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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, May 29, 2016

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

He who knows best knows how little he knows. - Thomas Jefferson

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Giro d'Italia Stage 20 video


Tour of Belgium post-crash team reports

Early in the Saturday stage there was a terrible crash in the Tour of Belgium The stage was annulled and several riders were sent to the hospital.

Here's Lotto-Soudal's report:

This afternoon Stig Broeckx got seriously hurt in an accident during the third stage of the Belgium Tour. In a descent the young Belgian was involved in a crash of about twenty riders, caused by a crash of two motorbikes. Broeckx was seriously injured and he immediately received medical attention at the side of the road, afterwards a helicopter transported him to the hospital of Aachen.

Styig Broeckx

Stig Broeckx

Team doctor Servaas Bingé: “It was immediately clear that Stig had incurred a head injury and that he needed to be transported to a neurosurgical centre. Together with the race doctor and the medical emergency team we decided to transport him to the hospital of Aachen, which has the necessary infrastructure. A scan was taken at the hospital and it showed that Stig has two bleedings in his brain. Stig is in a non-induced coma, but for the moment he doesn’t need to undergo surgery. He doesn’t have a skull fracture, but he does have a fractured eye socket, which will be further evaluated later. At this point, it is very difficult to give a prognosis about a full recovery. The next 24 hours he will be very closely monitored.”

Manager Marc Sergeant: “Of course we are very shaken by all that has happened today. Last year our team had very difficult moments after the accident of Kris Boeckmans, exactly three months ago Stig was already hit by a motorbike in Kuurne and a few weeks later the peloton had to cope with the death of Antoine Demoitié. This is very hard for all staff members and riders, but even more for the family and friends of Stig. We can only hope that there is a positive evolution in the condition of Stig and we will support him and his family the best we can, both medically and emotionally.”

“After the neutralisation, the riders gathered in the team bus and drove to the team hotel where they stayed together to support each other and to talk about what happened. After deliberation we informed the organisation that we won’t ride the last stage of the Belgium Tour. At the moment it is pointless to make any accusations, but it should have been obvious much longer that structural measures concerning the safety of the riders are necessary.”

We will inform you as soon as there is any significant evolution in the condition of Stig Broeckx and we’d like to thank the cycling family for all support.

This bad news came from Giant-Alpecin:

Fredrik Ludvigsson (SWE) crashed out of the Baloise Belgium Tour on the fourth day of racing today after a dramatic crash in the peloton. The race was initially neutralised, but the race organizer took the decision to cancel the stage.

Team physician Anko Boelens (NED) explained: "Fredrik has a scaphoid fracture to his left arm. For now he will wear a cast for a minimum of six weeks. He will travel back to Sweden where he undergoes extra examination to determine if surgery is needed. The average recovery time is minimally nine weeks before returning to competition."

"It happened so fast and I couldn't do anything to avoid it," said Ludvigsson. "I am really disappointed but I have to accept it."

The team wishes Fredrik Ludvigsson a speedy recovery.

Giro d'Italia stage 20 team reports

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's news:

Steven Kruijswijk fell to the fourth place in the Giro d’Italia during the penultimate day of the race today. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s leader fought for his life the day after his crash, but could not stop Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in the final part of the stage. Rein Taaramäe (Katusha) won the stage, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) passed Esteban Chaves (Orica - GreenEDGE) to grab the pink jersey.

A small rib fracture made Kruijswijk’s day that much harder. Overnight, it was unclear if he would even start. Kruijswijk was suffering with a lot of pain in his foot and the side of his body, but moved on.

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk painfully finishing stage 19

“I didn’t suffer for three weeks to give it all up now,” he said. “This last hard day was possible only because I suffered through the rest, but I am totally exhausted now. The only thing that was possible was to hold my top three spot because I lost the Giro yesterday. It’s a shame that I’m standing here without the pink jersey now.”

Kruijswijk slipped out of the top three during the final part of the Colle della Lombarda climb. When Nibali attacked, Chaves and Valverde were able to hold on for a while. Chaves lost ground eventually and fell back to Kruijswijk’s group while Valverde joined with Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale).

“I did the best I could,” Kruijswijk continued. “I barely slept last night after my crash and I felt a lot of pain. I tried to ignore that pain. I wanted to forget everything and go to the finish line. I did. This was it.”

