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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, February 12, 2018

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me - they're cramming for their final exam. - George Carlin

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Clasica de Almeria team reports

Here's Team Quick-Step Floors update:

Twenty four hours after racing his first European event of the season, Vuelta a Murcia, Florian Sénéchal pinned a number for the 33rd edition of Clasica de Almeria (185 kilometers), the Spanish one-day which had plenty of action in the second part, despite the flat profile. First hours of the race belonged to a seven-rider breakaway, which took their gap to five minutes, before the sprinters' teams decided to set a brisk tempo, thus cutting the escapees' advantage to half.

With some 60-odd kilometers to go, Maxim Belkov (Katusha-Alpecin) attacked and put some daylight between him and the other escapees, but the others reacted and reeled in the Russian; the skirmishes didn't stop there and Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH) was next to try his chance, leaving his breakaway companions behind and trying to hold off the bunch, but to no avail, because the chasers were determined to bring everything back together.

Once the peloton returned to the coast, the strong crosswinds began impacting on the race, shattering the pack to pieces and leaving only 40 men in contention. Some riders managed to make it back and began working for a bunch gallop finish on the two-lap circuit in Almeria, but another incident – this time a crash – occurred with four kilometers to go, leaving less than 25 riders in the lead.

Florian Sénéchal got caught behind, but thanks to a gargantuesque effort of his Quick-Step Floors teammates, who pushed the pedal to the medal in pursuit of Mitchelton-Scott and LottoNL-Jumbo, the two teams driving the pace at the front, he made it back and got involved in the sprint; Caleb Ewan took the spoils ahead of Danny van Poppel, but Florian impressed with his solid fifth place in Roquetas del Mar, which came after a crazy chase.

Caleb Ewan

Caleb Ewan wins in Almeria.

"The plan at the start of the day was for me to sprint in case it came down to a bunch finish and I'm very glad for receiving this chance from the team, especially as it's be some time now since my last sprint. It was a bit stressful, but the guys protected me throughout the day and when I got stuck in that pile-up and thought it was over, my great teammates did an awesome job again, and despite the strong side wind, brought me back to the front", said Florian, who'll race Volta ao Algarve next week.

"Fifth place in these difficult conditions is a good result which makes me happy, especially as I came at the start after a tough Vuelta a Murcia. I am super impressed with the team's work; never before I have got such a tremendous help and this only motivates me to return the service to the boys in the next races."

And here's Team Movistar's Almeria report:

Australian Caleb Ewan (MTS) took the win on Sunday’s 31st Clásica de Almería, 185km from the Andalusian province’s capital to a short circuit’s finish in Roquetas de Mar. The impact of wind gusts on the race’s result was less relevant than expected -even if splits were formed in the late, coastal part of the race- and about 38 riders entered the final lap together to contest the inevitable bunch sprint.

Carlos Barbero, 4th-place finisher last year on the very same finish, took 8th place this time following good support from Erviti, Rojas and Amador into the closing stages. The Burgos native will continue to race on Andalusian soil next week as he takes on the Ruta del Sol starting Wednesday; in turn, the Movistar Team was named best squad of the event after putting three men inside the top 30.

Egan Bernal wins Colombia Oro y Paz

Here's the report from Bernal's Team Sky:

Egan Bernal sealed the inaugural Colombia Oro y Paz title with a stunning late attack on the final day in Manizales. The 21 year old hit out three kilometres from the finish and, helped by the brilliant Tao Geoghegan Hart and Sebastian Henao, stayed clear of the chasing favourites to seal the title by just nine seconds.

Having crossed the line second on the stage, behind Dayer Quintana (Movistar), Bernal faced an agonising wait to see if he had done enough - and he wasn't disappointed.

Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac) led the favourites home 11 seconds later to confirm Bernal's victory. Sergio Henao finished with Uran and fellow contender Nairo Quintana (Movistar) to wrap up fourth overall, while Bernal also claimed the young rider's jersey.

Speaking before stepping onto the podium Bernal said: “I felt very good all day long and I kept telling the guys: ‘I feel good, I feel good!’ but I had to keep calm and wait for the tougher last kilometres.

“The last three or four kilometres were tougher and I decided to attack. I was fourth on GC so I didn’t have a lot to lose but I had everything to gain. I tried, I gave everything and finally I got a little advantage. I had two teammates in the break and they did an amazing job! I was telling Tao: ‘Tao, Tao, it’s so hard, you have to slow down!’ He helped me almost until the last metres.

