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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there. - Lewis Carroll

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:


Tour de France stage 10 reports

We posted the organizer's report with the stage results.

Stage winner Julian Alaphilippe's Quick-Step team posted this report:

Overcome with emotion after a majestic mountain raid, Julian Alaphilippe basked in joy and glory at the finish in Le Grand-Bornand, where he seized the day, earning not only his maiden Tour de France stage victory, but also the prestigious polka dot jersey. All this came at the end of a 158.5km-long stage peppered with five classified climb, four of which were won by Julian, the same rider who initiated the day's breakaway which numbered 21 riders, including teammate Philippe Gilbert.

"I came close to winning a stage at my debut two years ago and I know it's not easy to get a stage in the Tour de France, that's why I am overwhelmed with emotion. It's really amazing, I can't even find my words, but I'm thinking about my family and I'm really glad to have made them happy. It's for sure an amazing day, it couldn't have been better than this", Julian said, beaming with happiness, in Le Grand-Bornand, where a Tour de France stage finished for only the fourth time in history.

On Tuesday, the riders faced the first mountain stage of the 105th edition, one which packed the steep Montée des Glières, with its unsurfaced plateau – which Julian knew well from the 2013 Tour de l'Avenir, where he won that stage – Col de Romme and Col de la Colombière, last of these peaking 14.5 kilometers from the finish. Julian laid the foundations of his memorable victory on the penultimate ascent, when he set out in pursuit of lone leader Rein Taaramae (Direct Energie), catching him with two kilometers to go to the top and dropping the Estonian to claim maximum points, before flying over the short descent to the bottom of the last climb.

Going onto Colombière, Julian had a lead of over a minute on his closest chaser and kept extending the advantage on the 7.5km-climb averaging 8.5%, as the continued to add more points to his tally and speed down the descent, which he mastered to perfection, inching closer to an emphatic and well-deserved win. With two kilometers to go, the 26-year-old began to smile and wave to the camera, knowing that the maiden Tour de France victory was in his pocket, and came with a bonus, the KOM jersey, which he donned in the Savoyard resort for the first time in his career.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe wins stage ten. Sirotti photo

"It was a hard day, especially in the last 30 kilometers, when I was alone, but that makes this moment even more special and beautiful", explained Julian, whose 2018 season includes victories also at Colombia Oro y Paz, Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Flèche Wallonne and Critérium du Dauphiné.

The 50th French rider to lead the mountain classification at Le Tour, a reward that came after a brilliant ride which showcased panache, Julian stressed out that taking home the jersey isn't a goal at this point in the race, despite amassing an important number of points: "It's an honor to wear the iconic polka dot jersey, but I'm not thinking yet of winning it. I will just take it day by day, while at the same time continuing to help my team and Bob – who is fifth in the overall standings. There's a long way to go until Paris and we hope to do other beautiful things before we reach it."

Greg van Avermaet retained his GC lead. Here's what his BMC team had to say:

17 July, 2018, Le Grand-Bornand (FRA): Greg Van Avermaet showed his champion's mentality today by going on the attack early into the first mountain stage of the Tour de France before finishing fourth on the line and extending his overall lead on the General Classification.

The Tour de France entered the second phase of the race today with the riders heading into the Alps and tackling a 158.5km course that included five classified climbs: one category four, three category one, and one hors catégorie. 

After rolling out of Annecy, the peloton almost immediately reached the base of the first climb, the Col de Bluffy, and despite various attacks, the race was altogether going over the summit after 19km of racing.

Soon after, a large group of riders jumped off the front of the main bunch with race leader Van Avermaet, who started the day with a 43-second lead, going on the offensive by reacting quickly and bridging across to the front of the race. The 21-rider strong breakaway began to split approaching the summit of the 11.3km long Col de la Croix Fry, which had an average gradient of 7%, and on the descent a select group of eight riders, including the yellow jersey, was drawn out at the front of the race.

On the early slopes of the brutal hors catégorie Montée du Plateau des Glières, a 6km climb with an average gradient of 11.6% and 1.8km of dirt roads at the top, the leaders were around 30 seconds in front of the chasers from the earlier move while the rest of the field sat more than four minutes back.

Nearing the summit of the climb, the Van Avermaet-led front group started to swell once again and, despite an attack on the white gravel roads, which came with less than 90km to go, the 18 leaders remained together and were even able to push their advantage out to over seven minutes on the descent.

On the flatter run into the final two category one climbs, the Col de Romme and the Col de la Columbière, which both had average gradients of over 8%, the peloton started to slowly eat into the advantage of Van Avermaet and his fellow race leaders.

