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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, July 28, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I've seen a look in dogs' eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts. - John Steinbeck

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Tour de France Stage 19 reports

We posted the organizer's stage 19 report with the stage results.

Here's the report from stage winner Primoz Roglic's LottoNL-Jumbo team:

Primoz Roglic has won the final mountain stage in the Tour de France in an impressive way. In the spectacular Pyrenees stage, Roglic made his decisive move during the descent of the Col du Aubisque and won the queen stage in the Tour for the second consecutive year. Because of his stage victory, Roglic climbed to the third place in the general classification. Steven Kruijswijk also did very well. He is now fifth in the standings.

The victory in Laruns is the third stage win for LottoNL-Jumbo in this Tour de France. During the first week, Dylan Groenewegen sprinted to the victory in Chartres and Amiens. For Roglic, who won amongst others the Tour of the Basque Country and the Tour de Romandie earlier this year, it meant his eighth victory of the season. For Team LottoNL-Jumbo it’s the twenty-third win of the season.

Primoz Roglic wins Tour stage 19

Primoz Roglic wins Tour stage nineteen. Sirotti photo

The stage, with mythical climbs along the way such as the Tourmalet and the Aubisque, was a great spectacle. After Team LottoNL-Jumbo's Robert Gesink had kept the breakaway under control, Steven Kruijswijk launched the attack on the Col du Soulor. Both Kruijswijk and Roglic attacked several times, but only in the technical descent Roglic was able to ride away from his rivals.

“I’m very happy with this victory”, Roglic said. “It’s a special feeling to win again in the Tour de France after my stage win last year. This can’t be described in words. It’s just perfect. I felt very good and made optimal use of it. Steven and I kept attacking. In the descent, when I saw that nobody followed me, I just went full throttle. The team was very strong today and I want to thank the team for their efforts. Without my team mates it would have never been possible to win here. I’m already looking forward to the time trial. I’ll do my best to keep my podium position and who knows what else we can do.”

Steven Kruijswijk climbed to the fifth place in the general classification. “It’s a beautiful day. It was a very tough stage, but as a team, we played it perfectly. Primoz was very strong today and Robert has also done a tremendous job to decrease the gap to the breakaway. The plan was that I would attack at the ascent of the Soulor and see how they would react. Just before the top, Primoz came back. We both tried it a few times. I’m glad he finished it off in a superb way. We’ve won the stage and we’re now third and fifth overall. We can hardly do any better.”

Here's the stage nineteen report from race leader Geraint Thomas' Team Sky:

Geraint Thomas took a giant step towards victory at the Tour de France after securing a strong second place on stage 19. The Welshman sprinted for the line in Laruns and pocketed six bonus seconds on the final day in the mountains, extending his overall advantage to two minutes and five seconds, with only Saturday’s time trial standing between him and Paris.

Thomas stood firm in the face of multiple attacks on the Col d’Aubisque and comfortably reacted to accelerations from rivals Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo). Only Roglic was able to open up a 19-second gap on the final descent, taking the stage victory and moving himself up onto the overall podium.

Chris Froome finished alongside teammate Thomas, eighth on the stage in an elite GC group. The four-time Tour winner slipped to fourth on the day but remains just 13 seconds off a podium finish with a 31km time trial set to prove decisive.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas descends the Aubisque

After the stage Thomas admitted he was relieved to put the mountains behind him and paid tribute to the team who rode well despite intense pressure in the Pyrenees. He said: “I’m really happy to get through that. We expected a hard day but the racing was really on. It was quite stressful at one point when Landa went so early and took a lot of time with Bardet. LottoNL-Jumbo rode hard and it was on all day.

“It was a quite a fast descent so it was nice to get through that in one piece. I knew all I had to do was follow Tom Dumoulin as I knew he’d be chasing Roglic. It was all under control and the guys rode really well. (Sport Director) Nico (Portal) was really good on the radio and kept us calm. I’m really happy to tick that off.

“It’s obviously getting closer. One more day and I need to do a good TT now. I’ve got a nice advantage but I’ve still got to be on the ball. It’s never comfortable.”

