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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, July 14, 2016

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I've been on a calendar, but I've never been on time. - Marilyn Monroe

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Thursday's Tour de France stage 12 shortened

Here's the Tour's news release explaining the change:

Due to the weather conditions forecasted by Météo France atop the Mont Ventoux with gusts of wind likely to exceed 100km/h, Tour de France organizers have decided to modify the finale of stage 12 in order to guarantee optimal safety conditions. Therefore, the stage finish will be located at Chalet-Reynard, 6 kilometres before the initially planned finishing line.

But it doesn't mean there'll be less racing. It might even be a more decisive stage since the head wind towards the end of the Mont Ventoux has sometimes forced the GC contenders to climb on a conservative mode. Race leader Chris Froome expects an even more intense battle uphill but also another crazy in the valley where the wind is expected to blow strongly. It's another day for echelons to be formed way before having the giant of Provence in sight.

Top favourites might not give it all though as they'll keep the demanding time trial of the day after at the back of their mind. The arrival at Chalet-Reynard remains a HC climb with the points being doubled up, so it'll be crucial for the King of the Mountains competition. It's Bastille Day, France expects polka dot jersey holder Thibaut Pinot to shine at the front.

Stage 12 profile

Tour de France stage 11 team reports

This is from stage winner Peter Sagan's Tinkoff team:

With a twist in the tail that nobody could have expected, Peter Sagan took his second stage win of this year’s Tour de France with an audacious attacking move 12km from the finish, taking teammate Maciej Bodnar and the Yellow Jersey with him. Peter’s stage win and the points amassed during the stage help the UCI World Champion to extend his lead in the points contest, and leads the second-placed rider by a significant margin.

Having been denied their bunch sprint by Peter Sagan’s breakaway group yesterday, the sprint teams were given a second chance to contest the finish before the Tour de France returned to the mountains tomorrow.

This didn’t stop a two-man break going up the road, but the peloton had little time to worry about the escape however with the constant threat of crosswinds making for nervous racing and resulting in several crashes. From 100km remaining however, the teams really started to pull at the front and upped the pace massively – so much so that when Tinkoff took the front, the pace was so high it caused a split in the peloton.

"We knew that it would be windy and in the direction to split it so we were up for a tough day, but for a lot of the stage there was a sense of false alarm with everyone looking at each other until we got near to the finish," explained Sport Director Sean Yates after the finish.

This huge effort saw the gap drop massively and with 70km remaining, the gap was down to just 45 seconds and with 61km still to race, the break was caught. With such a high pace and strong winds buffeting the group, racing was hard, and shortly after the break was caught, a crash saw both Rafal Majka and Oscar Gatto go down. Luckily both were uninjured and able to rejoin the race.

The intermediate sprint saw the UCI World Champion take second and from here it was full gas to the finish. There was status quo until the 12km to go mark, where Peter and Maciej Bodnar were joined by the yellow jersey and one of his teammates. Quickly building up a twenty second advantage, this was a powerful break with strong riders working together – with Maciej particularly strong in holding the pace, fresh from his win in the Polish national TT championship race.

"The guys did a great job looking after Roman and riding at the front and then putting the hammer down late on," Yates continued. "On the race radio they called it a violent acceleration when Peter raised it up a notch and pulled away with the other three, and it was already full gas.

Once they opened up the gap, they had four guys fully committed to make it stick. Once again Peter demonstrated that he's one of a kind, especially after yesterday's super hard stage, being up the road all day. He fully deserved that win, and he racked up a whole load more points for green today. Bodi was really strong and he always commits to the cause, so it was an ideal combination. A fantastic demonstration by the team again today, we couldn't be happier with their performance."

While the fast men had thought a bunch sprint was guaranteed, they were denied by the Slovakian rider and his Polish compatriot, who took the win with ease, and Maciej in third. Throughout the day the Tinkoff riders had controlled the stage, but it was at the finish where the team’s class really showed. From the finish, Peter couldn’t believe how the stage had turned out. “It was something crazy what happened. I didn’t believe when we attacked that we could go. After Froomey and Geraint Thomas went with us I said ‘we are too strong; they will never catch us’. We just pulled very hard and made it happen."

