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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, July 9, 2016

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I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. - Michael Jordan

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Tour de France stage seven team news

Would you have thought that after seven stages of this Tour, Team Dimension Data would have won four of them? Granted, Mark Cavendish is an incredible sprinter when he's on his game, but Stephen Cummings gained an incredible win today in the Pyrenees. Well-done!

Here's Dimension Data's stage report:

Steve Cummings won stage 7 of the Tour de France in typical Steve Cummings fashion, attacking from the original break of the day, to win solo in Lac de Payolle. Daryl Impey (Orica-BikeExchange) made it an even better day for African cycling as the South African finished in 2nd place. Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) was 3rd.

Stephen Cummings

Stephen Cummings descending the Col d'Aspin

The 7th stage got off to a fast start with Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) attacking from kilometer zero. 10 other riders joined the Green Jersey contenders but the peloton weren’t content on letting Sagan and Cavendish get away. As soon as their group was caught, the counter attacks started and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were fully switched on as Edvald Boasson Hagen made a new break with 3 others. Once again, a few kilometers down the road this break was also caught. The third escape would be the defining move of the day and 29 riders rode clear after 40km of racing, including Cummings.

Due to the constant attacking, nearly 50km were covered in the first hour and so when the break went clear, the peloton sat up for moment to regain composure which allowed the break to go 5 minutes clear. There were some big names in the escape group, with the yellow jersey race leader, Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) also present. With the stage ending after an ascent of the Col d’Aspin, the climbers in the breakaway like Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Navarro were definitely the favourites for the stage.

Cummings was not in favour of reaching the Aspin with this big group and so when Navarro, Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie) and Matti Breschel (Tinkoff) got a 15 second gap on the lead group, Cummings rode across to the trio and injected some real pace into their attack. This caused a reaction in the chase and the big group split as 9 riders then tried to come across to the 4 leaders. The junction was just about to be made with 26km to go but before the chasers made contact, Cummings counter attacked and went solo.

The Col d’Aspin was a 12km category 1 climb that topped out 7km before the finish in Lac de Poyolle. The odds were stacked against Cummings as he was alone, being chased by 12 riders who were just 30 seconds behind him when the Aspin began. Everybody thought Nibali and Navarro would be able to bridge the gap to Cummings, and they tried, attacking on the very lowest slopes of the Aspin. Cummings held a consistent pace though and he was totally committed to the move.

In the end, Cummings even put time into his closest chasers on the Aspin. With the peloton still 4 minutes down on Cummings as he began the descent to the line, he just needed to stay upright to take an incredible victory. Cummings was able to do so with ease and the Brit was even able to savour the moment, crossing the line just more than a minute ahead of Impey. Another unbelievable day for our African Team, as we have now won 4 out of the first 7 stages, a feat we couldn’t have even dreamed of. Mark Cavendish retained the lead in Green Jersey points competition too, ensuring we had two riders on the stage podium today.

Steve Cummings – Rider: "That was sweet. After what has already happened this week, it is just fantastic to have won. Of all my victories, I think this has to be my best one. I wasn’t confident in that big group and putting pressure on them, I thought, was my best option. The Aspin is also a climb that suits my characteristics. The group behind was obviously on the limit so I just carried on, as you do, and I was able to win. I am really happy for the team and thankful that they believe me. I hope that people are really starting to get that we are racing to put kids on bikes with Qhubeka, it just makes everything that much more special for us and has put the team on a high."

Here's the news from Orica-BikeExchange:

Adam Yates has moved into the lead of the best young rider classification after the ORICA-BikeExchange rider attacked from the group of favourites on the final descent of stage seven of the Tour de France today, before his progress was impeded by a falling banner one kilometre from the line.

Tenacious riding by 23-year old Yates on the descent of the Col d’Aspin means he not only takes the white jersey but also moves into second on the general classification ahead of tomorrow’s stage eight.

Yates suffered the misfortune when the inflatable Flamme Rouge banner – which marks the one kilometre to go point – deflated and fell on the ORICA-BikeExchange rider as he passed underneath. The Briton sustained some heavy bruising and needed four stitches in his chin but thankfully will be ok to continue the race.

Adam Yates

Adam Yates earlier this year at the Dauphiné

“I attacked on the descent of the Col d’Aspin and started to take some risks to try and gain some time,” said Yates after the stage. “I didn’t see what actually happened, but clearly the banner fell into me as I was approaching the finish.”

“Obviously I’m disappointed because I was feeling good and things like that are not really supposed to happen. I have a few new cuts on my chin for the collection but otherwise I’m ok."