“The most important thing was to win the GC and not the stage. Of course, it would have been better to win both but the idea was to win the GC. So, my teammates waited for my attack. That’s why I feel so proud and happy with this team. They supported me and did incredible work.”

Bernal arrived at the race on the back of winning the Colombian time trial championship as well as riding to an impressive fifth overall at the Tour Down Under. "I felt very good," he added. "The Tour Down Under was warm and fast and ended well. Then the national time trial title gave me a bit of confidence. I also felt good during the road race that Sergio won. I think that everything was going in the right direction. I came here with the idea to do the best I could.”

Egan Bernal

Egan Bernal was the Best Young Rider at the 2018 Tour Down Under

And Egan has relished racing on home roads: “This race gave me the opportunity to race in my country, in my homeland, in front of my fellow Colombians. It’s an honour. This race is very positive for the country and I hope that more teams will come in the future."

The 187.8km stage played out in surprising circumstances, with a large group of more than 30 riders going clear in the early stages. Both Geoghegan Hart and Sebastian Henao were able to make the move and that would later prove crucial for Bernal.

The gap to the leaders remained at around three minutes for the majority of the final 50km but as the final climb began to take its toll the gap started to fall. Rodrigo Contreras (EPM) pushed clear on the lower slopes of the climb and looked likely to take the honours on the final day but he faded at the last, paving the way for D. Quintana to take the win.

Behind both Geoghegan Hart and Henao had linked up with Bernal after his attack and the pair paced the young Colombian to perfection.

Stage six result:

1. Dayer Quintana (Movistar) 4:22:11
2. Egan Bernal +10"
3. Sebastian Henao +10"
4. Angel Alexander Gil (EPM) +14"
5. Daniel Martinez (EF Education First-Drapac) +18"

Final overall standings:

1. Egan Bernal 20:49:03
2. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +9"
3. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac) +11”
4. Sergio Henao (Team Sky) +13"
5. Daniel Martinez (EF Education First-Drapac) +43"

BMC headed to Volta ao Algarve

The team sent me this:

11 February, 2017, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen will make their race debut in Europe this season at the five-stage Volta ao Algarve starting on Wednesday, 14 February.

Sports Director Fabio Baldato said the demanding course will be a good test of form as the race delivers summit finishes, flat sprint stages, and an individual time trial.

"It will be nice to return to Volta ao Algarve for the first time since 2012 as it is a good race to gauge the riders' form this early in the season. We have a strong team lining up including Richie Porte, who is a former winner, and Tejay van Garderen, who will make his season debut. This will be Richie's first race back after the Australian season and Tejay is coming in from a solid block at altitude. Both riders will be lining up motivated but given their big goals in the spring are Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice, this is the perfect race to use as preparation and to test their condition," Baldato said.

"It is a really demanding race with two summit finishes and a fast, rolling time trial. While Richie and Tejay will want to produce a good time trial, we also have Stefan Küng who showed he is great shape at Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana last week. I think we will already have a good idea of how the race is developing after stage 2 with the summit finish in Fóia and from there we will take things day by day."

Porte claimed the overall win in 2012 and last lined up at Volta ao Algarve in 2015. "I'm looking forward to getting back to racing and lining up with the team in Portugal. It's still really early in the season and as this is my first race in Europe this year, I'm not going in with any huge expectations. My main goal is to get some good race days in my legs and having come from a very hot Australian summer, adjust to racing in the cooler weather again. We have a strong team and different cards to play on the various stages," Porte explained.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte attacking in stage five of this year's Tour Down Under

Van Garderen has finished in the top ten on three occasions, including second overall in 2011. "This winter has been really great preparation wise. I feel like all the boxes have been ticked, and I'm super motivated to start the season strong. Richie will be the leader going into the race, but if we are on good form it'll be a lot of fun playing off one another. I've raced this race five times in the past, finishing on the podium once in 2011, so I know what to expect," van Garderen said.

Volta ao Algarve (14-18 February)

Rider Roster: Simon Gerrans (AUS),Stefan Küng (SUI), Richie Porte (AUS), Jürgen Roelandts (BEL), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Tejay van Garderen (USA), Loïc Vliegen (BEL).

Sports Directors: Fabio Baldato (ITA), Marco Pinotti (ITA)

Lotto-Soudal to ride Ruta del Sol without Tomasz Marczyński

Here's the team's press release:

Tomasz Marczyński was hit by a car during a training ride in the south of Spain yesterday. The Pole was riding downhill on a main road when a car coming from the right suddenly turned left. Marczyński was unable to avoid the vehicle and crashed head first into its side.

