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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, July 31, 2016

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We've got five important races today. I'll get the results posted as quickly as I can.

Clasica San Sebastian team reports

Winner Bauke Mollema's Trek-Segafredo team posted this summary:

Bauke Mollema rebounded from the bitter disappointment one week ago when crashes ruined his podium chances at the Tour de France by soloing to his biggest, and first, WorldTour win in Clasica San Sebastian Saturday.

"The last days of the Tour de France were really disappointing for me, and this was a good way to fight back," said Mollema. "I recovered well from the Tour, and I am really happy to win, I have always loved this race and finished in the top 10. This is the first WorldTour classic I have won; I have always wanted to be on the podium of this race and have one of those Basque hats, and now I finally have one."

The World Tour Classic, a 220-kilometer run through the Basque hills, all came down to the last, steep climb where four riders emerged at the top of the 1.8-kilometer ascent with gradients exceeding 20 percent: Mollema, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).

Mollema, knowing he didn't stand a chance if it came to a sprint, caught the other three by surprise by launching an immediate attack with just over eight kilometers to go.

Mollema's advantage hovered around 10 seconds as the kilometers ticked away, and with three kilometers remaining it appeared the trio were about to tag him back. But no one wanted to make the last effort to close the gap, and his advantage grew again. Under the flamme rouge Mollema had 15 seconds, and in the final meters enough time to sit up and savor his first World Tour victory.

Bauke Mollema

Bauke Mollema wins San Sebastian

"Yesterday in training I did the last climb twice and three times the descent, so I knew what was coming," continued Mollema. "I was a few places behind when Rodriguez went, and it was a narrow climb, so it was difficult to pass the other riders. But I felt quite good and knew that I could close the gap in the last few hundred meters of the climb. On the top, we were four and Rodriguez slowed down a little bit, and I think that was the perfect time to go.

"I just wanted to try something, and it was a good moment for an attack, it was still 500 meters flat at the top. I tried and saw I had a gap and then it was just full gas until the finish. I think with two kilometers more or less I knew I had it. I still felt I had some power in the legs, so I was not going to blow up, and when I looked back, I didn't see the second group. I felt I could keep it until the finish – it was a nice feeling, especially in the last few hundred meters."

Gallopin won the sprint for second place ahead of Valverde, while Rodriguez missed the podium and settled for fourth.

There was perhaps no better way for Mollema to stamp out the disappointment of the Tour than with a sweet victory in a race he has always held in esteem. Mollema next heads to Brazil for the Rio Olympics, a course that suits the on-form climber.

Mollema: "I did not think about the Tour anymore today - I always like this race and I found the focus again this week and knew it was a good opportunity for me to make a good result. I think I showed I am in good form, this is a great result, and now the Olympics are coming and that is something I am really looking forward to."

This came from Lotto-Soudal:

The final part of the cycling season started today with the 36th edition of the Clásica San Sebastián. It was a good test for most of the riders to see how the legs would be about one week after the Tour de France. The finale of this Basque Classic was slightly different from previous years. As predicted the Murgil Tontorra, a new climb on the course, was the decisive climb of this year’s edition.

The traditional breakaway was formed almost immediately after the start. Six leaders obtained a maximum advantage of six minutes, that lead decreased a lot as the riders climbed the Jaizkibel for the first time. The front group was caught during the second ascent of the Jaizkibel because several attempts were made in the peloton. After that, it was Movistar that controlled the race and the peloton rode with full speed towards the final climb of the day. Adam Yates was the first rider to show himself, but his effort wasn’t good enough.

In the meantime, Tim Wellens, Jelle Vanendert and Tony Gallopin were attentively at the front of the peloton. Several moments later it was Joaquim Rodríguez who attacked. Three other riders joined the Spaniard: Tony Gallopin, Alejandro Valverde and Bauke Mollema. Finally, Mollema managed to obtain a small gap at the summit as he accelerated on the last steep parts of the climb. The three chasers were unable to close the gap so the Dutch rider won the race after a solo of eight kilometres. Gallopin beat Valverde in the sprint and finished second. It’s already the third time that the French rider obtains a great result in this race (Tony won the Clásica San Sebastián in 2013 and one year later he finished fifth, LTS). Lotto Soudal eventually finished with three riders in the top-21, a very good performance.

Tony Gallopin

Tony Gallopin finished second ahead of Alejandro Valverde

Tony Gallopin: “I’m pleased that my legs felt good after a disappointing Tour de France. The second place isn’t the most beautiful place on the podium, but I can tell that I’m very happy with today’s performance. I had a difficult period just after the Tour because it didn’t go as I hoped it would be. But one week later, I’m able to compete against the best riders and that gives a great feeling. I was able to follow riders such as Rodríguez and Valverde on the last steep climb. I had really good legs today, I rode an excellent race but unfortunately my efforts didn’t pay off.”

“The new ascent in the finale was short but several parts were very steep. It was important to be at the front of the peloton as we entered the climb. That worked out well with Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens by my side. I was able to follow the strongest riders on that climb and that really gave a boost. Mollema chose the right moment to attack. Rodríguez and Valverde are two great riders but the cooperation wasn’t as it should have been. It was possible to reel in Mollema as we were about five seconds behind him at a certain moment. But it is what it is. First, I will enjoy a short rest period and then I'll participate in Hamburg on 21 August."

Lampre-Merida sent me this frank assessment of the race:

Clasica San Sebastian is once again out of reach for LAMPRE-MERIDA, which never won the Basque race.

