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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, June 17, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven't committed. - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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Tour de Suisse Stage eight team reports

We posted the report from the race leader Richie Porte's BMC team with the results.

Here's the race organizer's stage eight report:

The eighth stage in Bellinzona finished with a massive bunch sprint and the victory for the French national road champion Arnaud Démare (GFC/FRA).

Démare said, “For the first time in the Tour de Suisse the whole peloton reached the finish. It’s a great satisfaction for me to beat all the other sprinters. It makes me even happier to win because this stage race is a major indicator for the Tour de France.”

Démare launched his sprint from Fernando Gaviria’s (QST/COL) wheel. In this year’s edition of the pavé-classic Paris-Roubaix, 26 year-old Démare had an off-day with a 61st place as result. One week later, the French rider celebrated something that nobody can take away from him: he got married. “That’s my biggest triumph!” the Frenchman tweeted back then. The win in Bellinzona is his second stage victory at the Tour de Suisse, after winning stage 4 in 2013 (Innertkirchen - Buochs). His palmares now totals 49 victories, including Milano-Sanremo (2016) and the fourth stage at the Tour de France 2017.

Peter Sagan (BOH/SVK) didn’t manage to add another win to his record amount of 16 stage victories in the TdS. The three-time road world champion wasn’t well positioned to launch his sprint. “It’s like playing a game. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t,” said the man who’s always surrounded by a huge amount of fans. The consolation prize for finishing fourth in Bellinzona was a seventh overall win in the points classification (Search.ch) of the Tour de Suisse.

Arnaud Demare

Arnaud Démare wins stage eight.

The loop of 123,8 km around Bellinzona might be considered as a training ride for the best riders in the general classification but race leader Richie Porte (BMC/AUS) didn’t agree: “It was quite hectic out there and it caused a lot of stress.” What still separates the Australian rider from the overall victory are the 34 km of the individual time trial on Sunday. For Porte, this overall victory would be like a dream coming true. “After Phil Anderson, I would become the second Australian rider to win here. As a child I watched his achievements on TV and dreamed that one day I would be successful like him.”

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

Having spent the past three days in the mountains and with one road stage left on which to contest the win, the sprinters took centre stage today, eager to make their mark after what had been a slow three days for them in the grupetto. On a shorter stage that took place on a circuit ridden six times, speeds were high from the drop of the flag, setting the tone for a fast and furious stage. The UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was brought to the finish by his BORA-hansgrohe teammates, but while he had the power, the Slovak rider was just unable to take the win, taking fourth on the line. This top five finish gave Peter the points he needed to retake the Tour de Suisse black jersey as the race enters its final day.

The Stage
The final road stage of this year’s Tour de Suisse had an altogether different character from the previous days in the mountains. While the terrain was gently undulating, there were no categorised climbs over the entire profile, making for some fast speeds on the 123.8km route. What the stage lacked in climbing, which took place on a 21.5km circuit of Bellinzona ridden six times, was more than made up for in technicality, with the racing taking place over a mix of wide open roads and narrow city streets – the latter meaning street furniture, roundabouts, and tight turns, which could catch out an unwary rider. The finale, while flat, was narrow, and while there was every chance of a bunch sprint finish, riders would have to make sure they were positioned well in order not to be caught against the barriers when the sprinters kicked.

The Team Tactics
The sawtooth profile may have looked difficult on paper, but the shorter length of the stage meant that the climbs were not as tough as they appeared, while the circuit setup meant the team would be able to check out the final kilometres as the day progressed. Speeds would be much faster today and the flat finale and predicted bunch sprint would see the BORA-hansgrohe riders controlling the pace in the final 50km to draw in any break that had formed, before working to keep the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, safe in the closing kilometres in order to contest the sprint.

The Race
After today, there was only a time trial to go before the Tour de Suisse came to an end, and this meant only one thing – this was the last chance for riders to take a stage win. As expected, at the drop of the flag there was a flurry of activity to try and get in the breakaway, and while the break was nowhere near as big as on yesterday’s stage, a committed group of four made their move and quickly built up an advantage. With so much at stake today, the peloton didn’t allow the escapees even two minutes’ advantage, and as the riders reached the final lap, their lead was less than a minute. On the front, Juraj Sagan and the German national champion, Marcus Burghardt, kept the break in check, catching with a little under 10km remaining. It was here that Daniel Oss took over on the front as the sprint train for the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, formed behind as the stage came closer to its conclusion. Four men back as the sprinters kicked, the Slovak rider’s bike was squirming under the sheer power he was putting into the pedals, but just missing the win, Peter took fourth on the line, and the points put him back into the race’s black jersey.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan will start stage nine in black.