The surprise outcome made the stage easily one of the most exciting of the Tour so far – and as Peter explained, it was completely unplanned. “Today everybody knew it was a crazy wind, but the real crazy wind only came in the last 15km. There was no planning for the end, we knew to stay up front in position as the bunch would split. But to go in break with yellow and two guys like Bodnar & Thomas, you cannot plan that, it just happened.”

Peter Sagan wins Tour de France stage 11

Peter Sagan wins Tour de France stage 11

The team’s owner, Oleg Tinkov, was full of praise for Peter – taking the stage win in a way few other riders could match. “As I said he is technically the best rider, and today we all saw it. He's the character and the showman, he's the best and I'm glad he's in my team. Peter did something today that not many riders in the peloton can do. It's also a relief for the team after we lost Contador. A second stage win is good for us and it keeps the spirit up. We hope to go for the KOM jersey although we will see how Rafal Majka feels after he fell today, but it's looking good.”

After a hard stage with strong winds, Peter was thrilled with the support of his teammates, as wella s the support he received in the breakaway. “Today I'm very surprised and also very happy. We were trying all the time to be in the front and it was often dangerous with a lot of crashes and the wind was very dangerous. The last 12km was just decisive to do well. Thank you to Maciej Bodnar as he did a huge job, and also Chris Froome and Thomas as they were working with us to make the difference over the bunch.”

At the end of the stage, Peter’s lead in the Maillot Vert contest was extended to 90 points. “I am very happy – the green jersey, and the stage victory. Yesterday everybody was saying ‘are you frustrated?’ but I said I'm not and that I just look ahead each day. It was not planned at the end – it was in the moment, instinct. I bet everything on that attack as if the bunch caught us I wouldn't have any thing left. It was four very strong riders in the front, and it was a winning combination.”

Tomorrow’s stage is another beast entirely, with a climb that will strike fear into even the strongest grimpeurs. On Bastille Day, the Tour de France will climb Mont Ventoux – 15.7km long and with an average gradient of 8.8%. The ‘Mont Chauve’ is not simply Hors Catégorie – it’s one of the hardest climbs in the world and can crack any rider. Tomorrow will show who still has the legs to compete in the GC race.

Here's BMC's report:

13 July, 2016, Montpellier (FRA): Strong crosswinds and a blistering pace made for a stressful day of racing on stage 11 of the Tour de France, which saw Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen cross the line in the significantly-reduced peloton six seconds behind stage winner Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).

What was originally predicted to be a day for the sprinters turned into a day of crashes and echelons, after which Porte and van Garderen credited their teammates for protecting them throughout the stage. BMC Racing Team's riders spent the day at the front of the peloton to control the race in the  ever-changing conditions and stay out of trouble.

A late attack from Sagan, teammate Maciej Bodnar, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas (Team SKY), in the last 15 kilometers saw the group successfully hold the peloton off.

Riders crossed the finish line in multiple groups which sees van Garderen move into ninth place in the General Classification.

BMC Racing Team continues to lead the Team Classification, 6'34" in front of Movistar Team.

Richie Porte: "It wasn't just in the final, but the whole day [that the team looked after us]. It was so stressful and from kilometer 0 it was just shoulder to shoulder all day. The legs aren't too bad. Obviously when Chris Froome and the other guys skipped off it was just carnage. But I felt good, comfortable, and I'm just really looking forward to the mountains again. I guess Team SKY are taking time wherever they can get it but tomorrow's a different day and they may have to pay for their effort that they did there too."

Tejay van Garderen: "To be honest I don't even really know what happened. The wind makes it crazy and stressful and I'm just glad to survive. It was an impressive ride by Chris Froome. But you don't look back, you just look forward. I got tangled up a bit in one of the crashes but I dind't go down thankfully. I had to chase back but Marcus Burghardt waited for me and I got back with no real issues. With 40 kilometer an hour winds we knew it was going to be a crazy day and I'm just glad to make it through."

Michael Schär: "These days with the wind are really the worst of the whole Tour de France. The first week you expect it to be nervous but then between the Pyrenees and the Alpes you think you have a sprinters' stage but it's anything else than that. We stayed up there and it was good. I didn't stop once all day, we were up there fighting for position the whole time and at the end it was ok."

LottoNL-Jumbo sent me this news:

The wind dominated stage 11 of the Tour de France to Montpellier. The peloton broke several times and world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) won from a small move of four with race leader Chris Froome (Sky). Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider Dylan Groenewegen sprinted to 13th behind the winning group of four.

