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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

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Tirreno-Adriatico stage six team reports

Stage winner Marcel Kittel's Katusha-Alpecin team posted this update:

Team KATUSHA ALPECIN’S Marcel Kittel took victory in the sixth stage of the 53rd Tirreno-Adriatico (2.UWT) in a strong show of strength for the sprint. Coming from third place as the finish approached, Kittel lit out for the line straight up the middle of the course to earn the win.

“Today was a very hard stage. In the beginning there was a lot of up and down. I think we had quite a lot of altitude meters, plus there was cold weather and rain. We really tried to control the race to set a speed that I could follow to make life easier for me because we knew at the end it was a nice course for me. I’m really happy and my teammates did so well to keep control and work for me today. I’m very happy and proud to win my second stage in a race in Italy." Laughing Kittel added, "And today's second victory is on the birthday of Nathan Haas so this is a special one also." Last Thursday he earned his first career victory in Italy by winning stage two of Tirreno-Adriatico.

Joining Kittel on the day’s podium were Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) for second place and Maximiliano Richeze of Quick-Step Floors in third, all on the same time of 3:49:54 (39.93 km/h). With one stage still to race, Team Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski holds a slim 3-second lead over Damiano Caruso of BMC.

The 153k stage from Numana to Fano was marred by a large crash in the peloton near the end. Kittel was ahead of the crash and remained dedicated to the goal of the day: “We tried to stay focused on our goal of the stage win. The boys did a fine job and I’m very proud of the team today. I have nothing to complain about. We controlled the race, we had one goal, we worked as one team. Everyone gave 110% and I’m very happy to win,” said Kittel.

Marcel Kittel ("K" on his shoulders, in center) drives for the line.

Asked if he will participate in Saturday’s first monument of the season, Kittel said the decision concerning Milano Sanremo will be made soon. “We will decide everything about Milano Sanremo after the race, but if I go for sure I will try to gain as much experience there as possible. I’ve never raced it before and it’s always been a dream for me to start there but at this point there are no expectations for Milano Sanremo,” concluded Kittel.

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

After four days of being responsible for ending the breakaway’s chances with his brutal pace setting, BORA-hansgrohe’s Marcus Burghardt took his chances today by jumping in the escape himself – only to attack and ride off on his own. Holding the peloton at bay until the final 20km, the German National Champion handed over to the UCI World Champion to go for the win. While a crash in the final 10km held him up and also required a wheel change, Peter Sagan brought himself back into position and was narrowly denied in the bunch sprint after a superhuman effort.

The Stage
There was only one road stage left of this year’s race before a time trial brought Tirreno-Adriatico to a close. For those who weren’t strong in the race against the clock, this would be the last chance to take a stage win. At 153km, this was the shortest stage, and while the first 113km were undulating and hilly, the final 40km were flat. All eyes would be on the run-in to the finish to see who would be in a position to contest what looked likely to be a bunch sprint. However, while the finale was flat, there were some twists and turns on the street circuit, as well as street furniture, which could cause havoc as the pace increased.

The Team Tactics
While the team had brought excitement to the race, with strong attacking moves and closely contested sprints, up until this point, a stage win hadn’t been forthcoming. The aim today was to get in the day’s break to create some fireworks and force the sprint teams to work harder, tiring them out, before either trying to make the break stick and stay out to the end or go for the win with Peter in the predicted bunch sprint. The flat finish would encourage a bunch sprint, but the UCI World Champion would have to be well protected over the street circuit in order to be delivered to the line in a good position to contest the finish among some strong sprint rivals.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan looks over to winner Marcel Kittel.

The Race
Having been the driving force in the peloton drawing in the breaks on the other road stages, BORA-hansgrohe’s Marcus Burghardt managed to make the jump today, teaming up with three others to make the day’s breakaway. With the German National Champion to drive the pace, the escapees built up an advantage of around three minutes, but around 79km, Marcus began putting distance between himself and the rest of the break – a bold move given the terrain and the threat of rain – stretching out a lead of more than a minute over his former collaborators, who were swept up by the peloton shortly after.

While the German powerhouse managed to hold the peloton away single-handed, he was caught by the peloton as the race raised the pace for the final circuit. As expected, the high pace caused some nervousness in the bunch, and the final 15km were punctuated by crashes, including a major one at 7.8km to go, which happened directly in front of Peter and required that he change his wheel. While any other rider would consider this the end of their race, the UCI World Champion refused to let this hold him back, riding out of his skin to get back on and contest the sprint, still managing to put in a remarkably strong sprint and only just missing the victory. No change in the GC meant Davide Formolo kept hold of seventh spot in the overall standings.

