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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, July 19, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I might be awake. - Lewis Black

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:


Tour de France stage 11 reports

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

Cavendish & Kittel out of Tour

The Tour listed these three riders as out of the Tour because they finished stage 11 after the time limit:

Shame we won't have them for the finish in Paris.

Stage winner Geraint Thomas' Sky team posted this report:

Geraint Thomas claimed a magnificent victory to move into the yellow jersey on stage 11 at the Tour de France.

The Welshman launched a stinging late acceleration on the first-category La Rosiere climb, overhauling the final breakaway riders to claim a memorable victory, with Chris Froome finishing third, just 20 seconds back, to jump up to second place overall.

The pair were able to work together tactically in the final kilometres, with Thomas hauling back a dangerous move from Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), while in behind Froome was able to sit in before powering clear from an elite group of contenders.

Froome now sits one minute and 25 seconds behind Thomas, who begins a second stint in the maillot jaune following his winning start to the race in 2017.

Team Sky’s riders held firm in the face of great pressure on a short, sharp 108.5km test. Luke Rowe worked hard early, before Gianni Moscon, Wout Poels, Jonathan Castroviejo and Michal Kwiatkowski set a fierce tempo. With Kwiatkowski finishing his effort and Egan Bernal slipping back after a strong ride, Thomas picked his moment and launched a stinging acceleration.

“It’s unreal I didn’t expect it at all,” Thomas admitted after the stage. “We were low on numbers so it was more instinct [to attack] so we didn’t get caught having to ride - I saw a little gap.

“I committed to going across to Dumoulin and I was able to sit on of course, as Froome was coming across and I could see Frosty [Mikel Nieve] and he’s a good mate, it’s a shame you know, but I had to go for the win.

“I knew there was a good chance [of going into yellow] but I didn’t know how everyone else was going to ride.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas will start stage twelve in yellow. Sirotti photo.

“Wearing the yellow jersey is a massive honour. I managed to do it last year and to do it two years in a row is really nice. We were expecting attacks and when they go, it’s never nice to see them going away but we had confidence in each other and rode really well.”

Back at the bus a happy Froome talked us through the final kilometres and a strong tactical move that now sees Team Sky holding a 1-2 overall. He told Eurosport: "It's an amazing position for us. I don't think we quite expected that going into today's stage. I think initially everyone thought Alpe-d'Huez would be the decisive stage, and it still very well could be, but I think it puts us in a fantastic position ahead of tomorrow's stage.

"I think [Thomas' attack] was a bit of a spur of the moment thing for us but I think it made sense. It was perfect, we didn't even have to talk and it was the right thing for G to do to push on there. I let the wheel go because I knew the onus would be on the rest of the guys to chase.

"[Dan Martin] put in a big acceleration there and I was surprised that I was the only one on his wheel. I think the main guy who stands out right now as a threat to us is Tom Dumoulin. He rode a very impressive stage today. I guess it depends how everyone is going to back up tomorrow as tomorrow is a really big stage."

Greg van Avermaet's BMC team sent me this update:

18 July, 2018, La Rosière (FRA): Damiano Caruso looked strong during the first summit showdown of this year's Tour de France and after going on the attack early into the 108.5km course, and riding at the front of the race all day, he eventually crossed the line fourth.

Caruso, who finished just outside the top 10 on an almost identical stage during this year's Critérium du Dauphiné, was one of the first to attack and his burst of acceleration drew out a five-rider group that the peloton looked to be letting go after 8km of racing.

However, with tensions high in the opening kilometers of the short but sharp stage, a large group of around 40 riders, including Stefan Küng and Tejay van Garderen, split off the front of the peloton in an attempt to bridge across on the first of two consecutive hors catégorie climbs, the Montée de Bisanne.

Van Garderen was one of the first riders from the large chasing group to jump clear and make contact with the leaders and, as they edged closer to the summit of the 12.4km climb, the breakaway swelled to over 20 riders while, the peloton with Van Avermaet, who started his eighth day in yellow expecting it to be his last, sat around five minutes back.

On the fast descent into the bottom of a two-pronged climb, made up of the 12.6km Col du Pré and the 5.7km category two Cormet de Roselend, three riders opened up a small gap but as the road began to rise, the front group came back together with Caruso, van Garderen and Küng three of the thirty riders leading the way. 

The slopes of the Cormet de Roselend, which had an average gradient of 6.5%, began to take their toll and just 13 riders from the breakaway remained out in front with Caruso looking strong going over the top with 38.5km to go before starting to push the pace on another fast descent.

After a short section in the valley, Caruso and the four remaining leaders reached the base of the final category one ascent to the finish line in La Rosière with an advantage of 35 seconds over the first chasing group and two minutes over a select group of General Classification contenders.

It was on the 17.6km long climb, which had an average gradient of 5.8% and a middle section with pitches close to 9%, that the GC battle started to heat up while up ahead attacks began to split the front group.

Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) went solo inside the final 10km of the day and Caruso continued to work hard behind to keep the gap around the 30-second mark before being joined by Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) with 4km to go.

At the flamme rouge, the gap to Nieve had shrunk to just 20 seconds and this allowed Thomas, who started the day 2'22" back on the General Classification, to make his ultimately decisive move, bypassing Nieve in the closing meters to take the stage win.

Caruso, who showed today that he has come into the Alps in strong form, eventually crossed the line fourth, 20 seconds behind the stage winner and he now moves up into the top twenty overall.

Damiano CAruso

Damiano Caruso had a good day in the Alps.

