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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, July 21, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. - Lao Tzu

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:


Tour de France stage 13 reports

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

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

It takes a special kind of rider to find the legs to win a stage after three excruciatingly difficult days in the mountains, but the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, is that kind of rider. Taking the win in a bunch sprint in Valence, the Slovak rider kept his head in a fast finale that showed there were plenty of sprinters still in the race. However, getting that special kind of rider in the right position to win takes a special kind of team, and the BORA-hansgrohe riders worked tirelessly through the day both to reel in the break and to keep Peter in contention in the finale. With a 228 point lead in the points contest, Peter’s win today puts him a step closer to taking the jersey to Paris.

The Stage
Three days in the mountains finally came to an end, and while on yesterday’s profile there were three Hors Catégorie climbs – the hardest the race has to offer – today’s stage didn’t even have three categorised climbs. The 169.5km route would make its way west out of Bourg d’Oisans, through Grenoble and then down to Valence, ascending and descending a third category and fourth category climb, which wouldn’t trouble any but the most exhausted riders. The flat finale meant the faster riders – those that were left after the mountains – would have a chance to fight it out for the win, but as the legs get more tired and the many mountain kilometres are felt, this is the part of the race where the breakaways start to last until the end.

The Team Tactics
Over the past three days, many teams had lost at least one rider as a result of abandonments or missing the time cuts, but with BORA-hansgrohe still showing a full roster of riders, the team was ready to ride hard. The flat finale suggested a sprint finish, but with so many of the fast men now missing, it would be hard to predict how the day was going to end. From the start it would be important to keep an eye on the break, with Marcus Burghardt, Maciej Bodnar, Lukas Pöstlberger, Gregor Mühlberger and Pawel Poljanski to drive the pace in the peloton both to make the catch and to go for the sprint for Peter, with Daniel Oss to assist the UCI World Champion. After a hard few days that saw his form improve, Rafał Majka would be aiming to take it easy in the bunch and concentrate on his recovery, with some climbing still to come in the final week.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan wins a close one.

The Race
While the riders would relish the opportunity to escape on a flat stage, as opposed to the towering terrain of the past three days, the Yellow Jersey’s team would be keeping a close eye on the riders looking to make the break to prevent any of their rivals taking advantage of the easier profile today. A group of four was eventually able to make their move and built up an advantage on the peloton of a little more than three minutes – the peloton really not giving them a chance today. With the pace being much faster on the flat roads, the kilometres were ticking by quickly, and with the intermediate sprint out of the way, where the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, took third from the bunch, the pace rose sharply.

While the break had high hopes at the start, by the time the race hit its last 25km, only one escapee was left, with it only a matter of time until the catch was made, with the Austrian National Champion, Lukas Pöstlberger, working tirelessly to reduce the gap and make the catch. With 5.5km left, it was all back together, and it was here the peloton would find out who was going to step up and go for the sprint with so few of the original field remaining. The roads narrowed dramatically in the streets of Valence and it was hard to find position with some tight turns. An attack from 1km out shook up the bunch but Peter kept his head, reeling in the attack before calmly starting his sprint before lunging for the line to take his third stage win of this year’s Tour de France.

From the Finish Line
"This is a fantastic victory. I'm so happy to have won, it was something very good for me, personally. Once again, I have to thank my teammates for their dedication and work. It was a flat stage after the tough mountains, so everybody recovered a little bit in the group. I think they all seemed happy to stay in the bunch and go through a more relaxed stage. My timing in the sprint might now seem perfect but I think I was probably a little bit late. I was a bit behind with 600 meters to go and on the last climb, I tried to bring myself to the front. I then stayed on the wheel of Kristoff and I'm very happy to have beaten them. However, the Tour de France is far from over. We have to make sure we stay out of trouble, we get to Paris healthy and we cross the finish line on the Champs-Elysées." – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion

"The size of the break was perfect today, but it looked as if they didn’t really want to be up there and tried to save as much energy as possible. That’s why we started working with Lukas, to push them a little. In the end, the team did a perfect job once again. Burgi made the last 3km really fast. In addition, Gilbert's late attack didn’t change anything for the lead-out. In the home straight, Peter‘s timing was perfect today, and he was also on the covered side as the wind was coming from the right, back side. Summing up, it was a perfect day for BORA-hansgrohe." – Patxi Vila, Sports Director 

Here's what GC leader Geraint Thomas' Team Sky had to say about the day's racing:

Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome retained their one-two overall at the Tour de France following a safe passage through stage 13. The duo were well protected by their Team Sky teammates across a largely flat 169.5-kilometre test for the sprinters.

