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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, February 27, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector. - Plato

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Ryan Gibbons wins Langkawi Tour stage five

Here's his team's report:

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s purple patch at the Tour de Langkawi continued as Ryan Gibbons sprinted to victory during today’s 5th stage. Jakub Mareczko (Willier) finished in 2nd place and Travis McCabe (United Healthcare) was 3rd.

Heading into today’s 5th stage of the Tour de Langkawi which took riders on a 151km journey from Meru Reya to Kuala Kubu Bharu, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s top priority was to protect Gibbons’ race leader’s yellow jersey. It was a fast start with multiple attacks in the opening 50km and eventually 1 rider was allowed to go clear, a situation that suited our African Team perfectly.

There was 3 bonus sprints out on course where just by riding defensively, Gibbons was able to extend his overall lead by 2 seconds and Mekseb Debesay also grabbed a bonus second which saw him move up 1 place on the GC. With just 1 rider up the road, our African Team was able to control the race comfortably all stage. Only right at the end did a few other sprint teams come to the fore, and caught the lone escapee with 15km to go.

It was then a frantic race to a sprint finale, one which suited Gibbons characteristics as the rough bricked surface and gentle rise to the line was tailored for a strong sprinter. After some great team work to drop Gibbons off in the right place for the sprint, the young South African kicked for the line around 200m to go and left the others behind. With just more than a bike’s length lead, Gibbons was able to throw his hands in the air to celebrate the first professional victory of his career.

Ryan Gibbons

Ryan Gibbons wins the stage

After today’s efforts Gibbons now has a good lead on the overall GC with Debesay 5th overall and Ben O’Connor in 10th. Gibbons also took back the lead in the teal sprinters jersey competition.

Ryan Gibbons: "I am absolutely thrilled. I am so happy I could repay my team for all their hard work and also just so happy I could get off the mark with my first professional win. Hopefully it is the start of something great. The first priority was to keep yellow today but I got a few points during the sprints out on the road which brought me the Teal jersey as well. From 10km to go, it was all systems go for a sprint and I am so happy I could pull it off. The start of the race was really busy, nobody wanted to let a break go but our guys were special, covering anything too dangerous. Eventually we could let 1 guy go and then Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Adrien Niyonshuti controlled the race all day, these guys are fantastic."

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne team reports

This is from Quick Step Floors:

Matteo Trentin's top 10 in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad showed he was in the frame for getting a good result also in Sunday's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, and the 27-year-old Italian confirmed his fine form by booking a place into the decisive move at the 69th edition of the Belgian one-day race, on the legendary Oude Kwaremont. There, Quick-Step Floors came to the fore and forced an important selection, which saw four of its riders make it into the elite group: Dries Devenyns, Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar and Trentin.

The newly-formed group contained, among others, rainbow jersey Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and defending champion Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), and worked well together, quickly opening a 20-second gap over the peloton, and at the same time cutting an important slice of the six escapees' advantage. Inside the last 40 kilometers of the race, they made the catch and continued to soldier on and hold off the bunch, despite several of the sprinters' teams leading the chase.

With around 30 kilometers left, Stuyven put in a strong acceleration and got away; for a moment there, it looked like the scenario of 2016 will repeat, but Matteo Trentin responded and bridged across, followed soon by Sagan, Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) and Luke Rowe (Team Sky). That was the last time the five were seen by their former breakaway companions, as the quintet didn't hold anything back, padding out their advantage even further, so that by the time they went under the 10km-to-go arch, 40 seconds were separating the two groups.

As expected, the tough Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne came down to a reduced sprint, which saw Peter Sagan notch up the win ahead of Jasper Stuyven and Luke Rowe. Matteo Trentin, who until that point did some long pulls at the front and even attacked with less than two kilometers to go in an attempt to catch the others with their guard off, rolled over the line in fifth position, his best ever result at the Belgian classic.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan wins Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

"Today, Sagan was the strongest, everyone knew that, so I tried to go with a move nobody was expecting, because I wanted to win. Unfortunately, it didn't work out, but at the end of this week-end I can say that I am satisfied with my condition, especially as this is the first year that I was up there two days in a row in Omloop and Kuurne. This makes me proud of the countless hours of work I've put in during the winter and gives me renewed confidence for the future", said Matteo Trentin at the finish.

