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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, May 19, 2016

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

I'm not smart, but I like to observe. Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why. - William Hazlitt

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Giro d'Italia May 18 stage 11 video

Tour of California May 18 stage 4 video


Our new new audiobook

Former racer and current BikeRaceInfo contributor David L. Stanley wrote a wonderfully moving book about his successful fight with Melanoma. Publishing it has been both an honor and a pleasure. It has been available in print and eBook versions for a few weeks.

And now, David's wonderful reading of his own book is available on Audible.com.

I know you'll find this book, despite its serious topic, to be written with a light, humerous touch. It's both a moving and enjoyable read, no matter what format you choose. And all of us have spent a little too much time in the sun. A little education about Melanoma will go a long way.

Please be careful out there.

Melanoma cover


BMC's Tour of California stage 4 report:

18 May 2016, Monterey Country, California (USA):

In a dramatic and chaotic final kilometer, Greg van Avermaet put his sprinting skills to the test on Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of Califonia, crossing the line second on the raceway finish in Monterey County

Despite multiple attempts, it took 70km of racing for a seven rider breakaway to establish a lead, which they held for the majority of the race. With 15 kilometres to go, the peloton led by Rohan Dennis started to put pressure on the leading group and eventually a depleted peloton entered the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Despite numerous attacks on the track, the stage went down to a final sprint for the line that was won by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) closely followed by Van Avermaet.

There was also top ten finishes on for BMC Racing Team's Brent Bookwalter and Rohan Dennis who finished 4th and 7th respectively on the 217km stage. Bookwalter also maintained his fourth spot on the GC and now sits 40 seconds behind race leader, Julian Alaphilippe (Ettixx-Quick-step)

Greg van Avermaet: "I'm feeling pretty good after that stage. It would have better if we could have won a stage already but in the end it was a good day for us and I'm pretty happy with my form after coming back from my crash in Flanders. I think Brent and Rohan had a really good day in GC and everything went pretty well."

"For me, on the uphill sections I tried to follow as if you know there is a good finish for you, you can always hang on longer. So, I tried to get over the climbs and the team did a really good job today keeping the pace pretty high. In the end, there was a little bit of gambling about how the finish would go. I've beaten [Peter] Sagan a few times already but this time he won so next time I will have to try and beat him again." 

Jackson Stewart, Sports Director: "In the final there was a really select group of riders with the favourite guys for the stage and then the GC contenders so it made for a really fast pace. Plus there were a lot of little attacks at the end so everyone had to chase really hard and once you drop down onto the race track, you're looking at the sprint and it was a really fast finish to end an equally fast stage."

"There was a layer of details in our plans for the stage. Greg in the final was a key part of it but we also wanted to protect our GC and put pressure on the other teams to hopefully make them a little more tired in the final so we could be stronger but all in all it was good for us. All the guys were riding well, it was big team effort from us today and we got on the podium so we are happy with that."

Giro d'Italia stage 11 team reports

Giant-Alpecin sent this unfortunate news:

Tom Dumoulin (NED) has been forced to abandon the Giro d’Italia on today’s stage 11, as he has been suffering from complications from saddle sores.

“Tom has been suffering from saddle sores and is being treated with antibiotic creams to counter the inflammation,” explained team physician Anko Boelens (NED). “The injury started as a small pressure sore and gradually it became a local infection. Tom will now need to take a few days of rest without putting any pressure on the infected area, and we will closely monitor his recovery process along the way.”

Dumoulin said: “I am very disappointed to have to pull out of the race, which started so fantastic for me and the team. The pain was too severe and I couldn’t carry on anymore. We decided this morning to give it another try but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be improving. We were hoping for a recovery during the rest day but it didn’t get any better.

"I would like to thank all the fans and the team who have supported me. It is a shame that external factors forced me to abandon this great race and not being able to chase further success."

Tom Dumoulin

Tom Dumoulin after Giro stage 2, in pink

Coach Marc Reef (NED) said: “Sadly, Tom was not able to continue today’s stage. He has been battling this problem throughout the last stages. We hoped that it would improve, but his condition deteriorated and there is no prospect of recovery during the Giro. In consultation with the medical team and Tom himself, we realized there is no other option than to abandon the race. The Giro was a big goal for Tom and the team and it has been very successful so far. It's sad to leave such a big race like this.

