner Simon Yates unleashed a blistering late attack to win stage six of the Vuelta a Espana today after some strong teamwork from ORICA-BikeExchange instigated the intense chase of the breakaway.

The first Grand Tour stage win for the 24-year-old Briton was beautifully executed. After following an attack by Dani Moreno (Movistar) in the closing kilometres Yates took the initiative and dropped his competitors as he accelerated away to a superb solo victory.

”The team did some great work in the beginning and set things up really well for me,” said Yates. ”We wanted to go in there and try to make a hard race. There were lots of twists and turns in the finale, but I managed to take my opportunity and I’m very happy with the result.”

”The roads were pretty difficult there at the end but fortunately I timed my attack to perfection, it was a really hot day but it worked out very well for us in the end.”

Simon Yates

Simon Yates wins Vuelta stage 6

The stage win by Yates sees him move into tenth on the general classification ahead of tomorrow’s stage seven with Esteban Chaves still in fifth place, 38seconds down on race leader Darwin Atapuma (BMC).

Sport director Neil Stephens praised the superb performance of Yates and the team. ”Fantastic result,” said Stephens. ”We’d done a detailed reconnaissance of the stage beforehand and we knew that it was going to be difficult, but you can never be sure what the other teams are going to do. So we decided to go on the front foot and liven things up.”

”It wasn’t really the plan for Simon (Yates) to attack but the decision was made by the guys on the road. As the situation progressed we wanted to try and nullify the threat of the other teams and it ended up being a fantastic effort and win from Simon.

”It was a great team performance and the boys worked very hard but they also raced with intelligence and knew exactly when to ease off which proved to be important for the finale.”

How it happened: A baking hot morning welcomed the riders to the start line for stage six with 163 hilly kilometres ahead. Numerous breakaway attempts tried to form within the first hour of racing before a group of 11 finally went clear.

After 70 kilometres the leaders had two minutes 30seconds on the peloton and for the moment were working well together. ORICA-BikeExchange began to take the initiative on the front of the bunch on the Alto Alenza climb, bringing the fracturing breakaway group back to one minute 30seconds with an immediate injection of speed.

Riders were being shelled from the peloton as they struggled with the new tempo. Up the road an attack by Omar Fraile (Dimension-Data) split the group of leaders with Fraile quickly gaining a minute on his former companions. With 40kilometres to go Fraile had stretched his lead over the peloton to three minutes with a group of five in between giving chase one minute back on the Dimension-Data rider.

Fraile continued to push on over the unclassified Chandrexa climb with 30kilometres left to race and Movistar now controlling the chase some two minutes back. The race started to come back together inside the final 20kilometres Fraile was caught by the trio of chasers led by Jan Bakelants (AG2R-La-Mondiale) as the roads continue to dip and rise towards the finish.

Movistar were still setting the tempo one minute further back as Fraile was dropped after an attack by Mathias Frank (IAM-Cycling) with Bakelants also losing contact. The situation stayed the same until the final climb with five kilometres to go, Movistar were relentless in the chase and led the reduced bunch past Bakelants.

Moreno attacked followed by Yates with Frank now in sight. A few hundred metres later and Yates unleashed a blistering attack of his own and dropped Moreno then Frank. Yates went on to take a fantastic stage victory for ORICA-BikeExchange and the Briton moves into the top ten in the general classification.

Tomorrow’s stage seven is the last day in the stunning region of Galicia, covering 158.5 kilometres from Maceda to Puebla de Sanabria. Another hilly day includes three categorised climbs before a long descent to the finish.

GC leader Darwin Atapuma's BMC squad sent me this:

25 August, 2016, Luintra.Ribiera Sacra (ESP): Stage 6 of the Vuelta a Espana saw Ben Hermans finish in fourth place in a tricky finale and Darwin Atapuma hold on to his red jersey.

It was a tough day in the saddle with temperatures of more than 30 degrees adding another level of difficulty to the 163.2km stage. It took an hour of racing before the peloton allowed a breakaway to go clear, with 11 riders establishing a gap of no more than three minutes.

BMC Racing Team controlled the race for the majority of the stage, while up the front the breakaway started to disperse when individual riders attacked. The peloton tackled a category 2 climb and three uncategorized climbs on the run in to the finish, which is where the breakaway was reeled in rider by rider.

Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) launched his winning solo move with 4km to go, and Ben Hermans attacked from the General Classification group to launch his chase, finishing in fourth place.

Atapuma finished in the main group to keep his red jersey for a third day and maintain his 28 second lead on the General Classification.

