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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, March 5, 2018

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Paris-Nice stage one team reports

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this update:

Patrick Konrad takes 7th place and Felix Großschartner leads the young rider classification after stage one at Paris – Nice.

In the expected frantic final, BORA – hansgrohe works perfectly to position Konrad and Großschartner for the last uphill stretch. A. Demare takes the sprint of a diminished bunch, while Patrick Konrad crossed the line in 7th place and Felix Großschartner in 15th, also leads the young rider classification.

The Stage
On wet roads, a frantic opening stage was expected. With just 135 kilometers from Chartou to Meudon, it was clear that attacks would fly from the beginning. As the final 1.5 km were uphill, also the GC riders had to be very concentrated, and the fight for seconds was on from the first day.

The Team Tactics
For BORA – hansgrohe the Austrian Patrick Konrad is the leader for this week’s “race to the sun”. Therefore, all other team members had to protect Patrick in this tricky opener, to secure his GC ambitions. Only exception was Felix Großschartner, another young Austrian climber, who was given some freedom for this race. Also well known as a punchy rider, Konrad probably had the best chances of the team to go for a good result today.

The Race
Just 3k into the race, a group of 3 riders went up to road. First their gap grew fast, but as soon as the first teams started to take control in the bunch, the breakaway was held on a leash at around three minutes. While most of the work in the bunch was done from Quickstep and Groupama-FDJ, on the last 30k the gap came done very fast. Some crashes happened in the bunch and T. Van Garderen had to abandon the race. BORA – hansgrohe stayed out of contention and stuck to plan, as all guys moved up front with 15k to go. The break was caught going into the last 10k and everything was set for a thrilling uphill sprint. Michael Schwarzmann was still with Patrick Konrad on the foot of the final uphill stretch. A late attack from A. Vuillermoz didn’t lead to success and A. Demare took a very close sprint victory. Patrick Konrad was a little blocked on the home straight, but still crossed the line in strong 7th place, while Felix Großschartner took 15th and also leads now the young rider classification. 

Arnaud Demare

Arnaud Demare (center) gets the photo-finish win.

From the Finish Line
“Unbelievable! My first leader’s jersey at a WorldTour race, I still can’t believe it. During the stage I didn’t feel really good. After the last training block, I took some time off and it took a while to get the engine going again today. In the end the team did a great job, Juraj (Sagan) and Pawel (Poljanski) hit the front with us early enough, but unfortunately, I lost their wheel then. I just could avoid a crash and closed on the first group on the foot of the last climb. Then I managed to stay there until the end. This is a moment to remember for me. I am in good shape and we’ll see how long I can keep the jersey now.”  – Felix Großschartner

“The final was frantic as expected. Our team did a stellar job, especially Schwarzi (Schwarzmann) was still with me at the foot of the climb. Everything worked out as planned. But then I was blocked on the left side on the last 500m. I already started my sprint, but had to hit the brakes again, I lost all momentum and it was really painful to accelerate again. With this 7th placed I can be satisfied, my legs are good and I didn’t lose any time like some other GC riders. That’s most important.” – Patrick Konrad 

BMC sent me this bad news about Tejay van Garderen:

4 March, 2018, Meudon (FRA): Tejay van Garderen was involved in two crashes on the opening day of Paris-Nice which saw the American forced to withdraw from racing.

Van Garderen initially crashed with a handful of riders on the wet roads, but it was a second crash into another team car that caused his injuries.

BMC Racing Team doctor, Dr. Michel Cerfontaine said van Garderen was fortunate to escape without any fractures. "Tejay van Garderen crashed with about 35km to go and was immediately taken to hospital for observation. X-rays revealed a cervical sprain but fortunately no fractures or concussion. He has some abrasions on his forehead and left hip. Normally, Tejay can start training in 3-4 days and in one week, he will have another X-ray to determine how the sprain is healing. We will continue to monitor his progress over the coming days," Dr. Cerfontaine said.

Van Garderen is disappointed to crash out on stage one of Paris-Nice, where he had General Classification aspirations. "The initial crash wasn't so bad. It was on a wide road when everyone was fighting for position and my tire was caught on a lip. The roads were wet and my wheel slipped out. I was able to get back up, and get going but I had trouble putting my chain back on and I noticed other damage with my gears and a puncture, so I thought I would have to change bikes. I was looking down to see what the damage was and next thing I knew I was on the ground as I had crashed into the back of a team car that had stopped on the road. I don't know if anyone was at fault as they had stopped for their rider," van Garderen explained.

"I had the wind knocked out of me and I couldn't breathe. I also had pain in my upper back and neck so I couldn't really sit up. When the medics arrived and saw my helmet smashed and that I was having trouble breathing, they put me straight into the ambulance. After a few minutes, I realized it wasn't so bad. The medics went through some concussion protocols and I didn't show any signs of concussion. Fortunately, X-rays showed no fractures.

