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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 11, 2016

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In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Vuelta a España stage 20 team reports

Like yesterday, we'll start with Chris Froome's Team Sky report:

Chris Froome and Team Sky rode a combative 20th stage at the Vuelta a Espana to all but wrap up second place overall. The Brit accelerated continuously on the final Alto Aitana summit finish but was unable to dislodge the red jersey of Nairo Quintana (Movistar) from his wheel.

With the Colombian chipping clear in the final metres, Froome crossed the line applauding his great rival, who secured a winning margin of one minute and 23 seconds ahead of Sunday's Madrid finale.

Team Sky looked to take the fight to Quintana and Movistar on the final day of GC racing, covering all the early moves and placing riders up the road, upping the pace at times across the 193.2km test.

David Lopez made his way into the day's main breakaway before dropping back to pace Froome in the closing kilometres. Leopold Konig also pushed onwards on the final beyond-category summit, before Froome and Quintana went mano a mano to the line.

Up ahead it was Pierre Latour (Ag2r-La Mondiale) who overcame Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing) to take the stage win, while there was late GC drama as a gutsy long-range attack from Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) netted the Colombian third overall, 4:08 back on his compatriot.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome finishes Vuelta stage 20

An intriguing situation developed as the race headed out of Benidorm, with Sky and Movistar seemingly going toe to toe in a tactical battle. Sky were highly attentive, with Christian Knees, Pete Kennaugh and Salvatore Puccio patrolling the front early. The first big move came with the help of Michal Golas, who buried himself on the descent off the Coll de Rates - causing a split with Froome and Quintana covering each other.

With the race back together and a break finally established up the road there was a calming of the pace, allowing the breakaway to build up an unassailable lead.
With support from Konig in the GC group, Froome did everything he could late on, showing huge determination, and now looks set to take a third runner-up finish at La Vuelta.

And here's what race leader Niaro Quintana's Movistar team had to say about the day's racing:

Nairo Quintana and the Movistar Team can now smile and enjoy together. The Colombian and the whole squad directed by José Luis Arrieta and Chente García Acosta defended themselves flawlessly into the last great battle of the Vuelta a España - 193km between Benidorm and the HC climb of Aitana, with three other rated ascents and plenty of non-categorized climbs along the route - to travel tomorrow to Madrid for their march of glory. After an agonic race with many challenging attacks, the telephone squad revealed as the strongest over the course - even if they had to do so without one of their most coveted domestiques: José Joaquín Rojas.

The Spanish road race champion crashed about 95km in, into the descent of the Alto de Tollos. Rubbing the guardrail and falling to the kerb, the man from Murcia seriously injured his left leg. Rojas was moved - always conscious, stable and calm, yet in huge pain - to the Hospital Virgen de los Lirios in Alcoy. Later this evening, Rojas had his wounds surgically cured and underwent checkups that confirmed an open tibia and fibula fracture, which will keep him admitted to the medical center tonight. More details on his transfer to Murcia and further surgery will be evaluated accordingly.

With Rojas still in the race, the Blues had successfully defended themselves from a very difficult start, the opening 70km not bringing a stable break -Rojas was part of the decisive move, which Pierre Latour (ALM) took advantage from to win the stage- and including even an attack by Froome at the descent of the Rates (Cat-2), searching for a gap against Nairo. The Movistar Team quickly responded with the Colombian, as well as four team-mates, to nullify his attempt. Later on, Erviti and Sutherland, controlling the pace, and Herrada, Castroviejo and Fernández, on the approach towards Aitana, completed an excellent labout crowned by Alejandro Valverde himself, who led Nairo out into the steepest part of the ascent. There, with 5km to go, Froome jumped off the front.

The Briton’s accelerations always found proper response from Nairo, all the way to the finish line. Ahead of the two, Esteban Chaves (OBE), author of a brilliant move into the climb of Tudons (Cat-2), secured his third place in the Madrid podium alongside the protagonists of the biggest duel in this Vuelta. In turn, Dani Moreno confirmed a fine eighth spot overall, with ‘Bala’ coming just 1’50” short to a top-ten finish in yet another remarkable Vuelta for him.

