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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, September 10, 2016

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The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things. - Henry Ward Beecher

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Vuelta a España stage 19 team reports

Here's what stage winner Chris Froome's Team Sky had to report about the day:

Chris Froome claimed a resounding victory in the stage 19 time trial at the Vuelta a Espana, slashing the gap to the red jersey. Froome threw caution to the wind, attacking a blustery 37-kilometre course to set a phenomenal winning time of 46 minutes and 33 seconds in Calp.

Quickest through every intermediate time check, that performance was enough to see him go 44 seconds quicker than nearest challenger Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar).

More significantly the Brit carved back 2:16 on race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar), meaning that with one mountain stage to go he remains second overall, 1:21 back on the red jersey. "I gave the time trial everything I had. I don't think there's much more I could have done today. I left it all out on the road," said Froome after the stage. "It's my last race of the year and I'm happy to still be in good condition.

"There's still one more really tough day of racing tomorrow. Let's see. Of course Quintana still has more than one minute of an advantage. We're going to keep fighting all the way. We'll see (what happens) tomorrow and I'll speak with my team-mates tonight. Quintana with Movistar has a really good team around him and it's going to be difficult to beat him."

Leopold Konig backed up the superb effort of his team leader with the sixth best time on the day, 1:51 back on Froome. Admitting he wanted to honour the Czech national champs jersey, Konig told Eurosport the conditions played a big factor. He confirmed: "My front wheel slipped in the second corner because of the wind. I took it cautious and the wind played a big role. For the lighter riders it's very tough."

Chris Froome

Chris Froome pounding to his stage 19 win

Quintana had headed down the ramp with a lead margin of 3:37, but quickly began to lose time. Froome took 46 seconds out of the red jersey at the first intermediate, followed by 1:33 at the second split.

On riding against the clock Froome added: "For sure you don't enjoy (riding a time trial), but you get a lot of satisfaction when you hear you're setting the fastest time. It's the whole reason you race - the feeling of going head to head with your rivals."

And here's how race leader Nairo Quintana's Movistar team saw things:

Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) fulfilled the expectations on his own body for the trascendental TT in the 2016 Vuelta a España -37km between Jávea and Calpe- yet ended his day trailing more than planned against a superb Chris Froome (SKY). The Briton took the day’s win by putting more than forty seconds on Jonathan Castroviejo, the Spansh specialist from the Movistar Team seemingly safe on top until his exhibition, and reduced in 2’16” what still is a relatively comfortable gap for Nairo, 1’21” ahead overall before Sunday’s Aitana showdown (197km).

Winds became the main actor in today’s effort, as their picking-up way above the forecasts made Nairo starting to lose time faster than expected into the first intermediate check (12km), 46” behind Froome, and keeping that tendency through the second (24km), where Froome proved to be on a league of his own by putting 1’32” on Quintana. Nairo didn’t risk, though, on the technical finale and will focus on protecting himself on Saturday alongside a strong block. All Valverde -still leader of the Points classification, yet with only 2pt over Nairo, 6 to Froome,10 to Fabio Felline (TFS)-, Moreno -jumping three places up, now 8th overall- and the entire roster directed by Chente and Arrieta will give everything to secure Quintana’s first win in the Spanish grandtour.

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana retained his overall lead

Nairo Quintana: “I did a good time trial, but Chris Froome really flew over today’s course. He set the bar quite higher than we expected. My ‘data’ over the parcours wasn’t bad at all, more on the contrary: I did what I felt I needed to complete a good TT. Wind picked up and blew stronger than initially planned, yet I chose well my gearing for the race and my legs were strong. And that’s the most important thing: keeping that juice flowing and feeling good for tomorrow, which will be a very serious stages. We’ve got quite a gap, and we must take advantage of it and defend ourselves well. Surely I lost more than I hoped, but before the race, I thought I’d need to take more than three minutes before the TT to defend and eventual leader’s jersey, and we fulfilled our task today.

“We’ve got a strong team for tomorrow, one with people still feeling fresh. It will be a stage where we mustn’t lose focus, as there will be lots of attacks from the start. People won’t keep their minds cold, and many will want to gain some. Orica have lost their podium spot and will try to recover; Contador will fight to keep his place; Chris will attack; and I have to defend myself. I just have to cover Chris’ moves, wait for the finale and follow him towards the end of this last battle.”

