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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 10, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country. - Kurt Vonnegut

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Paris-Roubaix final team reports

We have to start with winner Greg van Avermaet's BMC team update:

Greg Van Avermaet's dream of winning a Monument came true when he raised his arms in celebration crossing the finish line first at Paris-Roubaix. 

Van Avermaet, who has had a stellar Spring Classics campaign with three UCI WorldTour wins in the Belgian Classics, was hungry to stand on the top step of the podium after finishing second at Tour of Flanders.

The race was not without its ups and downs but solid teamwork put Van Avermaet into the right position heading into the finale. With a strong tailwind and hot and dry conditions, it was a fast start to racing. Multiple attempts to form a breakaway were shut down and finally three riders went clear after almost 100km.

Crashes continued to divide the peloton but Van Avermaet was well-protected at the front of the bunch. With the help of his teammates Van Avermaet came back to the race car to adjust his bike and was caught in a bottle neck on his return, eventually needing a new bike and losing time on the bunch on sector 20.

Brilliant teamwork saw Van Avermaet slowly claw back the time and with 85km to go, Van Avermaet made the junction. At that moment, Daniel Oss went clear with Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Peter Sagan and Maciej Bodnar (both Bora-Hansgrohe). The four riders forged on ahead creating the perfect situation for Van Avermaet, who was able to sit back and let other teams chase the group.

A rear flat for Sagan left Oss and Stuyven in front and Oss' incredible strength saw him go solo with 38km remaining, after Van Avermaet's group had bridged. A small selection from Van Avermaet's group went clear and as they caught Oss with 24km remaining, Oss put the hammer down for Van Avermaet.

With three cobble sections to go, it was just Van Avermaet, Zdenek Stybar (Quickstep-Floors) and Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team) left. The trio battled to stay in front and as they reached the famous velodrome it was a game of cat and mouse. With the chasers entering soon after and threatening their fight for the win, the sprints started and it was Van Avermaet who had the legs and strength to take the honors in a thrilling win.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet wins a big one

The Winner's Interview with Greg Van Avermaet

Greg, you have just won Paris-Roubaix. Can you believe it?

"This is the maybe the race I would say I was not able to win. When I first came here I was so tired at the finish line, and it was not really what I was expected but I am so happy that I did it. I think everything went perfectly. For me the Olympics will always be my greatest win but now it's really nice to have a Monument too."

How did you feel in the finale?

"I was a bit afraid of Zdenek Stybar (Quickstep-Floors) because he was not working with us but then the sprint felt really good and I was really fast after this kind of long race. I was really confident in my sprint because I have sprinted several times from a small group. At the end of a hard race I'm always one of the fastest guys. I went onto the track with the thought that I was going to win. I'm really happy to win my first Monument because I have had to wait a really long time to finally get on the big spot of the podium."

You had so many incidents over the entire day, but even on the velodrome did you feel this was a race for you?

"I hoped so. I had a little bit of bad luck before the Arenberg but the team really did a good job and everyone was in a good spot for me. I think Daniel Oss in the end did a really good job to put me in the best spot. I think every small piece came together and that's why I won. I felt really strong at the end and I was believing in myself and my chances and I was really happy that I could finish it off in the sprint."

You have transitioned from a rider who was on the podium to a rider who wins all the time. How does this feel?

"For sure I'm happy that I am now in this position. I tried for so many years to sit in this spot at these kind of races. I always believed that I could do it but you also need the results. When you win, you get more confident and the team gets more confident. It's nice to win on the last day of Tom Boonen. I was looking last night at Wikipedia at Tom's results and his career is so impressive. He won four times here and it's to be part of his last race."

Daniel Oss: "I feel like a winner. We planned last night what we can do, and what I can do and that was to anticipate the leaders. I knew that Greg was back there with the leaders so I tried to stay with a gap as much as possible. When I heard it was 10 seconds I waited for Greg and then did my last effort and then kept going until the end. The result couldn't have been better."

Fabio Baldato, Sports Director: "Our plan was to save Daniel Oss and Stefan Küng for the second part, for the final, to do exactly what Daniel did for Greg Van Avermaet. This was the kind of race we expected. The other guys in the team needed to be around Greg the whole day and protect him as much as possible. We had the problem with Greg's bike and the moment that he need to change wasn't good as he lost time. So, it was good to have Daniel and Jempy Drucker in the first group while behind the rest of the team worked hard to bring Greg back. All of the guys were amazing. In the Arrenberg Jempy was able to come back and help Greg. It was really great work."

"At the same time when Greg came back to the bunch, Daniel attacked. From that moment the race was perfect because Greg was able to sit on the wheels of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Floors). Daniel really did a race for Greg. We decided to sacrifice Daniel so we asked him to stop, wait for Greg and do everything for him. It's never easy to stop a rider alone at Paris-Roubaix but it was absolutely perfect, Daniel was amazing to give everything for Greg. They were able to keep the gap over the favorites and then Greg did his thing. Greg is so strong, and the team was so strong. This was a perfect race."