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana finishes stage 20 ahead of Chris Froome

Nairo Quintana: “Obviously, I was going quite strong into that final climb, but it wasn’t easy for me only because it looked so on TV when I was alongside Froome. It was easy because my team made things easy for me all day. They brought me into Aitana fully safe and confident, defended me from all attacks from all teams, especiall Sky in the beginning of the stage - they were all phenomenal, from first to last, a marvellous Vuelta from the whole group which I can’t thank them enough for. This is a tribute to them, and also to José Joaquín Rojas. We want him to recover to 100% and get on his bike again as quickly as possible.

“Froome started attacking from very early into the stage, as he already did on the downhill of the Coll de Rates. However, we always kept full focus, and at that final climb I did not find any troubles to defend myself from all his moves. He’s a strong contender, rode an impressive TT yesterday, made me struggle - he’s my biggest rival, and I thank him for making my victory more valuable.”

Alberto Contador's Tinkoff team sent me this Vuelta report:

We expected fireworks on the penultimate stage of the Vuelta a España with its punishing profile that included four classified climbs before a final especial category ascent to the finish. From the off the attacks were relentless, and Tinkoff was quick to cover the moves. After a hard fight, Alberto Contador crossed the line in 13th at the end of the 193km stage, slipping back to fourth overall by just a handful of seconds.

The stage was the last chance for the riders vying for the top spots in the GC to do battle, and this unfolded over the whole stage, with all eyes coming down to the final climb where it was every rider for himself. After 19 tough stages in the legs, the team once again rode a strong collective race and can know that they gave their all.

“It was a crazy race today – the guys gave it everything and we tried but unfortunately we lost the podium spot,” explained Sport Director, Steven de Jongh. “From early on we wanted to have as many guys as possible up the road as we expected the attacks to come. They would then be able to drop back and help when it kicked off.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador after stage 20

“All the guys got involved and then we had Yuri Trofimov up there in the move that stuck. When the attack came we told him to wait and he pulled as hard as he could but Chaves didn’t crack. Alberto took some time back on the final climb but not enough so of course we’re a bit disappointed, but the guys gave it their all.”

Attack followed attack early on and it took a long time for the day’s breakaway to form. When it did, the peloton eased off completely, licking its wounds after a tough fight that included many of the GC favourites. Up front, Tinkoff had Yuri in the move, who would play a big role further in the stage.

As the kilometres ticked by, the peloton remained controlled until a big attack from fourth overall, setting up for a long attack which eventually saw Alberto leap-frogged in the GC. When the move came, Yuri sat up in front to await Alberto’s group of GC favourites and set about pulling hard to control the gap until the final climb.

On the last ascent to the line – a long 21km climb at 5.9% average, with its steepest gradients late on – the battle unfolded as riders attacked one another in both the break and the GC group. Alberto set about pacing himself up the climb to try and limit his losses to those ahead but over the line he fell 13 seconds short of holding onto his podium place.

After the stage, Alberto said: "I would be happier if I were on the podium, even more if I had won the Vuelta. We missed the podium by very little - it's a pity. Our goal when we started the Vuelta was to win, but I'm satisfied because it was a race that I enjoyed. The team gave its best to help me but on the final climbs I was alone so maybe I would have needed stronger teammates there.

"I thought that Movistar would give us a hand today to return the favour we did them on Formigal, but at the end the team has its own tactics and you cannot depend on other teams. When we started the Vuelta we knew what was ahead, unfortunately we weren't able to win it but it might sound strange but I don't give too much importance to the fact that I'm off the podium. When you lose you learn more and in this Vuelta I learned a lot. When you win you barely learn anything, when you lose you learn more.

"There were a couple of stages where I learned a lot when I had to work on my own at certain moments. It's simpler if you have a strong block, like Sky had at the Tour de France, but when you don't have this, you have to work in a different way.

"I'd like to congratulate Nairo Quintana on his victory, Froome for his good race, and ORICA for their good tactics."