“Tom will first take the time to recover. In the meantime the team will analyze his Giro data and make the best possible plan to work toward the second big goal of the season, the Olympics in Rio (BR). It’s now too early to speculate on the choices of races, training camps and altitude camps – these decisions still need to be made.”

“For the upcoming stages in the Giro, we will aim for the sprints with Nikias. In addition, when the mountain stages start we will go for breakaways and take our opportunities when they come.”

Race leader Bob Jungel's Etixx-Quick Step team posted this update:

Bob Jungels held his top place in the overall rankings, on a day in which former leader Gianluca Brambilla was involved in a huge crash.

Attack, counterattack, attack, counterattack – the last 20 kilometers of Giro d'Italia stage 11 had more action than a Bruce Willis "Die Hard" movie, and if John McClane was hard to get rid of, so was Bob Jungels, the overall leader of the Giro d'Italia. Many were expecting to see a sprinters' fest at the finish in Asolo, on a flat day with just a sting in the tail, but the stage turned out to be one for the GC riders, who signaled their intentions on the tough slopes of Forcella Mostaccin, a fourth-category climb with an average gradient of 10% over 2.9 kilometers and sections of even 16%.

Alone in the main group – after a crash that occurred a few kilometers earlier held most of his teammates behind – Bob found himself alone in the pack and attacked from all over the place, especially by the Movistar riders, who were keen to help Andrey Amador get the pink jersey at the end of the day. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Carlos Betancur (Movistar) were the first to launch an attack, but the 23-year-old Luxembourger neutralized those actions, with a move which showed maturity and confidence beyond his age. Then, right before the top of the climb, Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) forged a break, which stayed at the front until the descent ended, Bob being once again the one to lead the chase.

On the flat, it was the turn of Amador to attack and get a small gap, before the maglia rosa decided the time has come to take things into his own hands. Using his strong time trialing skills, the Etixx – Quick-Step rider made contact with the Costa Rican and giving a short look over the shoulder, decided to keep going and increase his gap on the other GC guys. Approaching the final lump of the day inside the last five kilometers, Bob spent his every ounce of energy, honouring the maglia rosa and showing to his opponents that they will have a hard time taking it from his shoulders.

From behind, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) accelerated on the short climb and caught Jungels and Amador, and the trio worked together to hold the chase. In the last kilometers, Bob moved again to the front and rode full gas, his effort eventually paying off in Asolo, where he finished third, notching his first podium in a Grand Tour, as well as bonifications on the line and important time on the road, which meant that now all the other riders, except for Amador, are at least one minute adrift, halfway through the race.

Bob Jungels

Bob Jungels starts stage 11 in pink

"I felt good today, but for sure it wasn't easy out there, especially as the crash took out of the pack some of our guys. On the climb, as soon as the attacks came, the group was narrowed to 7-8 riders. Then, when Amador went, I knew I had to follow him, so I made the most out of that action. When Ulissi bridged across, I became aware of the fact that I won't have a chance in a sprint, so I decided to go for seconds and try to take as many as possible. Overall, I'm content with the outcome of the stage and I'm looking forward to the next days", said Bob Jungels, a champion in the making, who brought Etixx – Quick-Step its fifth maglia rosa at the 99th Giro d'Italia.

It wasn't all roses on Wednesday, as several riders of the team were involved in the massive crash that split the peloton at 30 kilometers to go. Carlos Verona ended up with a right ankle contusion and pain at his right side ribs, Pieter Serry suffered two contusions, on his left knee, respectively right ankle, while Gianluca Brambilla, sixth at the start of the stage, is experiencing back pain after crashing and being hit by another rider from behind, an incident in which he also broke his wheel.

"Unfortunately, somebody hit me from behind right before the key moment of the day, and I couldn't return to the bunch. It's a pity, because I was having strong legs and was confident in what I could do on that climb. Hopefully, it isn't anything serious and tomorrow, when a flat course awaits, I will have an easy day and recover", were the words of Gianluca, who is still sitting in the top 10 overall, despite conceding more than one minute at the finish.

