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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 4, 2016

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A word to the wise is infuriating. - Hunter S. Thompson

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Vuelta a España Stage 14 news

We'll start with stage winner Robert Gesink's LottoNL-Jumbo's team report:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider Robert Gesink won the 14th stage – the queen stage to the Col d'Aubisque – in the Vuelta a España today. The Dutchman held off Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) and Egor Silin (Katusha) in the final metres. George Bennett also made the front group and finished fourth.

“I'm very happy, I was so close on Covadonga, but Quintana beat me,” Gesink said after the 195.6-kilometre stage. “I definitely wanted to take another chance, and that was today. It’s really beautiful that I could finish it off.”

Gesink again grabbed his chance to go in the early break with his team-mates Victor Campenaerts and George Bennett. "We went with a large group of strong riders. I was not sure I could beat all these riders."

On the final climb, the group fell apart and there were small groups. Bennett rode out front, but Gesink fought for victory in the end. "I kept fighting and I gave everything. My legs were so cramped that I could not sit anymore, but I had enough. I'm happy,” added Gesink. “This is my first stage win in a grand tour after years of racing. It’s perfect timing too because I wasn’t really having a good season. Now I feel that I'm truly recovered from my crash in Switzerland."

Robert Gesink

Robert Gesink wins Vuelta stage 14

Team tactics: Victor Campenaerts threw his weight in to the group for his leaders. "Campenaerts made sure that the pace was high and the lead grew, he also made sure that Bennett and Gesink had plenty of food and drinks,” Sports Director Addy Engels said.

"It was an exciting finale. We had the race radio, but it spoke mainly of the classification stars, and when you finally hear Gesink won  – that's a relief. Yates rode a fast climb and we getting closer, so we had Gesink’s gap and we helped him along.

"He limited down his escape rivals, but a couple remained to test him. We knew that Gesink, given what he showed Monday, could do it. We kept telling him too go early.

"It was also a bit of luck as Bennett was in the group initially ahead of Gesink by 30 seconds. Both men could save energy. In Gesink’s group, the two riders from team Cannondale had to close the gap.

“George Bennett did well finishing fourth. He also moved up the rankings." He now sits 13th, 6’37” behind leader Nairo Quintana.

Tomorrow: "Tomorrow will be tough again with an uphill finish, but this time, it is a short stage. I assume that we won’t see the same men up the road again tomorrow given the energy they used today. This victory motivates us."

Here's Tinkoff's Vuelta news:

A big breakaway took charge on the Vuelta’s hardest day, with a large group riding off the front and the eventual stage winner in their midst. All eyes were on the final climb of the day – the Col d’Aubisque – where the GC race was likely to unfold. Riding confidently on the final climb and responding well to changes in pace, Alberto Contador finished shortly after the GC top two in 19th position.

The Vuelta’s Queen Stage was finally upon us after two hard weeks of racing. While the GC riders had tried to take it easy on yesterday’s stage, there was no amount of rest that could prepare them for the race’s hardest day. Four cateorised climbs dotted the stage, with three of these being first category and the final – the Aubisque – being the race’s highest category. Spending almost the entire day in France, this 196km parcours had the potential to have a huge impact on the shape of the overall standings by the end of the day.

From the off, there were multiple attempts to break away, Groups made up of only a few riders were quickly pulled back in and it wasn’t until a stronger group made the jump that an escape succeeded – and what a group this was. Made up of forty-one riders, with Daniele Bennati in their midst, this was the group that would have the sheer numbers to make good their escape. While the move panicked some other teams, who desperately tried to pull them back in, there was no stopping such a large group.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador climbing with Ben Hermans in stage 14

Ahead of the riders was a mix of different climbs – key to making this stage such a difficult one. Some of the ascents were steep, while others were less steep but long, meaning some climbs would suit some of the GC riders but not others. The key then was strategy, and making sure there was enough energy left in the tank to contest the final climb – the 16.5km long Aubisque, where the average gradient was 7.1%, but with ramps along its length of up to 10%.

As the day went on, riders began to drop off the escape group, the efforts on the climbs taking their toll on already tired legs. The descents were as demanding as the climbs and some riders had close calls, while others hit the deck and retired to the peloton. For the GC riders, the aim was to stay safe, and the guys were doing a sterling job of this for the Tinkoff leader, Alberto Contador. The gap to the break was hovering around six minutes, but this wasn’t insurmountable for a peloton chasing GC glory.

