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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, January 19, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right. - Henry Ford

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Tour Down Under stage three reports

Here's what stage winner Elia Viviani's Quick-Step team had to say:

Despite having to come from a long way back, the Italian proved his class and scored a spectacular win in Victor Harbor.

Elia Viviani was the man of the day in the Tour Down Under, capitalizing on his teammates' excellent work as well as his fantastic speed and cunningness on the way to a maiden stage victory at the Australian World Tour race, where he returned for the first time since 2014.

It was the hottest day of this year's Tour Down Under, with temperatures hitting 47 degrees, and for that very reason the organizers decided to reduce the stage between Glenelg and Victor Harbor by 26 kilometers. Despite the scorching heat, three riders broke clear from the outset of the stage and enjoyed a three-minute buffer before the peloton pegged them back one by one, with the catch being made on the final lap of the Victor Harbor circuit.

With under ten kilometers to go, Florian Sénéchal, Dries Devenyns, Fabio Sabatini and Michael Mørkøv brought Elia Viviani to the front of the peloton, knowing the final part of the stage was a very technical one, with one roundabout and two tight corners packed in the closing 1500 meters. The experienced Dane dropped off Viviani with 200 meters to go and the Italian blasted past race leader Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) despite the ground he had to make, taking a convincing victory by two bike lengths.

"Today it was very hot and that only made the stage harder. For that matter, it was very important to keep hydrating and make sure there's some energy left in the tank for the final 200 meters. The guys did a perfect job today and I want to thank them for helping me get this win. The victory is important not only for the confidence, but also because it shows that I had a good winter preparation", said Elia Viviani, as he stood against the railings at the finish.

Elia Viviani

The day is Viviani's

Only the sixth Italian rider to put his name on the winners' sheet at the Tour Down Under, Elia drew a lot of satisfaction from Thursday's spectacular victory: "The first win of the year is always the hardest one to get. I was determined to start the season on the right foot and this success gives me great joy. I had good legs this week, you could see I was always there in the other stages, but needed just a few days to get that race feeling with my teammates and put things into place. I'm very happy everything went perfect today and I netted a victory so early in the season."

GC leader Caleb Ewan's Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this report:

Stage two winner Caleb Ewan has finished third on a stifling hot stage three of the Tour Down Under to retain the race lead by 10seconds. It’s the first time in history Ewan has retained the jersey for consecutive days having held it for one-day in the past two editions.

Caleb Ewan

Caleb Ewan heads to the stage start.

Ewan blamed a personal error for costing him the stage but praised his Mitchelton-SCOTT teammates on another perfect lead out.

With the temperature soaring well above 40degrees, today’s stage was reduced by 26km to provide a little relief for the peloton. A tail wind saw racing remain at a steady pace but there’s no doubt the heat zapped the energy of riders throughout the day.

With most of the bunch just trying to survive, it was the familiar faces of Scott Bowden (UniSA) and Nicholas Dlamini (Dimension Data) who went off the front looking for intermediate jersey points. As their tired legs dropped back to the bunch it was Tiago Machado (Team Katusha Alpecin) left out front until the final local lap when the team’s drew him back in ahead of the bunch sprint.

After a short but hot day, with Mitchelton-SCOTT doing their fair share of controlling, the team were all together at the front of bunch heading into the final and only 13km local lap.

As the riders peeled off one-by-one, Alex Edmondson had Ewan on his wheel in the final 200m before a moments hesitation as Elia Viviani (Quickstep Floors) jumped which cost him the stage victory.

Caleb Ewan - 3rd on the stage and Overall Leader:
“I’m pretty disappointed with that to be honest, my team gave me an absolutely perfect lead out and I stuffed it up in the end. It was a bit of a headwind so I didn’t want to go too early, I waited a little bit too long and Viviani got the jump on me.”

“I can’t fault the team they were absolutely perfect and they did exactly what I asked them to do. There’s been four different winners over the last four races here so it just shows he depth of the sprint field here at this race.”

“I can still take confidence out of all my sprints the last few days. I haven’t quite nailed them all as I would have hoped but I am super confident with how the team is riding and I don’t think I have ever had lead outs this good before. The times I haven’t won it’s been more because of myself rather than the team.”

Alex Edmondson - Australian road race champion:
“It was a really hot day out there and we rode really well all day. The boys lined it out perfectly from about five kilometres to go, we took a hard left then from two kilometres to go we were all on the front.”

“Daryl came through then I hit the front with 500metres to go, so we pretty much nailed the lead out and we can’t be too disappointed with today. We came here to get as much practice as we could in the lead outs and we showed that today, we took the race on and there weren’t many teams who took it up like we did. We can take many positives from that, plus Caleb is still in the leaders jersey.”