Froome was full of praise for his teammate on what he described as a massive day. He said: "That was a massive day today. I’m glad we got through it and G had the legs to follow the main guys up there in the final. I was yo-yoing off the back and just managed to hold onto that front group with the help of Egan in the final. The biggest priority right now is to make sure the yellow jersey stays on G’s shoulders and the podium spot would be a bonus for me, but the main thing is we win the race overall."

Egan Bernal rode brilliantly again on the Tour's final mountain test and Froome sung the young Colombian's praises. "This is the first time I’ve ridden with Egan," he continued, "and it’s clear for everyone to see he’s got a massive future ahead of him. He’s an extraordinary talent and a really down to earth, humble, polite kid."

And Froome spoke of his pride at Thomas' performance. "I’m really proud of G. We’ve been together for years now. He was in yellow last year in the Tour but crashed out, so for him to come back this year and to have seen it as far as he has now, to be going into the penultimate stage with a two-minute lead on Dumoulin… It’s really special to have been a part of G's journey, a part of this year’s edition and, hopefully, this year’s victory."

After the Tour Froome is expecting a second child with his wife Michelle, and will then make a decision on what the rest of his season could look like."First things first, hopefully I make it home in time for the birth of my daughter in the next few days. Hopefully she can wait until I get home on Monday morning - or Sunday night even! - and I’ll take one day at a time after that."

Team Sky put in a solid performance across 200.5km and six categorised climbs to put Thomas in the best possible position, remaining cool in the face of pressure. Luke Rowe kicked things off, setting a tempo with Wout Poels and Jonathan Castroviejo getting through big shifts as the Tourmalet with ticked off.

Michal Kwiatkowski turned the screw as the gap to a dangerous move including Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) began to tumble. Bernal once again put in an impressive ride, helping to bridge Froome back to the leaders before setting a tempo on the final climb.

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

It was a day when the BORA-hansgrohe squad showed what has brought it so much success in this Tour de France – teamwork. The same teamwork that brought the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, his three victories in the race, brought the Slovak rider over today’s hard Hors Catégorie climbs safely while he recovers from injuries sustained earlier in the week, with Maciej Bodnar and Daniel Oss riding to bring the Maillot Vert wearer to the finish. That teamwork also brought Rafał Majka into a strong position in the day’s breakaway, with Lukas Pöstlberger and Marcus Burghardt jumping in the early break. After a day out in front, Rafał was still capable of fighting among the GC favourites with fresher legs than him to take fifth on the stage. Only an Individual Time Trial stands between the riders and the traditional procession into Paris on Sunday.

The Stage
The last – and potentially most important – proper road stage for the GC riders would also be the most difficult. Starting in the holy town of Lourdes, some of the riders would be asking for some divine intervention to get through the day. This 200.5km monster of a stage featured six categorised climbs – two of which were Hors Catégorie – with the others being a mixture of short and sharp or long and draining. Dominating the profile, the Col du Tourmalet would be the day’s hardest climb, with its average gradient of 7.3% and 17.1km length, starting gently before throwing riders into gradients of up to 10%. However, coming a little before the midway point, the Tourmalet could be too early to do anything other than tire out the riders, and with the second category Col des Bordères just before the final HC climb – the Col d’Aubisque – there could be a late attack here ahead of the descent to the finish in Laruns.

The Team Tactics
On what some would regard as the Queen Stage, and without doubt one of the hardest stages of the Tour de France, the stage would be made all the more difficult by all of the GC teams wanting to get one of their riders in the break. It would be difficult, but the aim would be to work to enable Rafał Majka the opportunity to escape and then to take the chances that came his way. For Peter Sagan, the aim would again be to get through the day. This difficult stage would be draining on many riders in the peloton – not just the UCI World Champion – and the BORA-hansgrohe team would be working with him to pace him over the big climbs and provide moral support as he recovered from the heavy injuries he sustained on stage 17.