Wilfried Peeters, Quick-Step Floors' sport director, made an analysis of the team's week-end in Belgium: "I can't say we were lucky these days, as several crashed hindered our plans, but we can be content with the fact we were protagonists in both days. In Kuurne we got a better result than in Omloop, the team was aggressive and showed its strength, and while there still is room to improve, we can say that what we have showed here bodes really well for the next races."

And here's Lotto-Soudal's K-B-K report:

Yesterday, a crash ruined the chances of the Lotto Soudal riders at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Today, they had a new chance at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. This time Lotto Soudal was well represented in the finale, which resulted in the fourth place for Tiesj Benoot!

Just like yesterday in the Omloop it took more than one hour before a front group was formed. After the finish of the Omloop Jürgen Roelandts immediately looked ahead to this new race and he decided to attack early today. Roelandts rode in front together with eight others. They got an advantage of more than six minutes. On the Oude Kwaremont, 85 kilometres from the end, Zdenek Stybar raised the pace. Tiesj Benoot followed smoothly on his wheel. After the top of the Kwaremont, about fifteen riders joined them. One of them was Lotto Soudal rider Nikolas Maes. It was a strong chasing group with among other Arnaud Démare, Oliver Naesen, Peter Sagan, Ian Stannard, Jasper Stuyven, Matteo Trentin and Greg Van Avermaet.

The chasing group cooperated well and soon they got close to the leaders. At 35 kilometres from the end they closed the gap on the front group with Jürgen Roelandts. It looked as if the peloton would still catch all of these riders, as the time gap was only thirty seconds. In the first of two local laps of 15.3 kilometres Jasper Stuyven attacked. Trentin and Sagan joined him at the front and so did Tiesj Benoot and Luke Rowe. BMC pulled in the chasing group, but they didn’t catch Benoot and co anymore. Just before entering the final kilometre, the five leaders were watching each other closely. Matteo Trentin was the first to accelerate, but he couldn’t get away. Then Peter Sagan started sprinting with 250 metres to go and he easily won. Jasper Stuyven got second, ahead of Luke Rowe. Tiesj Benoot finished fourth, a beautiful result for the nearly 23-year-old Belgian.

Tiesj Benoot: “I was motivated to show myself today after the big crash prevented me from playing a role in the finale of the Omloop. Before the race, it was obvious that the section just before and the ascent of the Oude Kwaremont itself would be decisive. With a few teams we made the race hard. At that moment the situation was perfect for us as we had Jürgen Roelandts in the front group. Together with Nikolas Maes, I rode in a chasing group behind the leaders. When we had joined Jürgen and the others there was some hesitation and the peloton came really close. Then Jasper Stuyven attacked. That was a strong effort. I jumped to Stuyven, Sagan and Trentin but that was not easy at all. Closing those last ten metres was hell. This move cost a lot of energy.”

“There were not many opportunities in the finale to leave the others behind. The course was not selective enough. We covered the last hill with 50 kilometres to go and there were no cobbles afterwards either. I am very pleased with this fourth place. I knew I was good, but achieving top five in a semi-classic is very nice and gives an extra boost with Strade Bianche only six days ahead of us.”

In the finale Moreno Hofland and Tosh Van der Sande crashed. There was not much damage, but Moreno has a few abrasions.

And here's what Team Sky had to report after K-B-K:

Luke Rowe continued his Classics momentum with a superb third place at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. The Welshman showed impressive strength on the second day of racing in Belgium's opening weekend, battling it out in an elite five-man group to ensure a podium. World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) rebounded from a runner-up finish on Saturday to claim victory.