Tomorrow’s final stage will see the sprinters have a final shot at glory on the city streets of Madrid as the race comes to a close and the 2016 Vuelta a España winner is crowned.

Here's BMC's Vuelta update:

10 September, 2016, Alto de Aitana (ESP): Darwin Atapuma narrowly missed out on his first Grand Tour stage win when he was just beaten to the line by Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) on the Alto de Aitana summit finish on Vuelta a Espana stage 20.

Atapuma overtook Latour in the head-to-head showdown with 600m to go and looked set to take the win before Latour crawled back and crossed the line two seconds in front of Atapuma.

The final mountain stage, before the peloton arrives in Madrid for stage 21, didn't disappoint with attack after attack playing out across the 193.2km stage. Atapuma formed part of a 15-rider chase group behind two leading riders and maintained a two-minute gap for much of the stage, while the GC group sat up and waited for the battle for the overall standings on the final two climbs of the day.

Atapuma attacked from the chase group halfway up the Alto de Aitana and made his way to then solo leader Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana Pro Team), before going clear himself with 3km remaining. Latour and Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) later re-joined Atapuma to set the stage for the battle in the final kilometer.

With the final stage to Madrid remaining, BMC Racing Team maintain the lead in the team classification, 4'43" in front of Movistar Team.

Darwin Atapuma

Darwin Atapuma finishes stage 20

Darwin Atapuma: "Today I gave it everything I had. I was really motivated to get in the breakaway and go for the stage win. I was feeling strong on the Alto de Aitana and when it came down to the final 3km I stay focused. I made a judgement error though. Finally it wasn't a case of bad luck but I thought the finish line was closer than it was because of the KOM arch but suddenly there was another 300m to the finish line. I don't have any regrets though, I put everything on the line and I came home in second place."

"For me this Vuelta a Espana has been incredible. To have four days in the red jersey was a dream come true. It was something extraordinary to wear this jersey for me and for BMC Racing Team. Now we head to Madrid and of course I would have liked a stage win but to have worn the red jersey for four days and come second on two stages is really special. we have also won the team GC which is a really nice way to end the race."

Here's what LottoNL-Jumbo had to say about the stage:

LottoNL-Jumbo rider Robert Gesink finished fifth in a tough penultimate stage of the Vuelta. The stage was won by Pierre Latour (AG2R). Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was never in danger and retained his red leader's jersey.

The 193-kilometre stage to the top of the Alto Aitana began with a long battle to breakaway. Gesink was present from the start and went with a large group behind the two leaders Rudy Molard (Cofidis) and Louis Leon Sanchez (Astana). The peloton was distanced already. Molard was caught and when Atapuma (BMC) and LeTour attacked, Gesink could not follow, and eventually, Sanchez was caught too.

"We made good business today with Robert Gesink and George Bennett," said Sports Director Jan Boven. "It was a 70-kilometre long battle to get away. Robert was in all escapes. Because of the hard start, it was a fight of man against man in the end. When Atapuma and Latour attacked, Robert could not respond. He came in totally wasted because he gave it all today."

The stage had a lot of vertical metres and was held in hot conditions. George Bennett always rode in the group of favorites with Froome, Quintana and Contador, and saw a competitor to be eliminated.

"George fought his way in the top ten today," continued Boven. "Scarponi was dropped in the beginning but came back. In the final, he dropped off again and George climbed into the top ten of the rankings and that's great.”

Robert Gesink had victory in his pocket and rode today with nefarious plans. In the past, Gesink was already third on the hard Alto Aitana and that gave him inspiration.

"I knew the climb from a few years ago," Gesink said. "I spent the whole day pulling in the attack and helped to make a difference because at one point, the peloton was close behind us. In the final, I had to pass when Atapuma and Latour attacked. I fought until the last metres and I’m happy with my fifth place today."

Sunday following a train journey from Alicante to Madrid, the riders start for the closing evening stage.

