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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, February 3, 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

The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work. - Thomas A. Edison

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Dubai Tour stage 4 cancelled

The Dubai Tour's fourth stage was cancelled. Here's the organizer's official statement: "Hatta, 3 February 2017 – Based on the poor current weather conditions in Hatta, and the forecast for further deterioration later, the Race Management, in agreement with the Commissaires Panel, have applied the UCI's Extreme Weather Protocol and have cancelled today’s Stage."

Team Sky's race update was typical of how the riders and teams viewed the stage cancellation:

High winds caused stage four of Dubai Tour to be cancelled for the safety of the peloton. Cycling's governing body the UCI's extreme weather protocol was invoked at the start of the day's test in Hatta.

Riders and race officials met prior to the stage, and with the winds whipping up the decision was made to cancel what was already an amended 109-kilometre route.

"Super windy" was how Performance Manager Rod Ellingworth described the conditions. "It's just one of those things. The organisers did a good job, but fair play to the riders too as they were ready to race."

On the way back to the team hotel he told TeamSky.com: "Some of the riders were wanting to perhaps do a time trial up the dam or see if they could do something. But the indications are that the winds were only going to get stronger. And I think they made the right call. We're driving back and the conditions are horrendous, in addition to the rain that has started.

"The forecast we've been given looks okay for tomorrow so we should be able to get one final blast in for the sprinters."

Team Astana apologizes for Andrey Grivko's hitting Marcel Kittel at
Dubai Tour

Here's the team's web post:

As it was two days in a row, the third stage, once again ended with the bunch sprint. Astana rider Riccardo Minali found another opportunity to show himself in a sprint, taking a solid 5th place. This is his second Top-10 in a row after yesterday’s 8th place. German rider John Degenkolb became the winner of stage 3.

Unfortunately, during the stage there was an unpleasant incident involving Astana Proteam rider Andriy Grivko. In a moment of the race Grivko hit German rider Marcel Kittel, leader of the general classification.

- Today's stage was really hard because of the wind; there were a few nervous and dangerous moments. In one of those moments Andriy Grivko has not coped with emotions and hit Marcel Kittel. Regardless of the causes of the incident, we must recognize that our rider acted inappropriately. It is unsportsmanlike and unacceptable. We apologize to Kittel and his team for what happened. Astana Proteam always adheres to a strict line in matters of sports ethics, therefore, we fully agree with the jury decision to remove Andriy Grivko from the race. Also, on behalf of the team, management will take further decisions on rider’s punishment, - explained sports director Alexandr Shefer.

Marcel Kittel

Marcel Kittel (shown post-crash, post-stage) will start Friday in the leader's jersey.

- Talking about stage results, I could note the persistence and sporting spirit of our young rider Riccardo Minali. We see his progress day by day: he started from 13th place, and today he finished 5th. It is his first race in the season, and these results allow us to hope for something more. Two more days are still ahead, so I think we have a chance to reach some good results in this race, - added Alexandr Shefer.

Tomorrow will be held the key’s 4th stage of the race – 172 km from Dubai to Hatta Dam.

And here's the Dubai Tour stage 3 post from Kittel's Quick Step team:

Crosswinds and sand played havoc at the Dubai Tour, taking to the ground several riders and splitting the field to pieces 70 kilometers into stage 3. It took 20 kilometers for the shattered peloton to come back together, and once this happened, Luxembourg champion Bob Jungels took the front and knocked one minute off in just two kilometers, as the gap of the escapees tumbled down to three minutes for the last 55 kilometers of the stage, which was set to conclude in Al Aqah, another new finish for the Middle East race.

Jungels, Davide Martinelli, Maximilian Schachmann and Julien Vermote traded turns at the head of the bunch and melted the advantage of the four breakaway riders, before reabsorbing them with only three kilometers left. The last 500 meters were in a slight uphill and the sprint trains had again difficulties in getting themselves together, as many riders couldn't find space for maneuvering. In the end, John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) edged his opponents and took the win ahead of Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (Dimension Data) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida).

A double stage winner at this edition, Marcel Kittel was boxed out during the sprint and couldn't fight for victory at the end of the stage which saw Andriy Grivko (Astana) inflict an injury on him, after sending a punch above his left eye. That blow left Marcel with a deep cut and blood streaming down his face: "Today's race was confusing because of the sandstorm and a lot of teams had to sacrifice many guys in the kilometers before the finish because of this. I think everyone felt how hard it was today, and many guys were on the limit at one point. That made the stage really tough", said Marcel Kittel right after the finish in Al Aqah.

The German then went on to explain the incident in which he was involved with Grivko, who eventually was expelled from the race by the jury: "When we passed a construction site, the sand began blowing and as soon as we went into the crosswinds we were fighting for position, which is always stressful, and Andriy Grivko punched me. I really can't understand how he can do something like that. I get that riding in the crosswinds is always tense, but it gives him no right to act like that. He could have hurt my eye. It's a real shame what happened. In the finale, my mind wasn't 100% on the sprint, but I am happy I have no big injuries and I kept the lead."

