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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

The last thing you want to do is finish playing or doing anything and wish you would have worked harder. - Derek Jeter

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:


Paris-Nice stage three team reports

New GC leader Luis Leon Sanchez's Astana team had this to say:

A strong team performance in the final of today’s Stage 3 at Paris-Nice resulted in the yellow leader jersey for Luis Leon Sanchez. After attacks of Jakob Fuglsang on the final climb, it was Sanchez to take off with two other riders, finishing second behind Jonathan Hivert and taking over the lead from Arnaud Demare.

- First of all I want to say again thank you to the team for the great work they’ve done today, we keep holding this high level from the start of the season. At the final climb we did a good job together with Jakob Fuglsang, we stayed very focused in that moment. Later I saw a possibility for an attack, I thought it was a right moment and tried to use it. I went away with two guys and my first thought was to fight for a stage victory. So, finally it was possible to hold the advantage to the rivals and now I am in the yellow jersey and that’s of course really nice. Tomorrow we will have the first big test in this Paris-Nice. I hope to recover as well as possible after today's effort and to do my best in tomorrow's TT to keep my yellow jersey. Let's see how it works out, - told Luis Leon Sanchez.

It was the longest stage of this year’s Paris-Nice, with 210 kilometers, riding from Bourges to Chatel-Guyon. Right from the start the day’s breakaway went clear from the peloton, creating a large gap of maximum 7.30 minutes. These riders stayed in front of the bunch for a long time, dividing the points at the first intermediate sprint and two 3rd category climbs.

Going into the final local lap, everything was back together, preparing for the challenge at the final climb. Immediately there were fireworks with Jakob Fuglsang and Luis Leon Sanchez attacking in a big group taking an advantage on the peloton with the sprinters. After several attempts of Jakob Fuglsang to launch a smaller leading group, it was Luis Leon Sanchez who attacked and rode to the lone leader Remy di Gregorio, followed by Jonathan Hivert.

Luis Leon Sanchez

Luis Leon Sanchez is the new GC leader. Bettini photo

- I still feel some pain of the crash on the first day, but during this stage it didn’t bothered me and I was able to attack. I felt really strong and I’m really happy that Luis Leon Sanchez was able to take the lead in the General Classification. Now some challenging days are coming up, let’s see if we can continue to stay as strong with this team as we were today, - said Jakob Fuglsang.

While the other groups were back together, the 2 leaders were defending an advantage of 56 seconds going into the final 10 kilometers. They managed to stay in front of the chasing peloton, so Jonathan Hivert could sprint to a stage victory and Luis Leon Sanchez into the yellow leaders jersey.

Tomorrow the new leader will try to defend his jersey in a 18.4km-long Time Trial, going from La Fouillouse to Saint-Étienne.

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this stage three report:

In a thrilling final of stage 3 at Paris – Nice, Quickstep tried to breakaway with Alaphilippe, but BORA – hansgrohe was always in contention with both young Austrians, Felix Großschartner and Patrick Konrad. The race favorites neutralized themselves in the end and a group of three sprinted for glory. J. Hivert took the win, while Felix Großschartner crossed the line in 10th place to take over the young rider classification again.

The Stage
While yesterday there were no doubts about a sprint finish, today’s stage was a little harder to predict. With three categorized climbs, the last with just 20k to go, there were also opportunities for a late attack. Still, the 210 kilometers from Bourges to Chatel-Guyon were another chance for the fast men in the peloton before tomorrow’s ITT. 

The Team Tactics
Most important today was that BORA – hansgrohe’s GC riders Patrick Konrad and Felix Großschartner again don’t lose any seconds. The last days already showed that hopes can easily blow with just a glimpse of carelessness, and in tomorrow’s TT every second in advantage is good to have. As the parkour with its up and downs was a challenging one for the sprinters, both, Sam Bennett and Michael Schwarzmann were free to try and contest in a possible sprint, if at least one of them was in a position to do so on the final flat kilometer into Chatel-Guyon. But the team concentrated in protecting Patrick and Felix and both were focused on don’t missing any move on the last KOM of the day.

The Race
Straight after the start a trio went up the road and just 20 kilometers later their gap had reached the 7-minute mark. While Groupama-FDJ controlled the pace in the bunch, the breakaway was at the head of the race for most of the day. Unfortunately, Sam Bennett, who got sick overnight, had to abandon Paris-Nice at the feeding zone. After the feeding zone, also the advantage of the breakaway started to melt gradually. On the second KOM of the day the leading group did split and 25 kilometers later, two of them were reeled back in. But also the last remaining breakaway rider was caught before the first passage of the finish line. Then, before the last KOM of the day, Quickstep took control of the race and prepared a move from J. Alaphilippe. Due to his effort the bunch totally fell apart. In the first chasing group, BORA – hansgrohe was well represented with Patrick Konrad and Felix Großschartner. Felix even tried to bridge the gap on the climb, but in a counter attack Hivert, Sanchez and Di Gregorio went away. While the trio stayed in front and Hivert took the win, the Yellow Jersey group closed on Konrad and Großschartner. Still, Felix sprinted to a strong 10th place in the end, which also brought him the White Jersey of the best young rider again.

