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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

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Author Les Woodland tells a couple of stories from his book, "The Olympics' 50 Craziest Stories".


Teams report on Women's Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders)

Team Sunweb won the day. Here's the team's report:

Team Sunweb have yet another day to add to their memory bank as Coryn Rivera (USA) sprinted to victory in an explosive sprint to the line at the women's Ronde van Vlaanderen today, taking the team's second UCI Women's WorldTour win of the season.

The finale of the race was punctuated with multiple breakaways, forcing Team Sunweb to put in an immense effort in order to bring all moves back. The race looked like it may come down to a battle between a leading group of four, but a terrific chase from the team brought the bunch back together with just one kilometre to the finish. After a brilliant effort from the entire team, Rivera was positioned perfectly to launch yet another explosive, unbeatable sprint. Team Sunweb's American sprinter propelled the team to victory, taking Team Sunweb's third victory of the women's road season and yet another perfectly manoeuvred win on her Liv Envie.

Coryn Rivera

Coryn Rivera wins the day

"Just to start the women's Ronde van Vlaanderen is absolutely incredible, it's such a beautiful race," said Rivera after the finish. "The team did a brilliant job keeping the leaders safe and in a good position throughout the race. When the going got tough the team animated the race with Rozanne [Slik] taking a lead before the Kanarieberg. Here we showed our intentions to make it a hard race and when the first bunch of 30 exploded on the Kruisberg, we were up there but we couldn't follow on the climb. The team gave everything on the Kwaremont to get the group back at the wheel and we almost closed it, but in the end we couldn't follow the four best climbers. From the moment that Hans [Timmermans] made the call to go full gas for me, Ellen [van Dijk] took charge of the pace. The sprint was absolutely thrilling, but I still feel like I am dreaming."

"Today is a perfect example of how this team can create a plan and make it work no matter what," said Team Sunweb coach Hans Timmermans (NED). "We missed the power on the hills which makes it even more impressive that we took the win today. All six of our riders did a perfect job today and you need a complete team effort to win Flanders. We are thrilled to take the win at such a prestigious race."

Here's the report from Orica-Scott:

Former Australian road race champion Gracie Elvin sprinted to a sterling second place for Orica-Scott at the 14th Tour of Flanders today, becoming the first Australian female to mount the podium in the iconic event.

The Australian outfit rode a tactically astute race almost to perfection with Annemiek van Vleuten part of a four-rider attack that went clear with 30kilometres remaining.

The move gave Orica-Scott options with Elvin tucked into the chasing group some 40seconds behind the leaders. A fast and explosive finale ensued with the leaders caught with only one kilometre to go and a close contest coming right down to the wire.

Elvin did herself proud, fighting all the way to the line to take a super close second behind Coryn Rivera (Team-Sunweb) with former winner Van Vleuten just missing out on the podium in fourth.

“The win would’ve have been amazing, but I was so close today,” said Elvin at the finish. “My best place in previous editions was not even in the front group, so to come here and be in the mix and try to go for the win is amazing.”

“It just goes to show all the hard work I’ve put in this season is paying off and how great the team was today. I really didn’t have to do much before the finish, everyone had a role to play and they did it brilliantly, especially Annemiek right at the end.

“She could have won today and I had to make sure I made the right decisions once that group had been caught. This is definitely a career highlight for me, I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time and after coming so close again and again I want to keep improving.”

After second place at Dwars door Vlaanderen ten days ago, Elvin and the team are hitting peak form and racing with visible confidence. “There wasn’t any key moves over the first 50kilometres and we decided that we wanted to save our energy,” said sport director Gene Bates. “The girls stayed out of trouble throughout the middle of the race and from there it was the job of Georgia Williams, Jessica Allen and Sarah Roy to make the race as hard as we could over the climbs.”

“We did that very well especially over the Muur and by then the damage had been done and it was only a matter of time before the race blew apart. It’s bittersweet really, we had Annemiek up there with three others going into the finale and she probably would have won the sprint from that group had it stayed away, but in the end it was a great result for Gracie, the first Australian female to podium at the Tour of Flanders.”