From the Finish Line
"The team did a great job all day and we were well positioned in the last kilometres but, unfortunately, in order to avoid hitting the road, I had to brake hard. The riders behind me piled up and my back wheel was damaged, so we had to change it. I was able to come back for the final sprint but I had spent a lot of energy. That's cycling, there are things you can't control in a race." – Peter Sagan

"I went to the break to try my chances at making it all the way to the finish and the win. Unfortunately, it wasn't possible and I just made the race hard so that the other sprinters got a bit more tired at the finish. It's a pity Peter was caught up in the pileup in the finale but that's part of the race. At least, we tried." – Marcus Burghardt

"Our aim today was to try for the stage win with Peter while at the same time putting pressure on the other sprinting teams, such as Katusha, making them spend energy. Marcus Burghardt did an exceptional job. He pulled at the front and gave it a shot at, possibly, a solo victory. However, despite this strong effort, we weren't lucky. Peter was involved in the crash and had to change his wheel. Fortunately, our team car was close behind him and he was able to get back to the race very fast. He made a fantastic recovery and closed the gap to the sprinters at the front but that effort took its toll and Peter couldn't beat Kittel on the line. Tomorrow we will look for a good finish from Maciej Bodnar in the time trial, and focus on protecting Davide Formolo’s position in the GC and maybe gain some places if possible." – Patxi Vila

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

Michal Kwiatkowski retained the overall lead at Tirreno-Adriatico ahead of the final day following a hectic sprint stage.

Both riders [Kwiatkowski & Geraint Thomas] were able to finish safely in a reduced peloton after a fast finishing circuit around Fano produced an incident-packed finale.

Thomas suffered yet more bad luck after being forced into a wheel change with 11 kilometres to go. With the pace high, strong work from Chris Froome, Gianni Moscon and Jonathan Castroviejo ensured he regained contact with the bunch ahead of the run-in.

With Kwiatkowski up front and shepherded by Vasil Kiryienka and Salvatore Puccio, both groups were able to miss a sizable crash which ripped a hole in the peloton.

As expected the day came down to a sprint, with Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) narrowly holding off world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).

At the earlier intermediate sprint in Fano, BMC Racing combined to deny Kwiatkowski any additional bonus seconds in a three-up sprint, with Greg Van Avermaet and Patrick Bevin taking away the time bonifications.

There was no change on the general classification, meaning Kwiatkowski heads into Tuesday’s deciding 10km time trial with a slender three-second lead over Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing). Thomas sits fourth, 29 seconds off the Maglia Azzurra, and just six back on Mikel Landa’s (Movistar) podium place.
After the stage Kwiatkowski revealed he was happy to make it through a tricky penultimate test.

michal Kwiatkowski

Michal Kwiatkowski remains the GC leader

He said: “At the end of the day I think we have to be happy with how the stage went as it was nervous, a very hectic final and we are still leading the race. Even at the start today we had some rain after around 20 kilometres. There were a lot of climbs and tricky descents, and actually the whole race today was quite nervous with people trying to be at the front.

“The last circuit was technical with a lot of fighting for position. The team rode amazingly and put me in a really good position when it was necessary. We had some bad luck of course again with Geraint’s puncture with 10km to go. But we stayed calm and he came back at a good moment.”

With attention now turning to the time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto, Kwiatkowski will aim to hold off Caruso, and admits he is happy to go head to head with teammate Thomas.

He added: “Damiano Caruso is such a good time triallist and he is racing in his home, Italy. It's going to be difficult to fight against him, but at the end of the day I will do my best. I will be really happy if G can take the overall win, but he lost some time on the mountain finish [stage four].”

Niner sale closes; new owner also owns Huffy Corp

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News sent me this:

DENVER (BRAIN) — After an eventful few months, Niner Bicycles has been purchased by UWHK Ltd., an investment firm that also owns Huffy Corp. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge approved the sale last week and the purchase closed Friday afternoon.

Niner co-founder Chris Sugai will continue to lead the company, which will remain headquartered in Fort Collins, Colorado. He said the reborn Niner is already looking to hire several positions in engineering and marketing.

"We are celebrating," Sugai told BRAIN on Friday. "We'll party a little tonight, and then it's back to work on Monday."

UWHK Ltd. was formerly Emersion International, a Hong Kong-based entity that agreed to buy Niner late last month. UWHK is an investment firm in premium global outdoor brands and a division of United Wheels Ltd. United Wheels is the majority shareholder in Huffy Corp.

"We will have common ownership with Huffy, but we are not the same company," Sugai emphasized, comparing the relationship to Pon's ownership of multiple brands including Cervélo and Santa Cruz, or Dorel's ownership of mass-market bike brands as well as Cannondale.

Niner filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late November, listing assets of $9.8 million and liabilities of $7.9 million and with plans to sell its assets to a Colorado investment group. However, that group stepped aside when at least two new bidders emerged. Among the new bids was an offer from a group led by Tony Karklins, the co-founder of Allied Cycle Works.

On Feb. 20, Sugai announced that Emersion had agreed to buy the company. Emersion was described then as "a global holding company of outdoor brands." The company's ties to United Wheels and Huffy were not disclosed publicly until Monday.

Sugai said Niner will be free of the debt that has held it back in recent years, and will be able to invest more in R&D and marketing. He said the company remains committed to sales through specialty retailers and will soon roll out new dealer programs. "We are going to make it easier for shops to do business with us," he said. Growth in international distribution is another priority, he said, along with continued support of trail advocacy efforts.

He declined to say what sort of new products are in the pipeline, but said the brand will show several new things at the Sea Otter Classic next month.

In a statement, Sugai said, "We are in-step with the vision and fast-track global plans for Niner. Our leadership team and culture, which are synonymous with our brand, will be maintained. ... UWHK's support allows the dedicated team at Niner to keep producing high-quality bikes."

"I got into this business because of my passion for all things cycling and I'm glad we can get back to making awesome bikes. ... Supporting riders and giving back to the riding community will continue."

You can read the entire story here.

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