Jonathan Castroviejo: “Today’s goal was winning the stage, and sadly we didn’t fulfil it. It was a difficult course, with lots of pace changes, sections where you couldn’t pedal and profit it you were strong… I didn’t like it really much, but I managed through it well. I had to cope with strong headwinds; probably the early starters didn’t face it, but that’s not an excuse as I was above them. I gave everything and only a fantastic rival like Froome could beat my time. Into a Grand Tour, you go through good and bad moments - I can’t really say this was one bad thing to remember, I felt like I left all on the road. Tomorrow? Surely many teams will ride against us and try to take advantage to improve their GC results; we have to give everything one last time to keep Nairo safe.”

Alejandro Valverde: “I was inside the podium, watching Nairo’s time trial, full of nerves. We knew that Froome would do well, yet his TT was fantastic. We’re still keeping 1’21” against Chris and, while tomorrow’s one will be tight, I think we shouldn’t have any problems. Till the very last finish line is covered, we must keep pushing. It will be a beautiful stage for the fans, not really much so for those inside the race (laughs).”

Alberto Contador's Tinkoff team sent me this:

With today’s time trial and tomorrow’s mountain stage the only opportunities left to attack the GC before Madrid, Alberto Contador was focused on giving his everything over the 37km TT course between Xàbia and Calp. By the end of the tough, windy stage Alberto posted a time of 48’30”, placing him eighth on the day, and seeing him jump one place on GC to third.

Alberto said after the stage: "I got off to a good start and the first part of the time trial went very well. There was a strong wind but I knew it was there I could make a difference on Chaves. Then it became tougher and I had a hard time keeping a steady pace of watts, it was stop and go. I didn't feel the way I would have liked, the effort took its toll but I'm satisfied with the result.

“The truth is that it is a shame things got wrong-footed from the beginning of the Vuelta. Because of my crash and other factors, I currently am not facing the best possible scenario, I would have liked to be fighting for another goal, but after all, we can't complain. Froome did an extraordinary race today. Maybe they still have options, but they will, obviously, have to make a move tomorrow. It will be all or nothing for them and we'll see whether we can take advantage of that. I will try something on the Alto de Aitana."

Alberto Contador

Contador's good ride moved him up to third place

The rolling course with a testing climb in the first half was also subject to strong winds so the riders had to be attentive throughout. Starting the race at a fast tempo, Alberto posted the third quickest time at the first time check, immediately showing his intent to keep chasing the top spot to the end.

He held a strong rhythm, posting strong splits and eventually coming home with a time that would see him finish eighth, 1’57” down on the stage winner. Importantly, Alberto was faster than two of the three riders ahead of him on GC which saw the gap close slightly ahead of tomorrow’s tough mountain test.

Steven de Jongh gave his thoughts on Alberto’s ride, saying: “He did a very consistent time trial and took time on all but one of his main rivals by the finish. It was tough out there with the wind and you had to pay attention on the downhills as it was tricky with the disc wheel, but he handled it well. Froome was exceptional today, but Alberto put in a strong fight and moves up on some of his rivals.

“Tomorrow is definitely a very hard stage and I think a lot of things can still happen. Maybe Froome will have a go, maybe Chaves will want to try to get back on the podium. So I think it will be a very interesting stage.”

Manuele Boaro was the next fastest for Tinkoff, in 28th position, as the rest of the guys focused on making it safely through the stage to support their leader in the final two days of the race.

Tomorrow’s penultimate stage takes in a 193.2km route covering five classified climbs, four second category ascents and an especial category climb to the finish line – the Alto de Aitana. At 21km in length, and with gradients that gradually get tougher as the climb progresses, the final climb to the line will prove to be another big GC test before the last ride into Madrid on Sunday.

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's Vuelta report:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s Victor Campenaerts time trialled to fifth place in the Vuelta a España stage 19 today in Calpe. Campenaerts clocked 48 ​​minutes, 20 seconds for the 37-kilometre stage – nearly two minutes behind stage winner Chris Froome (Sky) with 46-33. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) remains in the overall lead with LottoNL-Jumbo’s George Bennett moving up to 11th.

