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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, July 9, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Don't spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door. - Coco Chanel

Current Racing

Latest completed racing:


Tour de France stage eight reports

Second-place Robert Gesink's LottoNL-Jumbo sent me this:

Robert Gesink climbed to a second place in the eighth stage of the Tour de France today at Station des Rousses. Only Frenchman Lilian Calmejane held off the team LottoNL-Jumbo’s Dutchman.

“It was a though day,” Gesink said. “It took a while before we were able to break away. On the last climb, I tried to close the gap at once. My legs were good and I overtook Pauwels and Roche. I just could not close the gap to Calmejane. Then I exploded a bit. I tried to recover, but I came in second.”

Gesink heard that Calemjane was cramping, but was not able to take advantage of that. “I was not that fresh anymore myself. I had loads of energy, but by that time it was all gone,” Gesink laughed. “I rode a very good race today. The plan was to ride my own tempo, accelerate and close the gap at once. That plan unfortunately did not work today.

“There are many more opportunities to come. This was only the first. I do not like the Jura Mountains that much, because it’s hilly all the time. Tomorrow, I will try to get some rest -- if that is even possible in a stage like tomorrow. After that, there are new chances and we are going to play the game again.”

Robert Gesink

Robert Gesink finishes stage eight.

With the same attacking style, Gesink won last year’s queen stage of the Vuelta a España. Five days before his win on the Aubisque, Gesink also placed second place in a stage. “At four kilometres from the finish line, they were saying that Calmejane had cramps,” Sports Director Nico Verhoeven said. “But when you see the gap not decreasing and even growing, you know the cramp was not that severe.

“At two kilometres from the top of the last climb, Robert was 50 metres from Calmejane. We thought he would close that gap soon, but Calmejane was just a bit better than Robert today. You have to be proud on the race he rode. Everybody looked at Robert today. If you ride to a second place while everybody is watching you, you rode a very good race.”

Here's the report from race leader Chris Froome's Team Sky:

A fine team effort helped Chris Froome defend the yellow jersey after a relentless stage eight at the Tour de France.

With a number of riders targeting the hilly stage as an opportunity to earn a Tour win, the battle to make the day's break was fierce. In the end it took over two hours to form, with a large 50-man group slimming down to 16 and forging a substantial gap just shy of the 100km mark.

Christian Knees, Sergio Henao and Mikel Landa all made it across, with Vasil Kiryienka and Michal Kwiatkowski doing an excellent job of setting the pace at the head of the peloton behind.

After the drama of that opening two hours the race settled into a more natural rhythm and the break dwindled down. Eventually Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), Nicolas Roche (BMC) and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) were all that was left on the day’s final climb, after Kwiatkowski set a ferocious pace in the run to the foot of the first category Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes.

It was Calmejane who pushed clear to crest the 11.7km climb on his own and solo the last 10km to take a popular French victory by 50 seconds from the bunch.

Geraint Thomas was forced into action on the run to the line when he covered an opportunistic Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) attack, but other than that it was a stress-free day in the saddle for Froome - albeit a hard one.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome finished safely in the pack

The race leader said: “That was a really tough day, especially with tomorrow in mind. That was really quite selective. Tactically it was quite an interesting day. We went with the plan of putting Sergio Henao and Mikel Landa in the break, seeing as they are also up there on GC, but at the same time Mathias Frank was up there, at one stage Pierre Latour was up there, and they are also threats on GC so it was a difficult one. Even though we had two guys in the break we couldn’t really give them much room. It was a tough day in the end.”

Froome was quick to praise his team mates who always seemed to be in control on a frantic day. “I think my team mates were fantastic today. From start to finish they were in control of the race. The pressure was on. The team had to pull out all the stops today and the guys were fantastic.”

Looking ahead to stage nine - tipped by some as the race’s toughest day - Froome believes it could be ‘decisive’ in the battle for the yellow jersey. He added: “Especially after today, I think tomorrow is going to be a really decisive day in this year’s Tour. We could see, in the main GC guys, the gaps open right up tomorrow. The descent down to Chambery after Mont du Chat is tricky to say the least. All in all we’re going to see a very aggressive day of racing tomorrow.”