Darwin Atapuma

Another red jersey for Darwin Atapuma's closet

Ben Hermans: "I was feeling great all day. It was a perfect race for me as we did a hard first 50km before the breakaway went. Orica-BikeExchange started the final really early! So that made the race super hard. I still felt good on the final 2km climb so I gave it a chance. Coming from behind I had a bigger speed and wanted to jump across to Simon Yates and Daniel Moreno (Movistar Team) but I was blocked a moment and had to brake and restart my jump so I just couldn't make it. I thought it was still possible to close the gap with two guys. Obviously Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) wasn't pulling but Moreno didn't either. So I had no chance and some guys came back to us in the end."

"Of course my legs give me confidence. That's also why I try to stay up there with out leaders. It's always good for your head too to finish in the front."

Darwin Atapuma: "The stage today was quite hard, especially with the heat and at the beginning we had some climbs and descents. The team did a really good job to keep me well-positioned and keep the breakaway at a manageable position.  The final part of the stage was really nervous and there were a lot of attacks. But I was always there so I was confident that I would keep the red jersey for another day."

"I'm looking at the red jersey day by day and enjoying the moment. I don't know exactly how long I can keep the jersey but for however long it lasts I'll keep enjoying the moment. The team has really been doing great work to keep the jersey on my shoulders and I'm really grateful for their support."

Here's Tinkoff's Vuelta news:

With a rolling profile in the second half of the day, stage 6 of the Vuelta a España was one that could have thrown up a few surprises for the GC riders. However, with a break staying clear for much of the race and a late solo attack taking the stage honours, the GC fight was neutralised.

Riding a solid race over the hills in the latter part of the stage, Alberto Contador eventually crossed the line in 15th position, preserving his spot just outside the top 10 on GC with some big days in the mountains looming this weekend.

After the stage, the GC leader said: “I'm happy there weren't any incidents and making it to the finish out of trouble every day can be considered a success. There were a few really dangerous descents but, fortunately, it wasn't raining.

“Even though it seemed today would be a stage for other riders, it was a stage for the GC contenders. We all had to be very attentive and well positioned. The race was full on during the entire day and, combined with the heat, it was a stage that took its toll."

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador about to start Vuelta stage 6

After rain yesterday, the temperatures were back in the 30s today, and a combination of a strong break and a fast chase from the peloton made for a tough race. Eleven riders formed the day’s move, with the last rider being caught in the final four kilometres by a counterattack from the much reduced peloton. By the end, Alberto’s group was racing for eighth place, finishing just 29” behind the stage winner.

“It was another very hot and, actually, a hard day today,” Sport Director Steven De Jongh said after the finish. “They were racing full gas all day, but the boys did a good job – at the dangerous point they were in front which is what we asked of them. Kiserlovski didn’t take the start and Boaro had a bit of a difficult day but we know he will come around.

"The break was strong and several other teams had interest in going for the stage win so there was never a dull moment. Tomorrow will also quite a hectic final, it will be similar to today. We will check out the stage a bit more this evening and know what is ahead.”

Looking forward at what’s to come, Alberto added: “I think that in this Vuelta there will be a lot of surprises in the final week. It will be a long race with very demanding stages that hardly have a metre of flat terrain, and that will show. I feel well, although we haven't had any major climbs yet. However, the sensations are good."

Team Sky posted this:

Chris Froome, Leopold Konig and Pete Kennaugh all finished safely in a select lead group as late attackers contested the victory on stage six at the Vuelta a Espana.

The Team Sky trio came home 29 seconds back on solo stage victor Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) to ensure all three riders remain in the top 10 overall.
Froome ticked off another day in third place, 32 seconds back on race leader Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing), while Konig and Kennaugh each jumped up a place to seventh and eighth respectively, 1:12 and 1:14 off red.

Yates laid the foundations for his emphatic stage win with an attack 4km out, distancing Dani Moreno (Movistar) on the final drag to ride solo into Luintra.
Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) rounded out the podium places after the day's 11-man break was overhauled in the closing stages.
The rolling 163.2km test was controlled in the early stages by BMC Racing and Orica-BikeExchange, before Movistar upped the pace in the closing stages.

Chris Froome

Froome heads to the stage 6 start line

After the stage Froome talked TeamSky.com through the test, explaining: "It was a tough day for everyone. It was hot out there and really quite a technical day - up and down and quite twisty.

"Again the guys did a great job just keeping me in position. I think today was a day to just stay out of trouble, and a nice day to have out of the way before we head to the mountains on Saturday. I imagine tomorrow will be a very similar kind of stage."

Here's Lotto-Soudal's Vuelta update:

Bart De Clercq crashed during the finale of the sixth Vuelta stage. With eight kilometres to go some riders in front of him moved up to the left in a corner and he hit the railing. The Lotto Soudal rider has abrasions and cuts on the right side of his body. His elbow needed to be stitched. Despite his injuries he could control the damage, finishing 58 seconds after stage winner Simon Yates.

