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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, June 9, 2016

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Stig Broeckx update

Lotto-Soudal sent this news:

Since his crash in the Tour of Belgium Stig Broeckx has been kept in an induced coma in the hospital of Aachen for the past eleven days to let him recover from the crash and the surgery he had to undergo last week. That operation was intended to decrease the intracranial pressure. The intracranial pressure has been under control since the operation and the situation is no longer acutely life threatening.

At this moment it is not clear yet what the neurological consequences of the crash will be. These examinations can only take place when the condition of Stig has been stable for a long time.

Critérium du Dauphiné stage three reports

Tinkoff sent me this:

On a day earmarked as a chance for the sprinters, the longest stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné had only one thing standing in their way – a short but steep second category climb around 20km from the finish in Tournon-sur-Rhône. In spite of the best efforts of the Dauphiné’s sprinters, a lone break from 15km out took the win, just two seconds ahead of the chasers. Finishing in the bunch with the sprinters, Alberto Contador took the race leader’s yellow jersey for the fourth time, maintaining his six second lead in the GC contest.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador retained the overall lead

With the race nearing its halfway point, the Critérium du Dauphiné had its longest day today. The 187.5km route from Boën-sur-Lignon to Tournon-sur-Rhône looked like it was to be one of the easier stages, with only three categorised climbs – two of which were fourth category – and a flat finish. The race has proved so far that even when the parcours is more straightforward, the riders can be relied on to step up and make the conditions tougher. The stage had been earmarked for the sprinters, but with the second category Côte de Sécheras just 20km from the finish, there was every chance of an all rounder taking the win if the sprinters couldn’t make it over the final climb.

Again today, the attacks went from the moment the flag dropped. With only 10km gone, a group of three had managed to escape up the road, and quickly found themselves with a six-minute advantage on the peloton. With the first hour of racing completed and the gap still at six minutes, the pace had been monstrously fast, with an average speed of 46km/h.

With the pace dropping ahead of the first climb of the day, the gap on the breakaway was steadily brought back, although still with a comfortable lead of just under five minutes. This dropped rapidly as the sprint teams began to up the pace. After 100km of racing, the gap was down to 1’45” and it was clear that the intention in the peloton was to end the day with a bunch sprint. This didn’t affect the break’s plans however, as with 50km to go, one of the break went it alone and disappeared up the road.

With one climb left, and 20km out from the finish, it was essential that to be able to contest the win, the sprinters would have to make it over this tough climb. While short, it had ramps of up to 14%, and a fast-changing gradient meant some of the peloton would find it hard to find a rhythm. If the sprinters were to contest the finish, this was the place they would find out if it would be possible, and with the gap down to fourteen seconds with 30km remaining, it seemed the sprinters would have their wish, with it all coming back together with 26km to go.

The moment the break was caught however, the attacks came from the peloton. With the first breaks, Alberto was at the front, working with his teammates to pull them in. One rider did escape however, at 15km to go, and with the finish so close and the advantage so slim, the peloton had no qualms about working to chase down the attacks, and in spite of the difficulty of the climb, there were still some sprinters who wanted to contest the stage, and weren’t prepared to allow a breakaway take the win.

As the race was nearing its end, Alberto suffered a mechanical, which had the potential to put some time into the race leader had there not been support from his teammates. Sport Director, Sean Yates, summed up what happened. “Alberto had a puncture, which could have caused a problem and some time gaps, but he borrowed Kreuziger’s bike, which got him to the finish.” Alberto was grateful that his teammates were there when he needed them "These things can happen. I had a mechanical in the final stretch and I tried to keep going but the tubular was rubbing against the frame. Luckily, Roman Kreuziger was just behind me, so I could borrow his bike, even if it's a bigger size than mine. It was a bit difficult to pedal on the seat but it was only 4km to go and another teammate was waiting for me to bring me back in the peloton. I managed to finish the race without any problems. We had to take quick decisions in a split second but we did it very well.”

As the lone breakaway rider hit the flamme rouge, the peloton was closing fast. It seemed a futile effort from the solo escapee as the sprinters began to accelerate, but while the gap was closing fast, he crossed the line two seconds ahead of the chasers. With Alberto crossing the line in the bunch with the sprinters, there was no change in the GC standing, and the Tinkoff leader kept his hold on the race lead and the yellow jersey for another day.

After what was a less intense day for the team – albeit still a fast-paced day – Sport Director, Sean Yates, summed up the day’s racing. “Some days are going to be more involved than others. There was a tough climb near the finish where the racing really started, and while it wasn’t a mountain stage, it was far from easy. It was a quieter day for us, with less need to control the pace. The breakaway riders weren’t the best climbers, and with other teams wanting to push for the stage win, there was less need for the team to work to pull in the break. We wanted to take it easy and didn’t want to commit to pulling in riders who weren’t a threat. Other teams had an interest in the sprint and so took up the sprint, so it all came back together. Aru did a great ride to the finish but it must have been frustrating for the sprinters.”