BMC saw Greg van Avermaet extend his GC lead today. Here's what the team had to report:

8 July, 2016, Lac de Payolle (FRA): Greg Van Avermaet put in an incredible ride on stage 7 to finish in fifth place, not only keeping his leader's yellow jersey but increasing his lead in the General Classification.

The first stage in the Pyrenees saw a fast and furious start with the peloton reeling in the first breakaway after 43 kilometers of racing. That made way for a solid breakaway of 29 riders to form, including Van Avermaet, building a gap of over five minutes as they approached the two categorized climbs of the day.

Steve Cummings attacked solo from the split breakaway with 26 kilometers to go. Van Avermaet was part of a 4-rider chase group, holding on as long as possible on the Col d'Aspin to cross the line in fifth place behind solo winner Cummings.

Behind Van Avermaet, the General Classification group began to attack until the one kilometer arch fell on the course, blocking the group and disrupting the race. The General Classification battle was neutralized and all riders were awarded their time at the three kilometers to go mark.

Van Avermaet now commands a 6'36" lead over Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) heading into his third day in the yellow jersey, which sees a big day in the mountains on stage 8. 

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet extended his GC lead today

Greg Van Avermaet: "I knew it would be hard to keep the jersey today. I made a smart move I think to go in the break. It was a hard start and everybody wanted to go. We tried to control but at one point we were riding and they kept on jumping behind us and then I said maybe it's better that I save my teammates again and I just go by myself. It kept the pressure off the team, they didn't have to work that hard today and I keep yellow. It was a great day, it's not often you see yellow in the breakaway It wasn't easy but I gained some time. I look forward to tomorrow as it's probably my last day in yellow. I will enjoy it, it's a mountain stage so we will see how it goes."

"With yellow on the shoulders you always do a little bit more. I was really motivated to keep the jersey. I just wanted to go for it, the shape is really good and I'm happy to have another day."

Richie Porte: "I didn't come down [when the arch came down on the course], I think Yates might have. It was a strange one. Common sense prevailed and everybody rode on. The Col d'Aspin was good. I had a bit of a gap there over the top. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but you're never going to stay away in a descent like that with those guys coming back as quickly as they were. The pace on the climb wasn't that high. I felt good, it's another day down and it's one that could have been quite tricky with that last little descent. But it all went well. We're going to take it as it comes. I'm climbing with the best of the best, the time loss still hurts, but it's day by day."

Tejay van Garderen: "No one really attacked. Col d'Aspin isn't the hardest climb. We didn't have any climbs before to really soften the legs up so everyone was pretty fresh. We did have a hard tempo out there, I heard on the radio that Pinot was dropped, so it's not easy if a guy like him is getting dropped. With the next two days coming up I think people are pretty nervous for those two days, so I think we'll see some fireworks tomorrow and Sunday."

"There was a 20-man break out there. That doesn't happen easily. We were fighting out there for 60 km to get the breakaway. On the climb it was a stiff tempo. There were no big attacks from the GC guys because we're all a little too fresh, but today softened up the legs for the coming days. It was a dream scenario today with Greg up the road."

Jim Ochowicz: "We've probably done way more than we expected to in this first week of racing. It's a great beginning for us, in what is going to end up still being a real challenge for everybody going forward. We take it one day at a time and so far each day has been good. We're very happy with the results so far and to go into the second week of racing with Greg Van Avermaet in the Yellow Jersey, it's a good feeling."

Alberto Contador is being carefully watched, of course. Here's the news from his team, Tinkoff:

There were rumours of rain at today’s finish in le Lac de Payolle, but it was blue skies all round as Alberto Contador finished safely in the bunch after the Tour de France’s first Pyrenéen stage, showing that he is recovering well from his injuries sustained earlier in the race. Even the collapse of the Flamme Rouge at the stage’s finish didn’t slow the Spanish team leader’s march to recovery, who rode conservatively today to test his legs before the big mountains.

With the Col d’Aspin dominating today’s profile, the riders knew they were entering the mountains. The entire 162.5km stage was essentially a lead in to the day’s major climb, following a gently-undulating parcours for the first 100km before the road started to rise upwards and the real climbs began. First came the Côte de Capvern – a fourth category introduction to what was to come. With the average gradient of 3.1%, the Capvern was by no means difficult, but at 7.7km in length, it was a warm-up for the 12km ascent to come.

The Col d’Aspin was the perfect introduction to the big mountains – relentlessly steep for its entire 12km distance, with an average gradient of 6.5% and ramps of up to 9.5% on the way. Rather than a summit finish, however, riders would have a short 7km descent before a gentle uphill slope to the finish in le Lac de Payolle. There would be no chance for recovery on this downhill section however – it was going to be full gas to the line.

