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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, July 23, 2016

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No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness. - Seneca

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Before moving on to the Tour de France:

Tom Boonen re-signs with Etixx-Quick Step

The team posted this news:

Multiple Monument winner and former World Champion Tom Boonen will continue with the team next season.

Tom Boonen, Etixx – Quick-Step and Paris-Roubaix. Three names which will be forever linked, indivisible one from another, and which are poised to write a new chapter next season, as the 35-year-old Belgian agreed on a new contract with the team whose symbol he is. Since joining the squad created in 2003 by Patrick Lefevere, Tom has become one of the shiniest stars in the galaxy of cycling and built a huge legacy and a name that will stand forever as possibly the greatest one to tame the ruthless and treacherous cobbles of the north.

Tom Boonen

Tom Boonen in the 2016 Paris-Roubaix

Three wins in Ronde van Vlaanderen and four in Paris-Roubaix make Tom Boonen joint-holder of the all-time record in both events, and by continuing with Etixx – Quick-Step he will have a chance to go again for the races which he loves so much. Besides the two Monuments, he's also won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, all on multiple occasions, six stages and the points classification at the Tour de France, as well as the coveted rainbow jersey, all making up for one of the most impressive list of achievements ever seen in cycling, with each of these victories having its special place in the history books.

"I'm very happy and delighted what we came to an agreement. It's important for me to stay in this team, as I've basically spent my entire career here and enjoyed many beautiful moments, reaching some big goals", said Tom Boonen, one of the few riders in the current peloton to win more than 100 races as pro. "I know everybody since the inception of the team and I consider this squad as my second family. To be quite frankly, I don't see myself with another jersey. It will be great to embark again with this strong team on a new adventure in the one-day cobbled races."

"We are very happy to have Tom on board also for next season. It's the logical way. We have a strong connection with Tom, which goes back to 2003, when our team was established. By staying with us, Tom can count on a strong team which will support him in next season's Northern Classics campaign and in his assault for a fifth Paris-Roubaix", said Patrick Lefevere, Etixx – Quick-Step's CEO, who witnessed Tom Boonen become one of cycling's greatest riders in his 14-year spell with the team.

Tour de France Stage 19 news

Again, we have to start with Team Sky's report:

Chris Froome battled through a dramatic stage 19 at the Tour de France to retain the yellow jersey after crashing 10km from the line. The race leader slipped off on a treacherous wet descent ahead of the final climb and had to take Geraint Thomas' bike, yet battled back to the GC group to come home ninth, just a few seconds down on his key rivals.

Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) won the stage after a decisive attack in the closing kilometres, with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) crossing the line in second and third respectively, 23 seconds down.

Froome came in 36 seconds back on Bardet, flanked by teammate Wout Poels, who produced a stunning effort on the first category Le Bettex to nurse his team leader home. And, despite finishing ninth, Froome actually extended his yellow jersey advantage to four minutes and 11 seconds, after Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) both lost time and dropped out of the top three.

A relieved Froome talked through the crash after the stage, and praised the fantastic work of his teammates who got him to the line. He said: "There's never a quiet day at the Tour! It's ironic really. I was just trying to stay up front, safe and out of trouble. I think I just hit one of the white lines on the road and lost my front wheel. I'm okay. I'm lucky nothing is seriously injured, I just lost a bit of skin obviously and banged my knee a bit.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome after the crash

"This is the kind of day that I feel grateful I've got that four-minute advantage. I can fall back on that a little bit and obviously it was great for me to have teammates all the way up to the finish. Wout [Poels] in particular, and all the guys - it was a great team effort today and it feels good to be one day closer to Paris."

It briefly looked as though Froome would take a spare bike from the team car before the climb, but in the end he rode Thomas' bike to the finish. He added: "I finished on Geraint Thomas' bike. I knew the car was quite far back and mine wasn't rideable after the crash. Thanks a lot to Geraint for his bike! I rode that to the finish and it was all right. Tomorrow is going to be really hard. I'm sure I'm going to be a bit sore and stiff after today. But hopefully I can rely on my teammates for one last push to get through the stage."

Tale of the stage: It was a fast day in the Alps, with the Astana-led peloton seemingly unwilling to let the early break go clear. The gap to the 20-man group never really exceeded four minutes and it was whittled down on the penultimate hors categorie climb, before all but disintegrating as soon as the descent to the final climb began.

Then the heavens opened, causing the riders difficulty on the soaking roads, and Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac), Mollema and Froome all suffered unfortunate crashes.

Froome was straight back on his feet after crashing and Thomas was quick to handover his bike, with the team on hand to pace the yellow jersey back to the drastically reduced peloton.

Amongst the drama Bardet picked the perfect moment to attack as the peloton tiptoed towards Le Bettex and he quickly bridged to lone leader Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), before leaving the former world champion behind.

The Frenchman stayed away to take a fine victory, while continual attacks fired behind, with Dan Martin (Etixx - Quick-Step), Richie Porte (BMC), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Quintana all launching from the bunch. None of them could forge a damaging gap though, while Froome had a touching pat on the back for Poels as he crossed the line one day closer to Paris.