After an impressive eight days defending and honoring the yellow jersey, Van Avermaet crossed the line around twenty minutes behind Thomas, who also inherited the race lead in La Rosière.

Quotes From the Finish Line:

Damiano Caruso:
"I was really motivated this morning and wanted to go in the breakaway. I was able to do that and then, we went 'à bloc' all day. On the last climb, I tried to do my best but the GC guys caught us almost at the top of the climb. For me, it is not a victory but for sure, it is a good sign and it shows that I am in good shape. So, if I feel good tomorrow I can maybe try to go in another breakaway or take an easy day and wait for another occasion."

"I finished 13th here at the Dauphiné and fourth today so maybe next time I will win this stage. I knew the stage really well and I knew what to expect this morning so, it was a little advantage for me. It was a different race today and with a higher level than in June so, I am happy and I think the team is happy too."

Greg Van Avermaet:
"It will be strange to go back to my normal jersey. I like this jersey and I like my bike but tomorrow it is back to normal. These were great days at the Tour de France, I'm happy with how I raced with the yellow jersey and for me, it was one of the nicest moments of my career that's for sure. It was super hard today. I felt like I didn't have great legs but you still have to do the parcours, and even just doing the parcours was pretty hard."

Sports Director, Fabio Baldato:
"It was nice for Damiano to try today. He is in good shape and he is motivated. It's a shame that from behind the race for the GC really started. But we expected this. You never know and it is better to try. It's important that he showed good condition. In the end, he was fighting for the win. We will try again. I'm sure that Damiano is motivated for another breakaway."

"Of course we said at the moment when the race became really hard that we would stay with Greg, and that's what Michi, Paddy, and Simon did. We made it without trouble and within the time limit."

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

While most riders in the race for the Maillot Vert are content to sit back and pick up points on the sprint stages, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, proved today why he has won the coveted Green Jersey five times, going on the attack on a Tour de France mountain stage to add to his points total.  Supplementing his total with the full 20 points from the intermediate sprint, Peter finished the day 121 points clear of his nearest rival. Still suffering from the crashes on the Roubaix stage, Rafał Majka struggled on the final climb, finishing with a small group after an explosive finale lit up the GC race. The team will now shift its focus away from the overall race as the Tour approaches some of its most difficult stages.

The Stage
If yesterday’s stage was hard, stage 11 was harder. Where there was one Hors Catégorie climb on stage 10, there were two on stage 11; where there were flat spots, there were none today; and while yesterday there was a fast downhill ahead of a relatively flat finish, today saw the first summit finish of this year’s Tour de France. In spite of the shorter stage length, at ‘just’ 108.5km, it was going to be tough throughout – riders would be climbing from the drop of the flag, and the day would end on a tough first category climb to the ski resort of La Rosière – 17.6km at an average gradient of 5.8% - where the middle section hit gradients of more than 9%, making it difficult for riders to find a rhythm over the inconsistent terrain. One thing was for certain though – the last climb would be where the real excitement would come.

The Team Tactics
Having struggled to find his form on yesterday’s stage, Rafał Majka would be working on his rhythm and confidence in the big mountains today, and would ride simply to stay in touch with the other teams. With a pivotal stage tomorrow, it would be better to stay calm and focus on the day to come, rather than taking chances and not be in a position to perform when it counts. The intermediate sprint would come early on, at the foot of the Montée de Bisanne, so Peter Sagan would go for the points here, while later in the day, Pawel Poljanski and Gregor Mühlberger would ride with Rafał to keep him safe on the final climb.

The Race
There’s a reason that the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, started the day more than 100 points ahead in the Green Jersey contest – the Slovak rider went on the attack from the drop of the flag, joining a small group where he would go for the prize in the intermediate sprint. Having taken all 20 points, he dropped back on the difficult HC climb to ride with his BORA-hansgrohe teammates. The remainder of the break continued up the road, becoming 22 riders as chasers joined this group and extended their lead to six minutes. As the day went on and the terrain became harder and the kilometres were felt in their legs, the break gradually reduced in number, with attacks and counterattacks from the chasers bringing fresh blood into the mix and with five groups on the road, the final climb really was where the action was going to happen, as riders fought amongst themselves for time in the GC, as others had their eye on the stage win.

While the fireworks were going off on La Rosière, Rafał Majka couldn’t find the legs to stay in contact and dropped back, finishing the day in a small group after a hard day’s climbing. The Polish rider fought hard but the impact of his crashes on stage 9 was clearly having an impact. The rest of the team finished safely and within the time limit to go on to fight another day in the mountains tomorrow.

From the Finish Line
"Unfortunately, the two crashes on the stage to Roubaix have affected me a lot more than expected. I simply haven't recovered well and I miss a lot of power compared to last week. It’s a shame because of all the dedicated effort the whole team put to prepare for this race. Yet, there is nothing we can do now. I need to recover first and then we‘ll see what we can still get out of this Tour." – Rafał Majka

"Today, we had our second, hard, mountain stage at the Tour and our plan, like yesterday, was for all of us to work for Rafal. I attacked early and went on the break to ensure again the full points at the intermediate sprint. My lead in the points classification has increased but we still have ten more stages where anything can happen, so we need to fight every day." - Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion

"It was a really hard stage today and a lot of guys were in trouble. I feel sorry for Rafał, because he simply cannot show his class in the mountains after his crashes in Roubaix. This is a big setback for us, but it’s part of the game. We now need to refocus, there are still a lot of chances to come and with Peter, we are now in a very good position for green, he did again everything perfect today." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

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