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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, July 6, 2016

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Tour de France stage four team news

Etixx-Quick-Step had a great day at the Tour. Here's their report:

Twenty-eight year old Marcel Kittel was victorious in Limoges, where he captured his 14th Grand Tour success.

It probably was the toughest finish of this year's Tour de France for a flat stage and Marcel Kittel delivered, proving again he's one of the fastest guys in the peloton and scoring his 11th win of the season and the 34th of the team, one which came after a long day in the saddle and a huge effort by the Etixx – Quick-Step team. As expected, the longest stage of the race had a calm beginning, with just four riders making it in the break – Alexis Gougeard (AG2R), Markel Irizar (Trek-Segafredo), Oliver Naesen (IAM Cycling) and Andreas Schillinger (Bora-Argon 18) – and an explosive finale, which saw Marcel take the win by a whisker ahead of Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie).

Marcel kittel

Marcel Kittel just beats Bryan Coquard

Stage 4 of the Tour de France, traveling over 237.5 kilometers from Saumur to Limoges (which returned as host town after a 16-year hiatus) was all about the final kilometer, an uphill one with a 6% average gradient in the last 600 meters, which meant the favourites had to be well-positioned in the pack, have enough power in the legs for the tough hill and find the perfect moment to start their effort, aware that timing could prove decisive in the outcome.

After Julien Vermote controlled again the peloton, spending countless kilometers at the head of it in the second part of the day, Etixx – Quick-Step played it perfectly in the closing kilometers, hitting the front with around 1200 meters to go, just as things began to spice up. Tour de Suisse points jersey winner Maximiliano Richeze was the last man of Marcel Kittel, who opened his sprint with 300 meters left and took center road, charging towards the line. Powering on the uphill drag, the 28-year-old hold off all his opponents, including Coquard, for one of the smallest winning margins seen by the Tour de France in recent history.

"It wasn't easy for the team and me after the last three days. The ambitions and expectations were high and the pressure was there, especially after getting so many wins in the first part of the season. Yesterday, after the stage, we analysed the finale, talked about our mistakes in a positive way and everyone learned from it. I tried to motivate the boys and today they did a marvelous job. We were there when it mattered, I was brought up in the right position and had a perfect timing", said Marcel Kittel, who now has 14 Grand Tour victories to his name.

By coming out on top on Tuesday, Marcel Kittel surpassed legendary countryman Rudi Altig in most Tour de France stage victories for Germany, sitting now in third overall in an all-time ranking with 9 successes, and also became the first rider to get wins in two Grand Tours this season, after sprinting to victory in the Nijmegen and Arnhem Giro d'Italia stages: "I am super happy and it's great to return to the Tour de France with such a victory. I knew since yesterday that my legs are strong and wanted to win for the team, who was really incredible. We still have some opportunities ahead in the race, but first we want to enjoy this day."

White jersey Julian Alaphilippe, who concluded safely the stage in 15th place, thus keeping his second position in the general classification, was equally happy for his teammate: "Today, our goal was to take Marcel to the finish, while Dan and I tried not to lose any time. Can't say it wasn't stressful in the last kilometers, but we overcame all the obstacles. I am very happy for Marcel, he totally deserved this victory. It's incredible to be part of a team which gets the win, it gives you a really special feeling."

Peter Sagan's Tinkoff team sent me this:

Having contested the win in every one of the Tour’s stages so far, Peter Sagan, in the yellow jersey of race leader, went for it again today. After a hard-fought finish, which came at the end of the race’s longest stage, the UCI World Champion came from behind to power past rivals and take third in the day’s sprint. At the end of the day, Peter extends his lead in the yellow and snatches back the green jersey of points leader.

The race’s longest day – 237.5km. It doesn’t matter how strong or fresh you are – today the riders were going to feel the distance in their legs, but with almost 600km already covered in the past three days, that feeling was going to be multiplied many times over. Gently undulating for the first 130km, the route gradually gained altitude before the descent to the finish in Limoges.

After receiving another set of yellow and green jerseys for his collection, Peter said: "It was a long day, not flat always up and down. I'm very happy to still be in yellow and to take third. I'm back in green also and until now all's going very well." When asked about making Slovakia proud, Peter added: "I think the Slovakians here are very happy and it makes me happy to see lots of Slovakian flags on the side of the road and to hear them cheering."

