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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, March 15, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. - Coretta Scott King

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Team Aqua Blue Sport reports on Danilith Nokere Koerse

Here's the team's race post:

Andrew Fenn powered to fifth place in the Belgium classic Danilith Nokere Koerse while Conor Dunne flew the flag for team Aqua Blue Sport in the breakaway, being only caught inside the last 10 kilometres after a fierce solo attack.

This Wednesday Team Aqua Blue Sport put up a great performance in the hard 191.1 kilometres race that started in Deinze and finished in Nokere and included several cobbled sectors and narrow undulating roads in the Flandrien countryside.

Irishman Conor Dunne was eager from the start and made the day’s breakaway alongside seven riders who quickly built an advantage of over 10 minutes on the pack.

The group, consisting of Dunne, Ivo Oliveira (Hagens Berman Axeon), Rob Ruijgh (Tarteletto-Isorex), Yannick Martinez (Delko Marseille KTM), Simon Sellier (Direct Energie), Timothy Stevens (Cibel-Cebon), Martijn Budding (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Daniel Turek (Israel Cycling Academy) worked well together and kept the gap steady until about 70 kilometres to go.

The teams who missed the early move, specifically CCC Sprandi Polkowice and Verandas Willems, pushed to up the pace in the peloton and the advantage started to dip fast.

With about 40 kilometres to the finishing line in Nokere the eight escapees had under two minutes on the bunch, where a flurry of attacks in a cobbled sector split the peloton, originating a chase group of nine riders.

Dunne, sensing a decrease of energy up front amongst his breakaway companions, launched a solo attack with 18 kilometres to go. Taking advantage of the tailwind the Irish rider powered away and quickly found himself with a minute advantage on the peloton.

“It was good to be in the breakaway today. When the bunch sat up we got a good tailwind and quickly got a massive gap. We worked well together and it was nice to be at the front. I felt strong towards the end and wanted to give it a go so I attacked. I knew that the other guys were fading and I still felt pretty good. I knew we would have tailwind in the last 10km so I went for broke. It was a good effort. I knew there would be some fresh legs in the bunch and they started to accelerate so I knew it was going to be hard but I was happy I gave it a good try,” said Dunne   Behind him a chase group of nine riders enjoyed a buffer of 30 seconds on the main peloton but with 10 kilometres to go it was all back together. Despite is incredible effort Dunne was caught soon after in a cobbled sector.

A group of no more than 40 riders contested the finale in the uphill and cobbled finish in Nokereberg with Fabio Jakobsen (Quick Step Floors) taking the win in the reduced bunch sprint, edging out Amaury Capiot (Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise) and Hugo Hofstetterem (Cofidis).

Fabio Jakobsen

Fabio Jakobsen wins in Nokere

“It was a pretty hard race, they changed the course a bit compared to the traditional route. We had a few more cobbled sections which definitely made it a harder race. It was good to have Conor in the break today and impressive that he stayed away until about 10 kilometres to go. I just missed out on the split that happened on the cobble section and I was pulling hard to try to get across. Fortunately it all came back together in the end. I was a bit far back coming into the sprint but I did all I could. It was a good step forward for myself,” said Fenn after the finish.Andy Fenn, who was attentive all day and worked hard to close the gap between two groups when the peloton split, surged to an impressive fifth place, his best result of the season so far.

Milan-San Remo team race previews

We've started our 2018 Milano-San Remo page

Here's what Team Quick-Step Floors posted:

Almost 300 kilometers on the agenda, seven hours in the saddle and one of the most electrifying finishes in cycling, that's Milano-Sanremo in a nutshell. The Classic dubbed by many as "the easiest in the world, but the most difficult to win" will run this weekend its 109th edition, a wet one from start to finish, according to the latest forecast, and Quick-Step Floors will look to be again one of the protagonists.

As usual, the race will kick off early in the morning in Milan, but it will take several hours before the peloton will face the day's first difficulty, Passo del Turchino, the climb used as launch pad to victory by Fausto Coppi, more than seven decades ago. Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta will soften the bunch before the Cipressa (5.6 km, 4.1%) and the iconic Poggio. The latter was introduced on the course at the 1960 edition and averages only 3.7% over 3.7 kilometers, but despite that, it will weigh heavily in the outcome as it features just nine kilometers from the finish.