Tour Down Under - Stage three results:
1. Elia Viviani (Quick.Steo Floors) 3:04:40
2. Paul Bauhaus (Team Sunweb) ST
3. Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST

Tour Down Under - General classification after stage three:
1. Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 10:58:36
2. Elia Viviani (Quick.Steo Floors) +0:10
3. Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:14

Here's the race update Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me:

As the Tour Down Under really began to hot up, so did the weather. With temperatures predicted to exceed forty degrees celsius, the race organisers made the decision to shorten stage 3 of the race to a little more than 120km under the UCI’s Extreme Weather Protocol. While the stage would be reduced, this just meant the riders had to fit all the excitement into a shorter day. The BORA-hansgrohe riders worked hard to bring UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, into position, who pushed through a tight finale to take fifth position in the sprint, while Jay McCarthy took every opportunity to find seconds in the GC race.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan after the stage

The Stage
Making the safety of the riders their top priority, the race’s organisers made the decision to shorten the distance of today’s stage due to concerns about the heat. While the race would still start in Glenelg and finish in Victor Harbor, the stage would make just one pass of the final circuit, as opposed to the scheduled three. The now 120.5km stage would still challenge riders though – not only because of the heat. High winds would batter riders, and the day’s categorised climb, Pennys Hill Road, would feel like hitting a wall, with its 7.6% gradient. A flat finish meant the sprinters would again be battling it out – if they hadn’t suffered too much from the stage’s demands.

The Team Tactics
When there’s a possible sprint on the cards, all eyes turn to the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, and while the flat finale meant there was every chance the Slovak rider would be aiming to contest the win, with the race nearing its halfway point, the race for the GC was well and truly on as well. The Australian, Jay McCarthy, would be looking to strengthen his position in the overall standings, having started the day in fourth spot and with some tough stages to come.

The Race
Undeterred by the high temperatures, the break went off early again, and quickly put some distance on the peloton. The escapees’ advantage pushed on past five minutes, at which point the peloton took action to make sure the break didn’t spoil the sprinters’ chance for victory – particularly important on a stage where the conditions could make the day’s outcome much more unpredictable. The increase in pace, as well as some attacks from the peloton for time bonuses, brought the gap down steadily, made easier by one of the two-man break dropping off. The catch made at 8km, the peloton looked on to the finale. High speeds strung out the peloton, and the course layout meant the finish was hard to judge. While Peter pushed hard in the sprint, he found himself boxed in, but worked hard to make the space to finish the day in fifth position.

From the Finish Line
"It was an extremely hot day and a fast stage because of the tailwind. We worked to help Jay get bonus seconds in the intermediate sprint. He picked up one, so that was good, but the final sprint didn't go the way we wanted. We stayed safe today and we will try our chances again in the following stages." – Peter Sagan

"It was a very hot day, it is nice the organisation came to us and decided to cut some of the laps and shorten the stage. I was able to get another second on the road, which will be important coming into the final few days. It was a good day overall but very hot!" – Jay McCarthy

"It was a really hard stage, with extreme weather conditions and scorching heat. Jay got one bonus second in the intermediate sprint, which could be crucial for the overall scoreboard because he's now one more second ahead of the other GC contenders, although Nathan Haas got one second closer to us. I think we did a good job in the sprint. We didn't get the win but we are working towards our first WorldTour victory of the season." – Patxi Vila 

UAE Team Emirates headed to Vuelta a San Juan

Here's the release the team sent me:

UAE Team Emirates will participate in the Argentine stage race from 21 to 28 January, with a well-balanced team, featuring the experience of a proven climber like Colombian Darwin Atapuma and the promising young Filippo Ganna, the reigning European Champion in the Individual pursuit on track who has shown impressive talent in the race against the clock.

Colombia’s Atapuma sees things clearly: “For me Argentina will mark the beginning of a year I’m really looking forward to. In 2017, when I wasn’t dealing with physical problems from falls, I managed to make a good impression and in 2018 I would like continue performing at these levels. In the Vuelta a San Juan I will determine what kind of shape I’m in after the winter break; the stage arriving on the Alto de Colorado will be an interesting test.”

Darwin Atapuma

Darwin Atapuma enjoying the gentle slopes of the 2017 Vuelta a España

“The event I’m focusing on is the time trial in the third stage,” Ganna explained. “It’s a test I will take on with determination and ambition. Heat and jet lag will play their part, but almost all the contenders will have to race with the same conditions. I had a nice winter, spent doing useful training sessions and targeted workouts; I’ve got the drive and the right determination.”

Roster: El Abdia Annas Aït (Morocco), Atapuma Darwin (Colombia), Ganna Filippo (Italy), Mirza Youssif (UAE), Riabushenko Alexandr (Belorussia), Troia Oliviero (Italy).

Sports Director: Scirea Mario (Italy)

The Euskadi Foundation celebrates its 25th anniversary with the ambition of returning to elite cycling

Here is the press release, in full:

In an event held at the Azkuna Zentroa in Bilbao, the Foundation has presented its exciting new era with a clear objective: to thrill fans in Euskadi once again in the world’s best races with a squad made up entirely by cyclists trained by the Foundation.