From the off, the attacks were on, and today the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, got himself in the early breakaway. Having been denied the opportunity to escape on previous stages due to his having the race leader’s yellow jersey on his shoulders, Peter made the most of the opportunity to try and collect some points in the intermediate sprint. After 40km out front in his group of twelve, however, the peloton was chasing hard and the Slovakian rider sat up and returned to the peloton along with a few others, and minutes later the entire break disintegrated and it was all back together.

Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, was pleased to see Peter on the hunt for points. “Right from the start it was super fast, and Peter tried to get in the first break to chase points for the green jersey, but Etixx and Lotto Soudal didn't want it to get away and chased it down.”

Moments later, another attack, and this time a larger group of almost thirty escaped – this time with the yellow jersey in their midst, building up a strong and steady advantage as the stage went on, with just over four minutes as the race hit the 50km to go mark. After riding hard to stay in the original break, De Jongh wanted the team to focus on conserving energy for the later climb. “After this, a big break of 29 went, and this was OK, as if they weren't happy to let Peter go then we were better to save our efforts in the bunch and prepare for the mountain ahead, keeping Alberto safe.”

In the peloton, Alberto Contador was surrounded by teammates, who were making sure the Spanish team leader was kept safe and supported ahead of the big climb. This being the first bigger mountain stage, Alberto’s aim would be to test his legs and see how well he was recovering from his injuries sustained from crashes in the first two stages.

From the stage’s finish, Alberto explained his strategy for the stage. "Today I had to be extremely conservative, something that is completely atypical to my style of racing. However today was a simple appetizer to what will take place tomorrow. The goal now is to recover and tackle these two days on the Pyrenees, with our sights set on the rest of the Tour.”

Alberto Contador

Contador held his fire today. Tomorrow should be interesting.

With 20km remaining, the peloton began to up the pace to reduce the time gaps of the yellow jersey group ahead, and this was going to be the deciding factor in who could hold on – who was on form and who wasn’t. In the bunch, around 4’30” behind the solo breakaway leader, Alberto was amongst many of his GC rivals and had Rafal Majka and Roman Kreuziger with him to keep him safe.

As the solo breakaway crossed the line, all eyes were on the bunch as they reached the summit of the Col d’Aspin and started their descent into Le Lac de Payolle. As they reached the 1km to go point however, the Flamme Rouge collapsed just as Alberto’s group were approaching. Through safely, and with no concerns of time losses due to the neutralisation of this section, Alberto crossed the line with Roman, in amongst his GC rivals.

Looking back on the day’s racing, Alberto was pleased with how the strategy for the day worked out. “Although the stage had just one climb, the pace was high throughout the day. It also was a climb with strong winds. Despite the headwind, the average speed was high and that combined with the heat took its toll on some riders, so I decided to go to the back of the group. It's true that this change in rhythm can create gaps but on the other hand you ride well protected from the wind. My body welcomed that and it saved the day for me.”

Summing up the stage and looking ahead to tomorrow, De Jongh was pleased with how the day unfolded, and this had created confidence in the team for a long day in the mountains tomorrow. “By the finish Alberto hadn't lost any time, which was the most important thing today. We continue to take it day by day, and already tomorrow is a really hard day with the Tourmalet, which is always special. I think it will be an exciting day and we're ready.”

Tomorrow brings with it the Souvenir Jacques Goddet – and a worthy one at that. The Col du Tourmalet is the first of four climbs of the day, and the first Hors Catégorie climb of this Tour de France. 19km long and with an average gradient of 7.4%, this killer of a climb will set the tone for the day, on a parcours that looks more like a saw than a road stage. With barely a flat section on which to recover over the entire 184km stage, this will be a tough, exhausting day for everyone.

Alberto knew full well what was to come, but was looking forward to seeing what the day brought. “Tomorrow will be hard but we'll see what happens."

LottoNL-Jumbo has a dog in this fight. Here's their update:

Wilco Kelderman survived the seventh stage of the Tour de France without any damage. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s climber finished the first stage through the Pyrenees in the group with the overall contenders.

Paul Martens was part of the breakaway with Steve Cummings (Team Dimension Data), who attacked solo and won.

The stage Friday began with a long fight for the spots in the breakaway. “A group of 12 riders broke away, Cavendish and Sagan were there,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said. “That wasn’t a good situation for the fight for the green jersey, so they got caught, quickly. Afterwards, another war and 29 riders escaped.”

“It was good that I was in the break,” German Paul Martens said. “When I looked around, I saw that there were a lot of strong men in the group, so I knew quite fast that I wasn’t going to have a big chance at winning this stage.”

Just before the riders reached the Col d’Aspin, the escape quickly fell apart. Martens added, “Our advantage, however, wasn’t big enough for me to be able to finish ahead the main group.”