Continuing, Yates was pleased to see the sprint teams working hard today. “The plan, as always, was to keep Alberto safe, not lose time and try and save as much energy for the later stages. The team’s worked hard the last two days so it was good that there was less need to control the race. That said, it was definitely a fast day, with some up and down at the start. It was also cooler especially on the climbs with some wind too.”

Alberto was pleased to have his teammates on hand to support him to the finish, but was more relaxed about the outcome in this race. “It was a delicate moment but as I said before, I am less stressed in this race, compared to, let's say, Paris-Nice. I take it in a more relaxed way. Fabio Aru deserved his win - he's a rider that brings excitement to the races he takes part in, so it's a good outcome.”

Tomorrow, the Critérium du Dauphiné takes on a 176km route from Tain-l'Hermitage to Belley. With two fourth category climbs covered after 93.5km, there remains an undulating parcours to negotiate for the remaining 80km to the finish. With a fairly flat final kilometre, provided any breakaways are caught, a bunch sprint seems likely.

Yates was expecting there would be less need for the team to control tomorrow’s stage. “It’s the last chance for the sprinters tomorrow, so they’ll be going for it. We’re expecting it’ll be another day where the sprinters will take up the chase, so we’re hoping to conserve some energy for the mountains. There were quite a few dropped today, so we’re seeing some bigger time gaps in the GC, so the breaks are less of a threat than they have been these past couple of days.”

Here's Fabio Aru's Astana team's post:

"I would not have believed I could win that way today" said a super happy Fabio Aru immediately after crossing in first position the finish line of the third stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné.

fabio Aru

Fabio Aru wins the stage

"I had the bunch very close behind me but I didn't want to give up," explained the Italian of the Astana Pro Team, "to be honest, even yesterday I have had good legs but in the final I decided to help my team mate Diego Rosa to stay at the front and then I didn't fight for the stage win... Today that climb at 20 km to go was quite difficult, I felt very good sensations so I decided to test myself... First with a small group including my team mate Luis Leon Sanchez, then all alone till the end."

"I'm of course very happy because a victory in an important race as the Dauphiné give me the right motivation to continue in the training to be at my best for the Tour" concluded Aru.

And Team Katusha had this to report about Dauphiné stage 3:

A lone rider forced the teams of the sprinters to work for the catch, but on stage 3 in the 68th Critérium du Dauphiné it was two-seconds too late for Alexander Kristoff and the others as Fabio Aru took a solo victory in Tournon-sur-Rhône on Wednesday. It was not for a lack of trying, however, with the entire KATUSHA team working to bring the race back together.

"We really tried to close the gap but we ran out of energy and Aru rode really well. I was riding as fast as I could – I could not go any faster. In the sprint I felt like I had OK control so it is disappointing to not be able to win. I talked to Bouhanni about the last climb and he told me it was not so hard, so we wanted to close the gap and we did chase and control it, but Aru was just too strong in the end. We couldn’t come closer to him in the descent even though we were on the limit. He was so fast and kept his advantage. I felt quite good today so it’s a pity we could not win. It was somewhat disorganized in the peloton, but we were chasing with many guys so it was not for lack of trying. Aru is a good GC rider and I think we will see more of him in the future. We just couldn’t catch him back," said team leader Alexander Kristoff.

Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff riding the prologue hill-climb

Fabio Aru (Astana) attacked with over 20 km to go and held an advantage hovering near the 10-second mark for most of the run to the finish line. With Team KATUSHA and Cofidis working to close the gap, the group came within two seconds at the line, but Aru took the stage win with his brave ride. Kristoff won the sprint group for second place and Niccolo Bonifazio of Trek-Segafredo was third. The winning time was 4:19.54 on the 187,5 km stage from Boën-sur-Lignon to Tournon.

"It is a little disappointing when you see all of the work the team did today and then to not get the victory. First we worked with Jacopo Guarnieri, Michael Mørkøv and Marco Haller and then on the climb we saw Angel Vicioso, Alberto Losada and Jurgen Van den Broeck make an amazing race. Then to see that Alexander was only 2-seconds behind in the finish, of course it is disappointing. We send congratulations to Aru because he showed his true quality as a rider today and won a stage that was not necessarily one for him. I was confident Alex could pass this climb and be ready for the sprint, that’s why we committed to chase everyone back. This is good for our riders to see how well they can work and will continue to work the rest of this week and then for the upcoming Tour de France. For Alex it is also important for him to see that the team around him is strong and confident," said sports director José Azevedo.

Despite needing a bike change close to the end, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) retained his race lead and continues to hold six seconds to BMC’s Richie Porte. Rounding out the top three on the classification is Team Sky’s Chris Froome.

There is another chance for Kristoff on Thursday. Stage 4 at 176 km is an up-and-down day that begins in Tain-l’Hermitage and ends in Belley with a little kick to the line.

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