Geraint Thomas - who remains second overall, 12 seconds back - was quick to echo Froome’s thoughts on how hard the day’s stage was. He said: "It was certainly a tough day and it was a tough day for us, but it was a tough day for everyone.

"There wasn’t time for a leak all day, we were just full-on, on the pedals all day. We rode well as a team, we had Landa and Sergio up there, and Knees to start with - then Knees came back to help us ride. We had it all in control in the end as we had such a strong group. Tomorrow is another level again and its going to be tough.”

It wasn’t all plain sailing though, as Thomas explained that he suffered an unfortunate crash midway through the action. He revealed: “I’d just gone back for bottles and I’d just got back to the front asking the boys if they wanted one and went into the corner a bit too hot. When the boys started braking I was just a split second late and hit the gravel. It was a case of go down into the trees, or hit the hay bale - so I chose the hay bale and I front flipped, but I think it was better option than the woods!”

Luke Rowe lost contact with the peloton on the day's first serious climb but battled hard to finish inside the time limit.

Team BMC sent me this:

08 July, 2017, Station des Rousses (FRA): Stage 8 saw the Tour de France return to the mountains, where BMC Racing Team was on the attack throughout the 187.5km stage with half of the team present in the multiple breakaways.

After two flat stages, it was a battle to get into the breakaway with multiple attempts, including one from Greg Van Avermaet, gaining no more than 30 seconds in the first hour of racing.

Eventually, after 70km, the peloton split and a large group of 40 riders went clear with BMC Racing Team represented by Van Avermaet, Damiano Caruso, Nicolas Roche and Michael Schär.

The peloton finally sat up and let the group go three minutes up the road, before a 13-rider group, featuring Van Avermaet and Schär, forged on ahead to gain one minute on their previous breakaway companions inside the final 100km.

A regrouping of the two leading groups saw the four BMC Racing Team rider reunited, chasing the leading duo of Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) and Serge Pauwels (Team Dimension Data).

Van Avermaet managed to bridge to the leading duo in a small group to create a strong 4-rider breakaway, before being joined by Roche and a few others which saw eight riders in the lead, two minutes ahead of the peloton with Richie Porte.

With 24km to go, on the early slopes of the La Combe de Laisa Les Molunes Climb, the Roche and Van Avermaet group had 1'20" on the peloton before Van Avermaet, after a day of attacking, dropped back.

Roche forged on ahead and put in an impressive ride to attack on multiple occasions and keep the pace high as the peloton worked hard to bring them back.

Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) launched the winning move inside the final 18km, with Roche on his wheel, and was able to go solo over the summit and start the 12km approach to the finish where he eventually claimed the stage win.

Lilian Calmajane

Lilian Calmejane was not to be caught in stage eight.

Behind, Porte looked comfortable in the reduced General Classification group and finished with his rivals as they caught Roche, who crossed the line in fourth place, on the finish line.

Nicolas Roche: "The plan was to try and get Greg Van Avermaet in the breakaway hoping that it would be less of a climbers' group and he could play his card in the finish. The race went bananas and there was a group of 45 riders so we had to have numbers there as we didn't want to get caught like we did in the Dauphine. We learned there that it is easier to have riders drop back than try and bridge across. So we tried to ride aggressively and keep the race going.

"I rode as aggressively as I could. I had to say, I had to stop thinking that I was in the Tour and there are still two weeks to go. I was saying 'alright, whatever happens today, happens and think about tomorrow, tonight'. I went really deep. Once I was up in that group there was two possibilities; one, I really wanted to make it to the top in case Richie was isolated from the chasing group and two; in the case that we arrive, I would give it a go. I really gave it everything."

Richie Porte: "It was a hard day and I think in the final it kind of evened out. I think tomorrow, we'll feel that one in the legs for sure. It was always the plan to have Greg Van Avermaet and Nicolas Roche up front so it was good to see it happen. They chased pretty hard behind and it didn't quite work out. We're going to have to go all in tomorrow. It's such a hard day and everyone had a pretty solid day today so I think there will be some tired legs out there. It was a pretty wild stage. I think we averaged 46km for the first hour so it was pretty solid racing with the climbs we had today."