Lotto-Soudal sent me this:

The 115th edition of Paris-Roubaix was the fastest ever with an average speed of 45.204 kilometres an hour. At the end of a fast race, in which Lotto Soudal played an active role, it was Greg Van Avermaet who won. André Greipel finished on a nice seventh place.

Many wanted to get in the early break, but that turned out to be a difficult job. There were a lot of attempts, but none remained in front for a long time. After almost one hundred kilometres, Jelle Wallays got at the head of the race. He was accompanied by Mickaël Delage and Yannick Martinez, but the latter was soon dropped on the first cobbles. The break with Jelle was the first one that got up to fifty seconds. The gap was changing all the time though. When the difference was only ten seconds, Stijn Vandenbergh bridged to the front. In the Forest of Arenberg, Delage was dropped and not much later also Vandenbergh was gone at the head of the race. Jelle was then joined by Sylvain Chavanel.

An acceleration from Peter Sagan, with eighty kilometres to go, was a decisive moment in the race. The world champion fell back because of a puncture, but the consequence of his acceleration was a new leading duo: Daniel Oss and Jasper Stuyven. Jelle Wallays ended up in a chasing group with André Greipel, Nikolas Maes, Jürgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg. On sector 12, with 55 kilometres to go, Jürgen attacked. He closed the gap on Moscon and Claeys who had jumped away a bit earlier. The three of them rode to Oss and Stuyven. Fifteen kilometres further they were all caught, but Oss immediately set up a solo. Roelandts had another go as well, together with Langeveld and Stybar. Moscon, Stuyven and Van Avermaet joined them after a while.

With 25 kilometres to go, the six joined Oss at the front. Oss was dropped on the cobbles of Mons-en-Pévèle. Jürgen got distanced on Carrefour de l’Arbre. Eventually Langeveld, Stybar and Van Avermaet reached the end of that sector together. The winner would be one of them. Or not? On the velodrome, Moscon and Stuyven closed the gap, but they didn’t finish on top three. Van Avermaet claimed his first victory of the Hell of the North. Stybar and Langeveld joined the Olympic champion on the podium, as second and third. André Greipel got seventh, twelve seconds later, just behind Arnaud Démare who won the sprint for the sixth place.

André Greipel: “I am proud of this seventh place. I had a puncture with thirty kilometres to go, but I could make my way back to the chasing group. I had a different preparation on these Classics to set the best possible result and that turned out to be successful. Sprinting after 257 kilometres, of which 55 kilometres on cobbles, is different than sprinting after a stage of 200 kilometres. We can be satisfied with the team’s performance today. We were with five riders in the chasing group of about 35 riders. When Jürgen was riding in the front group, it was perfect for us. I hope to come back to this race with the same ambition and then we’ll see where I can end up.”

Jürgen Roelandts: “Our team raced attentively all day long. I felt good and joined the break at the right moment. I got in a front group and that was an ideal situation. It was up to the chasers to close the gap. I got cramps at Carrefour de l’Arbre, on the decisive moment. I immediately got distanced. When you have to ride over Carrefour de l’Arbre on your own, it is over. That’s a pity when you see that the group sprinted for victory, but that’s why they rode away as well of course. I am a bit disappointed, but after the spring that was far from perfect, I am mostly glad that today was so much better. Now I will take some rest until May.”

And here's the Cannondale-Drapac report:

Dutchman Sebastian Langeveld snagged the final spot of the Paris-Roubaix podium from a five-up sprint on Sunday. It is the first time the 32-year-old has appeared on the podium at one of cycling’s five Monuments. Olympic road champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) bested Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step) to win the Queen of the Classics.

Langeveld’s result closes out a consistent cobbled classics campaign for Cannondale-Drapac. The American-registered squad saw Sep Vanmarcke finish third at Omloop het Nieuwsblad. Dylan van Baarle narrowly missed the podium at Ronde van Vlaanderen where he finished in fourth place. He also posted top ten finishes at Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke.

Sebastian Langeveld

Sebastian Langeveld having a great day

Paris-Roubaix viewers saw #GreenArgyle all over Sunday’s race. Will Clarke and Paddy Bevin were among the first attackers. Wouter Wippert, Ryan Mullen and Tom Scully also attempted to get up the road. When the race hit Troisville, the first of the 29 cobble sectors, Cannondale-Drapac had five riders tightly packed together in the first third of the field. Heading into the Arenberg Forest, Cannondale-Drapac exited the five-star sector with four riders in the group of around 40.

The 257-kilometer race that snakes down from Compiègne to Roubaix is rightly known as a race of attrition. As the shrinking peloton tackled sector after sector, Langeveld and Van Baarle emerged as contenders. Both riders not only covered moves but initiated moves of their own.

Fourteen riders exited Mons-en-Pévèle together around 30-seconds behind Daniel Oss (BMC). Along with the usual suspects in Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Van Avermaet, Langeveld and Van Baarle had made the selection.

Langeveld forced the selection on Carrefour de l’Arbe. Only Van Avermaet and Stybar could respond. The trio headed toward the velodrome with 42-seconds on their nearest chasers, two of whom would catch them in the last lap.

Langveld said he had “goosebumps everywhere” as he entered the Roubaix Velodrome with the win in play. In post-race interviews, he described feeling “very, very happy” with the result.