“I’m proud of what Steven pushed out of his body today,” Sports Director Addy Engels added. “We saw during the stage that he wasn’t the same Steven as he was before his crash, but that he was still at a good level, and that was more than we had hoped for.

“We had to begin the day without a target because maybe Steven was feeling bad and had to abandon the race, but he was still quite strong. That makes it even more painful that he lost his third place. We were close, and that hurts, but we still delivered a wonderful Giro d’Italia with our team.” The race finishes with a flat stage to Turin on Sunday.

BMC sent me this:

28, May 2016, Sant'Anna Di Vinadio (ITA): A stage win in the mountains narrowly escaped Darwin Atapuma's grasp for the second time at the Giro d'Italia, with Atapuma crossing the line in second place.

As the final chance for the climbers, and the final battle for the Maglia Rosa, the short but mountainous Stage 20 was a nail-biting 134 kilometers of racing, including four categorized climbs.

Atapuma made an early eight-rider breakaway from which multiple attacks were launched after the first climb of the day. Rein Taaramäe (Team Katusha) attacked on the Colle Della Lombarda, leaving Atapuma, Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale Pro Cycling) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) to chase him down.

Darwin Atapumpa

Darwin Atapuma (right) in the action in stage 14

Taaramäe hung on to take the stage win, with Atapuma crossing the line solo 52 seconds behind. The Stage 20 result marks a second, third and fourth place result for Atapuma on the three toughest mountain stages of the race.

Atapuma's performance has moved him into ninth place on the General Classification, his first top ten result in a Grand Tour heading into the final stage tomorrow.

Darwin Atapuma: "I have nothing left. It was another incredibly tough stage. I gave it everything and felt really strong. In the end I think I underestimated Taaramäe. He was the smartest rider out there today. I wasn't feeling good at the beginning of the last climb, but Dombrowski was and wanted me to pull. Then I felt better, but at that point we weren't pulling Taaramäe back fast enough. I attacked again to try and bring him back but I ran out of kilometers and then the stage was over. In the end I think I have shown what I can do here at this year's Giro d'Italia but I'm disappointed to not have a stage win to show for it."

Max Sciandri, Sports Director: "Another mountain stage and another near miss. Darwin put in a great ride and it was clear that he was the strongest out there today. But Taaramäe played it well. I think Darwin spent a lot of energy attacking to bring Nieve back. He still had the legs at the end of the stage but just missed out. He can be really proud of the way he has raced at the Giro d'Italia. Every mountain stage he has either been in the breakaway or attacking and finishing well."

Here's Tinkoff's Giro stage 20 report:

The Giro’s final day in the mountains, and it was one of the toughest yet. The profile featured three of the hardest first category climbs of the race, coming at the end of a final week filled with hard efforts and vicious attacking moves. Rafal Majka received strong support from his teammates today on the first two climbs, before the Tinkoff leader fought among a select group of GC riders on the final climbs of the day. Rafal cemented his fifth place in the GC with another top ten finish – his seventh of this year’s Giro.

Rafal majka

Rafal Majka climbing in Giro stage 19

Today was going decide the outcome of this year’s Giro d’Italia. With time gaps in the overall standings that still had the potential to change massively and a GC top five that each had their eye on the podium in Turin, there was everything to race for today. The 134km stage was one of the shortest, but also far and away one of the most difficult. Not only was the profile itself incredibly hard, with no fewer than three first category climbs and a third category climb to the finish, each and every rider had three hard weeks of racing in their legs – and on the climbs that would be hard enough coming at them fresh, with 3,000km behind the riders, they were going to be excruciatingly painful and difficult.

Spending much of the day in France, the first climb of the day was from the start line – with 19km to the crest of the Col de Vars on a maximum gradient of 13% and an average gradient of 6%. While the gradient eased towards the top, to start the day on such a steep climb was going to set the tone for a hard, cruel stage.

The moment the flag dropped, the attacking began. Eight riders managed to escape up the road – none of whom was a threat to the GC standings. With these eight making some headway on the peloton, some of the GC riders made their own attempts to break free, but each time were rapidly brought in by the group. The escapees soon built up a lead of five minutes on the peloton, eager to take some of the last climbers classification points before the final day, before extending this lead to eight minutes on the steep and fast descent of the Col de Vars.