"It went well, I had the power in my legs to ride a good time trial,” Campenaerts said. "More than this was impossible. Since my selection for the Vuelta, I've been working for this stage. We previewed the time trail several times and I was able to go full-gas.”

Campenaerts rode in the Belgian champion jersey. "Every time, it’s an honour to race with this jersey, especially so in a grand tour.”

Victor Campenaerts

Victor Campenaerts riding to fifth place in stage 19

George Bennett rode a good time trial and placed 25th, enough to move up the overall classification.‎‎

"Normally, I'm not good at time trials. And often, I lose places in the general classification after a time trial. In the beginning, it was hard and I did not know what to expect. When I passed the rider who had started ahead of me, I thought I was riding a good time trial. I was sure that it was a good time when the sports directors complemented me at the finish. It is nice to be able to ride so well at the end of a grand tour.”

‎Sports Director Addy Engels was in the car behind Victor Campenaerts and George Bennett. "Victor rode a good time trial as we had hoped,” Engels added. “George showed that he is in good shape. For a non-specialist as he is, it was a good ride. We are happy with the result.”

Robert Gesink rode mostly with his mind on tomorrow's summit finish stage up Aitana.‎ "I don’t want to call it a day off, but I was able to just have a training day. Tomorrow, it is first a battle to get into the escape group and if that succeeds, it is then a fight to stay clear of the peloton.

"I already had a top finish on the Aitana stage one time and that gives me the motivation to do it again. I felt good in the last week, and I’m hoping for the same tomorrow.”

BMC sent me this unhappy news:

Samuel Sánchez' hopes of finishing in the top ten at the Vuelta a Espana came crashing down on the stage 19 ITT after a nasty fall left him with an acromioclavicular joint dislocation of the right shoulder.

Sánchez' bike slipped out from under him when he turned a corner at a high speed with 7km to go of the 37km course and his right side was the main point of the impact. The acromioclavicular joint dislocation will rule Sánchez out of the remaining two stages.

Samuel Sanchez

Samuel Sanchez heading to the finish line after crashing

Update from Dr Daniele Zaccaria: "Samuel was taken immediately to the Hospital Marina Baixa Villajoyosa after his crash where they performed a number of X-Rays and tests to determine his injuries. Given the heavy impact of the crash he is lucky to have not broken any bones. His main injury is the acromioclavicular joint dislocation of his right shoulder but he also has a large contusion and is unable to walk properly. He underwent a head CT scan as he was experiencing some dizziness but was cleared of any concussion."

"Samuel will require at least a week off the bike, following which he will ride on the rollers before returning to the road. We will continue to monitor his recovery and hopefully he will be able to race at the beginning of October."

Samuel Sánchez: "I had a brutal crash with 7km to go in a corner to right. I was doing a good TT and I think I was able to finish it in the top 5 or 6 and gain some GC positions. Right now the physical pain is nothing compared to my soul. I am only two days from the final and we did a big sacrifice to be here fighting with the best riders. I know this is sport and cycling but it's hard to accept it now. The important thing is I haven't broken anything even if my right shoulder is dislocated. I hope to recover fast and give my best in this final of season in the Italian races in October."

BMC's Tour of Britain report:

9 September 2016, Haytor, Dartmoor (GBR): Today's Tour of Britain queen stage featured the race's only summit finish and saw the General Classification contenders go head to head with Rohan Dennis taking second place on the line and moving into third overall.

A four-rider breakaway formed early into Stage 6 in Britain but, with a battle of the General Classification contenders expected on the final summit finish to Haytor, the peloton kept the group's advantage in check never allowing it to reach beyond 3 minutes 30 seconds.

Heading toward the final two Category One climbs of the day, the formation of the peloton started to reshuffle and an injection of pace from BMC Racing Team saw the gap quickly come down to under one minute with 22km to go.

The remaining breakaway rider was eventually swept up by the peloton with 10km to go before the race headed towards an uphill battle to the finish line. Dennis was able to attack on the early slopes of the 5.7km climb to Haytor and eventually found himself part of a select group of riders working hard at the front of the race.

Wout Poels (Team Sky) attacked going into the final kilometer and was able to hold on to a small lead to take the stage win while Dennis was locked in race against Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant Alpecin) behind him.

