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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, February 26, 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

Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped. - Elbert Hubbard

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Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne team reports

Third-place Sonny Colbrelli's Bahrain-Merida team posted this update:

Kuurne, Belgium, 26th February – 200.1 km long 70th edition of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

Sonny Colbrelli got to the 3rd place with a great support of his BAHRAIN MERIDA teammates

It was a very hard race for all the riders, with heavy weather conditions – just a few degrees above zero and a strong crosswind of 25 km/h. The roads were dry, but the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne race proved again to be a hard one for all the riders.

The race started with a good tempo, with a breakaway of 6 riders up to 130th km. From the beginning of the race, all of our riders did their best and tried very hard, but even so, today’s race proved to be a tough challenge. Sonny Colbrelli was continuously in the shelter of TBM riders. Heinrich Haussler showed a great performance and used a lot of energy, especially on two cobblestone sections. He was fighting hard against the wind in the front of the group, up until the last 20 km when Luka Pibernik made bypassing. In the last phase, 5 km to the finish, Kristijan Koren was keeping an eye on making the best possible position for Sonny and his final sprint. Riders took their responsibility seriously all the way to keep Sonny Colbrelli in the front and safe. Sonny took his chance and showed all of his sprinting skills and in the last kilometer pushed hard to grab the podium and 3rd place. Sonny and TBM proved that at this years’ Vlaanderen Classic races, our aim is to play a much bigger role than in the last season.

Dylan Groenewegen

Dylan Groenewegen wins KBK

Just a few seconds after the finish, Sonny Colbrelli said: “It was a very hard day for me and for the team, but we had good feelings. I would like to thank my guys: it is a good result for me and for the team too. I’m happy and I have good feelings for further Classics.”

Heinrich Haussler, racing after his injury and surgery, was very satisfied with his and his teammates’ performance.

Sports director Tristan Hoffman explained after the race: “I’m happy with the race, both for Sonny’s third place but also because I saw good teamwork. The boys worked well together and everybody is satisfied. It was a good weekend.”

Here's Team BMC's K-B-K report:

There was plenty of action at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne with Jempy Drucker sprinting to sixth place, Loïc Vliegen attacking in the final five kilometers, and Greg Van Avermaet active at the front of the race throughout the day.

As soon as the flag dropped, there were multiple breakaway attempts but it took almost 30km for the peloton to allow a group to go clear when seven riders eventually formed the early breakaway.

The peloton kept the group on a tight leash and the advantage did not extend beyond two and a half minutes for the next 60km when the gap came down significantly due to an increase in pace behind.

A crash at the back of the peloton with 90km to go slowed the bunch slightly and as the breakaway was caught 5km later, splits in the peloton saw 20 riders, including Van Avermaet, go clear.

Despite a strong chase from the peloton, Van Avermaet’s group gained an advantage of more than one minute and stayed together until just inside 50km to go when Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and Daniel Oss (Bora-hansgrohe) attacked.

The peloton caught Van Avermaet’s group 40km before the finish line which saw the group trail the leading duo by 22 seconds, before Loïc Vliegen and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) attacked from the bunch to gain a slight advantage.

A mechanical problem for Oss left Stuyven solo in front as he crossed the finish line for the first of two laps of the finish circuit with an advantage of 30 seconds.

The peloton pulled hard to bring the race back together and on the final lap, Vliegen attacked again with Julien Vermote (Dimension Data) and Julien Duval (AG2R La Mondiale). The trio forged on and held a 15-second advantage in the final 3km but were ultimately caught by the bunch just before the finish line.

After Van Avermaet had put him in a good position, Drucker had enough in his legs to sprint to sixth place behind winner Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo).

Quotes from the Finish Line

Greg Van Avermaet:
"I was pretty happy with my shape today. I moved when I had to move I think but again it was hard to stay away as nobody really went 100% and with the big group still behind there were a lot of guys who could ride for their sprinter. It is hard to do a result here and every year is a little bit the same so, I was not expecting too much from today. The most important thing was that the feeling is good and hopefully the results will come afterward."

Jempy Drucker:
"I am happy with the result and with Opening Weekend as yesterday was also good and I did a nice job for the team. Today, I actually wasn't feeling great for almost the whole race and only in the last 60km did I feel better. Then, we came to a bunch sprint, and the guys did a good job. Greg brought me into the final kilometer, and from there I jumped a little bit from wheel to wheel, and I think I can be happy with sixth."

Loïc Vliegen:
“I was already feeling good in Algarve as the legs were there and I was able to control seven guys alone. I was quite happy with my form and today I was disappointment in how the race went as I was sitting in about 30th position, a bit too far back, before the crash happened on the approach to the Kwaremont. I was the last guy to pass so I was between the two groups, 200m behind the first group and 200m in front of the second group. I hesitated and wasn’t sure what to do but I pushed hard to come back to Greg’s group. I went full gas and then on the Kwaremont so I never fully recovered. Vermote and Duval attacked in the final so I attacked to bridge to them alone. It was really a hard effort and the collaboration wasn’t really good so it was hard to stay away. The peloton caught us with 200m to go. I was happy with my effort but a bit disappointed in the race too.”