With sprint teams happy to take up the running it was a good chance to recoup energy for the team following three consecutive tough mountain stages in the Alps.

The team arrived at the front on the final run into Valence, setting a tempo and ensuring both Thomas and Froome were delivered to the three-kilometre mark, ensuring no time loss on the run-in.

With a bunch sprint ensuring the general classification went unchanged, Thomas holds an advantage of one minute and 39 seconds over Froome heading into the weekend.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas retained his GC lead.

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) showed his class once again to claim a third stage victory of the race thus far, holding off Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) and Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ).

Earlier there was a battle to make the break, with Michal Kwiatkowski helping to cover some moves. The peloton were eventually happy to let four riders go clear on the road out of Bourg d’Oisans, with Michael Schar (BMC Racing) the final escapee to be caught with 6km to go.

After the stage Thomas admitted he was happy to come through the day without issue. He explained: "It was a fast day on fast roads but I think the whole peloton enjoyed an easier day after the last few days we've had. It was a sketchy little final again as always and I'm happy to get that one out of the way. The boys kept me right up there with Froomey. It was just a case of avoiding any mishaps. Job done.

"Tomorrow it's a tough finish - I've done it a few times. I think potentially it could be a breakaway day so I think it's going to be a hard start. Obviously we're going to race the climb whatever happens. It's a challenging final."

Second-place Alexander Kristoff's UAE-Team Emirates sent me this report:

UAE Team Emirates set off amongst a depleted peloton of 154 riders for Stage 13 today, taking on a flat 169.5km route from Bourg d’Oisans to Valence. It was a day for the sprinters – who had survived the Alps – to demonstrate their power, and a day for the GC contenders to stay safe and minimise any time loss. Alexander Kristoff did the team jersey proud with a powerful sprint into the wind that earned him a respectable second place finish.

The race unfolded as expected with a breakaway forming after 22kms and being allowed to stretch its lead to 2:20” before gradually being reeled in. Leading the chase was UAE Team Emirates who controlled the peloton by taking on over 35% of the workload from the 70km-90km mark. Alexander Kristoff used the team’s efforts to snatch 11 more green jersey points as he contested the intermediate sprint at Saint Quentin Sur Isere, winning the battle, but crossing the line fifth behind the four-man breakaway.

The European Champion continued to fight until the end, ensuring he was in good position for a technical run into the finish line. With 5.6kms to go the final breakaway rider was absorbed into the peloton, the pace increased and the sprint trains began to form. Kristoff saw the moves and sprang into action, bullying his way to the front of the pack. With 200m to go he illuminated the race by forcing a three-way sprint with Arnaud Demare (Groupama FDJ) and Peter Sagan (BORA-Hansgrohe). Kristoff timed his attack to perfection but narrowly missed out on first place by a matter of inches after the World Champion Sagan came round him to cross the line first in 3:45:55.

Commenting on his sprint finish Alexander Kristoff said: “I had a good finish, but unfortunately it was not enough. I tried to keep Sagan behind me, but he’s an unbelievable guy. He’s beaten me like this before and did it again today so I am of course disappointed. I timed my attack perfectly and kept my pace until the finish line, but he [Sagan] was just faster.“

UAE Team Emirates leader, Dan Martin, crossed the line safely with no time loss and has now moved up into 9thposition in the overall standings. Looking ahead to tomorrow’s stage, Dan Martin said: “After two weeks of racing tomorrow will be hard, but we’re going to give it a go. It’s always really hot in that area, which suits me as well. That said, I don’t think the GC guys will be racing for the stage win tomorrow. I think it’ll be one for the breakaway.”

Stage 14 sees the peloton ride from Saint Paul Trois Chateaux to Mende – a 188km hilly route that features four categorized climbs. The final 3km climb leads up to the finish and averages 10%, which will be a punishing finale for the puncheurs looking to take stage glory.

BMC sent me this update:

20 July, 2018, Valence (FRA): Michael Schär spent the day in the breakaway on Tour de France stage 13 before attacking solo in the closing kilometers of the stage to secure the elusive red number of the Most Combative Rider while Greg Van Avermaet was in the mix in the bunch sprint and finished fifth on the line in Valence. 

It was another fast start to the day on stage 13 today with the peloton heading out of Bourg d'Oisans and gently descending towards the base of the Côte de Brié, the first of two categorized climbs both of which were just small bumps in the road in comparison to the previous three days of racing.