From the Finish Line
“The final was really hard today. When Alaphilippe attacked everything fell apart. I was together with Patrick (Konrad) up there with the best and felt good on the climb. When Fuglsang was in front I bridged the gap, but the group didn’t let me go. When the trio went away nobody really wanted to pull, therefore the Yellow Jersey group came back. But I still had good legs in the sprint, so I decided to give it a go. I am happy with my result and the White Jersey, but especially with my legs. Let’s see tomorrow in the TT, but I am confident right now.” – Felix Großschartner 

Tirreno-Adriatico team previews

Lotto-Soudal sent me this:

Three days after Paris-Nice also Tirreno-Adriatico gets kicked off, that other WorldTour race ahead of Milan-Sanremo. This race takes place from Wednesday 7 March until Tuesday 13 March.

After a team time trial of 21.5 kilometres, the sprinters can battle for victory on Thursday. The finish of the third stage to Trevi is very hard, with gradients up to 15% in the last kilometres. Saturday it’s up to the real climbers, as it’s a summit finish on Sassotetto (14.2 km at an average gradient of 5.8%). The next stage takes the riders to Filottrano. Before the riders reach the finish line, they need to hit gradients up to 15%. The last forty kilometres of the stage on Monday are flat, but the 110 kilometres before are not so easy. It’s not sure how many sprinters will survive. Tirreno-Adriatico ends with an individual time trial of ten kilometres.

Bart Leysen, sports director Lotto Soudal: “The course of Tirreno-Adriatico is very varied. The race starts with a team time trial and ends with an individual race against the clock. There is one real sprint stage on Thursday and on Monday fast men that survive the climbs could sprint for victory. Climbers and punchers also find courses that suit them and also escapees stand a chance.”

“You see that diversity on the start list too. There are GC riders such as Dumoulin, Froome and Nibali, but also top sprinters like Ewan, Gaviria and Kittel. World champion Peter Sagan will also stand at the start. Very strong riders, but also we have a team that can play along in different kinds of stages.”

“We want to do well in the team time trial because a good start always gives a boost. And with riders like Benoot, Campenaerts, Keukeleire and Marczyński we have a strong team for it too. Depending on the result, we will see if this gives us opportunities on GC. On Thursday Jens Debusschere will do the sprint for us. He could possibly sprint again on Monday and otherwise Jens Keukeleire will be our man that day.”

“The weather will be an important factor. According to the weather forecast it will be very bad. In the past the weather has often had an influence on the stages and GC. As a consequence surprising names turned up on top ten of GC. It will be an interesting, but hard week.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Victor Campenaerts, Jens Debusschere, Jens Keukeleire, Nikolas Maes, Tomasz Marczyński and Tosh Van der Sande.

Sports directors: Bart Leysen and Mario Aerts.

And here's Team EF Education First's Tirreno-Adriatico update:

Rigoberto Uran will lead a well-rounded EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale squad into the 53rd edition of Tirreno-Adriatico, starting Wednesday, with eyes on the general classification.

Tirreno, nicknamed the “Race of Two Seas,” runs between the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic coasts. The race beings in Lido di Camaiore Wednesday with a team time trial and ends the following Tuesday with an individual effort in San Benedetto del Tronto.

Rigoberto Uran

Rigoberto Uran heading to the start of stage four of the 2016 Tirreno-Adiratico

Joining Uran are Simon Clarke, Sacha Modolo, Dani Moreno, Taylor Phinney, Tom Van Asbroeck and Sep Vanmarcke.

“The primary hope of Tirreno is to be competitive in the general classification with Rigoberto Uran. And a rider like Sacha Modolo is going to be looking at this as his final preparation for Milano-Sanremo,” said team boss Jonathan Vaughters. “We’ve also got a majority of our classics team getting ready.”

Road captain Simon Clarke sees an interesting race setting up and one of the season’s first major tests. “Tirreno is always interesting because it’s the first big test in Europe, particularly for the GC riders — that and Paris-Nice. So these races are always very good indicators of how good guys are going to be leading into the year,” Clarke said. “It’s a nice Tirreno this year, because there’s the standard team time trial to start with, and then we’ve got stage one and the second-to-last stage, which are nice sprint stages. And having Modolo here and on the team creates a nice new opportunity for us on the flat stages. Then we’ve got two undulating stages, stage three and stage five with nice little finishes that I think suit myself and Sep. Hopefully between the two of us we can be competitive on those stages while supporting Rigo.”