How it happened:

The fifth race of the UCI Women’s WorldTour, the Tour of Flanders got underway in Oudenaarde this morning and headed out for the longest route yet, 153 kilometres and the inclusion for the first time of the legendary Muur van Gerarrdsbergen.

After two hours of racing the peloton split with two groups forming and a solo rider, Rozanne Slik (Team-Sunweb) off the front with a gap of one-minute 30seconds.

The long flat stretches in between the short, sharp climbs brought the main group back together with 50 kilometres left to race as Slik maintaned her advantage. Tension was mounting as they approached the final ascents of the Oude Kwaremont, Pottelberg and the Paterberg with the gap to Slik down to 35seconds and Wiggle-High5 dictating the terms of the chase.

Thirty kilometres to go and Slik was caught with a new move of four riders, including van Vleuten going clear and holding 40seconds on the first chasing group.

The final cobbled sectors made for exciting, open racing with Elvin part of the first chasers and almost in sight of the Van Vleuten quartet as the leaders started to attack each other on the Kwaremont with less than 18kilometres remaining.

A fast pursuit unfolded over the closing kilometres as the quartet battled to stay clear, but to no avail. Caught under the Flamme Rouge by the marauding chasing group and heading straight into a reduced bunch sprint.

With 100metres to go Elvin and Van Vleuten both jumped as they tried to get out of the box, but it was Rivera who just got there in front of Elvin in second and Van Vleuten in fourth.

Womens' Ronde van Vlaanderen results:

1. Coryn Rivera (Team-Sunweb) 04:02:38
2. Gracie Elvin (Orica-Scott) ST
3. Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) ST

Lotto-Soudal sent me their Flanders race report as well:

Lotte Kopecky (21) finished fifth in the Ronde van Vlaanderen for women this afternoon. A group of about twenty riders arrived at the finish in Oudenaarde together. The American rider Coryn Rivera was the fastest and won this WorldTour race.

It wasn’t until the Muur that a rider succeeded in creating a significant gap on the bunch. Rozanne Slik got a maximal lead of one and a half minutes. There was a counterattack from Elise Delzenne, but the peloton didn’t let her get too far. Just before the Kanarieberg, with 35 kilometres to go, also Slik was caught. On the next hill, the Kruisberg, a front group of four riders was formed: top favourite Elisa Longo Borghini, Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten. At first, Lotte Kopecky rode in a second chasing group, but she moved up to the first one.

On the Oude Kwaremont, Longo Borghini and van der Breggen left their two companions behind, but Niewiadoma and van Vleuten returned. After the Paterberg, the four leaders had thirty seconds advantage on the chasing group with Lotte Kopecky. It were Sunweb and Canyon Sram that led the chase. The escapees got reeled in with just one kilometre to go. A sprint would determine the winner. Coryn Rivera beat Gracie Elvin and Chantal Blaak. Lotte Kopecky got fifth.

Lotte Kopecky: “This is a wonderful feeling. I had never thought to become fifth today. Before the race, I had told that a top ten place would be a brilliant result. The past races my sprints didn’t go smoothly. I often was riding in the wind too long and my sprint was over before it began. Today I waited, I chose to stay on the wheel of the rider in front of me for as long as possible. When there was an opportunity to move up on the left, I grabbed it. It was a close sprint, but I felt that I had just missed out on the podium and that I was fourth or fifth.”

“I am very pleased with how the race unfolded. On the first hills we weren’t riding à bloc. The teammates always took me to the front before the cobbles and hills and kept me out of the wind as much as possible. On the Kanarieberg, a group rode away for the first time and the finale began. On the Kruisberg four riders jumped away. At that moment I was riding in a third group, but I bridged to the second one. Later, the two groups came together. Lucinda Brand was doing most of the chasing. At the bottom of the Oude Kwaremont we had nearly caught the front group, but during the ascent they moved further away again. After the Paterberg, Ellen van Dijk and a rider from Canyon Sram were chasing and they managed to close the gap. At a certain moment, the leaders had forty seconds advantage and I doubted if we would still catch them. When the gap was thirty seconds at ten kilometres from the finish I started believing again that we would sprint for victory.”