"It was a hectic day, even in villages the peloton suffered in the cross-winds,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said after the 163 kilometres between Carcassonne and Montpellier. “The peloton split up several times and we always had right people in the front.

"We were hoping for a small group that could fight in the sprint, but then the attack of four men was a surprise. They were four of the strongest riders, so it was difficult to get it back. Together with the other teams, we tried, but unfortunately, we arrived too late. "

Groenewegen: "You expect that it is going to be echelons in the finale, but not that those four men would attack,” Groenewegen added. “I had expected and hoped that we would be sprinting with a small group. The four men attacked and we put our team a little earlier in front. It is our own fault that we were not sharp enough at that time.

“Maarten Wynants put me up front and then I let myself drift back slightly. At 450 metres, I was alone, but that was because we were already in the front before. We rode a good race, only the result is not super."

Vanmarcke: "It was war the whole day,” explained Sep Vanmarcke. "It was surprising that the split happened just then. We sat perfectly as a team in position and I assumed the sprinters’ teams would control the race.”
He just missed the split with Sagan. “All day, I sit near Sagan and then it happens and I'm not there. That's frustrating. At that time, I was ready to prepare the sprint with Dylan."

Early in the stage, George Bennett crashed. He suffered bruises, but he quickly got back on his bike and said that he is OK now.

UCI says disc brakes can be used in Gran Fondos and Cyclosportives

This update came from Bike Europe:

AIGLE, Switzerland – The UCI clarification that that disc brakes may be used in Gran Fondos and Cyclosportives with immediate effect was welcomed by the cycling industry, represented by the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI).

In the a statement the industry organization also welcomed the assessment process, that has been agreed upon by the UCI, AIGCP, CPA and WFSGI, to restart the testing of disc brakes in professional road racing in the near future.

The UCI is currently undertaking a risk assessment on disc brakes in collaboration with a third party investigator in order to get a further clarification about safety of disc brakes in road racing. In case of a positive outcome nothing should hinder a quick restart of the trial period also in professional road racing.

You can read the entire article on disc brakes here.

Lotto-Soudal reports on its U23 team:

The U23 team of Lotto Soudal has had a successful season so far, with already more than a dozen victories in club races and also victories in regional races. This year there are eleven first-year U23 riders in the team and seven second-years. The goals for this season were adapted to the fact that it is such a young team, but the riders perform better than expected.

Kurt Van de Wouwer, head sports department U23: “We started this season with a lot of new riders in the team and mainly first-years. The guys surprised us, and themselves, by performing so strong already and by achieving some beautiful victories. When they entered the U23 category they didn’t know what to expect. They are getting better thanks to each other, there is a healthy dose of competition. If your teammates perform well, you want to do that as well. Now and then there is a strong generation and that is the case now with the riders born in 1997. Also the riders born in 1991, among other Tim Wellens, were such a strong generation. We knew that the riders we had signed were capable of something. Stan Dewulf was second at the European Championships for juniors last year, while Aaron Verwilst was fourth, so they already played a role at European level. That doesn’t mean though, that it is easy to do so well in the U23 category.  Our riders really exceeded the expectations.”

“Victories that stand out are the stage win and overall victory of Bjorg Lambrecht at the Ronde de l’Isard. He won the first stage and wore the leader’s jersey from start to finish. Harm Van Houcke won a mountain stage at the Tour de Savoie, where also two continental teams were racing. The victory of our team at the Belgian Team Time Trial Championships in the beginning of this month is also a performance we can be proud of. We already gathered the riders (Dewulf, Goolaerts, Leysen, Shaw, Van Gompel and Vanreyten, LTS) a few days before the race to train on the course. A team victory is always nice. Those Belgian Championships were also a race of the Top Competition and with one more stage to go we lead the team classification. This year this wasn’t a goal of us because we have such a young team, but it looks like we will win the team classification for the fifth consecutive year.”

“There are some nice goals still coming up. On 14 August the Belgian Road Race Championships take place and we have a chance to win with fast riders like Edward Planckaert, Milan Menten and Enzo Wouters. I also expect that riders of our team will be selected for the World Championships. There are also some more beautiful stage races on the calendar like the Valle d’Aosta (13 – 17 July), the Tour de Liège (18 – 22 July) and Tour d’Alsace (27 – 31 July).”

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