Greg Van Avermaet: "I think the final climb was pretty hard for me. I gave it everything to be in the breakaway and make the race hard. It was hard for me to go on a finish like this and it broke my morale a little bit when the main group was only at 1'20". It was really hard to stay in front so from this moment I took it easy to try and save the legs a little bit, because I went all in today."

Fabio Baldato, Sports Director: "We tried for the stage with the move from Greg Van Avermaet. You saw from the beginning, on the flat, it became a really hard race even between the GC riders. It will be a really hard stage tomorrow, especially after a day like today where everyone gave everything, even the guys behind to get to the finish. I think there will be a lot of guys who will pay for today, tomorrow. It will be interesting for sure."

Orica-Scott had a good day at the Tour. Here's their news:

Former Czech champion Roman Kreuziger sprinted to fifth place on stage eight of the Tour de France today after helping teammate Simon Yates to retain the white best young rider's jersey.

Kreuziger finished in the main group of contenders, alongside his leaders in Yates and Esteban Chaves, 50seconds behind solo winner Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie).

Despite two threats to the white jersey in Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Pierre Latour (AG2R) riding themselves into the big breakaway group of the day, Yates and ORICA-SCOTT kept their eyes on the main objective of securing the white jersey at the end of the three weeks in Paris.

“It was on straight from the gun,” Yates said of the stage. “I think guys know there’s not many chances for the break so today was a good day for them to give it a go. The pace was on from the beginning, it never really eased up at all.

“In the final there it wasn’t super hard. We just needed to stick with the GC guys as it’s a long way to Paris. These days you need a good result on the general classification to win the white jersey so this is the approach we’re taking.  I kept an eye on Latour there in the final because he is a good rider and we don’t need him taking any seconds but otherwise it was business as usual.” 

Simon Yates

Simon Yates will start stage nine in white.

Tomorrow, the race tackles one of the hardest stages of this year’s Tour. The 181.5km stage from Nantua to Chambery features seven categorised ascents, including three ‘hors’ category climbs.

“I think a lot of guys are wary for tomorrow,” Yates explained. “If you went super deep today you can really pay for it. You might take a few seconds today, but that might mean you lose a lot tomorrow. The descent tomorrow is really technical but it’s not just the descent, it’s a monster stage before we even get to that point.”

Earlier in the day, ORICA-SCOTT’s Daryl Impey and Jens Keukeleire joined a large breakaway after 50km of racing. The pair were amongst a group of 50 riders who rode off the front after the intermediate sprint.

“Daryl, Jens and Michael Albasini had the option to try to make today’s breakaway because we knew there was a good chance of it surviving,” sport director Matt White said. To have two in there with the group being so big was a good situation for us but with the pace as high as it was, it was only a couple of talented climbers from that group that survived.”

How it happened: In contrast to the past couple of day's racing, moments of lapse were few and far between on stage eight, with most teams keen to get someone into the day’s breakaway.

Despite many attempts, the sprint teams kept proceedings together early on in hope of collecting maximum intermediate points for the green jersey.

After the sprint at kilometre 45 a big group of 50 riders formed with Impey and Keukeleire present for ORICA-SCOTT. When it split further, Keuekeleire was once again there in a new front group of 13.

As they entered the second and harder half of the stage, the formation of the groups continued to change until a group of eight riders went clear on the penultimate climb. Impey dropped back to help his teammates in the peloton, whilst Keukeleire maintained his position in the larger group at the front, the now the second on the road.

By the last and most difficult climb just a few riders remained in front, including local French rider Calmejane who held on for the victory. Behind, Team Sky set the pace on the final climb before the general classification group finished together 50seconds behind the winner.

2017 Tour of Austria final report from Cannondale-Drapac:

Sep Vanmarcke took second place in the final stage of the Tour of Austria on Saturday. It was his third podium finish in the seven-day stage race and earned him the green jersey as winner of the points classification.