The peloton rode a decent pace on the Col d’Aspin, but a big group of overall favourites managed to stay together. “Wilco Kelderman was well placed in that group,” Zeeman continued. “George Bennett was able to work for him, as well. Wilco was in good position before the descent.”

“The boys were supporting me today,” Kelderman said. “I was led out perfectly to the foot of the Col d’Aspin and afterwards, it was up to me to stay in front and monitor what was possible. This turned out to be a warm-up for tomorrow and the day after. It sounds easier than it was, but it went quite well for me.”

Dylan Groenewegen came through the first stage in the Pyrenees without problems, as well. “I was part of the gruppetto for the first time,” the sprinter added. “That was quite fun. You’re just riding pace uphill. It doesn’t go too fast, so it’s perfect. I was able to get along easily and from now on, I’m going to approach it day by day.”

Giro Rosa update, Evelyn Stevens wins another stage

This came from the organizer:

"Triplete" for the American in this Giro Rosa: with the time of 36'21'' Evelyn Stevens took the best time in the Individual Time Trial from Albisola Superiore to Varazze beating Anna Van der Breggen and Elisa Longo Borghini for 4''. The result is an answer about the condition of the American Champion, who is going to take an eye to Rio: Nobody has won more stages than Stevens in this Giro.

Elisa Longo Borghini took an exceptional performance in the Time Trial (she is the Italian National Champion in this discipline) after the problems on the climb of Madonna della Guardia yesterday.

Evelyn Stevens

Evelyn Stevens winning stage 6

Anna Van der Breggen, winner of the Giro 2015, has earned one position in the General Classification: she is third now (Mara Abbott is now fourth) with 1'53'' delay, Stevens is second with 34'' from Megan Guarnier in Pink Jersey.

Tomorrow's Stage, from Rescaldina to Legnano, is run on the roads of the Coppa Bernocchi and it can give a chance to the sprinters remained in the race.

PODIUM INDIVIDUAL TIME TRIAL: ALBISOLA SUPERIORE - VARAZZE 21.9 KM (7° TAPPA)

1. Evelyn Stevens (Boels Dolmans) 36'21''
2. Anna Van der Breggen (Rabo Liv)     +4''
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5)  +4''

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 7:

1. Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans)    17:27'31''
2. Evelyn Stevens (Boels Dolmans)           +34''
3. Anna Van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv)        +1'53''

Team LottoNL-Jumbo extends contract with Kruijswijk

This release came from the team:

WorldTour Team LottoNL-Jumbo extended its contract with Steven Kruijswijk for the next two years. The Dutchman, who led the Giro d’Italia this May, is confident in the support the team will give him in the upcoming grand tours.
His contract will take him through 2018.

Steven Kruijswijk

Kruijswijk earlier this year, riding stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia in pink.

Nico Verhoeven: "Steven is a fine example of the talent in our team," Sports Director Nico Verhoeven said. "Steven showed what he is capable of in the last Giro with his amazing performance. We are proud that he has confidence in our plan with the support for the classification riders in the team. "Steven is altitude training in Andorra to prepare for the Olympics and the Vuelta. After that, we make plans for the next season."

Steven Kruijswijk: "I am very pleased with the prospect of racing the next two years at Team LottoNL-Jumbo," added Kruijswijk. "The team has an ambitious plan towards 2018 with the sprint train and the support for the classification riders in the team. I am confident that we can realise these ambitions together. This is the sports coaching, technical and support staff of the team, I would like to work with. The last Giro d'Italia confirmed my thoughts and gave me great confidence for the future."

Shimano Europe acquires Lazer Sport

This came to me from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News:

ANTWERP, Belgium (BRAIN) — Shimano Europe has agreed to acquire Lazer Sport NV, the Belgian helmet brand.

The companies agreed to the deal on Thursday. After clearance from authorities, the acquisition is expected to close in the second half of this year, Shimano said.

Lazer was founded in 1919 and claims to be the world's oldest helmet company. Besides bike helmets, it offers winter sports helmets, with distribution in more than 50 countries.

"Lazer headwear complements Shimano's own clothing, footwear and eyewear products, as well as Pearl Izumi clothing, also owned by Shimano, to bring a complete top-to-toe line up for on the bike use," Shimano Europe said.

Lazer's managing director, Sean van Waes, said, "This is a complete win-win for Lazer and Shimano. It allows Lazer to concentrate on what we do best - innovation - helping us to become the biggest helmet brand in the world at a faster pace whilst giving Shimano access to the best helmets in the business."

"By combining Shimano's customer base with our unique patents, technologies and products, the Shimano group will be well positioned to equip road, MTB, urban and leisure bike riders with a full mix of innovative components and accessories."

You can read the entire article here.

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