Starting his second day in the yellow jersey of race leader, Peter Sagan and the Tinkoff riders were again working to control the stage and protect the jersey. After yesterday’s slower-paced stage, the expectation was that in spite of a longer distance, the day would see higher average speeds.

Unlike the previous days, in spite of several attempts to break away, none of the initial breaks stuck until nearly an hour of racing had passed, when a group of four attacked as another breakaway was reeled back in. Soon building up an advantage of 2’30”, it seemed that this was to be the day’s breakaway – which was confirmed as the break were soon five minutes ahead of the peloton.

After a slow start to the stage, where the attacks were failing to stick, it could have been a much slower day, as Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, observed. "In the beginning it looked like it would be a long day but then the attacks came and we had the final situation of the break without the sprinters teams. The guys had to stay attentive when a dangerous move went but Bodi was there to control it, and then the situation settled with four away."

Keeping control at the front, Peter and the Tinkoff team were doing a sterling effort of keeping control of the pace, and as the kilometres passed by on this long stage, the team steadily upped the pace, reducing the gap as they went. At 100km to go, the gap was down to a more manageable 3’30”, then with 30km to go, the gap was down to below a minute, and by the time the race was reaching the 15km to go mark, the gap was hovering around twenty seconds. The predicted bunch sprint was sure to happen as the bunch closed in on the break.

With a slight uphill drag to the finish, this wasn’t to be a straightforward sprint. All of the sprint teams’ riders were capable of contesting it, but it was likely to come down to the right sprint strategy and the strongest sprinter being able to sustain their effort. At 10km the pace was rising as the teams started to jostle for position, but on the urban roads there were a series of tight turns and road furniture that consistently forced the peloton to slow and then accelerate – treacherous at the best of times, but with more than 200km raced it was going to be all the more difficult.

With the breakaway shedding riders, it was down to two up front with 7km to go, until finally the catch was made and it was all on for the sprint. With support for Peter at the front, the remaining team members kept Alberto Contador safe in the frenetic run to the finish – the final 4km was strewn with street furniture, pinch points and roundabouts that caught several teams unawares. Vying for position and battering his way through the sprinters after being boxed in in the last 500m, the UCI World Champion contested the finish, passing many of his rivals, finishing the day in third and extending his lead in the GC and re-taking the green jersey.

Peter Sagan and Raymond Poulidor

Peter Sagan with the great Raymond Poulidor

Happy with his third place, Peter was already looking at his performance and working out where he could improve – the mark of a true champion. "It was a good finish for me, I just started my sprint too early. The sprint is sometimes a lottery and I think I have to wait a little bit more. I started at the same time as Kittel and it was a long sprint from there. Coquard came later and he almost won. I'm happy with the result and the points, and I still have the yellow jersey - it's going well. Tomorrow is another day, I don't want to think about tomorrow yet."
Taking third in the sprint after a long day’s racing, De Jongh was pleased that Peter had extended his lead and taken the green jersey again, and that Alberto had been kept safe. "The finish wasn't too technical but was very fast again with a really high speed. Peter did another good sprint - he was on Kittel's wheel but couldn't come past, but third is still a good result and more points. We can be happy with today. It was another safe day for Alberto and he could recover again, and Peter also did another good job for the green jersey and also the yellow too."

After the sprint spectacle of the past four stages, the road starts to head upwards tomorrow. While nothing near the difficulty of the big mountains the riders are to face in the coming weeks, there is a lot of climbing, and tomorrow’sstage sees the race’s first second category climbs in a cluster of five categorised climbs in the final 70km of the day’s 216km route. The hilly profile will make protecting the yellow jersey harder, while the GC riders may not be ready to show their hand just yet. De Jongh was waiting to see how the race developed on the day. "Tomorrow is going to be a different kind of stage. We will see how the situation unfolds but the hills might make it a tense stage."

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's news:

Dylan Groenewegen sprinted to fourth place in the uphill finish of the Tour de France’s fourth stage in Limoges. The Dutch champion of Team LottoNL-Jumbo had to come from far behind during the chaotic final part of the race, but improved over the last days. Marcel Kittel (Etixx - Quick Step) won.

“We’re improving,” Groenewegen said while he tried to recover from his long final sprint. “It was tough, but we did a good job with the team. This time, I’m satisfied. I didn’t feel very strong, actually, but Sep Vanmarcke told me that I would be able to pass through that feeling. I got over it and went for it.