“This Tour of Austria has been good to me,” Vanmarcke said. “I wore the yellow leader’s jersey. I finished on a stage podium three times, took top-five another two times and I won the green jersey.”

The final stage came after two tough mountain stages, one of which was over 200 kilometres.

“The stages on Thursday and Friday were really hard,” Vanmarcke said. “It was just a matter of getting through those stages for me. Tom-Jelte [Slagter] was really strong,” he added. “After his stage two win, he has been part of the action all week.”

Cannondale-Drapac was eyeing the final stage to finish off the Tour of Austria on a high note.

“Today was a tough stage,” Vanmarcke said. “It was a long stage, with a pretty challenging profile in the first 120 kilometres. There was a five-kilometre climb with the top at 115 kilometres,” he added. “The peloton broke into pieces on the climb. The pace remained high across the top, so it was impossible for anyone not in that first group to return to the front.”

Double stage winner Elia Viviani, riding for the Italian national team and leading the points classification ahead of stage six, hadn’t made the split. Only nine points behind in the classification, Vanmarcke saw his chance.

His Cannondale-Drapac teammates provided another successful lead-out, and Vanmarcke crossed the line in second place, behind Clément Venturini (Cofidis). The twelve points he pocketed along with the stage result put him atop the points classification.

Vanmarcke received the green jersey with the complementary salami sausage during the final podium ceremony of this year’s Tour of Austria. “It was a wonderful week, both for me personally and for the team,” Vanmarcke concluded. “We won a stage with TJ, were strong as a team and finished on the podium of a stage five times in seven days.”

Giro Rosa (Women's Giro d'Italia) stage nine update

The organizer sent me this report:

MARTA BASTIANELLI TAKES THE FIRST ITALIAN WIN AT GIRO ROSA IN POLLA

The World Champion of Stuttgart 2007 is the first stage winner for Italy of the 28th Giro Rosa: The athlete of Alè Cipollini - Galassia Team has triumphed in the penultimate stage (Palinuro - Polla, 122 km) beating the Finnish Lotta Lepistö (Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team) and Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle High5).

A very hot and sunny weather through the roads of Cilento and Vallo di Diano was with the race, the last day in the Province of Salerno. A small group went in the front in the first part, including the three times Italian Champion Elena Cecchini, but the Pink Jersey peloton could take them before the Cathegorized climb of Sala Consilina. Three riders attack here: Malgorzata Jasinska (Cylance Pro Cycling), Lauren Kitchen (WM3) and Anna Trevisi (Alè - Cipollini - Galassia), who have more than a minute at the first passage from Polla.

The peloton accelerated until catching the breakaway at the last kilometer: the Team Alè - Cipollini - Galassia does a perfect work and Marta Bastianelli took the win, with Lepistö (first place in Roseto degli Abruzzi) and Giorgia Bronzini. Marta is back on the podium of the Giro after Legnano 2016. Anna Van der Breggen, who has been reached by her family in Polla, keeps the Pink Jersey with 1'03'' from Elisa Longo Borghini and 1'39'' from Annemiek Van Vleuten: the Vesuvius will be the decisive climb tomorrow in the final stage of Torre del Greco.

RESULTS STAGE 9 (TOP 3):

1. Marta Bastianelli  (Alè - Cipollini - Galassia)                  3h05'09''
2. Lotta Lepistö (Cervelo - Bigla Pro Cycling Team)                   st
3. Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle High5)                                             st

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 9 (TOP 3):

1. Anna Van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans)                    22h30'06''
2. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5)                                +1'03''
3. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica - Scott)                              +1'39''

THE JERSEYS OF THE 28TH GIRO ROSA AFTER STAGE 9:

Maglia ROSA COLNAGO: Anna Van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans)
Maglia CICLAMINO SELLE SMP: Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott)
Maglia VERDE PURPLE by GLOBAL STOCK: Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott)
Maglia BIANCA COLNAGO: Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team)
Maglia BLU GSG: Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5)

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