Wouter Poels

Wouter Poels winning the Tour of Britain's stage 6

Dennis dug deep in the closing meters of the race and showed his strong form by accelerating away from Dumoulin to cross the line second and move into third place on the General Classification, 51 seconds behind the new race leader, Steve Cummings (Team Dimension Data).

Rohan Dennis: "The race really came down to that final climb today and it was pretty hard there at the end. I went early but it was an all or nothing decision in the morning. I basically thought that to win this race, I really have to open it up and hope to crack Vermote and Cummings and to do that meant I had to go early. It didn't quite work out perfectly but it pulled me a little bit closer and with the time trial coming up I think that it could still be a pretty open race."

"I haven't been working on purely climbing efforts at the moment so I think I can take a lot of confidence out of the fact that I have been able to get the power out on the climbs. A lot of my training has been centered around time trials and I think what has helped me this week particularly is that I have lost a couple of kilos after Rio and that all adds up over a day of ups and downs."

"It's a pretty straightforward time trial I think. From the profile it is not particularly hilly and that final climb is fairly short so I think it will be a quick run in to it and we will be able to bounce over it quickly and in that sense it should suit me. I guess with the position I am in on the GC the ball is in my court so I really just have to go out there and do what I know I can do."

Sports Director Jackson Stewart: "We knew we could take some time on Cummings and Vermote today but we just didn't know how much. We rode pretty strong on the penultimate climb and then Rohan rode hard up that last climb thinking about more than just the stage today. He gave it everything he had and a few guys were able to go with him. Cummings was able to come back once or twice and then Rohan was able to take more time at the line. The goal for today was to move up on the GC and try and get as close to the top spot as possible and that is exactly what Rohan did today. Now we can go into the time trial tomorrow and leave it all out there on the road to go for the stage as well as seeing what we can do on the GC. It will be a tough ask as Dumoulin and Cummings are similar time trial specialists to Rohan and I think it will be a really good battle tomorrow."

BMC also sent me this GP de Québec report:

09 September, 2016, Quebec City (CAN): Greg Van Avermaet was back on the podium at GP Cycliste de Quebec after sprinting to second place behind winner Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) in a thrilling finale in Quebec City.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan winning GP de Québec. Van Avermaet is behind him in the BMC kit.

The 16-lap course provided some spectacular racing action and it wasn't until the final 300m that the race came back together in a nail-biting sprint to the line.

An eight-rider breakaway spent went away on the first 12.6km lap and built a solid but manageable advantage of five minutes. Despite some last-minute attacks from the breakaway the group was pulled back with roughly 40km to go, after which multiple attacks played out in the final three laps.

Solid teamwork from BMC Racing Team, including Brent Bookwalter's move in a late chase group, kept leader Van Avermaet protected and positioned well going into the finale.

Van Avermaet launched his sprint with 200m to go but was unable to overtake Sagan before the line. It is Van Avermaet's third time on the podium at GP Cyclist de Quebec.

Greg Van Avermaet: "I'm pretty happy with my result here. It's a really hard race and it's hard if you're not here with the best form. I think Peter Sagan was a bit too strong today but I'm pretty happy with second place. It's only my second race in four or five weeks so you're always waiting a little bit to see how your body reacts until you start racing again and it's good to be back."

"The last four laps were really hard and normally I always attack on the first climb but I had to hold myself back so I waited. I think Trentin and a few others made a big gap and I was just hoping that they would come back and I could do a good sprint. So I think it was a good decision to wait and go for my sprint, because other years I always try and then they catch me and then it's hard to do a result in the end. So I just focused on the sprint and second is not the best place, but it's not too bad."

"GP Cycliste de Montreal is an even harder race and I think today's race suits me and Sagan a little bit better. I'm looking forward to it as it's always nice to race here with the crowds.

Yvon Ledanois, Sports Director: "I'm very happy with today's result from Greg Van Avermaet and the whole team. It was a tough race as always and the team did very well to protect Greg. We had Manuel Senni on the front for a lot of the day pulling the breakaway back, Brent Bookwalter jumped in one of the chase groups to neutralize the race, and of course Greg was kept out of trouble by all of our riders. Greg was very strong and after only one race day in the last month he still had good legs today. I think he can be happy with his result today and I'm looking forward to GP Cycliste de Montreal where we will race aggressively again."

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