In the World Tour event, 220,2 km with the traditional climbs of the Jaizkibel (two passages), of the Alto de Arkale (2 passages) and the hill of the Murgil Tontorra (-7.7 km to the arrival), the blue-fuchsia-green team obtained the 43rd and the 44th place of Ulissi and Petilli.

However, the performance of the team of the sports director Marzano was quite good during the race: few kilometers after the start there were already blue-fuchsia-green colors leading the race, thanks to Niemiec who joined the breakaway of 6 members (in addition to the Polish rider, there were also Moser, Janse Van Rensburg, Lang, Roson and Chetout).

Their maximum advantage was 6'30", which were reduced in the approach of the first passage on the Alto dde Arkale (147,8 km). The gap was bridged by a group of counter-attackers on the second passage on the Jaizkibel (-35 km) and in this group there was also Ilia Koshevoy.

Soon, the peloton reached the head of the race and LAMPRE-MERIDA did not succeed to be protagonist in the final part of the course, when Rodriguez attacked on the steep hill of Murgil Tontorra and Valverde, Gallopin and Mollema followed him.

Mollema went clear in the downhill and he obtained a solo victory.

"In the first part of the course, we succeeded in realizing what we had planned in the race program - sports director Marzano commented - Niemiec was in the main breakaway, Koshevoy pedaled with the counter attackers, however in the final part of the race we missed to be in the front of the group.

Ulissi had no good feelings, Bono and Mario Costa gave their good contribution. For Petilli, this was an interesting debut. We can not be satisfied for the result in this race, except for some personal highlights".

Orica-BikeExchange signs Carlos Verona

This news release came from Orica-BikeExchange:

ORICA-BikeExchange will benefit from an immediate injection of climbing pedigree, signing Spanish rider Carlos Verona for the remainder of the year and the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Verona joins the Australian outfit from Etixx – Quick-Step and an agreement between the teams will see the 23-year-old line up in his first race for ORICA-BikeExchange at the Vuelta a Burgos this Tuesday.

"I am really happy to join ORICA-BikeExchange and start a new chapter of my cycling career here,” Verona said. “The team will help me to keep improving and become a better bike rider as I have seen them do with so many other guys. I live close to a few of my new teammates, and from what I see and hear, I’m sure it will be easy to become part of such a good group.”

Despite his young age, the Spaniard already has almost six years as a professional, four seasons at WorldTour level and three Grand Tours worth of experience behind him and is expected to play a strong role in the team’s general classification ambitions moving forward.

“I really like the direction that the team has taken towards focusing on the GC in the big races and the approach they have taken has been extremely impressive to watch,” he continued. I consider myself a team player and I look forward to contributing and playing a role wherever the team can use me.

“I’m still quite young, but I’m already on my fourth year at WorldTour level and look forward to getting into this new environment to see how far we’re able to take everything.”

Sports director Matt White reiterated Verona’s value in the three-week tours and expects him to fit immediately into the ORICA-BikeExchange environment. “Carlos will be a really important addition to the team going onwards as we approach our next seasons with a big focus on the Grand Tours,” White said. “He has great climbing skills and despite his young age, he already has an impressive amount of experience in these type of races.”

“He has a really good personality and already trains with some of our guys in Andorra, so I'm convinced he'll fit into our environment very easily.”

Verona will line up in his third Vuelta a Burgos next week, with the remainder of his 2016 program to be determined in coming weeks. “We're very fortunate to be able to bring him over already this year which is a great help for our planning and our ability to target the rest of the season,” White said. He's starting out now in Burgos and we'll assess his race schedule shortly. A rider with his qualities can ride any of the races we have left this year.”

Carlos Verona
Age: 23
From: Madrid, Spain
Turned Professional:  2011

Major results:
- 4th 2016 Tour de Romandie – Youth Classification
- 2nd 2014 Tour Down Under – Youth Classification
- 1st 2012 Vuelta Ciclisa a León – Mountain Classification

BMC headed to Vuelta a Burgos

Speaking of the Vuelta a Burgos, BMC sent me this update:

30 July 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): BMC Racing Team will race at Vuelta a Burgos for the first time from 2-6 August, with former winner Samuel Sánchez as team leader.

Sports Director Max Sciandri said Sánchez will be supported by a strong team, some of whom will use the race as preparation for the Vuelta a Espãna. "Vuelta a Burgos is a great race to do at this point in the season as it offers a bit of everything when it comes to the stage profiles across the five days. We have a great team leader in Samuel Sanchez, who is a previous winner of the race, and we have a good opportunity with the Team Time Trial on stage 2. It's the ideal race for a number of our riders who will use this as preparation for the Vuelta a Espãna," Sciandri explained.

Samuel Sanchez

Samuel Sanchez wins stage 4 of this year's Tour of the Basque Country

Sánchez, who won the race in 2010, is looking forward to lining up on home soil. "The Vuelta a Burgos gives me five more race days before the Vuelta a Espãna. With the course profile and the line up of riders set to compete, it is an ideal race where I can get a lot a big workload in my legs and get used to the race pace again before the Vuelta a Espãna," Sánchez said.

Vuelta a Burgos (2-6 August)

Rider roster: Jempy Drucker (LUX), Floris Gerts (NED), Ben Hermans (BEL), Daniel Oss (ITA), Samuel Sánchez (ESP), Peter Velits (SVK), Loïc Vliegen (BEL), Danilo Wyss (SUI).

Sports Director: Max Sciandri (ITA), Allan Peiper (AUS)

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