With a new rider wearing the Maglia Rosa today, teams were anxious to see how he and his team would be able to react to attacks, and with three huge climbs to contend with, it was clear it was going to be a busy day for them. As the race approached the Col de la Bonette, a long, punishing drag with an average gradient of 6.7%, its summit almost at the midway point, the GC contenders were well-protected by their teams, with Rafal Majka being looked after well by three teammates. The long steady climb, with few changes in gradient, made the Col less attractive for attacking moves, but the sheer distance and its altitude – being the second highest point of this year’s race, at 2,713m – would take it out of the riders.

Making it to the top safely was only part of the challenge – the next step was to descend 40km to Isola – the upper slopes being winding and treacherous, and the sheer speed of the lower slopes further draining energy. In spite of the fast pace, none of the GC contenders had made attempts to break away, which although leading to a subdued mood within the peloton, created a certain air of anxiety about what was to come.

With 40km to go, all eyes were on the final first category climb. The summit of the Colle della Lombarda marked the point the Giro would return to Italy, but with a shifting gradient brought with it the potential for attacks. The breakaway group had maintained its gap, its fast pace having dropped many of its original members, but with a ten minute advantage had the potential to keep its lead until the stage finish. Rafal was still well-protected, with strong support. With 24km to go, Manuele Boaro led him up the Lombarda, with a second teammate sitting in the bunch a little further behind. While his rivals were setting the pace in the group, Rafal looked by far the most comfortable, as the race passed the 20km to go point.

Rafal was glad of the support of his teammates – as he had been for the Giro as a whole. “It was again another very tough stage. I gave 100% of myself, as did the team - I'd like to thank them for their huge effort all Giro.”

As in previous stages, the GC group gradually fell in numbers as the day went on. Rafal was a familiar sight as always in among the GC contenders. Seconds after an attack in the breakaway group went away solo and with the summit of the Colle della Lombarda fast approaching, an attack finally came from Vincenzo Nibali of Astana, Unable to pull him back in, the remaining GC contenders were left to try and work together to keep him in sight.

On the descent of the other side of the Lombarda, Rafal’s group encountered narrow roads and tight bends. With no chances to attack here, it was all going to come down to the final climb to the finish, with its 9.7% average gradient, and with the stage winner already across the line, the GC race was still very much open. With Vincenzo Nibali reaching the finish, it was a matter of watching the clock to see what gap he would have on the rest of his rivals. In spite of an exceptionally hard day of racing, Rafal put on an extra push to finish ahead of the Maglia Rosa, taking tenth on the stage and cementing his position in the top five overall of the race.

Looking back on the day, and his experiences throughout the Giro, Rafal was already assessing his performance. “I saw I lacked the explosiveness that my opponents had - I think that was my weakest point this Giro. However, I feel that my form is good and I will look to perform much better at the Tour with Alberto. Maybe in the future I need to do a Giro or Tour more relaxed in order to build my form to them and then attack another Grand Tour or an important stage race as captain.”

Sport Director Tristan Hoffman added: "The goal here was a podium finish but in the end it's a fifth place, but one we can still be proud of. Rafal did everything, he tried and fought together with the team everyday as he could so we can be happy. It's a very high level here and we've still got all the boys here which shows we've got a good level overall."

Talking about the stage, Hoffman said: "It was full gas early on with the first climb, and there was a big explosion in the bunch. Once the break went it all came back together and then came down to the final climb. He was there in the select group but when Nibali attacked he had to set his own pace. He followed as long as possible but it was hard day."

Tomorrow is the last day of this year’s Giro d’Italia. Riders will cover a 163km stage with a mostly flat profile – welcome relief after the last days in the mountains – before an eight-lap circuit in Turin to finish the race, likely ending in a sprint finish. There is always the potential for surprises at the Giro however, and while the GC outcome is almost certain, the stage itself is entirely open.

With the Giro all but finished, Rafal was looking to the future, and how he would ride in support of Alberto Contador at the Tour de France. “I'm very happy with 5th overall and the team did its best. Now we will focus on the Tour with a strong team around Alberto in the quest for the yellow jersey.”

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