With 20km to go, the chase was taken up, with the guys pushing the pace to ensure none of the break impacted on Alberto’s position in the GC. With the race on the final climb, the fireworks started and as the GC riders decided to push the pace, Alberto went with them with an amazing pace on the demanding climb, holding the wheels of the top two GC riders. Attacking in the final 3km, the Spanish leader was just unable to escape and resorted to riding at his own pace as his rivals fought it out just ahead of him. The breakaway riders took the stage win up the road, with Alberto coming in 19th spot, twenty seconds after the top two in the GC.

The Tinkoff leader summed up the final climb from the finish. “I tried to sit with Froome and Quintana, but the changes in rhythm and pace made it hard to follow them. On the other hand, it wasn’t that difficult to follow the other riders. Maybe people will find this surprising, but I’m feeling well. I focussed on Froome and Quintana and for a long time I was riding easily with them, but there were a lot of attacks from dangerous riders that I also had to control – because only for me they were dangerous and not for them.”

While the Spanish rider dropped a place in the GC, it had been a hard day for the entire team, and there were still several days to race. Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, summed up the day. “It was a really hard day today. It was good to see Benna in the strong breakaway and he fought really hard all day – as did the rest of the team. All of the boys put in a lot of work to support Alberto and he toughed it out well on the Aubisque. It was a shame he was chased down in the final – he tried hard and was looking strong up until then.”

With riders going slow on the Aubisque, Alberto found it hard to find a good rhythm. “When Chaves attacked, we were going really slow. The way we rode up the climb didn’t really suit me – we had many slow moments and when Chaves attacked, we were really, really, really slow, so it was hard for me to accelerate. The truth is that I felt well and I attacked, but that was only to change the rhythm and to switch to a constant climbing pace. I tried to have a stable power output so that the riders that were ahead of me couldn’t go, but at the end I wasn’t able to get to the finish with Nairo and Froome.”

Tomorrow stage 15, at 118.5km, is one of the shortest, but this doesn’t mean the race is letting up – quite the opposite. The whole day is undulating, and riders will be taking on three categorised climbs, increasing in difficulty as the day goes on. The final climb – the Sallent de Gállego Aramón Formigal – won’t allow riders to get into a rhythm, shifting from false flats to inclines as steep as 10% in a matter of a few hundred metres. De Jongh saw that, as has been the theme for this race, it was going to be another difficult day in the saddle. “Tomorrow will be another short, but hard day. The climbs get progressively harder, so we’ll see how things unfold on the day.”

And here's what Lampre-Merida sent me about Vuelta stage 14:

The course of the 14th stage of the Vuelta a Espana was almost completely on the French ground, starting from Urdax Dantxarinea and finishing on the prestigious arrival on the Aubisque (hors categorie climb) at the end of 196 km with the ascents of the Col Inharpu (1st category), of the Col du Soudet (1st category) and the Col de Marie-Blanque (1st category).

After the success of Conti in the 13th stage at the end of a long breakway, LAMPRE-MERIDA tried once again to be represented by one of its riders in the main attack of the race and this happened for the fourth time in a row.

In the breakaway which went clear from the peloton after 20 km in the race, there was also the blue-fuchsia-green jersey of Mattia Cattaneo, who had obtained the 4th place in the 8th stage of the Vuelta. Cattaneo was in company of other 40 attackers and they had a maximum advantage of 5'.

The attackers had to battle agains the bunch, which did not allowed them to increase the advantage, and with the demanding climbs of the course, however Gesink, who was a member of the breakway, succeeded in winning the stage, preceding two other attackers, Elissonde and Silin.

Cattaneo was dropped in the approach of the summit of the Col de Marie-Blanque, at 40 km to the arrival, and he was overtaken by the group of the general classification contender. However, he was the first blue-fuchsia-green rider to reach the arrival (69th).

Suppliers work on bike aesthetics

This Eurobike report came from Bicycle Retailer & Industry News:

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (BRAIN) — After adding disc brakes and thru-axles the past few years, designers are turning their focus to the overall look of the bike and the results are surprising.

The biggest change is that cables have almost entirely disappeared as has the seat collar. And stems are designed to flow smoothly from clamping the bar into the toptube so there is one uninterrupted form from the front of the bike to the back. And finally that ugly stack of headset spacers that ruins the look of any bike is gone.

“It's a nice change. Functionally road bikes are really dialed now. They ride much better than they did a few years ago. So designers have time to focus on better integrating how a bike and components look,” said Luke Musselman, Duro Tires' director of business development.

One of SRAM's strategy meetings at Eurobike focused on how the company can help bike designers attach components with as little fuss as possible.

“It's not that our customers have asked for components that ease cable routing, but we know it is something that is coming. So we are starting to think about how to design things, like a front cable derailleur, with cleaner cable routing,” said Ron Ritzler, vice president of SRAM components.

You can read the entire story here.

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