However, on the penultimate climb, the reduced main bunch, which still included Tejay van Garderen and Damiano Caruso, continued to hover around five minutes behind the leaders as Rein Taaramäe (Direct Énergie) attacked to go over the summit alongside Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-step Floors) with 28.5km to go.

Van Avermaet was sitting in the first chasing group 50 seconds back at the KOM and continued to honor the yellow jersey by working hard to limit the time gap to the then lone leader, Alaphilippe and eventually, he headed over the top of the final climb to begin the 14.5km run into Le Grand-Bornand with a lead of around 2'45" over the peloton behind.

In the end, Alaphilippe was able to hold onto his advantage to take a solo victory while Van Avermaet crossed the line 1'44" behind the stage winner which saw him extend his overall lead out to 2'22" going into another hard day of climbing tomorrow.

After his impressive effort, Van Avermaet was also awarded the prize for the Most Combative Rider of the stage.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet goes into stage eleven wearing yellow. Sirotti photo

Quotes From the Finish Line:

Greg Van Avermaet:
"It was a hard day but two years ago, I also went into the breakaway in the yellow jersey so, it was super nice for me to spend the day in yellow in the mountains. I was waiting to find the right moment and when the big move went, I decided to give it a go and see how Team Sky reacted and they didn't. I had to ride really hard to catch the breakaway but once I was there, and we directly took six to seven minutes, I knew it could be a good day for me."

"I was not thinking about keeping the jersey at the start of the day but you have to read the race situation and that's what I did. I think I waited for the right moment and got into a big group with guys who were going to try to go for the stage. I was then able to keep the yellow jersey for an extra day. I went really deep today and tomorrow is really a climber's stage and it will be super hard to keep the jersey. I have no intention of trying to keep it. Today was really the only day that I could do it but I think after tomorrow it will be over."

Sports Director, Fabio Baldato:
"Greg's performance was unbelievable, amazing, fantastic. You can say many things. Behind him the GC riders were looking at each other and it wasn't really a hard pace. Greg wanted to go and he said this morning that the best way to defend the jersey would be to attack and go off the front so why not try. He did a really fantastic ride. We saw him go on the attack to bridge across and on the radio, I heard Tejay say 'Go, go Greg. It's good. The bunch is slowing down' and then the group grew to 21 riders. Team Sky then started to set the tempo and it worked perfectly for us."

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe squad sent me this:

Coming to week two after nine stages of fairly flat roads, the riders would be starting stage 10 either with a feeling of excitement or a feeling of dread. The GC riders and the climbers would be looking forward to a chance to make their mark on a race that had, so far, been utterly dominated by the sprinters and all-rounders – stage wins and creating time gaps would be their aim. For those who had taken centre stage last week, the mountains would be hellishly difficult, and simply getting through the day inside the time cut would be a relief. After a hard day and some difficult climbs, Rafał Majka looked ahead to the other mountain stages to make an impact after losing some time on the final climb, while the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, increased his lead in the points contest after taking all 20 points in the intermediate sprint.

The Stage
Waking up today in the French Alps, the difference between this week’s and last week’s terrain was like night and day. Gone were the flat stages with a few rolling hills – they had been replaced with the kind of alpine scenery the Tour de France is famous for. Today’s stage saw five categorised climbs, and just to make it clear to the peloton that this 158.5km stage was indeed in the mountains, there was the race’s first Hors Catégorie climb, and what a climb it was. At 6km in length, the Montée du Plateau des Glières might be considered short by HC standards, but the average gradient was an eye-watering 11.2%., and from the start to the finish, not a metre was below 9.8%. After such a painful climb, it would be easy to forget that there were two more first category climbs to round off the day – averaging 8.9% and 8.5% respectively. The day’s final climb could act as a springboard for a late attack before the descent into Le Grand-Bornand for the finale.

The Team Tactics
For the first day in the mountains, the team would be gauging everyone’s form for the days to come. Going off too hard too early could ruin the team’s chances later in the race, and so it was important to stay calm and to keep a collective clear head. With the day’s intermediate sprint at 29km and with only a fourth category climb to climb before this, Peter Sagan would aim to take some points here, but after this, it was all for Rafał Majka. While aiming to ride conservatively and following the wheels of the other GC teams, if an opportunity presented itself the team would try and see what happens, but it would be easier to take advantage in the days to come when the other riders are more tired, rather than to try today when riders would be fresh after the rest day.