Tomasz Marczyński: "I was finishing one of my last training sessions for the Ruta del Sol when I was hit by a car yesterday. I was cruising down a main road when a car from a right-hand side street turned left. I could not brake in time, and crash head on into the vehicle.

"The x-rays fortunately revealed that nothing was broken. My face is heavily bruised and my nose had to be stitched. I also have a whiplash and that’s what hurts the most at the moment. I am currently back home, but I will undergo a series of tests next week.

"I only started training again last Monday after my crash in the Challenge Mallorca. I hurt the ligaments in my lower back and I was still in treatment with a physiotherapist and a osteopath. Yesterday’s crash fortunately did not make this worse. This is a new setback, but I'll be back."

Marczyński

Tomasz Marczyński winning stage 11 of the 2017 Vuelta

The 64th Vuelta a Andalucía or Ruta del Sol starts on 14th February, and will take the riders through the southernmost regions of Spain. Tomasz was one of the seven Lotto Soudal riders selected for this Europe Tour event. He will be replaced by James Shaw.

The first stage finishes in Granada. Immediately after the start, the road goes up until the top of a second category climb. In the last ninety kilometers, the riders will tackle five more climbs, with the last summit some twenty kilometers from the finish. There is an uphill finish at top of the Alto de las Allanadas in Jaén on Thursday, followed by the flattest stage of the week the day after. Halfway through the penultimate stage looms the Puerto de las Palomas (1st category), immediately followed by the Puerto del Boyar (3rd category). The route is then much flatter, except for the final kilometer, which is painfully steep. The Ruta del Sol finishes on Sunday with an individual time trial of 14.2 kilometers.

Bart Leysen, sports director for Lotto Soudal: "It is unfortunate that we have to miss Tomasz Marczyński in the Ruta del Sol, which is a home race for him since he lives in Granada. He could have played a prominent role as road captain. But we can mostly be pleased that his injuries are not too bad after his crash yesterday; this could have been much worse."

"The first and third stages will probably end with a sprint and we will thus back Moreno Hofland. Although the opening stage does not have the typical profile for a bunch sprint, I expect that sprinters’ teams will control the race. The second stage finishes at the top of the Alto de Allanadas and is therefore a real mountain stage. Tim Wellens will be our main asset on such a hard profile. He is not at his best yet, but he made a very strong impression in Mallorca and took the victory in the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana. Moreover, we also have Maxime Monfort and Jelle Vanendert with us, and both will try to get into a breakaway. The fourth stage could be really hard, which is perfect for Tim. Our main objective is to win a stage, but if Tim can get a good place in the general classification, he is more than able to defend his position in the final time trial."

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Lars Bak, Moreno Hofland, Maxime Monfort, James Shaw, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert en Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Bart Leysen and Marc Wauters.

Stages:

UAE Team Emirates will next race Tour of Oman

Here's the note the team sent me:

After the Dubai Tour, UAE Team Emirates will attend another event in the Middle East, the Tour of Oman (13-18 February). The leading men in the Emirati formation will be Alexander Kristoff (7 career stage wins in Oman) and Rui Costa (2nd in 2017’s general classification).

Durasek and Niemiec will be making their season debuts.

The route for the Tour of Oman will alternate between stages for sprinters, finisseurs and climbers. The 5th stage featuring a climbing arrival at Jabal Al Akhdhar will be decisive.

Sports Directors Mario Scirea (Italy) and Bruno Vicino (Italy) will call on the following 7 athletes:
– Rui Costa (Portugal)
– Kristijan Durasek (Croatia)
– Roberto Ferrari (Italy)
– Alexander Kristoff (Norway)
– Marco Marcato (Italy)
– Przemyslaw Niemiec (Poland)
– Oliviero Troia (Italy)

Alexander Kristoff: “The Tour of Oman will be the second appointment for me in a series of races in the Middle East, coming between the Dubai Tour and the Abu Dhabi Tour. Traditionally I have done well in Oman; I’ve had seven stage successes here. I would like to continue achieving good results in a race that is suited to my strengths. It will also be an interesting chance to perfect the mechanics with Marcato, Troia and Ferrari, riders who can give me excellent support in approaching the sprints”.

Rui Costa: “In 2017, the Tour of Oman was an essential step in making it to victory at the Abu Dhabi Tour. I hope I can be competitive this year as well, even though when I got back from Australia I wasn’t able to train very well for a few days due to a cold”.

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