“Excitement.” “Passion.”“Reserves.”“Ambition.”These have been the words that were repeated most often at the event held this Monday at the Azkuna Zentroa in the Biscay capital, which also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Euskadi Foundation and raised the curtain on the season of its cycling team, which this year will compete in the continental category.

Euskadi Foundation

A well-attended event. Oooh, and the bike...nice!

The event was attended by distinguished institutional representatives, including the Basque Government’s Sports Director Jon Redondo, Deputy of Culture, Tourism, Youth and Sports in the Provincial Government of Guipuzcoa, Denis Itxaso, President of the Gipuzko Buru Batzar, Joseba Egibar, and the mayor of Bilbao, Juan Mari Aburto. Also present were the top representatives of two Basque companies that have made the greatest commitment to promoting this project: Orbea’s General Director, Jon Fernández, and the founder and owner of Etxeondo, Paco Rodrigo.

Likewise, important celebrities from the world of cycling also wanted to support this new era of the Euskadi Foundation, including the general director of the Vuelta a España, Javier Guillén, ex-cyclists associated with the history of the Foundation, such as Roberto Laiseka, Iban Mayo and Haimar Zubeldia, and Basque athletes, such as mountaineer Alberto Iñurrategi and footballer Asier Illarramendi.

The event was very emotional at times, in particular with the recognition of the work of all the people and organizations that have made the work of the Euskadi Foundation possible over almost 25 years. In particular, the figure of Miguel Madariaga, who has been the soul of the Foundation for more than two decades and who, during this new era, has passed the baton off to Mikel Landa, the new president of the Euskadi Foundation, as of last September.

Jon Fernández, general director of Orbea, remembered the company’s commitment to the Euskadi Foundation project from the very beginning:“Over these 25 years, Orbea has always been here. We represent the guarantee that Orbea has supported, supports and will continue to support the Euskadi Cycling Foundation.”
After reviewing the parallel histories of the Foundation and Orbea, as two projects that have grown from values and roots deeply anchored in our territory, Jon Fernández turned to Mikel Landa to confirm that “we have already once managed to make the utopia come true of a team of Basque cyclists competing on an equal footing with great international teams, and we’ll made it come true once again. You have our guarantee.”

Patxi Rodrigo, director of Etxeondo, in turn, has stressed the “ambition” of the Euskadi Foundation project during this new era:“Once again taking Basque cycling to the peaks where it should always be.”Peaks like Alpe d´huez or Luz Ardiden, which in their day were dyed orange, the color that for many years “impregnated the hearts of Basque fans.”

The ambition is “to relive that dream”:“We know that it won’t be easy,” confessed Patxi Rodrigo, calling for the “support of everyone.”“The roar of the ‘Orange Tide’ will be crucial. Institutions, companies… We know that you will be here, because together, we’re stronger,” he concluded.

Finally, Mikel Landa reminded us of the reasons that have led him to accept the presidency of the Foundation:“To promote Basque cycling and to give back to the Euskadi Foundation everything it has given me.”The new president of the Euskadi Foundation has made his desire known to “transmit the excitement with which we are promoting this project” to all the people, companies and institutions that want to take part in it.“I can't imagine cycling without the Euskadi Foundation,” he stated.

Mikel Landa wanted to thank everyone – “founders, partners, cyclists, companies, institutions…”-  who over these past 25 years have made it possible for cyclists trained by the Euskadi Foundation to have the opportunity to shine in the world’s best cycling competitions in the world:“I have the dream of once again seeing the Euskadi Foundation at the top,” he sentenced.

Lance Armstrong says Oprah confession cost him "in excess of 100 mil"

Here's the story in USA Today:

Five years since his confession to Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong is still paying a price for what he did.

“In excess of 100 mil,” Armstrong said in an e-mail to USA TODAY Sports on Jan. 4.

That’s the cost to him so far. But it’s not just because of his sins in cycling. He’s also paying a price for that confession. By admitting to his doping and dishonesty, Armstrong exposed himself to fraud lawsuits, including a government civil case that goes to trial in May that could cost him nearly $100 million more.

“I'll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people,” Armstrong told Oprah in the interview that aired Jan. 17 and 18, 2013.

Five years later, the fallout has been uneven, legally and personally. He’s met with a number of those he tried to trample. But some said his attempts at making amends were self-serving and that he still hasn’t paid enough.

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong winning the 10th stage of the 2001 Tour de France. It seems like a century ago.

“All that money he earned, he actually cheated to get it,” said Kathy LeMond, wife of former cyclist and Armstrong critic Greg LeMond. “He didn’t earn any of that honestly. It’s all ill-gotten gains.”

You can read the entire story here.

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