A two-rider breakaway initially went clear in the opening kilometers of the day before a second pair, including BMC Racing Team's Schär, reacted to bridge across heading onto the climb after around 30km, of the 169.5km course. However, with the remaining sprinters' teams looking for an opportunity to set up their leaders in the finale of the stage, the gap to Schär and his fellow leaders was kept under tight control and at the halfway mark, the deficit stood at around two minutes.

Approaching the 60km to go mark and the beginning of the Côte de Sainte-Eulalie-en-Royans, the gap fell quickly to under one minute with the peloton picking up the pace behind Schär, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Thomas Scully (EF-Education First - Drapac p/b Cannondale) and Dimitri Claeys (Cofidis).

Schär continued to push on as part of the breakaway going into closing kilometers with the advantage holding steady at around one minute before a more determined chase, intensified by the threat of crosswinds, saw the gap fall to inside 30 seconds. It was at this point that the Swiss rider decided to try his luck and attacked off the front of the race to go solo and extend his lead over the rest of the field back out to 50 seconds with 20km to go.

Approaching the 10km to go mark, Schär was digging deep 30 seconds ahead of the peloton and his strength was evident as he was able to hold them off until inside the final 6km.

Despite a technical run into the finish and an uphill drag to the line, the bunch was all together, albeit strung out, when the sprint was launched. Van Avermaet stayed well-positioned when the finish line came into view and he eventually secured his fifth top ten finish of the Tour de France so far by powering to fifth on the line behind Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe).

Schär's impressive effort saw him step onto the Tour de France podium at the end of day after being awarded the prize for the Most Combative Rider of the stage.

Quotes From the Finish Line:

Michael Schär:
"I gave it my all. I really tried today. I planned to go in the breakaway this morning and then we went out for as long as possible. My other three breakaway companions were not so sure about it and it didn't help that we had a breakaway specialist like De Gendt with us as the bunch didn't give us any time. They gave us two minutes and with that you don't have anything to play with so, I really tried everything."

"I was hoping that it would be tricky in the city and that there would be a lot of corners as then you have a little bit of an advantage on your own. The bunch needs to brake the same as you so, I was hoping for that but it didn't arrive and it was just a massive stretch of big roads with a lot of wind and at the end, I thought the wind was coming from everywhere."

"I kept on believing. It was difficult with the sprinters' teams but you never know and I told myself that there is always a chance. If you never give up maybe one day it works out. It is definitely cool to have the red number. It is something honorable and even when I came back into the bunch some of the guys were already saying congrats on the ride so, that was also something cool."

Greg Van Avermaet:
"It was a good stage for us. It was great to see Michi in a breakaway and winning the Most Combative Rider prize. I am really happy for him that he is on the podium. He fully deserves it after a lot of hard work in the first week. We also saw how strong he is as he could stay in front of the peloton for a long time."

"In the end, I just gave it a try. It was an uphill finish and I'm pretty good at those so I was happy that I could get in position and keep it to the line. It is always good to go with the race. We had a good first week and I think now it will be about continuing to try to make results and be at the front like Michi did today."

Sports Director, Fabio Baldato:
"It was nice to see Michi in the breakaway today. It gave a lot of motivation to him and to the team. It was on a little climb that he tried something as you never know what might happen. Maybe the sprinters' teams start to look at each and wait. When you feel like you have the legs it's always good to try."

"Now there are fewer sprinters, there is less fighting to be in position and it was great that at 3km we could be in front. We knew the road was narrow and that there was a little climb until 600m to go that would make it harder for the sprinters. That is why Greg tried and he did it well."

BikeRadar closes US editorial offices

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News sent me this report:

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — BikeRadar.com's publishers, U.K.-based Immediate Media, has closed its U.S. editorial offices, which included three editors who worked in the Boulder area.

"This difficult decision is the result of increased operating costs, exacerbated by negative exchange rates," the publisher said in a statement Wednesday. Immediate said no changes are planned to the North America operations of its other cycling title, Cyclingnews.com.

"We would like to thank the US BikeRadar team for the outstanding work they have produced over the years and wish them well for the future," the statement said. The U.S. editorial offices include U.S. editor-in-chief Ben Delaney, tech editor Josh Patterson and tech writer Russell Eich.

Delaney, a former VeloNews and Bicycle Retailer editor, told BRAIN, "I'm grateful for the opportunity I had with BikeRadar and the broader Immediate team. I had fun and learned a lot, especially on the video front. For a guy who went to school for 'print journalism,' it was exciting to learn to work on YouTube. Times are hard and getting harder in the cycling media world, but I am eager for what's next. Beats me what that is, though! I wish the BikeRadar crew all the best."

You can read the entire story here.

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