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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, April 5, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do. - B. F. Skinner

Today's racing:

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Scheldeprijs team reports

We posted winner Fabio Jakobsen's Quick-Step team report with the race results

Second-place Pascal Ackermann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

After crossing a railroad as a red light flashed, 35 riders were disqualified from the race today. Therefore, just less than 60 riders finished today’s 106th edition of the Scheldeprijs. BORA – hansgrohe was represented well going into the last lap around Schoten, as Pascal Ackermann took a strong second place in the final sprint.

The Stage
In 2018, the Scheldeprijs was held on a new parkour. From Terneuzen, on the coast of the Ostsee, the first half of the race was always close to the sea, on windy and open roads, exceptionally exposed to winds from all directions. After 147 kilometers, the finish line in Schoten was crossed for the first time, before the peloton had to do a 20k lap three times. Even the whole race was always close to sea level with no elevation at all, it was still expected to be a hard day in the saddle with lots of crosswinds.

The Team Tactics
Already in the last semi-classic races in Belgium, Pascal Ackermann was the BORA – hansgrohe leader. Being one of the fastest riders in the bunch, with the ability of coping well with crosswinds, Pascal was also today the protected rider of the German squad. With Schwarzmann, Kolar, Baska, Selig and Pelucchi, BORA – hansgrohe had an exceptional fast line-up in the race, but the decisive part was to bring as many guys as possible into the last 60 kilometers. Therefore, the main task was to always stay together in the bunch, to be able to react as a team to any crosswind situation, as splits were already expected in the first part of the race.

The Race
After the expected fast start with plenty of attempts right from the gun, a first group of eight riders went away from the bunch. But in crosswinds, the peloton did also set a high pace and splits happened during the chase of the leaders. In the first hour the riders covered more than 49 kilometers and the breakaway was already reeled in again. After the bunch had regrouped, another break of five went up the road.

With 90k of racing, the gap between the leaders and the peloton was up to 3:30. But when the peloton increased the pace once again, the leaders where caught fast, while another time the bunch did splint into several groups. One of the groups behind tried to pass a railroad under red light, and therefore got disqualified. For Demare and Groenewegen the race was over, like for Rudi Selig from BORA – hansgrohe. But with Ackermann, Baska, Schwarzmann, Pfingsten and Pelucchi, the German WorldTeam was very well presented among the remaining 60 riders in the bunch, with Katusha setting the pace going into the finishing circuit.

In the last lap, more riders were in difficulties after a hard day in the saddle and just 30 riders competed in a sprint final. While Schwarzmann and Pfingsten did fight hard to position Ackermann at the head of the bunch, Pascal caught a tumble and nearly crashed with 500m to go. But the young German made his way through on the home straight, finding himself in second behind F. Jakobsen.

Fabio Jakobsen

Fabio Jakobsen gets a rain-soaked win.

From the Finish Line
"We were concentrated from the beginning today and every time the bunch did split, we were up there with plenty of guys. In the end five of us made it to the finishing circuit and especially Schwarzi (Schwarzmann) and Pfingsti (Pfingsten) did a great job to keep me in position. In the sprint I was blocked on the left side, and nearly crashed once. But I think this second place was the maximum after a tough day racing in crosswinds.” – Pascal Ackermann 

Jens Debusschere's Lotto-Soudal squad sent this race report:

Jens Debusschere finished fourth in the new Scheldeprijs. A short hesitation made that a podium place was impossible.

As predicted, the peloton split due to the wind in Zeeland. Both Lars Bak and Moreno Hofland attacked in the beginning of the race. Eventually a front group of five was established, without a Lotto Soudal rider. These escapees remained ahead till seventy kilometres from the end. The reduced bunch consisted of about forty riders with five Lotto Soudal riders: Jens Debusschere, Moreno Hofland, Nikolas Maes, Marcel Sieberg and Enzo Wouters. Lawrence Naesen had been distanced after a crash and Lars Bak had been disqualified together with dozens of others as they crossed a level crossing when the lights were already red. Despite several attempts a small group sprinted for victory in Schoten. Fabio Jakobsen won ahead of Pascal Ackermann and Christopher Lawless. Debusschere was fourth.

Jens Debusschere: “The race unfolded rather perfectly for me. I managed to maintain a position at the front at all times, despite the echelons. Démare, Groenewegen and Kittel weren’t in the running for victory anymore due to different reasons. In the finale I still had four teammates with me in the front group. We were strong as a team today. Marcel Sieberg did a perfect lead-out for me. That happened quite early, but that was better than running the risk of getting boxed in. When Sibi left his position at the front, I hesitated and that’s how I got in a duel with Mørkøv who wanted to let his sprinter pass. That half a second of hesitation costs me the first or second place. I don’t know if Jakobsen could be beaten. If I could have started my sprint immediately I would definitely have become second. I am disappointed, but I have to be happy with my condition. Now it’s all about recovering for Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. Three years ago I finished ninth in Roubaix, so the race definitely suits me.”

On the third day in the Basque Country Thomas De Gendt chose to join the breakaway. He was the first to cross the top of all three official climbs and so he conquered the KOM jersey. Winning the stage was not possible. After first Juul-Jensen and then six others had joined De Gendt, the gap rose to more than six minutes. First Sunweb and later Astana too started to chase. At the end Sky teammates De la Cruz and Kwiatkowski bridged to De Gendt and Juul-Jensen at the front, but it was not possible to remain ahead. It was a sprint in Valdegovía. Jay McCarthy beat Alexandr Riabuchenko and Michal Kwiatkowski. Bjorg Lambrecht finished fourteenth, Tosh Van der Sande was sixteenth.

