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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, January 30, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. Thomas Merton

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Bauke Mollema wins Vuelta a San Juan

Here's the report from Mollema's Trek-Segafredo team:

Bauke Mollema arrived safely with the peloton in the final stage to clinch the overall victory in the seven day Veulta a San Juan Sunday. For Mollema, who started his season earlier and in better form than in previous years, it was certification his winter training had paid off. For the team, there was no better way to ease into the year than by taking a January victory.

Similar to yesterday, stage seven was shortened from 138 to 111 kilometers due to high temperatures, resulting in a fast and furious pace from the start. The course was straightforward - seven laps of 15.9 kilometers on a nontechnical road - but far from easy explained Mollema.

"It was much harder than I expected actually," said Mollema. "It was only 111 kilometers with no corners, so the whole day was a really fast circuit. We knew it was going to be warm like the last days, but it was less of an issue than yesterday with the longer stage. It was okay today, but the speed was high from the start; I think we did 49km/h average. It was a hard day."

When Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida), sitting in 8th overall at 1 minute and 17 seconds, jumped into the day's first move, Trek-Segafredo – only five strong – had to leap into action from the gun. The leading trio gained over 90 seconds making Nibali virtual leader on the road, but there was no panic behind.

Bauke Mollema

Bauke Mollema winning the San Sebastian Classic in 2016

"I did not know what Nibali was doing actually; I was a bit surprised he was going in a break," continued Mollema. "They were only three guys, so we were never really worried. But at one moment they were going so fast that it was hard to take back anytime. All the time it was one and a half minutes, and I knew the sprinters' teams were going to help in the finale.

"I have to really thank my teammates today. Especially after Eugenio (Alafaci) crashed hard yesterday, he pulled full gas the whole day and kept going back for bottles. Greggy (Daniel) and Matthias (Brändle) pulled a long time and took off a lot of time, and Marco (Coledan) always stayed with me until the end. They did a great job, we were only with five, but we managed to control the race. I am happy it's over now."

In the final two laps, the gap fell rapidly as the breakaway trio fatigued. Over the finish line to start the final loop they held 42 seconds and, on cue, the sprinters' teams picked up the pace. When all three were inevitably absorbed, attacks ensued. It was a late move by Max Richeze (Quick Step-Floors) that succeeded. He jumped out of the peloton with just over a kilometer remaining and held off the pursuit for his second victory of the race, while Mollema crossed the line safely to cement the overall, only his second stage race victory of his career.

"It's nice," Mollema agreed. "I have not won so many stage races, and it's nice for me to start the year like this. It is a good sign after the winter, and it says something about my level at this moment, and I am really happy about that. It sets a good pace for the rest of the year, there's a lot of other races coming up, of course, and this motivates me, even more, to keep working hard in the next weeks, next months."

Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race

Here's the report from Team Sky:

Luke Rowe battled to fifth place as the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race came down to a thrilling finish.

A larger than expected group made it over the final climbs to contest the finish after Team Sky had looked to constantly enliven the race.

Rowe dug deep over the final ramp to put himself in position for the sprint, while teammate Chris Froome pushed hard to pull back a dangerous attack from Richie Porte (BMC Racing).

In the reduced bunch kick it was Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb) who edged out the victory, overhauling Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott) and Cameron Meyer (Australia) at the line - with Rowe mixing it up for a second top-five finish in three years.

Nikias Arndt

Nikias Arndt wins the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

On the race's finale Rowe told TeamSky.com: "Everything went to plan and then in the sprint it was a cross-headwind from the left. I banked on Jay McCarthy and stayed on his wheel but we didn't come into the finish as fast as I'd have hoped.

"I felt I could have got a better result but that's bike racing. No excuses. I think I hit my max heart-rate on each of the three climbs on the last lap! I was literally hanging on by the skin of my teeth."

On an undulating circuit around Geelong Team Sky launched a barrage of attacks. Ian Stannard and Danny van Poppel looked to soften up the peloton early, before accelerations from Sebastian Henao and Kenny Elissonde on the final two ascents of the Challambra climb.

Sergio Henao and Froome were also at the sharp end, but with such a big group it became difficult for the pure climbers to stay clear.

Here's what Team Dimension Data had to say about the race:

The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race ended with a nail-biting finale after 175 kilometers of racing around Geelong. Being the first one-day World Tour event of the 2017 season, the race saw a strong peloton taking to the start. Chris Froome (Sky), Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), and Richie Porte (BMC) were among numerous other stars to tackle the scenic coastal roads of Victoria. The win went to Nikias Arndt (Sunweb), who crossed the line ahead of Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott) and Cameron Meyer (Australia). Nathan Haas finished a strong 7th for Team Dimension Data, after being the main animator of the finale.

The race got off to a quick start. Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport), Kirill Sveshnikov (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Angel Vicioso (Katusha) and Alexander Porter (Australia) went right from the gun and managed to establish a solid gap. But it wasn’t until the gap went over the 10-minute-mark that the peloton decided to chase. Mark Renshaw joined the chase for our African team.

When the race reached its halfway-point the gap was down to 3.40 minutes. From then on it was all cat-and-mouse and only a matter of time until the break was reeled back in. With less than 30 kilometers to go Sebastian Henao (Sky), Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott), Michael Woods (Cannondale), and Rohan Dennis (BMC) tried to break away. Their effort was short-lived though.

Team Dimension Data was well represented at the front of the peloton. Lachlan Morton kept the pace high and set the sights for an active finale by Haas. The latter one then went on to prove his ambitions for this race. He formed part of every move that went.

When Chaves attacked inside the last 15 kilometers Haas managed to stay in his wheel, only to give it another go a couple of kilometers later. He crested the top of the days last climb together with Dries Devenyns (QuickStep) and Rafael Valls (Lotto-Belisol), just ahead of a select group of pre-race favorites. The trio was brought back, but Haas showed no signs of weakness.

Froome and Porte were the next to go. Their respective moves were both covered and all looked set for a sprint-finale. Haas, who had helped to bring them back, was right at the front of the pack when Meyer attacked. the former Team Dimension Data rider quickly opened a gap but was literally caught on the line by Arndt and Gerrans. Haas finished a strong 7th in the end.

Nathan Haas – Rider:

"It was a very hard race today. I came here to win, so 7th isn’t really the result I hoped for. However, I think I came off with a personal victory today. It was a very hard finale, but I was always up there and able to get into every move that went up the road. I think this underlines just how hard I have worked over the last couple of weeks and that I am able to handle the responsibility of being a team-leader. I am happy of how the team raced over the last few weeks and it makes me proud to see the support we received from fans and partners along the way. Having Dimension Data, Deloitte and Cervélo around at nearly every race here in Australia was a big push. This month also gives me a lot of confidence for the Ardennes classics which are my next big goal."

Alex Sans Vega – Sports Director

"Given the new status of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race as a World Tour event we wanted to leave our mark at it. The goal was to go for the win. But as it’s racing, you can’t predict that. We rode a very active race, though. Mark Renshaw helped to bring the break back and Lachlan kept the pace up for Nathan in the latter part of the race. Nathan himself rode a very strong finale. He managed to get into every move in the end. Sprinting to 7th after these efforts is a good result."

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