BMC sent me this Tour update:

22 July, 2016, Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc (FRA): Stage 19 of the Tour de France saw a crash-marred day in the mountains, with Richie Porte crossing the line in 10th place and moving up to fifth on the General Classification.

Marcus Burghardt and Amaël Moinard made it in the day's breakaway of 20 riders which proved crucial for Porte in the final 50km of racing. The breakaway started to disperse on the Montée de Bisanne as heavy rain started to fall, making for slippery conditions and causing multiple crashes.

Porte crashed with 25km to go and chased hard, thanks to Damiano Caruso, Michael Schär, Amaël Moinard and Greg Van Avermaet, to return to the yellow jersey group before the final summit.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte time-trialing in stage 18

Caruso put in a stellar effort on the climb to deliver Porte to the front of the group with 3km to go, from which point Porte attacked. It was a tough battle of the General Classification contenders, multiple of whom who had crashed, and Porte eventually rolled across the line just under a minute back from solo winner Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale).

The battle for the podium comes down to the final day in the mountains on stage 20, which includes four category climbs and a descent into the finish in Morzine.

Richie Porte: "I left a bit of skin out on the second descent. I just crashed in the descent, quite a lot of guys did, but I think I was the first one down. I think it's just a bit of skin missing, it's one of those things."

"It was such a hard day and it was a mess out there in the final. I think everybody came down. But I think I worked well with what I had and tomorrow's another day. Today, even up hill around the corners, it was a bit slippery, so we'll see how tomorrow pans out. I gave it my all today. The team were just amazing out there. The way they brought me back to the group after the crash and their work on the climbs was phenomenal."

Damiano Caruso: "The final was really good for me. I was happy with my work for Richie. At the end we lost some time, just some seconds, but tomorrow we will try again. The Tour de France is not over yet."

Yvon Ledanois, Sports Director: "I am so proud of the way the team worked today around Richie. To say they were incredible is the absolute truth. Tomorrow is another day and as we saw today, anything can happen out there. Rain is forecast again which means it will be another hectic stage. We are ready for one last fight to get Richie on the podium."

And here's the report From the Tinkoff team:

After days of sunshine and intense heat, storms of wind and rain whipped the peloton on today’s stage. If the parcours itself wasn’t hard enough – a 146km stage with four categorised climbs – the weather was bound to demoralise the riders and make a hard day in the saddle even harder. Riding in the break for the third successive road stage, Rafal Majka confirmed his position as King of the Mountains taking points on the first three climbs of the day and is set to carry the jersey into Paris on Sunday.

Climbing from the start in Albertville on one of two uncategorised climbs, today’s stage was going to be incredibly difficult. Rafal Majka would be aiming to tighten his grip on the Maillot à Pois, but at the same time with only two stages before the ride into Paris, the GC riders would also have their ambitions for the stage. Four categorised climbs, the hardest being the Hors Catégorie Montée de Bisanne, would separate riders from the finish and potential glory.

Rafal majka

Majka on his way to finishing stage 19

The next two stages would be pivotal for the Polish national road champion, and from the start Rafal Majka went on the attack to claim as many points as possible in the mountains contest. In the breakaway, and quickly building an advantage on the peloton, Rafal was joined by Robert Kiserlovski to ensure he was supported on the climbs to take as many points as possible. The large group included Rafal’s main rival in the KOM contest and so it was essential that the Tinkoff riders took control. Pushing hard and setting a fast pace, Robert forced several of the break to drop out, unable to maintain the high speed of the Croatian rider.

When Rafal saw the break forming and his main rival for the climbers’ jersey escaping, he knew he had to go with him. “Mathematically I knew I had to go when I saw De Gendt go in the break. He took the first two so before the last climb we went a bit faster and I took the points there. Robert gave me a lot of help today and my teammates supported me in the earlier stages.”

Taking points on the first two climbs, and the full set on the Hors Catégorie climb, Rafal cemented his position as King of the Mountains, and while there is still one mountain stage to race, it was confirmed that his lead in the contest was insurmountable.

Rafal had nothing but praise for the entire team after his successes in the race. “We have a great team in Tinkoff and we’re so happy to have two jerseys. It’s our way of saying thank you to Oleg Tinkov for all his support. We’ve had some great results in the race and I’ve come in the top three myself a few times. I’m happy because we fought for two jerseys – the Polka Dot Jersey for me and the Green for Peter, and in the end even with the bad luck early in the race, we should have two jerseys in Paris. Without Alberto we were still able to ride a good race, but we needed to fight and we fought hard.”

After taking the points on the climb and a hard effort in the break for a third road stage, the weather took a turn for the worse and the roads became slippery and treacherous. Opting to stay safe than jeopardise his jersey by crashing, the Polish national road champion dropped back to the chasing peloton, his and Robert’s work done for the day. After working so hard for the jersey, the Polish rider wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardise it now. “When it started to rain, normally in the mountains it’s nice weather, but at the end it was slippery and I saw a lot of crashes and I didn’t want to risk it, so went easy behind and followed the bunch on the last climb. I saw Nibali and Froome go down and I just wanted to go easy and not crash. I crashed ten days ago and know how much it hurts so I just took it easy. I was tired from the break too and had expended a lot of energy.”