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's stage 11 report:

Steven Kruijswijk maintained his fourth position in the general classification of the Giro d’Italia with an aggressive ride during the final kilometres of stage 11 to Asolo. Diego Ulissi (Lampre - Merida) won the stage and LottoNL-Jumbo’s Enrico Battaglin finished eighth.

Kruijswijk and Battaglin both said before the stage that they were approaching it as an important one. Kruijswijk wanted to attack and Battaglin aimed for stage victory – they did so. “Enrico was thinking about this stage for a while and he proved to be right,” Sports Director Addy Engels said. “The eighth place was the best possible for him today. The three riders who stayed in front of the peloton were too strong today. Enrico wasn’t able to follow Ulissi.”

Ulissi bridged to Bob Jungels (Etixx - Quick Step) and Andrey Amador (Movistar) from the chasing group in the final part of the stage. Kruijswijk attacked on top of the final climb and made sure that only nine riders maintained their positions in front of the race.

“I wanted to test myself,” Kruijswijk explained. “Besides that, it was important for me to start the descent in front of the group. I had a good day, but wasn’t able to follow Jungels and Amador unfortunately. They broke away quite easily and when I tried to react to them, Valverde caught me. It wasn’t worth it to go on afterwards.”

Just before the final part of the stage, many riders crashed but Team LottoNL-Jumbo escaped harm. “We were in front of the peloton with the whole team at that moment,” Engels continued. “That says something about the level of the team. There are always risks, but when you ride like this, those risks are minimised.”

On Thursday, the riders are facing a completely flat stage. “I’m counting on a bunch sprint,” Engels added. “The final part of the race is very technical and they’re predicting rain, so those factors are making it a little tricky.”

And here's what Tinkoff had to say about Giro stage 11:

An innocuous-looking profile led to a battle for the GC standings on stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia. The flat profile had a fourth category climb towards the end, that acted as a launching platform for attacks from the GC contenders. With the support of his teammates, Rafal Majka finished the stage safely in 14th position. After a strong ride, tracking his GC rivals throughout, Rafal climbs a place in the GC, now sitting in sixth overall.

In what could best be described as a flat stage with a sting in the tail, the 227km route from Modena to Asolo looked innocent on the profile – a pan flat day for almost 200km, before a fourth category climb and an undulating run in to the finish. There was every chance of a last minute break to the finish, or that an early break might use the last 30km to cement their advantage. The key thing was not to underestimate the impact this stage could have on the race.

An early attempt to break away came after just a few kilometres. A group of nine, which included Manuele Boaro in their midst, managed to stay out front, however with other teams not happy with the move the escapees were pulled back into the fold. The average speed of the first hour of the race was a huge 51.5km/h – a speed that was bound to take its toll on some in the peloton.

Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, had expected a break to go early, and so had made sure the team was prepared. “We were paying attention at the start of the day for the big break and Boaro was there for us in the first move, but some teams in the bunch weren't happy, so it came back and a small break followed.”

A little over an hour and a half of racing, and a break finally managed to get away. Three riders opened up a gap, and with no threats to the GC in the group, the peloton was happy to allow the escape to go – and go it did, rapidly taking eight minutes on the peloton, a gap that soon after increased to ten minutes.

As the race approached the fourth category Forcella Mostaccin, which had slopes that hit a maximum gradient of 16%, the gap was down to just over three minutes. There was every chance teams would be planning an attack on the slopes of the fourth category climb, and so couldn’t allow the break too much of a gap in front.

Just before the climb, however, a crash caused a split in the peloton, which affected Evgeny Petrov. While the Russian rider was able to rejoin the race, he was in some pain but fought on to finish the stage at his own pace. Further information will follow after medical assessments this evening.

With the first of the escapees reaching the top of the climb, the rest of the breakaway was falling apart behind them, while the peloton was only a little over twenty seconds behind, gradually swallowing up the break.