Bart de Clercq

Bart de Clercq

On the moment of his crash Bart was riding in the group of GC riders, together with teammates Maxime Monfort and Tosh Van der Sande. Before all of this happened, Gert Dockx had been part of the break of the day together with ten other riders. Omar Fraile remained in front the longest, but at the end Simon Yates made the decisive move. Tosh Van der Sande got eleventh, finishing in a group at 29 seconds together with Maxime Monfort

And here's LottoNL-Jumbo's Vuelta report:

George Bennett finished 33rd in the hard-fought sixth stage of the Vuelta a Espana today. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s New Zealander ended up in a group that sprinted for the eighth place. Stage winner Simon Yates (Orica - BikeExchange) rode solo ahead by 29 seconds.

“The atmosphere in the team wasn’t so bad this morning,” Sports Director Addy Engels said the day after Steven Kruijswijk abandoned the race with a broken collarbone. “The guys were motivated to make the most of it.

George Bennett

George Bennett finishes Vuelta stage 5

“It was a very hard day and the way they raced was the main reason for it. Only George Bennett managed to survive. Robert Gesink was in the front for a long time, but he let go in the end. He is here to improve and show something beautiful in the final week.”

Bennett agreed, it was a tough stage through northwest Spain. “It wasn’t a good day to be in the break, so I tried to race from the peloton and keep the team’s morale high after a really bad day yesterday,” he added. “I didn’t get the win today, but I felt great on the bike, so I’m keeping my options open for the rest of the race.”

Bretagne Classic, GP Ouest France-Plouay team updates

We'll start with BMC:

25 August 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Newly crowned Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet will return to the BMC Racing Team ranks this weekend when he joins an eight-rider squad at the UCI WorldTour one-day race Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France.

Sports Director Fabio Baldato said with Van Avermaet on the roster the team is going into the race with a lot of motivation. "This year, the parcours has changed almost completely with only the last final 30 kilometers remaining the same. It's like a new race so it will be interesting to see how everyone gets on. We are taking a strong squad including five of the riders who showed good form last weekend in Hamburg as well as experienced riders like Michael Schär, Amaël Moinard and of course Greg Van Avermaet."

"With Van Avermaet coming into this race, we head to Brittany with a leader. I think he will be motivated after the Tour de France and, of course, his win in Rio. While we don't want to put too much pressure on him, I am sure he will come to the race, as he does at every race, ready to do his best and fight to the finish," Baldato said.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet winning the Olympic Road Race

Van Avermaet is ready to get back to racing after his triumphant trip to Rio. "Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France will be my first race since Rio so I'm really looking forward to getting back on the bike and racing as Olympic champion. I think we've got a strong team so I'm really motivated to do a good race and start the final part of the season," Van Avermaet added.

Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France (28 August)

Rider roster: Marcus Burghardt (GER), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Daniel Oss (ITA), Michael Schär (SUI), Manuel Senni (ITA), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Peter Velits (SVK), Loïc Vliegen (BEL)

Sports Director: Fabio Baldato (ITA)

Lotto-Soudal sent me this:

On August 28, the Bretagne Classic Ouest-France takes place, the former GP Plouay. The organisation of the race wants to highlight the entire region. However, the start and finish of the race is still in Plouay where the riders also cover a local lap.

During the 247 kilometres long race, the peloton has to climb seven hills. The climbs are short and have an average gradient of 2.4% to 5%. Just like last year, the riders have to surmount the Ty Marrec before they arrive at the finish. The climb is part of the local lap and has an average gradient of six per cent. The Ty Marrec may only be one and a half kilometre long, but after a long and hard race, the climb can definitely weed out the peloton. Once at the top, the riders have to survive the descent and a few flat kilometres before sprinting towards the finish line.

Bart Leysen, sports director: “The last couple of years we played an important role in the race and we had good results, but I hope that we can win this year. With the team selection that we have for this edition we should definitely be on the podium and maybe even win. It’s not sure yet who will be leading our team, that will depend on how the race evolves. However it would be good if one of our riders is in the breakaway. That shouldn’t have to be a problem with riders like Ligthart, De Bie and Vanendert. And then, depending on when the finale starts we have various options. If the finale starts early in the race, then we can count on Tim Wellens, Tony Gallopin and Jelle Vanendert. Tim tried to attack several years ago, but it was too far to the finish. So this year he should try and do that again a bit later in the race. That goes for Gallopin as well.

Pim Ligthart

Pim Ligthart earlier this year

Anyhow, if the race turns out in a sprint, then we still have Roelandts and Debusschere. In the last few kilometres towards the sprint, there is still a hill to overcome. It’s important that we’re in the front of the peloton there. Usually the peloton is long and small and it costs a lot of effort to come back in the first positions of the peloton after that.

The sports director doesn’t think that the new course will influence the race too much: “The new course won’t change much. The riders are the ones racing and deciding how a race evolves, not the people who designed the course.”

