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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 23, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends? - Abraham Lincoln

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Liège-Bastogne-Liège team reports

We'll start with winner Bob Jungels' Team Quick-Step report:

Since the team's inception in 2003, Quick-Step Floors have won a staggering 17 Monuments, most recent major classic to make its entry on this unbelievable roll of achievements being Liège–Bastogne–Liège, a race which our squad had come close to winning several times in the past. Created in 1892, the Belgian Classic is the oldest Monument on the calendar and one of the most prestigious races in the world, won in the past by the likes of Ferdi Kübler, Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx or Bernard Hinault.

As of Sunday, Bob Jungels has joined all these illustrious names after attacking over the top of Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, the race's penultimate hill, with 20 kilometers to go, and holding off a strong chasing group over the iconic Côte de Saint-Nicolas – "The Italian Climb" – and the uphill drag to the finish in the suburb of Ans.

"To be honest, this came as a surprise. I didn't believe I could pull it off until I saw that nobody was behind me as I was approaching the finish line. Yesterday evening I watched together with Julian the 2011 edition, when the winning move was made on Roche-aux-Faucons, and I made my attack in the same place. I was waiting for this victory for a long time and to finally get it is pretty unreal", said Bob, the 12th different Quick-Step Floors rider to taste success this year.

Quick-Step Floors – who on Sunday broke the record for the most victories in one-day races on Belgian soil, with 11 wins – helped the peloton keep the nine escapees on a leash from the start of the 258.5km-long race, before moving with the whole team at the front ahead of the iconic Côte de La Redoute, a hill which made its debut on the course in 1975, when Eddy Merckx took his last win.

Enric Mas and Pieter Serry set a fierce tempo and made others suffer, pre-empting any attacks and chewing into the escapees' lead, who were left with only a minute in hand after the brutal climb. Our team continued to drive the peloton, and on Côte de Roche-aux-Faucons, just as the gradient hit 12%, Philippe Gilbert launched an attacked which forced a response from the bunch that was rapidly morphing into a select group.

The move was nullified 500 meters from the top, but our squad continued to be prominent, this time with Bob Jungels, who accelerated before the end of the climb and sensing on the descent that he had opened a gap on the chasers, went into time trial mode and established a 50-second lead which proved more than enough despite a plethora of attacks launched from the first chasing group, that included also Julian Alaphilippe, the Flèche Wallonne victor, who brought to heel most of these actions.

Jungels' stunning solo effort was rewarded with the biggest win of his career, as the 25-year-old crossed the finish line arms aloft, punching the air, and with no one else in the picture, becoming the second Luxembourger in history to win Liège–Bastogne–Liège with the national champion jersey on his shoulder, after Marcel Ernzer, in 1954.

Bob Jungels

Bob Jungels alone, and off the front.

More than half a minute behind – the biggest gap between first and second since 2009 – Michael Woods (EF Education First) and Romain Bardet (AG2R) rounded out the podium, while teammate Julian Alaphilippe still had enough energy left to sprint for fourth and point to his Quick-Step Floors jersey, thus bringing to conclusion a remarkable Ardennes Classics campaign.

"We made the race hard from La Redoute, where we put the hammer down, before attacking with Phillipe on Roche-aux-Faucons. Then I made a move and seeing there was a small gap, I decided to use my rouleur abilities all the way to the finish, while at the same time carefully dosing my effort", Bob said, before explaining what this win means for him. "This is the most beautiful one-day race in the world, and to get the victory here, close to Luxembourg and in front of my family and fans, who all came to support me, it's something I will always remember. To be sincere, it's pretty unbelievable and I'll need a few days to let everything sink in."

After capping off what has been a stellar Classics campaign for Quick-Step Floors, Bob underlined the team's strength and unity, two factors which played a major role this spring in our success: "We are more than a team."

"We are always there for each other, fighting until the very end, and that is just one of the things that make this team great."

Quick-Step Floors increased the lead at the top of the World Tour team standings after "La Doyenne", having almost 3000 points over the second-placed squad in the classification. At the same time, our outfit is well-represented in the individual standings, where Niki Terpstra, Julian Alaphilippe and Philippe Gilbert are all in the top 10.

Second-place Michael Woods' EF Education First team sent me this report:

Michael Woods became the first Canadian to podium at Liège-Bastogne-Liège when he sprinted to second place in Ans on Sunday. The 31-year-old bested Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) in a two-up sprint, 37-seconds after Luxembourgish road champion Bob Jungels (QuickStep Floors) soloed to victory.

“I struggled a lot at the start of the season with illness,” said Woods. “I didn’t have the season start I wanted to. Today is the first day I actually felt like a bike racer again. I felt awesome throughout the day and had really great support from the guys.”

Michael Woods

Michael Woods finishes second

The fourth Monument of the season unfolded predictably until the final hour of racing. Nine riders slipped away in the opening 10 kilometers of the hilly 286-kilometer race.

By the time the peloton reached La Redoute, only Jerôme Baugnies (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) remained at the head of affairs, and his gap hovered around the minute mark. #PinkArgyle had numbers as the fragementing crested the top of La Redoute, including Woods, Rigoberto Uran and Pierre Rolland

Bahrain-Merida lifted the pace on the run-in to Roche-aux-Faucons, overtaking Baugnies just before the penultimate climb. Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) was the first of the danger men to make a move on the 1.4-kilometer climb.

Gilbert’s move was countered by Sergio Henao (Sky), who drew out Jungels, Woods and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana). Jungels was the first to crest the official top of the climb and persisted with the effort beyond the summit marker, immediately opening up a gap.

“I was a bit to blame for that,” admitted Woods. “I was right on his wheel, and I grabbed a gel when he went. He rode a strong and courageous race. I wouldn’t expect anything less from him. He’s a classy guy.”

The long-range attack proved the race winning move as the chasers scrambled to organize. Several counter-attempts failed to gain clearance until Jelle Vandendert (Lotto Soudal) escaped on Saint-Nicolas, five kilometers from the finish.

As the chase lulled, Bardet attacked. “Bardet made an excellent move,” said Woods. “I knew as soon as he went that it was the move to follow. I was able to get on his wheel, and we worked fairly well together up the climb.”

“Our takeaway message for the guys last night was they had to put themselves in the race and they had to go out there and take the chance today because if they waited and waited and waited, it was going to be too late,” sport director Tom Southam said. “Mike took his opportunity. I think he was, after Jungels, the best guy in the race. You could see that in the earlier climbs. Had he waited and come in with the group, he may have come seventh or fifth or whatever. He really did the right thing by taking his chances. He showed how good he was with a solid second.”

“Woods is clearly progressing in his ability to read a race and to ride in front of the peloton,” team boss Jonathan Vaughters added. “Following Bardet’s attack showed newfound tactical savvy.”

For Woods, the result is yet another confirmation of the potential the team saw in him upon offering his first WorldTour contract three years ago. “JV told me I could win an Ardennes classics, and I didn’t believe him when first told me,” said Woods. “Now I’m starting to believe.”

Woods’ parents were on hand to see his historic achievement. Wife Elly Woods watched from the couple’s in-season home in Girona.

“My wife had some tough news a few days ago, and I really wanted to get a good result for her here,” Woods said. “I finished the race and gave her a call. We shared a big smile. I’m really happy to pull something off for her and the team after a tough start to the season.”

Here's what Bora-hansgrohe had to say about the race:

The 4th Monument in the cycling calendar was dominated by a nine riders breakaway, which was caught on the final climbs of the day. As the group split, Davide Formolo was able to jump in one of the chasing groups and stayed with the favourites. Shortly before the finish, B. Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) launched an attack and took the win with some seconds gap ahead of M. Woods. BORA – hansgrohe rider Davide Formolo crossed the line in a strong 7th position as part of the first chasing group.

The Course
La Doyenne, the oldest one-day race in the cycling calendar started with its 104thedition today. The world´s best climbers were ready to tackle the 258,5 demanding kilometres with not less than eleven climbs. One of the iconic climbs, “La Redoute”, which the peloton knew from Fleché Wallonne on Wednesday awaited the riders shortly before the finale. But before the peloton had to manage climbs like the “Saint-Roche” (1km, 11,2%) or after 180km of racing the “Ferme Libert” with more than 12%. The finale metres to the finish line in Ans, close to Liege, went shortly uphill and showed after about 6:30 hours in the saddle, who was the best rider today in Liege – Bastogne – Liege.

The Team Tactics
The German squad had two cards to play in today´s Monument, Rafal Majka and Davide Formolo. Following their good result in the previous edition, both of them looked confident in today´s race. But the team had with Patrick Konrad and the Austrian champion Gregor Mühlberger another two options to go for a good result. BORA – hansgrohe planned with Christoph Pfingsten and Cesare Benedetti, both take part in the upcoming Giro d´Italia, two strong helpers for the first 100kilometres. Jay McCarthy should try to bring his leaders in a good position for the demanding final climbs.

The Race
Right after the start a group of nine riders built the breakaway of the day and after some kilometres the gap increased to more than six minutes, while BORA – hansgrohe was back in the main bunch and Quick-Step Floors took control over the pace. After the first climb of the day, the Cote de Bonnerue, the nine escapees had still an advantage of five minutes. The front group stayed at the front of the race for many kilometres, but shortly before the tough climb “Ferme Libert”, at the 180km mark, breakaway fell apart and only five riders were able to stay at the front. Meanwhile BORA – hansgrohe rode in the bunch and saved energy for the final climbs. Before the iconic climb “La Redoute”, the peloton increased the pace to bridge the gap. On the climb one rider launched an attack and built a small gap over his opponents.

With 25km the soloist had 30 seconds gap but the peloton with Quick- Step Floors and Team Movistar pulled hard to catch the escapees. On the second last climb first serious attacks were launched and the bunch felt apart in different groups, with Davide Formolo hanging on the first group of favourites. While Patrick Konrad and Jay McCarthy managed to stay in the second group, unfortunately Rafal Majka couldn’t follow the high pace anymore. B. Jungles used a perfect moment in a downhill to pull away from the first group. He soloed the last 20k to take the win by 40 seconds. In Liège, the favourites started a flurry of attacks, with also Davide Formolo trying to pull away. In the end M. Woods and R. Bardet made another successful move to complete the podium. Davide crossed the line in a strong 7th place among the first chasing group.

“It was a hard race but the team worked really good. We stayed nearly the whole race together and my teammates supported me perfectly. As the group split, I tried to go with them and saw myself in one of the chasing groups. My legs felt good and I tried a few times to jump away, in the end I didn’t succeed and finished 7thin the sprint. But I am satisfied with my performance and happy with my result. Now I am looking forward to my first Grand Tour with BORA – hansgrohe.” – Davide Formolo

“After our offensive ride at the Fleche Wallonne we wanted to do the same today, but all focused on the last 30km and we had with Davide one of us in the 18-men breakaway. Davide tried shortly before the finish to bridge the gap to Bob Jungels but was caught from the other chasers. The team worked very well together the whole race and with some luck, for sure he would have been able to finish some positions better. I think 7this a good result and we can be satisfied with the general outcome of the Ardennes Classics with a 4th, 10thand 7thplace.” – Jens Zemke, sports director  

Here's the Lotto-Soudal race report:

Jelle Vanendert rode an impressive finale at Liège-Bastogne-Liège today. He was chasing Bob Jungels, who took the victory in Ans. Vanendert was reeled in by the chasing group in the last hectometres of the race. He finished just outside top ten.

The early breakaway of nine riders had a maximum advantage of about five minutes. Maxime Monfort helped to control the gap for Lotto Soudal. After La Redoute, with top at 36 kilometres from the finish, only Jérôme Baugnies was left at the front. In the peloton the attacks started on La Roche-aux-Faucons, about fifteen kilometres further, after Baugnies had been caught. A small group with Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens had a small gap on the top. Bob Jungels attacked on the descent. Tim Wellens tried to set up a counterattack a few times, but each time the pace dropped. That way the advantage of Jungels had increased up to fifty seconds at the bottom of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas.

Jelle Vanendert attacked on Saint-Nicolas. At the top he was only nineteen seconds behind Jungels, but the national champion of Luxemburg made up for that loss in the next kilometres. He could finish solo in Ans. Jelle Vanendert got reeled in in the last hectometres. Michael Woods sprinted to the second place, ahead of Romain Bardet. Jelle Vanendert got eleventh, at 45 seconds of Jungels. Tim Wellens was sixteenth at 1’44”.

Jelle Vanendert

Jelle Vanendert last year at the Dauphine.

Jelle Vanendert: “After Tim Wellens had told me that he didn’t feel great today, we decided that I would play all or nothing with an ultimate attack. I did that on Saint-Nicolas. The lead of Jungels quickly decreased. But when you can’t bridge at once or don’t have support, then you know it’s difficult against a time trialist such as Jungels. I definitely was in a really good shape today, just like during the entire period of the Ardennes Classics. With a bit of luck I would have finished on the podium, but in the last straight line I had no power left. I can’t be disappointed with my performance, but I am disappointed with the final result. With this legs and my strong attack I had hoped for more. But so be it. I’m coming back next year!”

Tim Wellens: “Halfway the Roche-aux-Faucons I felt that I didn’t have my best legs and that I wasn’t good enough today to aim for the victory or the podium. I then tried to make the race hard with a few attacks. I tried to chase down Jungels, but that wasn’t easy. He definitely was one of the best riders in the race and he is an excellent time trialist. At every attempt someone joined me, but we never could create a sufficient gap.”

“I won the Brabantse Pijl, got sixth at Amstel Gold Race and seventh at Flèche Wallonne. Today I showed myself during the race, but I couldn’t set another top result and that’s of course a pity. In general I can be satisfied about these four races though. I have set a step forward compared with last year and that was my intention. I will now take a short break. On 1 May I’ll leave for the Giro, where I will try to win a stage.”

Dan Martin's UAE-Team Emirates sent me this update:

A puncture stops Dan Martin in Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Luck was not on the Irishman Dan Martin’s side today and team UAE Team Emirates with a series of crashes in sicknesses this season.

Daniel Martin was part of a select group with eight kilometres to go ahead of Saint Nicolas, one of the principle parts of this race. It was a very unfortunate time to puncture and left little time to recover for the finish. The dream of another win in this prestigious race, which was one of Martin’s early season objectives, was gone.

“I really had a good legs today and this was thanks to the work I’m doing and to the team,” said Dan Martin. “We made a plan for this race from the start to the finish and we believed in our chances. We showed that we are an important team and we can race like one of the best teams in the world.

“At the end of the race, I had good feelings and I was ready to try to profit from the work of my team earlier on in the race. I tried to anticipate the others moves with a series of attacks because I felt that it was the decisive moment in the race, which it ended up being. I’ve punctured in the worst of moments and when I saw my front wheel was completely flat, I could not believe it. Now I hope to profit from my hard work at the Tour of Romandie.”

Luxemburger Bob Jungels (Quick Step) shot free before the finish line and won the race solo ahead of Canadian Michael Woods and Frenchman Roman Bardet.

BMC's Alberto Bettiol sustained fractured clavicle in L-B-L

The team sent me this bad news:

22 April, 2018, Ans (BEL): Alberto Bettiol has been ruled out of the Giro d'Italia after crashing at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and suffering multiple injuries, including a fractured left clavicle.

BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Max Testa said Bettiol will likely be out of action for six weeks. "Alberto Bettiol sustained a displaced fracture of the left clavicle, a left rib fracture, and a bruised lung. He will remain in hospital overnight and tomorrow we will reassess his condition," Dr. Testa explained.

"Alberto will be discharged in 24-48 hours and then transfer home to Italy. He will have surgery in the next five to seven days to fixate the clavicle fracture. Unfortunately, he will miss the Giro d'Italia and will likely be back on the bike in two to three weeks with an expected return to racing in six weeks. We will continue to monitor his recovery and will have a better understanding of this post-surgery."

Bettiol is disappointed to miss the Giro d'Italia. "I'm not feeling so good because of the pain in my left side. I cannot breathe properly because of the fractured left rib and my fractured clavicle is also painful. The team, Valerio Piva and Max Testa, and the hospital have taken really good care of me. It could be better but it could also be worse so I'm focusing on the positives and thankful that all of my injuries will heal," Bettiol said.

"It was a stupid crash. I didn't take any risks in the downhill but there was something on the road, maybe some oil or gravel, and my front wheel slipped out. For sure, the Giro d'Italia is out of the question which is really disappointing because as an Italian cyclist, it is the dream. We will see tomorrow morning but I hope to be back as soon as possible."

BMC Racing Team will continue to provide updates on Bettiol's recovery.

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