With several riders crashing, including the yellow jersey, attention turned to the GC race, where Roman Kreuziger was riding with the peloton and the favourites. The Czech national road champion had pushed hard throughout the stage, staying in touch with the GC riders on every climb of the day, but as the pace rose and more and more dropped off the yellow jersey group, so too did Roman, with just a few kilometres still to race.

From the finish, Sport Director, Steven De Jongh was pleased with Rafa’s strong performance confirming his place as King of the Mountains, but in spite of his best efforts, Roman had suffered. “Another strong ride by Rafa today, and he secured the polka dot jersey which is great. On the other side, Roman wasn't having a good day, and wasn't feeling good from start, so he lost time today. The other guys were ok, it was a really tough day, but no crashes for us luckily which is good and we will go to Paris with the Green and Polka Dot jerseys which is nice.”

Looking back on the race and his season, Rafal had every reason to be happy. “I’m happy with my performance. Today I felt good and won the last climb and took the jersey for Paris. I wanted to take the points to close the jersey contest so we could take both Green and the Polka Dot to Paris. Maybe I didn’t win a stage but I’m happy with my performance. After taking the top five in the Giro and now the Polka Dot jersey, it’s been a great season.”

It’s another hard day’s riding in the mountains tomorrow, with only one stage before the traditional procession into Paris for the race’s finale on Sunday. At 146.5km – similar to today’s stage – it’s another fairly short stage, but what the day lacks in distance, it makes up for with climbing. Four categorised climbs dot the stage, with the Hors Catégorie Col de Joux Plane the final climb of the Tour before a descent into Morzine. 11.6km long with ramps of up to 11.5% in the middle section, De Jongh knew it was going to be another hard ride. “It was a tough day in the office today and we have another tough day tomorrow. We have to see how the legs are tomorrow - there's a tough start with an early climb. There are still some big teams without a stage win and they will probably want to go for it so we could see a big group go again.”

Giant Alpecin had this unfortunate news to forward:

Tom Dumoulin (NED) crashed out of Le Tour de France on today's 19th stage of racing after a crash that took place in the bunch.

"Tom has fractured his radius in his left forearm," explained team physician Stephan Jacolino (FRA). "It's a clean fracture and further examinations have shown no additional fracture of the wrist joint, which is good news. Tom will have further tests in the Netherlands to determine if surgery is required to stabilise the fracture and to make a treatment plan."

Dumoulin said: "It's a huge setback. After the crash I instantly knew it was bad news. Luckily it is a clean fracture. As a precaution I have a cast but I can't ride a bike with it. If I need to keep this for two weeks, then my participation in Rio will be difficult."

Tom Dumoulin winning stage 9

Tom Dumoulin winning TDF stage 9

"Tomorrow I go back to the Netherlands and we can see how we proceed. I really hope I will be ready for the Olympics. At the moment there is too little information to say anything more about that objective."

Coach Marc Reef (NED) added: "We are very disappointed about the situation, for Tom and for the whole team. Tom's Tour was already very successful but this injury is a big setback towards Rio. Now we have to see what our options are to be able to make the best possible plan for the next weeks."

The team wishes Dumoulin a speedy recovery.

LottoNL-Jumbo sent me this report:

George Bennett of Team LottoNL-Jumbo rode an attacking race during the 19th stage of the Tour de France. Just after the start of the stage to Saint-Gervais-Mont Blanc, there a group made it clear with the New Zealander. The peloton didn’t let them go far and Romain Bardet (AG2R) won the 146-kilometre stage with a late attack.

"It sucks that we could not stay away, I had really good legs and everything went according to plan,” Bennett said. “I ended up in a large leading group and we got away. Then you hear that Astana is leading the pack, and you know it will be difficult. If there is a team leading the chase you just make sure you go faster, eventually Astana would give it up."

Not everyone thought that way.

"The cooperation in the leading group was not good, I wanted to go faster but there were many complaints and few riders were not working. I really do not understand the riders attacking, because if we had worked together, we surely would’ve had a chance. "

"It's good to see Bennett go again in the escape,” added Sports Director Merijn Zeeman. “He wanted it very much and it's nice that he made it. He joined up with the best, but it was disappointing that the peloton did not let them go."

"When I was back in the group, I wanted to stay there as long as possible, but then I crashed and I was dropped,” Bennett said. He fell over some other cyclists, but suffered no damage. He added, "Tomorrow we will try it again."

"Another tough is day behind us,” the team’s sprinter, Dylan Groenewegen explained. “It went pretty well today and we reached the goal. My legs hurt very much, but everyone feels their legs at this point in the race so you have to get over it.

"I'm not extremely tired, but it’s more like the others climb a lot faster. The other sprinters are struggling, too. At the start of the Tour, I was dropped a lot earlier and now I’m able to stay with the other sprinters.

"It’ll be another hard stage tomorrow, but then I can think about Paris. That's the big goal now."

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