Thomas De Gendt: “I started on the first row because we knew the break had a chance of surviving. At first I was alone in front, after a few kilometres Juul-Jensen joined me. There were a few other riders behind us, but because the gap to the bunch was so small we decided not to wait. In the meantime I claimed the maximum of points on the first two climbs. Then we waited for the chasers because the peloton followed at about two minutes. We got up to six minutes lead, but when two teams started chasing it was over for us. I still tried to make the best of the situation by accelerating at the end. Together with Juul-Jensen I stayed ahead quite long. I had hoped we would get some reinforcement, but a duo was not enough. The peloton was close and I didn’t try anything anymore. Winning the KOM jersey here in the Basque Country wasn’t a goal when coming to this race, but I always seize the opportunity with both hands when I can wear one. In the first forty kilometres of the last stage on Saturday some important points can still be gained. But let’s first survive the mountain stage on Friday.”

Paris-Roubaix team updates:

EF Education First-Drapac sent me this:

Roubaix.

Like its contemporary, Flanders, it’s a race that only needs one word to cue a movie reel in a fan’s mind. Rider have love/hate relationships with the Queen of the Classics, and it’s easy to see why. Double-taped bars don’t take nearly enough bite off the granite, and palms still tear open through bandaged hands.

But then, they finish in the velodrome in front of thousands of fans. At few races is finishing cause for celebration. The riders lay on their backs on the infield and let the lines of the sweat-soaked mud on their faces tell the story of the race.

We asked the EF Education First - Drapac p/b Cannondale riders racing Sunday's spectacle to tell us what they love about Paris-Roubaix. Some actually humored us and pretended to like it.

TAYLOR PHINNEY: “It’s the holy grail. The Arenberg Forest. The trenches. I call it my favorite race. It’s hard to call something your favorite race when it destroys you every single time, but that’s cycling isn’t it.”

Taylor Phinney

Taylor Phinney racing Paris-Roubaix in 2014

MITCH DOCKER: “Roubaix is a battle. It’s a journey. It’s physically and emotionally tough. I love it yet at times I hate it. It can defeat you and be the most beautiful moment in cycling. The velodrome, it’s emotional. Roubaix is the reason why I race each season.”

SEP VANMARCKE: “For me, it’s the cobbles. They’re different than the ones in Belgium and the roads are only used once every year. It’s a special thing.”

MATTI BRESCHEL: “It’s so different from any other race. The history around it adds a layer of mystique.”

TOM SCULLY: “What do I love about Roubaix? The massive battle on all the small, small cobbled roads, approaching the Velodrome. When you finally get onto the Velodrome, it’s hard to describe. It’s an unreal feeling to make it in there, the crowds, all the people cheering, the sense of accomplishment.”

TOM VAN ASBROECK: “Nothing at all. Ha. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I was always afraid of it when I was on my previous team, on Topsport Vlaanderen. I had the chance to race it and didn’t take it. I heard stories about it. It was horrible. And then one day I had to do it and instant love. Instant love. It’s horrible but I love it.”

SEBASTIAN LANGEVELD: “Roubaix is the toughest Monument and the one with the most history. They call it the Hell of the North for a reason. It’s a race beyond compare.

“I have good memories from the race already with a couple time top 10 and last year one of the highlights of my career with the third place, standing there on the podium, entering the velodrome to sprint for the win. That’s one of the memories that will always stay with me. I‘m really looking forward to Sunday. From now on, everything is focused on that.”

EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 Paris-Roubaix

Sport Directors: Andreas Klier (DEU), Ken Vanmarcke (BEL)

Riders:
Matti Breschel (DEN)
Mitch Docker (AUS)
Sebastan Langeveld (NLD)
Taylor Phinney (USA)
Tom Scully (NZL)
Tom Van Asbroeck (BEL)
Sep Vanmarcke (BEL)

And here's the Paris-Roubaix preview from UAE-Team Emirates:

UAE Team Emirates will be at Paris-Roubaix, Sunday April 8, with the majority of its team, six of seven, the same that has marched through the Northern European races so far in these two weeks.

Roberto Ferrari will replace Ben Swift, who crashed badly in the Tour of Flanders. It’s nothing serious for the Englishman, but the medical staff prefers that he recovers completely given that Paris-Roubaix requires a huge about of energy.

“We’re going to Paris-Roubaix with the hope that our leader Alexander Kristoff has recovered in this week some form after colds that slowed down the first part this northern campaign,” said sports director Mario Scirea.

“Alex is a warrior, but at this level you have to be 100% ready to compete with the best. We are going to study a plan with our young riders, who are showing a good appreciation and spirit for these type of races.”

Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff scouting the Paris-Roubaix course in 2015.

Roster: Alexander Kristoff (Nor), Filippo Ganna (Ita), Roberto Ferrari (Ita), Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor), Marco Marcato (Ita), Oliviero Troia (Ita), Simone Consonni (Ita).

Sports directors: Mario Scirea (Ita), Philippe Mauduit (Fra).

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