Klaas Lodewyck, Sports Director:
"The start of the race was really good for us. The guys were paying attention to every move, and in the end, the move that went was not dangerous so we could let it go, and we didn't have the responsibility today. On the way back, we were a bit unlucky with the crash just before the Kwaremont as we lost some guys. Nobody was involved in the crash, but they were held up, and so, we had Greg alone in a group of 19 riders which wasn't a perfect situation for us but, the guys behind tried to slow down the bunch. In the end, everything came back together and I think we did what we had to do at the end. We played a little bit of poker to try to have the best possible result. For a few kilometers, it looked very good with Loïc aiming for the win, but he was caught just before the line. Jempy did a good result, and it was a little bit as we expected. Trying to win here today was difficult but trying to make a good result was possible, and I think we made quite a good result, so we need to be happy with today and move onto the next."

Abu Dhabi Tour stage five reports

Here's the report from winner Alejandro Valverde's Movistar team:

The streak of victorious performances by Alejandro Valverde in his return into racing seems to have no end in the beginning of this 2018 season. After getting his first podium finish back in Mallorca, dominating the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and finishing 2nd in Murcia, the Movistar Team leader took another step forward to win the Queen stage and the overall classification of the Abu Dhabi Tour, his first WorldTour event of the season.

The Spaniard, well covered all week by a strong Blue squad -Sütterlin, Rojas and Bennati always attentive against the wind; De la Parte, Valls and Pedrero supporting ‘Bala’ on today’s ascent and bringing Alejandro all he needed-, was the most courageous of the GC riders into the ascent of Jebel Hafeet. Valverde created an enormous selection into the field with his move halfway through the climb (6km to go) and later on followed a counter move by Colombian Miguel Ángel López (AST).

Alejandro topped his performance with an excellent sprint that takes him to 113 victories in the pro scene, and increases the Movistar Team’s 2018 account to six, five of them obtained by the Spaniard. A phenomenal way to top a brilliant month of February for the Blues, back in winning ways after a harsh second half to the 2018 season for them.

Alejandro Valverde

Alejandro Valverde gets the big win.

REACTION, Alejandro Valverde:
“I’m super happy with this victory. Before anything, I just want to thank the whole team for their phenomenal work all week, keeping me well protected leading up to the weekend and today’s climb, so I just had to push when it was needed. We were able to get through Saturday’s time trial in a good position and it was all about going for the win today.

“This stage was one to keep extreme attention at, on difficult terrain because of the strong winds and that bit of rain which made roads more slippery. Astana did not hesitate to help López out after showing great form in Oman – we knew he was going to be a big contender and it was even more obvious after they started pushing from so far from the end. Midway through the ascent I chose to try and go alone, but I was caught, and later on he tried to make his move – in that situation and considering the rivals we were facing, it was all about finding the spot from which we could go all in, try to bring him back and do our best to win the stage.

“It’s our first WorldTour victory of the season, which makes it all the more important against the top guns. This month of February will be really important for our confidence in the remainder of the season. It really helps us work harder for the big races to come. My next competitions? I still don’t know where I’ll be next – it should be the Volta a Catalunya, but we might add another race before that, like Strade Bianche. We must wait a bit and define that in the next few days.”

This came from Bora-hansgrohe:

The final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour ended with a thrilling finale, where A. Valverde took the win on the Jabel Hafeet. BORA – hansgrohe climbers Rafal Majka and Davide Formolo showed a strong performance, were in the last breakaway and finished in 4th and 6th place. Following these great results, three BORA – hansgrohe riders completed the Abu Dhabi Tour in the top ten in the GC.

The Stage
The last stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour took the riders from Qasr Al Muwaiji over 200km up to the mountain finish Jebel Hafeet. With 15km to go, the route started slowly going up to the uphill finish. The stage finish was at 1025m above sea level with 11km of climbing featuring maximum gradients of 11%.

The Team Tactics
For the final stage BORA – hansgrohe had three riders to go for a good result. The German squad focused on their climbers Rafal Majka, Davide Formolo and Emanuel Buchmann. The final stage was a tricky one, featuring the final climb, a gruelling 11km long and steep ascent up to Jebel Hafeet.

The Race
From drop of the flag a group of nine riders built the breakaway of the day with a maximum advantage from 10 minutes. BORA – hansgrohe decided to stay in the peloton, waiting for the final climb to make a move. 40km before the finish, the peloton worked hard to close the gap, which was still more than six minutes. As the race came to the ascent up to the Jabel Hafeet, Davide Formolo tried to attack. Together with his teammate Rafal Majka and four other riders they were in front of the race.

With 3km remaining, A. Valverde (Team Movistar) and A. Lopez (Team Astana) launched an attack and were able to open a small gap. The duo rode their rhythm up to the finish, where A. Valverde took the win ahead of Lopez. BORA – hansgrohe climber Rafal Majka was only some seconds behind, in a battle against J. Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors), Rafal finished fourth. Teammate Davide Formolo crossed the line in 6th position.

This year´s Abu Dhabi Tour ends with three BORA – hansgrohe riders in the top-ten in the general classification. Rafal Majka takes 5th, Davide Formolo 6th and Emanuel Buchmann finishes 10th. As well, BORA – hansgrohe won the prize as “Best Team”.

From the Finish Line:

"The boys did a stellar job today, not even on the climb. We were always in a good position, therefore also a big complement to our sprinters, they protected our climbers the whole day and worked really good together. In the climb, the guys were in the front and therefore we can be pretty satisfied with our results.” – Enrico Poitschke, sports director

“The team protected and supported me really good today. I gave my best to stay with the favorites, I wasn’t able to go  with Valverde at the end but in this early season I am happy with my performance and shape.” – Rafal Majka 

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