Cannondale-Drapac lost its two team leaders ahead of Paris-Roubaix. Both Sep Vanmarcke and Taylor Phinney were sidelined for the final cobbled classic due to injuries sustained at Ronde van Vlaanderen. “We have other cards to play,” insisted Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters. "And we played them."

Comments from Sebastian Langeveld 

“The race was full-on the whole day. There was not a moment that the peloton stopped, so it was a really fast edition of Paris-Roubaix. There were a lot of tired riders already with 50, 60 kilometers to race. For sure I was also tired, but I knew I had good legs.”

“I had one bad moment in the race, I don’t know what sector, where I had a flat tire. I was almost out of the race, but I came back and I saw a lot of tired people. That’s when I believed and from there it was race on. I attacked to get into the breakaway. I got a couple good people with me. I attacked again on Carrefour. It was man-against-man there.”

“It’s a special sprint. I’m not a track rider. A couple years ago, I came into the velodrome for second place, and it was special then. Now too. Greg Van Avermaet is the Olympic champion and a really fast guy. Stybar is always really, really good and he was sitting on for a couple kilometers. Third place was my spot today, and I’m very, very happy.”

“Don’t forget that I’ve never won a monument. I won Het Nieuwsblad, but…. I was seventh, eighth in Roubiax. A podium for me is a really high, really top result.”

“The last two years, I was never 100 percent for the Classics, and in the Tour de France, I had to abandon the last two years with illness. At some point, it is enough. This year, I was riding on a really, really high level, and it didn’t come through in the results until today. I’m very, very happy and very, very proud.”

Comments from Cannondale-Drapac sport director Ken Vanmarcke 

“Everything that I saw and everything that I heard was that we were really strong – one of the best. In the end to have Sebastian in third place, we can only be proud. It’s a really strong team today, and we can work really hard for something more in the future.”

On racing without Phinney and Vanmarcke: “The guys who were left had the chance of a lifetime today, and they took it. They all did. That’s really nice. You see a lot of times that without the leaders there is no team. In this team, that didn’t happen. Everyone stayed really focused and took his chance. That’s amazing to see.”

Comments from Jonathan Vaughters 

On racing without Phinney and Vanmarcke: “You know very surprisingly, and this is probably because I hands-on coach Dylan and Sebas and look at their data every single day, I was probably the one person who knew we were going to be fine. I knew we were in a position to have a good race.”

On the race-defining moment: “I think the key moment for me was actually when Sebastian flatted. I thought: “oh no there it goes’ and then I saw how fast he made it back to the front group. That immediately made me think he had the goods today. You don’t come back from a flat tire that quickly unless you’re really really riding well. At the moment I was pretty confident that one of the guys would contend for the win.”

On context for the result: “Sebastian sort of started his career as a huge hope and talents for the spring classics and was never able to completely get there. He’s endured a couple years where he wasn’t quite able to breakthrough. This podium is finally the confirmation of the talent he showed all those years ago when he first won Het Nieuwsblad. He’s finally showing what he’s capable of when he’s at his best level.”

“From a team perspective, the greatest thing for me about the result is what it says about our character. When Sep and Taylor were out, that would have demoralized most teams. Most teams that lose their leaders are going to show up with their tails between their legs and wouldn’t make a fight out of it. These guys didn’t let it drag them down.”

On coaching Langeveld and Van Baarle: “I’m super happy for them, but I’m super happy for any of the riders. As a coach, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I really don’t want to screw up. I believe in the riders I coach, and I see myself as a conduit for their talent to come out. And when it does, it makes me happy for them. They put in the work, not me. I just tell them the work to do. I’m every bit as happy when our guys that I’m not coaching does well, but when it’s a rider I coach, it’s more of a relief — a thank goodness I didn’t screw that up.”

Ellen van Dijk wins Healthy Aging Tour

Team Sunweb sent me this news:

After a solid week-long performance at the Healthy Ageing Tour, Team Sunweb take the general classification win, points jersey, team classification win alongside four podium finishes.

A strong first stage for the European Time Trial Champion landed Ellen van Dijk (NED) the yellow jersey and Team Sunweb fought hard to keep hold of the lead all week. The team were active at the front of the bunch each day injecting the pace and marking any potential general classification altering moves. An impressive display of team work and corporation from each rider saw van Dijk, and the team, ride to the overall victory.

After the win, van Dijk said: "We are really happy to bring the yellow home. The team did an incredible job all week, everyone really sacrificed themselves for the jersey, it was unbelievable to see. It was also great to see our two young girls riding so well, this is their first stage race in the elite category and it was incredible to see them riding at the front all week. This jersey isn't mine, it belongs to the whole team."

Team Sunweb coach Adriaan Helmantel (NED) said: "We realised that today would be quite hard to control, so yesterday we made a few tactical decisions that made sure we were able to be in full control throughout today and go on to take the yellow jersey. These tactics payed off and I am really proud of the whole team. Overall it's been a great week of racing and everyone really showed their commitment and dedication to the team. After all of the work that Ellen has done all spring for other riders earlier in the season it's great that she is now able to get a reward from winning this stage race herself."

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