From the Finish Line
"I think we did everything we could do today. Once again, my teammates were fantastic from start to finish and pulled hard all day to keep the race under control. In the sprint, I finished fourth and while, of course, a victory would have been nice, it was too difficult. Quite often, these sprints are much more complicated than how they look. I'm satisfied with my form right now and I'll keep working hard for the coming races." – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion

"In this last road stage of the Tour de Suisse, the plan was to work for Peter. Our guys did an excellent job right from the start since we had to have a tight control over the race and make sure Peter was safely brought into a very good position for the expected bunch sprint. We controlled the break very well, we didn't allow them to build too much of an advantage and in the final kilometres, our lead-out was very good. I think Peter was strong and had the legs today but Démare had an advantage that was too difficult to close. Overall, I think we can be satisfied with the shape of our riders after eight stages in Switzerland and we can look forward to the Tour de France." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

Mitchelton-Scott reports on final stage of the U23 Giro d'Italia

The team sent me this:

Australian Rob Stannard produced an outstanding time trial to win the final stage of the 2018 Giro d’Italia U23 and climb his way into third place overall for Chinese Continental team Mitchelton-BikeExchange whilst also winning the points classification.

Today’s final day of racing was split into two with a short road stage in the morning followed by a challenging individual time trial in the afternoon. Despite a huge crash wiping out a big chunk of the peloton on the road stage, Stannard managed to avoid the chaos to finish in the front group and ensure he got a good start in the TT.

The format of the time trial was more of a chase with the race leaders setting off first and everyone else following in running order of the GC, similar to a grid start seen in Formula one.

The time to beat was set by Italian Edoardo Affini (SEG-Racing-Academy) and his time held until U23 World TT Champion Mikkel Bjerg (Hagens-Berman-Axeon) broke 30minutes to move into the hot seat.

As the overall contenders started their efforts the tension mounted with all at stake and it was Stannard who produced the standout ride to win the stage and move into third place overall behind race winner Aleksandr Vlasov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) to conclude a successful Giro for the Chinese outfit.

Ten days of spectacular racing and team spirit:
A tough ten days of racing produced fireworks and surprises on nearly every stage with tough terrain and strong competition vying for the top spots. Australian track specialist Callum Scotson was forced to abandon early on due to sickness and Mitchelton-BikeExchange were down to five.

The team remained positive and new signing Drew Morey, Colombian climber Brayan Chaves and Briton Jacob Hennessy rode strongly and intelligently throughout in support of Sam Jenner and Stannard. With top ten finishes on all but one stage, it was a highly consistent week for the team and capped beautifully by a final stage win, the red point's jersey and third overall.

Suffering the effects of a crash on the penultimate stage Chaves did not start the final day and watched on by the roadside, supporting his teammates before heading back to Colombia next week for a period of recovery after a positive first spell of European racing.

Rob Stannard:
“I am really happy with how it went today, I was seventh at the start of the time trial and to have won the stage and also gained enough time to make the podium and hold on to the point's jersey is fantastic."

“The team have been great throughout the race and everyone really worked hard for each other and we also showed a lot of trust in each other. I’ve shown in this race that I can climb with the best and if it wasn’t for the one bad day on stage four I could have finished even higher.

“After such a long and tough ten days, it’s great to get the stage win on the last day, I was so tired, and the final climb felt like it would never end, but it couldn’t have ended better.”

Sport director James Victor:
“Rob has been so consistent throughout the Giro and the red point's jersey is the perfect testament to that. There was only one day when he lost time and he bounced back immediately. He rode a near faultless time trial today and it may have taken until the last day, but we got that stage win.”

“All of the guys have ridden well and shown great commitment to the team and to each other, they have all learned a lot from the experience and can take many positives away from the race. I am really satisfied with how it’s finished, we set our goals coming in and to achieve them at such a high level and challenging race is excellent.”

Giro d’Italia U23 stage 9 results:

1. Rob Stannard (Mitchelton-BikeExchange) 00:29:25
2. Joao Almeida (Hagens-Berman-Axeon) +0:11
3. Mikkel Bjerg (Hagens-Berman-Axeon) +0:31

Final general classification:

1. Aleksandr Vlasov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) 29:57:42
2. Joao Almeida (Hagens-Berman-Axeon) +0:46
3. Rob Stannard (Mitchelton-BikeExchange) +0:52

Primoz Roglic wins fourth stage and takes lead in Tour of Slovenia

LottoNL-Jumbo sent me this:

Primoz Roglic has won the fourth stage of the Tour of Slovenia. As a result, the 28-year-old Slovene also took the lead in the general classification. He’s now 32 seconds ahead of the number two, Rigoberto Uran.

Roglic, who’ll start in the Tour de France for the second time in his career, crossed the finish line first after a long solo. It meant his fifth victory of the season and the 17th for the team. Last year Roglic won the prestigious Tour de France stage over the Col du Galibier.

“I felt better than yesterday”, the Slovenian captain of Team LottoNL-Jumbo said afterwards. “The whole team was well positioned at every ascent. I knew that I had to go to the foot of the last climb to really make a difference and that went well. It feels great to win the queen stage in front of these great supporters. It’s almost unbelievable. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s final time trial”, said Roglic, who will be the last rider to start.

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