The Race
The peloton was keeping a close eye on who it was going to allow to escape today, but in spite of this, the Austrian National Champion, Lukas Pöstlberger, and two others managed to sneak away almost from the drop of the flag. The peloton reacted to try and draw them back in, but in doing so allowed other riders to make their move and bridge to the break, while also splitting the bunch itself, resulting in three groups on the road in front of the peloton. Two BORA-hangrohe riders – Lukas and Marcus Burghardt – were ahead, and were soon joined by Rafał Majka, who pushed hard with two others to bridge over to the escape. At this stage, the gap between the front and the peloton was more than five minutes, and on this pivotal stage, this substantial advantage couldn’t be allowed to stand and the GC teams worked to bring it down. Staying at the front, Rafał reached the summit of the Col du Tourmalet in good shape and looked confident as the race neared the Col d’Aubisque – the last categorised climb of the race.

The mountain mist drew in, and as the Maillot Jaune group worked to bring in the break, 2.5km ahead of the summit of the Col d’Aubisque, Rafał attacked, holding off the GC leaders just a little longer, but they were pushing too hard to allow the Polish rider to stay out in front on the downhill. However, this didn’t stop him fighting it out in the finale, taking fifth on the line. In the grupetto, Daniel Oss and Maciej Bodnar sacrificed themselves for the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, ensuring he stayed within the time limit, ready to ride another day.

From the Finish Line
"Today, once again we had a really hard stage. I felt well and I tried again. My legs have been recovering during the last week and I have been attacking a lot and did my best. It’s a pity I missed the win today, but I am also happy about my condition. Today, I was back at my best. In addition to the crashes in the first week, I think the pressure I put on myself for the GC could have been a bit too much. I'd like to thank my teammates for the support they provided and we have Vuelta coming, where we will be with a good squad." – Rafał Majka

"It was probably one of the most painful and difficult days I have ever had in my cycling career. The injuries and the heat made this last mountain stage of the Tour de France seem never ending! I couldn't have abandoned though, we are so close to Paris, it wouldn't have been fair to me and the rest of the team. I had to fight. I'd like to thank all my teammates for their sacrifice today, for being there with me all 200km of the stage. This is what teamwork is about!" – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion

"It was really close today in the end for Rafał, we hoped for the win, but even if we didn’t take it, there is nothing we could have done any better. I am very proud of all the boys today. Rafał was really focused, and he almost got it. But Lotto-Jumbo was really strong, and without their move, Rafał would have been the winner. But that’s cycling, they played their cards well and deserved to win. Still, it was good to see Rafał back at his best. In the back, it was a real battle for Peter to survive. He took on the fight, made it to the finish, and this feels like a victory today because Peter was in an awful condition. All our guys supported him, and I think we showed great team spirit." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

Here's BMC's stage nineteen report:

27 July, 2018, Laruns (FRA): Damiano Caruso was BMC Racing Team's first rider across the line in Laruns today after a tough final stage in the mountains at this year's Tour de France.

It was the last big day of climbing on stage 19 today with the riders tackling a challenging 200.5km course that featured six categorized climbs, including the hors catégorie Col du Tourmalet and Col d'Aubisque.

Ahead of the Côte de Loupcru, the top of which came after just 7km of racing, three riders went on the attack and were able to open up a one-minute advantage as the peloton continued to race hard behind with various riders trying to bridge across. Eventually, 35km into the stage, the peloton sat up and allowed the gap to rise to over five minutes on the second category four climb, the Côte de Capvern-les-Bains, while two six-rider chasing groups joined forces just one minute behind the leaders.

The now 18-rider breakaway was hovering over three minutes ahead of the main bunch on the early slopes of the category one Col d'Aspin but at the summit of the 12km long climb, the group had shrunk.

After a fast descent, the 12 remaining leaders had edged their advantage back out to four minutes but on the Col du Tourmalet, which at 17.1km long had an average gradient of 7.3%, the reduced main bunch soon began to pick up the pace as the first battle of the General Classification contenders began. Caruso and Tejay van Garderen were still in the yellow jersey group at the top of the climb approaching 90km to go with the six remaining leaders from the breakaway 2'50" ahead and another six-rider chasing group closing in on them. 

With 50km to go, on the category two Col de Bordères which led into the Col d'Aubisque, the gap between the two groups was 3'10" and as the chase started to heat up, Caruso and van Garderen were both able to stick with the initial increase in pace at the front of the yellow jersey group. However, a long day of climbing soon began to take its toll and on the 16.6km long climb, the top of which came with 20km to go, it was only Caruso who remained in what was left of the main bunch but in the end, he lost contact as more attacks started heading into the final 30km of the stage.