Hoffman explained the situation on the road further: “The guys stayed around Rafal to stay safe for the stage and prepare for the final. There was a huge crash with about 30km to go and a few guys were involved. The whole peloton split up here and it was quite nervous, and also Evgeny Petrov was in pain and will need to see the doctor after the stage to assess the damage.”

The break almost caught, and just before the technical descent, the GC contenders started their attacks, and their rivals found they had no option but to go with them. As was the case in previous days, Rafal Majka had no problem holding the wheels of his GC rivals, matching them at every turn and every pedalstroke. As the group reached the bottom of the descent however, riders found themselves stretched out and a trio on the front opened up an advantage. Pulled back in by the chasers, another attack went and this time the Maglia Rosa went out with one other on the front. With the chasing group made up almost entirely of GC contenders, there was no way they would let this attack go without a fight, especially as the Maglia Rosa duo quickly became a trio – the ten second advantage could make all the difference on the GC.

As the Maglia Rosa trio entered the packed streets of Asolo, the chasing group was only eight seconds behind, with 4km to go. Rafal had the support of Manuele Boaro to keep the pace high and bring the Tinkoff leader to the finish. With the trio across the line, Manuele controlled the pace of the group of chasers, making sure no further attacks came, and ensuring the group all finished with the same time. Rafal crossed the line in 14th position, with Manuele shortly afterwards in 26th. Rafal’s strong performance earns him another step up the GC, and he finishes the day in sixth.

After the stage, Manuele Boaro gave his thoughts: "The big crash that took place had a big impact on the race today, but fortunately Rafal wasn't affected by this and we were able to keep him safety in the front group - this was the most important task of the stage.

Manuele Boaro

Manuele Boaro winning a stage at last year's Tour of the Sarthe

"I myself would have liked to attack solo but the legs I had weren't able to do it at the end today. Overall after 11 stages I'm happy with how the team is positioned and how my shape is, and we still have ten stages, of which some are really important. We will continue working to hopefully help Rafal make some big differences over his GC rivals."

As on previous stages, it was a team effort from start to finish, as Hoffman explained. “Tosatto did a great ride to bring Rafal in the front for the final climb and then he stayed well positioned at the front. It was good to see Boaro hanging in there on the climb too, and helping Rafal after. On paper this wasn't a stage with big time gaps but it proved tricky and we were ready for that.”

A pan-flat stage awaits riders tomorrow. The 182km route from Noale to Bibione takes place on an entirely flat parcours which finishes on two laps of an 8km circuit in the finishing town. While teams will be looking forward to a sprint, having been denied the opportunity today, the aim for Tinkoff will be to keep Rafal safe so that he can remain competitive for Friday’s tough mountain stage. As Hoffman explained from the finish. “Tomorrow is a totally flat stage, so hopefully that should be bit less stressed, but today showed that at the Giro every day you need to stay at the front and pay attention. Tomorrow will be less crazy in the final and then we have the mountains from Friday.”

BMC re-signs Samuel Sanchez

BMC sent me this note:

18 May, 2016, Santa Rosa, California: BMC Racing Team today announced the extension of Samuel Sánchez' contract beyond the 2016 season.

For Sánchez, the 2008 Olympic Road Race Champion, 2017 will his mark his 18th season as a professional cyclist. It was a natural decision to retain a rider of Sánchez' calibre and experience, BMC Racing Team General Manager, Jim Ochowicz said.

"We are excited to announce the extension of our agreement with Samuel Sánchez into the future. Samuel is a key player within the team, acting as team leader, role model and teammate. His sporting accomplishments speak for themselves as he continues to bring good fortune to himself and the team," Ochowicz said.

Samuel Sanchez

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

Sánchez is thrilled to continue his career as a cyclist. "Every day I feel more comfortable being part of the BMC Racing Team family, especially now that I am finally getting good results and achieving my expected performance. On that thought, why shouldn't I continue racing for the best team in the world?" Sánchez admitted.

"I have the motivation to face another exciting year, discovering new races and assuming achievable challenges. I would like to thank the team for trusting me to be part of the roster for another year."

In keeping with BMC Racing Team policy no other details of the contract were released.

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary