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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Simplicity is the most difficult thing to secure in this world; it is the last limit of experience and the last effort of genius. - George Sand

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Fernando Gaviria wins first stage of Colombia Oro y Paz

Here's the report from Gaviria's Quick-Step team

After a textbook lead-out and a perfectly-timed sprint, the 23-year-old won the first ever stage of Colombia Oro y Paz and donned three distinctive jerseys.

Fernando Gaviria's hot streak in stage races continued Tuesday afternoon in Palmira, where the prodigious sprinter of Quick-Step Floors capitalized on the excellent work of his teammates and sprinted to his 25th career victory since joining the squad as a stagiaire, in the summer of 2015, thus making of the inaugural Colombia Oro y Paz the ninth consecutive stage race in which he clocked up a win.

Two weeks after crashing out of Vuelta a San Juan stage 4, Fernando showed he's made a full recovery after the injuries he picked up in Argentina, on a fast and hectic day, which had everything – from a five-men breakaway that stayed at the front for the most part of the stage to a late crash which occurred before the final three kilometers.

In Ecuadorian Champion Jhonatan Narvaez and a relentless Iljo Keisse, Quick-Step Floors had two formidable riders who controlled the stage from the very outset and tenaciously led the chase behind the five escapees, before Maximiliano Richeze and Alvaro Hodeg split the bunch thanks to a fierce tempo with one kilometer to go, riding almost everyone off their wheel and leaving Gaviria in a perfect position.

The Colombian took a comfortable win in Palmira, beating fellow countryman Sebastian Molano (Manzana Postobon), with teammate Maximiliano Richeze coming across the line in third. So dominant and ruthless was the Quick-Step Floors train, that neo-pro Alvaro Hodeg finished fifth on the stage, despite easing up to celebrate Fernando's victory.

Fernando Gaviria

Fernando Gaviria's hot streak continues.

"It's special to be here, in my home country. The public was so warm and gave us an amazing welcome, not only today, but ever since the team has arrived here. I am happy that such a race is organized in Colombia, and even happier that I won, because taking a victory here is completely different than taking one in Europe", said Fernando, who has donned the leader's jersey in a stage race for the eighth time in his career.

Tuesday's win saw the Quick-Step Floors rider take the lead also in the points and youth classification at Colombia Oro y Paz, but Fernando knows it wouldn't have been possible without the invaluable help of his teammates: "The guys did a great job once again and all I had to do was finish it off. I really liked today's circuit, it was the perfect way to start this race, getting the rhythm in the legs and being surrounded by all these fantastic fans. I am also very glad to lead the race, and even though I know that I won't keep the jersey until the end, I still want to enjoy and sport it with pride over the next days."

Team reports on Dubai Tour's first stage:

Here's Mitchelton-Scott's Dubai update:

Gent-Wevelgem U23 champion Jacob Hennessy announced himself on the world stage by sprinting to sixth place for Mitchelton-BikeExchange on the opening day of racing at the Tour of Dubai, going up against WorldTour opposition and matching them pedal stroke for pedal stroke.

A great experience for Mitchelton-BikeExchange began in perfect conditions at Skydive Dubai with a slight tailwind pushing the peloton out into the desert before making the turn behind a breakaway quintet to head back towards the coast and the finish on the Palm Jumeirah.

As expected from the only UCI Continental team in the race the first day was about acclimatising to racing within the WorldTour peloton and enjoying the learning experience whilst keeping sprinter Hennessy in a good position.

However, that wasn’t on the agenda for the riders, as a hectic finale unfolded Hennessy launched himself into the bunch sprint to take sixth place behind stage winner Dylan Groenewgen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and finish ahead of some of the top sprinters in the world.

Dylan Gorenewegen

Dylan Groenewegen wins stage one

Decisive Moments:
The opening stage began as anticipated with an early breakaway of five riders going up the road in the first kilometres and quickly establishing a lead that topped out at five minutes before the peloton started to ride tempo and eat into the advantage.

The situation did not change until the closing 20kilometres when Andy Fenn (Aquablue-Sport) pushed on alone with the peloton less than a minute behind. Despite the effort from Fenn there was never much doubt that he would be caught, and the peloton passed him at the ten-kilometre mark.

Moments later a crash in the middle of the bunch disrupted the field with all Mitchelton-BikeExchange managing to avoid the spill along with most of the main sprinters.

The Final – Bunch Sprint:
With some coastal wind and a sharp dip and rise through a tunnel with six kilometres to go to deal with, the finish was anything but straight forward and positioning would be vitally important.

A slight cross-headwind hit the riders as they came out of the tunnel at speed and instantly shifted to the near side of the road with Rob Stannard leaving Hennessy in a strong position the 21-year-old Briton took his chance and sprinted through the gaps and into the top ten.

Jacob Hennessy – Sixth:
“The whole team were amazing today, everybody did their bit and Sam Jenner looked after me all day long and was constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure I was ok until Rob took over and dropped me off with 400metres to go. They really were brilliant.”

“It was hectic in the final and it surprised me how tight it was coming out of the tunnel, but we were up near the front and that proved to be important because it wound right up with two kilometres to go. The speed didn’t surprise me too much, but it was quite sketchy and I couldn’t look around so I just went for it and I am super happy with the result.”

Sport director James Victor:
“Due to the level of competition at this race, all the guys were a little nervous before the start of the race and we were trying to take some anxiety away by not put any pressure on them regarding objectives and expectations and they did everything that was asked of them today.”

“We wanted to avoid the break, look after ourselves and look after Jacob and I think we gained some respect in the bunch today. Jacob is here to race, there is no doubt about that and you can see that he wants to win, Rob did a great job getting him into a good position for the final and he finished very strongly.

“The result doesn’t change our approach for the rest of the race we will keep taking it day by day and try to learn from the experience, pick up as much as we can and stick to our plans and maintain the momentum we’ve gathered from today.”

Alexander Kristoff's UAE-Team Emirates sent me this report:

UAE Team Emirates’ Alexander Kristoff, who made his team debut, finished a respectable fourth place in what was a thrilling sprint finish during stage one of the Dubai Tour (photo Bettini). The reigning European Champion battled it out with riders in the final kilometre and crossed the finish line at the world-famous Atlantis, The Palm in front of a cheering crowd.

The team, wearing the colours of the UAE, put in a strong performance throughout the race, establishing themselves as part of the main peloton who controlled the breakaway riders throughout the 167km route. As they made their way on to The Palm Jumeirah for the final 15kms, they found themselves bunched behind the race leader in a promising position. However, just 8km from the finish, UAE Team Emirates’ Yousif Mirza was caught up in a crash that saw a number of the peloton brought down. The Emirati rider picked himself up and without serious injury finished the race. Norwegian Kristoff proved why he is considered one of the best sprinters in the world by driving forward in the final meters of the race and narrowly missing out on a podium position.

The opening stage of the tour was won by Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), who claimed the blue jersey – the jersey reserved for the leader of the GC standings –  which he will wear during tomorrow’s stage two from SkyDive Dubai – Ras Al Khaimah.

Commenting on his race debut, UAE Team Emirates’ Alexander Kristoff said; “I’m happy to have the support of the team in what is my UAE Team Emirates debut. It was a pretty chaotic sprint finish because the race was easy for the majority of the course and it’s always more difficult in the final kilometres when everybody’s fresh. My teammates led me out well and I managed to avoid the crash, but unfortunately, I had to break in the final hundred meters, when I was focused on pushing forward. But, despite this, I am satisfied with the performance for my first race of 2018.“

Reflecting on the opening stage of the Dubai Tour, UAE National Champion Yousif Mirza commented; “It’s a pity that the Dubai Tour began with a little bit of bad luck for me. I was trying to give my support to the team in order to help Kristoff approach the sprint in the best possible position, but the riders in front of me crashed and I could not avoid them. Luckily there were no serious injuries and we can look ahead to tomorrow’s stage, where we hope to have more of the amazing support that we witnessed today.”

Riders will face another sprint test in tomorrow’s stage, as they depart from SkyDive Dubai, heading along the 190km route to the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. The peloton will pass through Sharjah, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain before crossing the finish line at Al Quawasim Corniche, in what is expected to be another breath-taking sprint finish.  

And here's what BMC had to say about the Dubai stage:

The Dubai Tour got off to a fast start today with Nathan Van Hooydonck opening up his 2018 season with a day in the breakaway before Loïc Vliegen sprinted to a top ten finish.

The battle to form the breakaway began the moment the flag dropped on stage 1 with both Tom Bohli and Dylan Teuns helping to drive the early pace before, after just 5km of racing, Van Hooydonck was part of a strong three-rider move that went clear off the front of the bunch.

As the Van Hooydonck-led breakaway swelled to five riders, and the peloton eventually sat up, the gap began to rise quickly and, with 135km of the 167km course to go, their advantage tipped over the five-minute mark.

However, with a bunch sprint up for grabs at the end of the day, the peloton soon took control of the race, bringing the advantage of the five leaders down to within a manageable 2’30”, where it stayed before falling again heading into the second half of the stage.

With 60km to go and the gap sitting at 1’45”, the chase began to heat up with the peloton, led by the sprinters’ teams, stretched out along the road as they continued to pull back Van Hooydonck and his fellow breakaway riders.

A determined effort from the five leaders saw their advantage extend slightly before, heading into the final 20km of the stage, Andrew Fenn (Aqua Blue Sport) and Charles Planet (Team Novo Nordisk) attacked to go clear as Van Hooydonck and the rest of the early breakaway were swept up by the peloton.

As the race reached the final 10km, it was only Fenn who remained out in front, holding onto a narrow advantage and just one kilometer later, the race was back together and heading for a fast and furious run into the line.

After being protected by the rest of his BMC Racing Team teammates in the peloton, Drucker was guided up to the front of the bunch by Nicolas Roche and Francisco Ventoso with 4km to go, but with riders jostling for position all the way down the finishing straight, it was a hectic finale.

In the end, it was Dylan Groenewegen (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) who took the win beating Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana Pro Team) and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) to the line. While Vliegen was BMC Racing Team’s top-placed rider securing tenth on the line ahead of Drucker who was blocked in the final sprint.

Bohli was involved in a crash in the middle of the peloton with just over 7km to go but was able to get back on his bike and finish the stage.

Quotes From the Finish Line

Loïc Vliegen:
“It was not too hard a day for us. The bunch controlled the five-rider breakaway, and it was really good for us that Nathan Van Hooydonck was in that group. Then, we came into the sprint, and in the final kilometer, I tried to help Jempy Drucker for his sprint, but it was pretty hectic. In the last 300 meters, I was a bit blocked, so I had to stop my sprint. Overall, for my first race of the year, I was feeling good, and I felt like I had power in my legs for when I needed to push. Today was completely flat with no wind so it wasn’t too hard and I am looking forward to the harder stage to come, and hopefully there I will be able to really see how my condition is.”

Nathan Van Hooydonck:
“It was a good day for me. I went full gas off the front of the peloton and straight away I found myself in the breakaway. At first, it was just three guys, and then we waited a little bit, and the group grew to five riders. The pace in the breakaway wasn’t that fast actually, and so, I went for some of the bonus seconds. It was a good first day of racing for me, and I am happy with how I raced. Now, I am looking forward to the rest of the week.”

Jempy Drucker:
"I’m disappointed with how the stage finished for me. Nicolas Roche and Fran Ventoso did an incredible job keeping me up there against all the big sprinters’ trains, but then I got stuck behind Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport) who had a mechanical, so I couldn’t really sprint in the end."

Sports Director, Maximilian Sciandri:
“It was a good day out in the breakaway for Nathan Van Hooydonck today. Our plan this morning was that almost everyone would try something to get in the breakaway, but it was good to see Nathan in there and also get a few bonus seconds. It was unlucky that Tom Bohli was caught up in that late crash, but he seems to be okay. We had Jempy Drucker primed for the sprint but it was a hectic finish and, in the end, we saw Loïc Vliegen testing his legs a little to get a top ten finish.”

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