“As I said, I was aiming for a place on top ten today after my 33rd place of last year. I realized that it wouldn’t be easy though. Eventually I got fifth. The Ronde is obviously a race that suits me and I really want to win this race later in my career. It was great to hear the crowd cheering for me. I will be back for more!”

At the men’s race it was Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert who won. The Muur van Geraardsbergen turned out to be a decisive point in the race, at 95 kilometres from the finish. About fifteen riders, including Gilbert, rode away from the peloton on that hill. They went looking for the early break. Lotto Soudal had no rider in the group with Gilbert and had to chase. Jens Debusschere did a lot of work for the team. Just before the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, the gap was thirty seconds. Then Gilbert attacked on the Kwaremont and started a successful solo of more than fifty kilometres. Tony Gallopin and André Greipel got in a first chasing group, but couldn’t set a top result anymore. Gallopin crossed the finish line in a group at 53 seconds of Gilbert, as seventeenth. More than one and a half minutes later Greipel got twentieth.

Marc Sergeant, sports manager Lotto Soudal: “It was our plan to be well positioned on the Muur and to make a first selection afterwards, with riders like Jens Debusschere and Jürgen Roelandts. On the Muur a group took off and we had to chase. By then, Jens had told us that he didn’t feel good. On the Kanarieberg he did all he could to close the gap though. The chasing group split because of a crash. Tiesj Benoot and Marcel Sieberg got held up because of that crash. Tony Gallopin too, but he could get back to the first peloton. Crash or not, our riders were too far behind in the bunch. At this moment we are not capable of following the best or even the better riders on the short explosive hills. That is painful. We are very disappointed, but the Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix are coming up and we need to focus on these races now.”

Lotto-Soudal also sent me their plans for Wednesday's Schedeprijs:

Wednesday, Lotto Soudal will be standing at the start of the Scheldeprijs. It will be the 105th edition of this Europe Tour sprint classic. Around half past twelve, the peloton will leave Mol for a race of just over 200 kilometres with finish in Schoten. Before the winner will be known, the riders have to cover three local laps of 16.8 kilometres. In those laps the peloton will ride over the cobbles of the Broekstraat (1700 m).

André Greipel will participate in the Scheldeprijs for the fifth time. Last year, he got third behind winner Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish. Of course there are several other sprinters on the start list apart from the German champion, including four-time winner Marcel Kittel, Nacer Bouhanni, Arnaud Démare, Dylan Groenewegen, Edward Theuns and Danny Van Poppel. Or can an escapee take the win, twelve years after Thorwald Veneberg?

2016 Scheldeprijs finish

The 2016 Scheldeprijs finish

André Greipel: “I didn’t feel very good yesterday at the Ronde, but I tried my best. I know that I can’t follow the best riders on the climbs, so I need to anticipate to be with them after the climbs. That’s why I attacked a few times yesterday. I proved once again that I can ride the finale of the Ronde, but the result was not what I had hoped for. That goes for the entire team. Wednesday is another race and another opportunity, which we will try to grab with both hands.”

“The Scheldeprijs is a sprint classic and of course it would be nice to add my name to the list of winners. We will do all we can with the team to win the race. I can rely on a good train to take me to the finish. I think it is very unlikely that the race would not end with a bunch sprint. There are a lot of strong sprinters standing at the start who really want to win, while for other riders this race is a preparation on Paris-Roubaix. According to the weather forecast it will stay dry on Wednesday. The chance of crashes is smaller when it doesn’t rain, so I’m glad, but it is no guarantee.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Lars Bak, Tony Gallopin, André Greipel, Moreno Hofland, Nikolas Maes, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg and Jelle Wallays.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

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