"It's good to take precautions but in the end, maybe I could have been able to continue. I have pain in my neck and a bit of a headache, but I don't feel nauseous. Above all, I'm really disappointed. I had good form at Volta ao Algarve and I was hoping to be able to capitalize on that. Hopefully, I can get back on the bike soon, keep moving forward and maybe look at the race program to make up for the missed days here. It's only March 4th so there are plenty of races to come." 

Lotto-Soudal sent this report on Dwars Door West-Vlaanderen & Paris - Nice:

Two races were scheduled for Lotto Soudal today: the opening stage of Paris-Nice and Dwars door West-Vlaanderen. The team achieved a good result in both races! Frederik Frison could step on the podium of Dwars door West-Vlaanderen as third, while Tim Wellens got fourth in a thrilling uphill sprint at Paris-Nice.

The opening stage of Paris-Nice was only 135 kilometres long and took the riders from Chatou to Meudon where the finish line was drawn on top of a hill of 1.9 kilometres with an average gradient of 5.4%. The early break (Périchon, Roelandts and Rolland) got reeled in at fifteen kilometres from the finish. Then Lotto Soudal took control of the bunch. Alexis Vuillermoz attacked at the bottom of the climb, but the peloton caught him on time. Arnaud Démare was just a tad faster than Gorka Izagirre in a very close sprint. Christophe Laporte completed the top three, ahead of Tim Wellens.

Tim Wellens: “Yesterday, we did a recon of the last 25 kilometres of this stage. I liked the finish when I saw it. We had seen there was a lot of street furniture in the last kilometres, so the team kept me safe at the front of the peloton. As expected, it was very hectic in the finale. The team did an excellent job for me today!”

“I was riding at the front of the peloton when we started the climb. It was a high pace, but once Vuillermoz had attacked the pace dropped. For a moment it looked like Vuillermoz would make it, but the last 800 metres were very hard. We did catch Vuillermoz before the finish, despite the nice gap he had created. I chose the wheel of Démare, but was pushed away. When we passed by Vuillermoz, I had to hold back for a moment. Maybe I could have set an even better result if I had started my sprint earlier, but it’s always easy to analyse a sprint afterwards. We were all dead beat at the finish. Our team started Paris-Nice very well, we were the only complete team at the front in the finale. Tomorrow we aim for a sprint with André Greipel!”

At Dwars door West-Vlaanderen Boucher, Cataford and Coenen got up to seven minutes advantage, but already before the first of four laps of thirteen kilometres a new front group was established. Frederik Frison closed the gap on his own and then he rode away with Rémi Cavagna and Florian Sénéchal, two Quick-Step riders. Cavagna won the race, ahead of his teammate Sénéchal. Frison finished third, a nice result after all bad luck from last year when the 25-year-old rider had a pelvic fracture and glandular fever which meant he was out for almost the entire year.

Remi Cavagna

Rémi Cavagna wins Dwars Door West-Vlaanderen

Frederik Frison: “I am definitely happy with this third place, although I think more was possible with the legs I had but unfortunately I had two Quick-Step riders with me. They were not stronger, but it’s hard to beat two teammates.”

“Just before entering the local circuit a front group of ten was formed without a Lotto Soudal rider in it. We chased the leaders to keep the gap as small as possible and at the beginning of the first lap I made the jump to the front. The front group had split by that time, which meant I had to catch two groups. I joined Cavagna and Sénéchal when they attacked. That was a difficult moment after the effort I had just done, but we immediately cooperated well. I knew the situation was far from ideal. I wanted to get rid of at least one of them on the cobbles and Cavagna did drop, but Sénéchal didn’t pull and that way Cavagna could return to the front. Then I knew they would attack one after another. When Cavagna had gone solo, it was impossible to close the gap on my own.”

“This third place feels good. After all bad luck from last year I could show that I’m back. I had a good winter and last month I went on an altitude training camp at Sierra Nevada, together with Tiesj Benoot. That turned out well for us both.”

“I am very grateful to the team for keeping their faith in me and for extending my contract by two years despite the difficult times I had in 2017. I wanted to thank the team by doing well this season and this is definitely a good start.”

Floortje Mackaij wins Omloop van de Westhoek

Team Sunweb sent me this report:

After a strong solo ride to the finish, Team Sunweb's Floortje Mackaij (NED) has today secured the victory at Omloop van de Westhoek.

After the race Mackaij said: "I'm really happy with the win today. On the local laps there was a cobbled section with a climb and I saw that every lap the bunch would break here, and then come back together. On the last lap I went full gas on the cobbled climb and I ended up away with three others but then I knew that I needed to give it my all to get away. My legs were burning but I kept going and in the end I could make it to the line to take the win."

Floortje Mackaij

Floortje Mackaij gets the sit-up race win.

Team Sunweb coach Hans Timmermans (NED) added: "Her win today, and other strong performances in races throughout this past week are confirming that Floortje is in top shape. To ride a solo like this when you are one of the pre-race favourites is incredible and really shows how strong she is at this point in the season. It is a great win and a good boost for morale for the upcoming races."  

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