The true general classification test comes on stage four, which sees the race finish at Sarnano Sottotetto after a 13-kilometer climb.

“I’ve got a good feeling about this week for the team,” Clarke said. “We’ve got a team here that can be competitive in every stage, which is a good thing.”

Fabrizio Guidi, who will direct the team, pointed to the diverse and testing nature of the parcours. “The course of Tirreno, unlike last year, is technical, very demanding and gives space to any kind of specialist: sprinters, climbers and time trial riders will enjoy it,” he said. “We have overall ambitions with Uran and the chance to sprint with Modolo. Reconciling everything is difficult but not impossible thanks to the professional approach of the group and our competition strategy. We certainly will not have days off. Every day we will target the maximum result.”

This year’s version of Tirreno will pay tribute to Michele Scarponi, as stage five finishes in his hometown of Filottrano. The 2009 overall winner and multiple stage winner was killed by a motorist while training last April.

EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 Tirreno-Adriatico

Sport Directors:
Fabrizio Guidi (ITA)
Ken Vanmarcke (BEL)

Riders:
Simon Clarke (AUS)
Sacha Modolo (ITA)
Dani Moreno (ESP)
Taylor Phinney (USA)
Rigoberto Uran (COL)
Tom Van Asbroeck (BEL)
Sep Vanmarcke (BEL)

Mitchelton-Scott will ride Tirreno-Adriatico. Here's the team's race preview:

Mitchelton-SCOTT go into the 53rd edition of Tirreno-Adriatico this week with modest ambitions, but solid options for stage results and a tilt at the overall general classification.

Ninth on GC in 2015 Adam Yates returns to the seven-day stage race after being forced out through illness in 2017 and will be the protected rider for the overall with Tour Down Under stage winner Caleb Ewan set to take the lead in the sprints.

Ewan’s lead out train includes Slovenian national road race champion Luka Mezgec and New Zealander Jack Bauer with Australian time trial specialists Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn also on hand for pace and power.

2018 Tour Down Under winner and dual South African national road and time trial champion Daryl Impey completes the line-up with the strong squad boasting versatile options for each of the seven stages.

Opening with a pan flat 21.5kilometre team time trial on the Tuscan coast the race will head south for what should be a day for the sprinters on stage two followed by a rolling parcours and uphill kick for the puncheurs on stage three.

The queen stage comes on stage four with repeated categorised climbs coming before a summit finish in Sassotetto. The fifth stage has been named the ‘wall climbing stage’ with a series of short, but brutally steep climbs to be tackled before the finish.

A final opportunity for the sprinters arrives on stage six with two flat 12.8kilometre finishing circuits around Fano on the Adriatic coast before the race concludes with the traditional individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.

Team:

Objectives:

One of the strongest fields in recent history is set to line up for the 2018 race with some of the world’s best sprinters and Grand Tour riders competing for glory. Mitchelton-SCOTT will be looking to make the most of the versatility within the squad for the varied stage finishes.

Yates will be the team’s focus for the overall with the task of gaining time and a good foothold on the hillier stages whilst Ewan will lead the team in the two clear sprints stages.

Race History:

2017 – Yates third on stage 4

2017 – Hepburn third on stage 7 (ITT)

2016 – Ewan second on stage 3

2015 – Yates ninth overall on GC

2012 - Stage 1 victory (TTT)

Greenedge

Here's GreenEdge (which became Mitchelton-Scott) racing to a stage win in the 2012 Tirreno-Adriactico.

Adam Yates – Ninth 2015: “We have a super strong team for Tirreno-Adriatico this week, not just for the opening team time trial but also a strong lead-out group for Caleb and options for every stage so we will be looking to have a go every time we can.”

“Last year I was in good condition and was sitting high up on GC before unfortunately getting sick and having to abandon halfway through the race. For sure there is a feeling of unfinished business with this race.”

Head Sport director Matt White: “We have split ambitions for Tirreno-Adriatico, we are aiming for a stage result or two and also be up there competing on the general classification. There’s plenty of versatility within the team and a couple of stages could suit us, with competition being incredibly strong this year, it will certainly make for a tough race.”

“As ever it will be important to get a solid result in the team time trial on the opening day, a bad result can totally change the complexion of the race before the real racing has even started and we will need to be competitive.

“It will be a good race for Adam to test himself and his form against a world class field of riders whilst also gaining some more good preparation ahead of some big season objectives coming up. It will be a good test for Caleb too against the best sprint field of the season so far.”

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