A top ten finish sees Greg Van Avermaet take the overall lead in Spain

BMC sent me this Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana report:

2 February 2017, Denia (ESP)

A chaotic finish in Denia saw Greg Van Avermaet secure BMC Racing Team's second day in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana leader's jersey after he finished in eighth place behind stage winner Tony Martin (Team Katusha - Alpecin).

A fast start saw early breakaway attempts quickly reeled back in as the peloton raced towards the first of today's five category three climbs. It was only after an hour of racing that a three-rider breakaway was able to go clear off the front of the peloton and extend a solid advantage.

Tony Martin

Tony Martin wins the Valenciana stage in style

BMC Racing Team kept tight control of the main bunch behind whilst the breakaway extended a lead which reached a maximum of 6 minutes 15 seconds. As the race headed into the final 80km, the breakaway's advantage started to fall but heavy rain created slippery conditions. Stefan Küng was involved in a small crash but luckily escaped uninjured and was able to keep racing.

With the race back together heading into the final 15km, attacks soon followed including the final and ultimately winning move of seven riders with Martin, who eventually rode to solo victory. Greg Van Avermaet won the reduced bunch sprint for the line and, although finishing 19 seconds back, he stepped onto the podium as the second race leader from BMC Racing Team in as many days.

Interview with Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana race leader, Greg Van Avermaet:

Another day in yellow for BMC Racing Team, Greg! How are you feeling about taking the leader's jersey?

"I came into this stage thinking that there was the chance for me to go for the stage win and in the end it was not possible. I can't complain though as this is only my second race day of the season and already I think my condition is good, especially as I lost some training this winter. I am always proud to wear the leader's jersey at any race and I hope to be able to keep the jersey after tomorrow's stage."

Talk us through the final stages of the race when the seven riders attacked.

"We were working right from the beginning so we didn't have enough guys to close down the final gap and at the end it was too risky to push the limits with the bad weather and the slippery roads. At the end of the stage when I was racing for the remaining top ten places, I wanted to give it my all to finish in the best position I could as the guys had done such a good job earlier on to put me in the best position possible. So once again this yellow jersey is really a team effort."

What part did the rain play in today's race?

"It was definitely not an easy day today with a lot of wind and rain which made the roads dangerous. There were a lot of crashes especially on the last descent so I wanted to keep safe and not take too many risks. It's always good to win but my biggest goals are still to come and I didn't want to end my season here."

And looking ahead to the rest of the race?

"Our main objective was to win the opening team time trial and we have done that so everything else is really a bonus for us. Tomorrow could be another chance for me to go for the stage win so I will try and take any opportunities that I can but this race is preparation for me as I look towards my main goals in April. The team as a whole is really strong here and with the steeper stages, especially on Saturday, I think guys like Ben Hermans and Nicolas Roche could be in good form to do something."

Sports Director, Valerio Piva:

"It was a little bit hectic of course with the rain, especially in the final 45km where there was a lot of crashes. We had Stefan Küng go down but thankfully he was okay and finished without any problems. The main objective today was to try and control the race and to bring Greg into the final climb to try and go for the stage. We had a plan and I think all the riders executed that plan so I am happy with how everyone was riding. In the end we had to work so hard at the front of the peloton all day that when Martin attacked no one could go with him. Of course it would have been good to win the stage but it is always a positive to have the leader's jersey. There is a prestige that comes with that and it motivates the team to stay together but we will still continue to look for opportunities to take stage victories as the race continues."

And here's LottoNL-Jumbo's Valenciana news:

LottoNL-Jumbo’s Primoz Roglic placed third in the rainy second stage of the Volta a Valenciana today in Denia. Tony Martin (Katusha) took the stage win after 180 kilometres and Greg van Avermaet donned the leader’s jersey.

“It was hard and cold today,” Roglic said. “I was much better than yesterday, that’s why I tried it. Steven and I went full-gas on the climb and tried to escape. When I was in the front and Tony Martin went, I couldn’t follow. He went too fast. I feel well again. And despite my bad day yesterday, I never stopped believing.”

Three men broke free after one hour of racing. They gained more than five minutes. During the first climb of the Alto de Montigo, the leading group fell apart and the attackers were caught not much later.

Roglic attacked with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Tony Martin on the last time over the Alto de Montigo. On the wet descent, Martin escaped and arrived solo. Behind him Pim Ligthart (Roompot) sprinted for second place and Primoz Roglic third.

The weather dampened Sport Director Nico Verhoeven’s spirits.

"We actually expected it, but hoped that it would stay dry,” said Verhoeven. “When it rains, it’s very slippery. We saw a number of crashes on the road. Stef Clement was involved in a big crash but fortunately, did not suffer badly."

Kruijswijk had bad luck the last two days, but Roglic bounced back nicely after being dropped by the team in the opening time trial.

"Yesterday in the team time trial, we already lost some time, but today Kruijswijk lost time again. He was one of the first on top of the climb, but as a rider crashed in front of him, he fell too. Because of this, he lost connection with the first peloton.

"Primoz Roglic got his level back fortunately. Yesterday, he had a bad day when he was supposed to act as one of the engines in the team time trial. Today, he had a good one and joined up with the best.”

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