LottoNL-Jumbo's Tour of Britain report:

Dylan Groenewegen finished third in the short stage, number seven, of the Tour of Britain today. Rohan Dennis (BMC) won the 90-kilometres stage in Bristol. Groenewegen was beaten by Max Richeze (Etixx - Quickstep) in the sprint. Stephen Cummings (Dimension Data) maintained his overall lead with one day left.

It was a long day for the riders in the Tour of Britain because it began with a 15-kilometre time trial in the morning. Tony Martin (Etixx - Quickstep) won. Two hours later, stage 7B ran on the same road. From the start a group with André Greipel (Lotto - Soudal) broke away. They were caught, but Dennis attacked and won.

"It was a good achievement by Dylan Groenewegen," said Sports Director Merijn Zeeman. "In the morning, everyone saw in the time trial how difficult this circuit was. We doubted then whether Dylan would be in the finale or be able to sprint. He is still a young rider in full development.

“The top of the climb was two kilometres from the finish, 7% and one kilometre long. When Dennis and Dumoulin attack, you know it is going be very hard.

Groenewegen’s team-mates were impressed with his ride and third place. They did not have chase because Team Sky did so, so they saved their legs for another sprint opportunity tomorrow.

Groenewegen said, "I tried to survive that hard climb every time we passed it on the circuit and to concentrate on the final sprint. When the leading group was brought back, I knew the favourites would attack. Dennis got away, but on top of the climb, I still hung in there. I caught my breath and readied for the sprint, but Richeze got me.”

Tomorrow the Tour of Britain ends with a criterium in London. Again, Team LottoNL-Jumbo will take the chance to sprint for Groenewegen.  

BMC rider medical update:

10 September, 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): In the interest of increasing communication around the health and fitness of BMC Racing Team's riders, the team will release a regular update from Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa on all rider injuries and illnesses. The update below concerns three of BMC Racing Team's riders.

Stefan Küng:

Dr. Max Testa: "Stefan has been improving very well from his fractured left collarbone and iliac bone sustained when he crashed in the time trial at the Swiss National Championships. Following his surgery, Stefan's recovery has been monitored by his specialist in Switzerland, in conjunction with BMC Racing Team medical staff, and he has been given the all clear to return to competition at the Eneco Tour having now made a full recovery.

Küng: "I'm feeling really good and I've been riding my bike on the road for three weeks now which is going well. I'm just left training camp now where I worked on my fitness and put in some good team time trial training, but I can't wait to get back to racing this month at Eneco Tour with my shape getting better and better every day."

Richie Porte:

Dr. Max Testa: "Richie is recovering well from his fractured scapular that he sustained in a crash during the Olympic Games road race. He has been gaining more and more mobility of his shoulder and he is functioning pretty well with his normal daily activities. He will likely be back on the bike next week but given the timing of the crash late in the season and necessary recovery period it has been decided between Richie and BMC Racing Team management that he will not race for the rest of the season, especially because for him there are not many target races at this time of the year. The plan is to fully recovery from his injury and get back to training at a normal level in the last few weeks of the season."

Porte: "I haven't been back on the bike since Rio in order to let my shoulder fully recovery, but if all goes to plan then I'll be back on the bike next week. I'm feeling ok except for my ribs which are still hurting since the crash. I'm looking forward to recovering fully and then putting in a good off season to prepare well for next season."

Manuel Quinziato:

Dr. Max Testa: "Manuel Quinziato has been recovering from a fractured collarbone sustained in a crash during the Tour of Poland in July. After respecting the necessary time off the bike, Manuel has been recovering very well and is back to a normal training training program without experiencing any pain on the bike. He has been on a team time trial training camp which has helped him to regain more fitness, before he returns to racing at the Eneco Tour."

Quinziato: "I'm going pretty good. I just finished the first training camp for the team time trial and my shape is pretty good. The injury and the three weeks that I couldn't ride by bike on the road definitely put my shape backwards. But in this last month I have really improved and these days at the camp I had really good feelings so I think I'm pretty close to 100%. I still have another ten days before Eneco Tour so I think that I'll really be ready to race and do a good individual TT and team time trial."

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