Caruso continued to ride his own tempo as the yellow jersey group made contact with Rafal Majka (BORA-hansgrohe), the last rider out in front, on the final descent towards the finish line before Primoz Roglic (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) took a solo stage win ahead of race leader, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale).

The Italian rider was first across the line for BMC Racing Team, finishing just outside the top twenty in 21st place, around seven minutes behind the stage winner while, van Garderen also rode his own race in the closing kilometers of the stage to finish 25th.

Quotes From the Finish Line:

Damiano Caruso:
"I felt good today. But at the end, the tempo was so high that I couldn't follow. However, for me, it was a normal day. I tried to test myself in the third week. But it was hard and at the end, I am happy that Paris is around the corner as I am ready to rest a little. For me, the time trial is not a priority. Instead, I am looking forward to Sunday and riding onto the Champs-Élysées. It's always a nice experience."

Sports Director, Fabio Baldato:
"It was really hard today as it was on all of the Pyrenees stages. Today was really a battle of the GC riders with all of them at the front. We tried to get in the breakaway at the beginning but then, we decided it would be better to stay with the bunch. The race was tough so, we wanted to try and hold the wheel of the strongest guys. Tejay and Damiano did the best they could and at the end, I don't think we could have had a better result. Damiano finished with just 20 riders ahead of him and he was there right until the end."

"Tomorrow's time trial is pretty hard. Of course, with Stefan, who is our specialist, and maybe even Tejay, we can try to do well. But, we will see. We have to try and recover as well as possible after a hard stage like today."

Lotto-Soudal previews the RideLondon-Surrey Classic

The team sent me this news:

Sunday 29 July, Lotto Soudal will be at the start of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic. Although being labelled as a Classic, it is only the seventh edition of this WorldTour race. It was first organised in 2011 as a test event for the Olympic Games of London 2012 but has now become one of the biggest one-day races in Great-Britain. Last year, Alexander Kristoff took the victory as he outsprinted Magnus Cort Nielsen and Michael Matthews.

Alexaner Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff wins the 2017 RideLondon-Surrey

The 183 kilometres long course is similar to the Olympic road race of 2012. After the start in St James’s Park, the riders will leave central London and head for the county of Surrey, where the hillier part of the race is situated. After the last official climb of the day, the 2.5 kilometres long Box Hill, still more than 50 kilometres remain till the finish. So, it will be hard for a breakaway to battle for the victory, but Adam Blythe and Jean-Pierre Drucker, both previous winners of the London Classic, have already proven that it is certainly not impossible.

When it comes down to a sprint on ‘The Mall’, Lotto Soudal has with André Greipel a possible candidate for the victory. Sports director Mario Aerts sees a free role for the young guns Bjorg Lambrecht and James Shaw, while the other Lotto Soudal riders will mainly support Greipel in the run-up to a possible sprint.

Mario Aerts, sports director at Lotto Soudal: “The London Classic is relatively new which makes it difficult to predict how the race will develop. Some riders told me that it is comparable to the Ardennes Classics, mainly in the middle of the race. After the last official climb, there are still 50 kilometres left till the finish in the city centre.”

“With riders like Bauhaus, Bennett, Modolo, Jakobsen and Viviani at the start, chances for a bunch sprint are quite high. Within our team, André Greipel is of course one of the main favourites for the victory. We will, together with the other sprint teams like Bora-Hansgrohe and Quick-Step, try to control the race. A big breakaway group is likely to form during the hilly part of the race, so we have to be alert. It’s always a good thing to have someone of the team in the break. That way, you don’t have to work at the front of the peloton. Bjorg Lambrecht would be the ideal rider to slip into a break, just like James Shaw, who will be really motivated to race in his home country. The other Lotto Soudal riders will mainly support Greipel during the preparation for a possible sprint.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Lars Bak, André Greipel, Adam Hansen, Moreno Hofland, Bjorg Lambrecht, Nikolas Maes en James Shaw.

Sports director: Mario Aerts.

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