The Race
From the start of the day, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, had his eye on the points available at the intermediate sprint, and so the Slovak rider jumped in a break of 21 riders before taking the full 20 points. The Austrian National Champion, Lukas Pöstlberger, took second spot in order to increase Peter’s buffer at the top of the Maillot Vert standings. With the Col de la Croix Fry shortly after the sprint, much of this sizeable group dropped off, and the number of riders remaining on the front rose and fell just as the road did, settling at fifteen riders with 70km remaining, holding an advantage of seven minutes over the peloton. With two first category climbs ahead, this lead was set to fall as the peloton worked to catch up, but with both the break and the peloton splitting into four groups on the road, the main bunch was still almost six minutes behind as the final 15km came into view. Staying in the bunch with the main GC contenders, Rafał stayed safe as the other teams pushed hard to reduce the time gaps, knowing there were more days to come in the mountains and plenty of opportunities to make an impact. The Polish rider knew he wasn’t at his best after the first rest day, and so rather than go further into the red, rode conservatively to avoid losing too much time.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan (shown after stage nine) tightened his grip on the green jersey. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line
"Today was the first mountain stage of this year's Tour, so our main goal was to defend Rafał's GC chances. Together with Lukas, I went into the breakaway to contest the intermediate sprint. I took the sprint and increased my lead by 20 points. We went back to the peloton to work for Rafał and help him. There are another 11 stages and we will fight for our chances every day." – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion

"I suffered a lot today. I never really found my rhythm on the last two climbs when Sky raised the pace. I tried everything to follow their wheels but on the last 500m on the Colombière I couldn’t keep up anymore. Sometimes after a rest day, I have some troubles like today. Fortunately, I didn’t lose too much time, so still, everything is possible. There are another two hard stages in the Alps, and afterwards, we‘ll know where we are." – Rafał Majka

"Well, what can you do? Sometimes, riders have a bad day after a rest day and, unfortunately, that happened to Rafa today. Still, we remain positive as he looked strong the whole first week. On the other hand, everything worked as planned today. Peter and Lukas went in the break to catch some more points in the sprint and Peter extended his lead to 111 points now. I think the team did a good job again and now we already look forward to tomorrow." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

Annemiek van Vleuten wins La Course for the second year running

Mitchelton-Scott sent me this race report:

Only 48 hours after sealing the first Grand Tour victory in the history of Mitchelton-Scott, Giro Rosa champion Annemiek van Vleuten did it again, taking a spectacular last-minute win at La Course by Le Tour de France.

The world time trial champion was part of a strong favourites group on the final climb up the Col de la Colombiere alongside teammate and Giro Rosa green jersey winner Amanda Spratt and Mitchelton-SCOTT duo tried a tactical one-two which succeeded in reducing the group further.

Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) went next and pushed on to lead into the descent with Van Vleuten chasing. The final kilometre was dramatic as Van Vleuten dug in, shaking off the tiredness from the Giro Rosa with every pedal stroke, gaining on Van der Breggen and passing her metres before the line to take an incredible win.

Four climbs characterised the 118-kilometre course from the scenic shores of Lake Annecy through the French Alps, close to the Swiss border and the first splits started to show on the first of these the Col de Bluffy.

Over the top of the next climb, the Cote de Saint-Jean-de-Sixt and five riders broke clear with a couple of chasers in between and gained over two minutes on the peloton with 50kilometres left to race.

As the field sped along the valley floor towards the final climbs of the Col de Romme and the iconic Col de la Colombiere the gap started to reduce and on the early slopes of the Romme the favourites group formed and only two riders remained out front.

Spratt and Van Vleuten were side by side in that group as they started the Colombiere and Cecile Ludwig (Cervelo-Bigla) around a minute ahead, attack after attack thinned out the group inside the closing 20kilometres and Van Vleuten was part of a strong trio chasing down Ludwig towards the summit.

Van der Breggen and Asheligh Moolman (Cervelo-Bigla) followed every move of Van Vlueten and the trio passed Ludwig before the summit. Van der Breggen attacked immediately and gained a slight advantage going into the descent towards the finish.

Van Vleuten produced a remarkable pursuit on the downhill and caught her compatriot just before the line to take another memorable victory.

Annemiek van Vleuten:
“It was unbelievable. With 300metres to go I still thought I would get second and then I saw her dying. To win like this...it was a tough ride, but beautiful."

“The gap going into the descent was really small and Anna is also a really good descender, but I always keep believing and keep on thinking that anything is possible and never give up. That was really important today.

“This win is really beautiful, the second time at La Course and especially coming only two days after winning the Giro Rosa, but to win this race in this way is really special and high up on my list of memorable wins.”

La Course by Le Tour de France results:

1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 03:20:43
2. Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) +0:01
3. Ashleigh Moolman (Cervelo-Bigla) +1:22

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