Jürgen Roelandts: “For now it’s very difficult to know what will or could happen in the race because they changed the course. Now there is one big lap and only a few local ones. In the previous editions it was enough to be in the right position or to attack in the last lap, but that might change now. We’re going to Plouay a day before the race so I then I’ll do a recon of the new part. However, I’ve performed very well in this race over the last few years. I’ve always finished in the top five and this year I would like to be on the podium. The fact that we have a very varied and combative team does give confidence to do well.

Team selection: Tiesj Benoot, Sean De Bie, Jens Debusschere, Tony Gallopin, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.

Rider contract signing updates:

This is from Team Sky:

Team Sky are excited to announce the signing of Lukasz Wisniowski for the 2017 season. The 24-year-old Polish rider joins from Etixx - Quick-Step and will bolster the team's roster for the Spring Classics.

Wisniowski has spent his whole professional career with the Belgian outfit but will now join his compatriots Michal Golas and Michal Kwiatkowski in making the switch to Team Sky.

Speaking after signing for the team, he said: "I'm really happy to be joining Team Sky. It will be nice to be a part of the team in the Belgian Classics and maybe even in the Grand Tours. The team is really, really strong. There are so many good riders and I think I can learn a lot with the team. It will be a great experience for me to be on the same team as riders like Chris Froome and Michal Kwiatkowski.

"It's also great to be joining two fellow Polish riders, Michal Golas and Kwiato. We are friends, we always train together, and it will be nice to be in the same team again. When we were at Etixx we'd train together, and even now that we're on different teams, we still train together most of the time."

Wisniowski finished second in this season's Three Days of West Flanders and fifth at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, and it's those early-season Classics that he is targeting in the future.

He added: "I'm an all rounder, but mainly I like the Belgian Classics. They are the kind of races that I really like and I can't wait to be a part of Team Sky for those races, and hope I can take a step forward to improve myself for the Classics. I think that's my future."

Fellow Polish rider Golas is looking forward to welcoming Wisniowski into the Team Sky fold. He said: "Lukasz actually raced with my brother when he was younger so I was aware of him for many years before we became team-mates.

"He's a huge talent and he will fit perfectly within the team. He's very loyal and does a lot of work for the team leader. He's strong on the flat and on cobbles, so he'll be really valuable in both stage races and Classics."

And this came from Giant-Alpecin:

Team Giant-Alpecin is pleased to announce the signing of two more young talents, joining the WorldTour team from 2017. Chris Hamilton (AUS) will turn professional and join fellow Australian Michael Matthews from next season, while Lennard Hofstede (NED) also makes the step up to the professionals in the WorldTour.

Current U23 Australian road race champion, 21 year-old Hamilton already showed his talent first hand to the team when he raced to 14th overall, the only non-professional in the top-30, at the Tour Down Under, a WorldTour race in its own right, at the start of the season. The strong all-rounder also won the best young rider classification at this year's Herald Sun Tour, as well as finishing in the top 10 overall at the Tour de Taiwan. Hamilton has signed a three-year agreement with the team.

Also just 21 years of age, Hofstede has grown and progressed while racing for the Rabobank Development Team, achieving strong results along the way. The young GC rider has signed a two-year contract with the team, having shown he's ready to take the step up with performances including a stage and the overall at the Rhône-Alpes Isére Tour (2.2), as well as third overall at the Tour de Bretagne (2.2). Hofstede also showed his strengths at one-day racing, with a fourth place at the U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Coach Marc Reef (NED) gave his thoughts on the team's new signings: “We are very pleased to be signing both Chris and Lennard as we consider them to be very promising young riders with bright futures ahead of them. Chris is a talented climber who can target general classifications in the future. We will take it step-by-step, giving him the opportunity and space to develop. In that line he will race a broad program to also test himself across different type of races.

“Lennard is a versatile rider who we have been following for a longer period as he has shown his strengths over a wide range of terrains, including the more difficult races. We consider this diversity in qualities as very valuable. He has the characteristics of someone who can read the race and organise the team, and in the long term he can potentially grow into the role of a road captain.”

Clearly pleased to be making the step up to the WorldTour with the team, Hamilton said: “I am very proud to join Team Giant-Alpecin. By signing a long-term agreement the team has shown its confidence in me, giving me a steady base and the support of a very professional structure, allowing me to develop. The opportunities that I will have to grow in stage racing especially attract me.”

Hofstede said: “It’s a great opportunity. I think Team Giant-Alpecin is the best team for young riders to develop. I joined the team at the January training camp this year and experienced that I can fit in well and it’s a very close group of riders and staff. There are experienced riders who I can learn a lot from, and I am looking forward to re-joining Arthur [van Dongen] and Sam [Oomen] again. The first period will be primarily about investing time, as well as learning from and working with the team. Currently I have the role of a road captain with Rabobank Development and I hope to learn next year from the current captains so that I can one day have this role again.”

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