Rowe buried himself to bridge across to his counterparts as the race hit the finishing circuit in Kuurne, before holding his nerve in the final two kilometres. Despite starting his sprint from the back, he was able to secure his best ever result in the race.

Team Sky had enlivened the race and Rowe and Ian Stannard found themselves right in the mix as the day's key selection was made with 85km to go. Stannard hit the front on the famed Oude Kwaremont cobbled sector, stringing out the bunch and creating a group of 19 riders, including his team-mate. The gap spun out to over a minute but gradually the peloton regrouped, and with all the day's climbs complete the bunch set about hauling back the leaders.

A cohesive chase effort saw the gap slashed to under 30 seconds, but as the race arrived for the first of two finishing circuits a dig from defending champion Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) sparked the beginning of the end.

With Stannard initially chasing, Rowe then put in a superb effort to bridge across, joining Sagan, Stuyven, Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) and Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) in what proved to be the winning move.

Stannard crossed the line 14th, just six seconds back in a second group of chasers. The peloton, containing Michal Golas, Christian Knees and Gianni Moscon, arrived moments later.

After stepping off his first Classics podium, a buzzing Rowe told TeamSky.com: "I'm definitely happy with the opening weekend. You can say it's nice to be able to get those results and take some confidence from it - but it's two nice results in itself. These are two really hard one-day races. Everyone who is going to be at the thick end of the rest of the Classics is here.

"I've had a fourth, a fifth, a sixth... an eighth, a ninth. 11th. So now to get a third and podium is that next level up. I'm knocking on the door and not far away. It's by no means a win which is what we are aiming for - but it's nice to be on the podium and experience that. Onwards and upwards.

"I'm at the stage now where I'm fairly confident of making those front groups. If it splits and there are 20-30 guys I'd be disappointed if I wasn't there. But at the same time in these Classics you've got to be so clinical, and it's so easy to make a mistake and not be there. So it's great to be on the front and full-on racing again."

Team Dimension Data's final Abu Dhabi Tour report:

A rain soaked final stage brought the Abu Dhabi Tour to a close and it was Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) who sprinted to victory. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had Mark Cavendish finish 2nd on the line with Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) rounding out the podium. Rui Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi) won the race overall.

Caleb Ewen

Caleb Ewen snatches the final stage

The final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour was once again contested over 26 laps of the Yas Marina F1 circuit, which gave riders a total distance of 143km to race. It was said that Abu Dhabi only gets 5 days of rain per year, but today was one such day. The peloton rolled off under the lights of the magnificent raceway as the rain fell relentlessly.

Six riders braved the water and broke away early on. The peloton was intent on keeping them close so that a sprint finish would decide the stage. Some teams even had an eye on the intermediate sprints which offered up a few bonus seconds, and so before the final sprint prime at 25km to go, the race was all together. For Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, it was the final sprint to decide the stage winner that was our main focus.

After losing Daniel Teklehaimanot after stage 1, Igor Anton also had to abandon today meaning we were slightly short staffed going into the final sprint. The Yas Marina circuit has quite a technical finale with a number of chicanes in the final 3km. Our African Team found it difficult to link up initially but with 3km to go, Bernie Eisel, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Mark Renshaw and Cavendish were all together.

Our sprint quartet was playing catch up to Orica-Scott just before the twists and turns began though, and it was always going to be hard to come by them before the last right-hander at 200m to go. With Ewan in 2nd through that last corner and Cavendish in 5th, it was always going to be Ewan today despite our Manxman’s fast finish. By placing 2nd this evening, Cavendish was able to ensure he won the sprinters green points jersey overall, thanks to his victory on stage 1 and 3rd place on stage 2.

Roger Hammond – Sport Director: "We came here to open our World Tour account. We got the victory on the first stage and took the leaders jersey which was really satisfying. We also took home the green jersey which was a nice surprise at the end of the week. Taking more than that though, being early season, what wanted to do was create a cohesive unit. I am really pleased with how the guys performed together at this early season race. The guys can go home proud of their display and how they supported each other in trying to achieve our goals."

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