Last year, Julian Alaphilippe impressed everyone at his debut in the race, when he counterattacked on the Poggio before putting in a daredevil descent and sprinting to third. The Frenchman will once again line up at the start, as will Philippe Gilbert, who'll tick off the 45th Monument start of his career in a classic in which he podiumed twice (2008, 2011), and Elia Viviani, another contender for a strong result on the famed Via Roma, who comes into the race following a storming start to his season, which saw the Italian score five victories in the first two months.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert with the late Michele Scarponi trying to escape in the 2011 Milano-San Remo. Gilbert was third that year.

Supporting them in the first Monument of 2018 will be Tim Declercq, Iljo Keisse, Maximiliano Richeze and Fabio Sabatini, all seasoned riders who can control the race and whose experience can be instrumental coming into the business end of Milano-Sanremo.

"It's always difficult to understand this race and predict what will happen, because a win depends on a number of factors and can come after a multitude of scenarios, but one thing that's certain is we are going there with a strong team and several cards to play", said Philippe Gilbert when asked about Saturday's appointment. "I was a bit sick in Tirreno-Adriatico, but I'm happy for finishing the race and adding some valuable kilometers under the belt before Sanremo. It's one of the biggest classics of the year and we are ready for it, despite not having Fernando in the team. The confidence is there, the squad, as I said, is a solid one and doesn't lack options, and we'll just see what the race will bring."

BMC sent me this update:

14 March, 2018, Santa Rosa, California (USA): After racing at Tirreno-Adriatico, Greg Van Avermaet will remain on Italian soil and return to the start line of Milan-San Remo this Saturday, 17 March.

With ten editions behind him, including two top ten finishes in 2011 and 2016, Van Avermaet is motivated to stand on the podium at the first Monument of the 2018 season.

BMC Racing Team Sports Director Maximilian Sciandri said Van Avermaet will be backed by an experienced team, including 2012 winner Simon Gerrans.

Simon Gerrans

Simon Gerrans winning the 2012 edition. Sirotti photo

"Although we have Greg Van Avermaet as our leader, Milan-San Remo is not a race where we go in as the outright favorite team. However, some sprinters are out of the race so that could change the dynamics a little bit and as usual, we will be going there with the whole team around Greg. Greg has tested himself on a couple of occasions at Tirreno-Adriatico and his condition looks good. I think he is on a good and healthy build-up to Milan-San Remo."

"We are going in with a really experienced team with riders like Simon Gerrans, a former winner here, and Jürgen Roelandts. I think it is maybe one of the strongest teams we have ever had around Greg and we will just have to play our cards in the right way on Saturday."

Van Avermaet is confident in his form coming out of Tirreno-Adriatico. "I feel pretty good after Tirreno-Adriatico. My shape is good and I'm looking forward to starting the one-day races which are my specialty. I think Milan-San Remo is a lottery but I am always motivated for a nice result there. It's a hard race but I am always there in the right moves and in the final so I hope I can achieve a good result this Saturday," Van Avermaet said.

Milan - San Remo (17 March)

Rider Roster: Alberto Bettiol (ITA), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Simon Gerrans (AUS), Jürgen Roelandts (BEL), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL).

Sports Directors: Maximilian Sciandri (ITA), Fabio Baldato (ITA)

And Alexander Kristoff's UAE-Team Emirates sent me this news:

For the Milano-Sanremo (Saturday 17th March), UAE Team Emirates will rely on a captain who has already clinched the Classicissima in his career:  Alexander Kristoff.

Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff winning the 2014 edition of Milano-San Remo. Sirotti photo.

The European Champion won in Sanremo in 2014 and has claimed this Springtime Classic as one of his main goals for 2018: “I’ve always really liked the Milano-Sanremo and this appeal only increased once I’d won it. I’ve set up the first part of 2018 so that I can be in top form for the Classicissima and for the Belgian races; unfortunately, I’ve been set back by a few health issues.

"At the beginning of the Paris Nice I had some days where I didn’t feel very well, but I think I’m better now and I’ve been working hard to concentrate on the Italian event. The objective is to figure as a major player. I have the right team to put me in the position to express myself to the fullest.”

These are the 7 riders who will participate in the Milano-Sanremo for the Emirati formation, under the guidance of Sports Director Mario Scirea (Italy), who will be supported by his colleague Marco Marzano (Italy):

– Sven Erik Bystrøm (Norway)
– Simone Consonni (Italy)
– Alexander Kristoff (Norway)
– Marco Marcato (Italy)
– Ben Swift (United Kingdom)
– Oliviero Troia (Italy)
– Diego Ulissi (Italy)

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