“We were still in front with four of us for the final. I was boxed in for a while during the sprint, but found some space afterwards to finish fourth. I came from quite far behind, but was able to come back quite strongly. It’s my own fault that I had to come from too far behind, I needed to be further up. My sprint was strong so this is promising for the upcoming stages.”

Groenewegen faced many obstacles in the final part of the race and even had to jump over a traffic island. “I don’t like to brake, so I chose to jump,” he continued. “If everything comes together, I might be able to win a stage in this Tour.”

Sep Vanmarcke was enthusiastic about the performance. “It was a hard, chaotic final part of the race,” the Belgian said. “We wanted to unite as well as possible, which isn’t easy when it goes uphill, downhill, to the left and to the right. Making matters worse, we lost Robert Wagner because of a puncture.

“I’m impressed by Dylan to survive this stage because it really was a tricky one. This fourth place is a beautiful result. We’re moving up as a team. We’re able to bring him from quite far and his final sprint is strong.”

Vanmarcke, who took 12th, thought that Groenewegen was still in his wheel during the final metres, but he wasn’t. “It looked like everything ended up quite well when Timo Roosen, Sep and Dylan came back together,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said. “When Sep moved forward, Dylan got boxed in and lost his wheel. Timo did a strong job to bring him back in position. They moved up on the left side. Dylan had to start is sprint a lot earlier than Kittel, for example, but delivered an impressive final kick.”

“When I led out Dylan, I felt how hard it was today,” Roosen explained. “It went uphill and we had to deal with a headwind, as well, so I fell back quite quickly. I still was able to bring Dylan quite far, but he still had to make up a lot of distance. It was very tough today with some tricky climbs in the final part of the race. We had to improvise to bring Dylan in the right position.”

“What we’re doing at the moment was our goal before the Tour de France,” Zeeman added. “We’re taking part in the sprints. We experience what sprinting in the Tour de France is about and learn from it. That’s what we want and we’re only able to do that.”

On Wednesday, the fifth stage of the Tour de France won’t end up in a bunch sprint. “We’re facing a tough profile with two hard climbs in the final part of it,” Zeeman said. “Wilco Kelderman will be able to survive it and George Bennett might be good enough as well.”

Here's what BMC had to say about the day's racing:

5 July, 2016, Limoges (FRA): The longest stage of the Tour de France saw another nail-biting sprint to the line, again coming down to a photo finish as was the case on stage 3.

Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) claimed the win, just edging out Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) on the line.

A four-rider breakaway almost spoiled the day for the sprinters, spending much of the 237.5 kilometer stage away and only being reeled in with seven kilometers to go.

With four sprint stages down, the peloton has their first real taste of the hills on stage 5.

Richie Porte: "It was a good day. At least we didn't go as slow as yesterday, but it's another one ticked off and I'm looking forward to getting to the climbs tomorrow. We have done the recon on tomorrow's stage and there are a couple of nasty climbs in there. But also the run in is a nasty, technical downhill so that could play a part in it too. There's a bit of a kick to the finish so for sure the last 40 kilometers are really going to trim the field a little bit. Which is a good thing, it won't be so hectic as it has been."

Tejay van Garderen: "I'm really excited to head to the hills and get the GC sorted out a bit more. I think it will be a little less nervous and we'll get a sense of who's going well and who's not. Richie and I did the recon [of stage 5] together and it's a tricky stage. It's not going to be as hard as the Pyrenees but it will shake things up. You're not going to see Sagan and Cavendish up there."

European eBike market shows big growth

This came to me from Bike Europe:

DOETINCHEM, the Netherlands – The amount of ground gained in the sale of electric bicycles across Europe’s main markets is underlined by comparing import figures for 2015 to those of 2014. They account for close to 50% import growth!

Import (from inside and outside the EU) of e-bikes and speed e-bikes into France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain increased by 46.8% in 2015 compared to 2014.

A figure that’s even higher when taking the UK into account. Including the import figures of the United Kingdom in the total import of e-bikes and speed e-bikes then a huge 70% growth is recorded. However, the data for the UK shows anomalies.

Due to these anomalies this reports covers the import (from inside and outside the EU) of e-bikes and speed e-bikes into France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain. Those imports totaled 970,000 units, an increase of close to 310,000 units on the 2014 total. This accounts for a sizable 46.8% import growth.

For the listed five main EU markets, the biggest import growth recorded by Eurostat is for Spain. E-bike and speed e-bike imports into the country more than doubled in 2015; from 41,000 to 96,000 units – a huge growth of 134.6%.

You can read the entire article here.

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