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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 9, 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

Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts. - Charles Dickens

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Vuelta a España stage fourteen news

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from winner Simon Yates Mitchelton-Scott team:

Three-time Giro d’Italia stage winner Simon Yates has added a Vuelta a Espana stage win to his successful 2018 season with a perfectly managed effort and attack on the final ascent of stage 14.

The Mitchelton-SCOTT rider remained calm on the steep final climb, despite being outnumbered and constantly attacked, before he attacked with 650m to go to claim the stage ahead of Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) to take the overall lead once again.

Simon Yates

Simon Yates has a great day in the Spanish mountains. Sirotti photo

At just five minutes down on general classification, Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) gave the peloton something to chase when he initiated the breakaway of stage 14. Thankfully for the bunch, he had just five riders for company and Cofidis, with the help of Movistar, kept them on a tight leash for the entire day. At a maximum, the group had almost four minute’s advantage, but by 50km to go it was down to just two minutes.

Unsurprisingly, Kwiatkowski was the strongest rider of the move and the last to survive before he was caught with five kilometres to go after Bahrain Merida put pressure on the bunch on the final descent to shrink the main group.

Groupama set the initial pace on the final climb before Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) attacked and Movistar Team set off in pursuit. Yates stayed calm and picked his moments to close any gaps that appeared, including a move by Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) and Lopez in the final two kilometres.

With half a dozen main contenders back together heading into the final kilometre Yates judged the time to attack perfectly. The 26-year-old hung on to win by two seconds from Lopez and Valverde and leads Valverde by 20seconds on the general classification.

Simon Yates:
"I chose my moment really well there in the final. I didn't look back until it flattened off a little bit and I had a bit of a gap so just gave it everything to the line. I feel a bit more like I deserve it (the red jersey) this time , I gave it everything I could today in the very end and I am very happy.

"I chose my own pace, I can't respond to everything but I managed it well and chose my moment well. I didn't know the climb, I didn't know if it was going to get steeper or easier, so I was really managing and controlling my effort and went at my own tempo.

"Movistar had three guys at one point and I was alone, not to say the team did a bad job because they did a fantastic job, just I was alone at that moment and I can't control everything so I just tried to stay calm and that's what it was really.

"I remember tomorrow's stage from 2016, that is the only time I have ridden the climb, it is a very difficult climb and I hope to have the same legs as today. I expect Movistar to be very active again.

Here's the report from Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana's Team Movistar:

Simon Yates (MTS) got back the GC lead of the 2018 Vuelta a España atop Les Praeres (Nava), the astonishing final climb of stage fourteen (171km), following another big effort from the Movistar Team to keep the race under control and fight for both the day’s win and the red jersey with its two leaders, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde.

After effective pacing work behind the early break by Imanol Erviti and Daniele Bennati, who managed their energy perfectly through the climbs of San Isidro (Cat-2), Colladona (Cat-1) and Mozqueta (Cat-1), a strong stint at the front by Bahrain-Merida, into the Colladiella descent and all over the Falla de los Lobos (Cat-3), squeezed the group to leave only 30 riders in the lead, with red jersey holder Jesús Herrada (COF) dropped back and quickly losing ground.

The race thus got to the steep last 4km uphill with only the top guns together. Another nice piece of support from Richard Carapaz helped Alejandro Valverde bring back a move from Steven Kruijswijk (TLJ) and create a gap over the other contenders. In turn, Nairo Quintana accelerated twice to leave that group -with 2km and 1,300 meters to go, respectively-, yet didn’t gain a real advantage as Miguel Ángel López (AST), joining him at both, didn’t cooperate.

Yates eventually got to the finish solo, with a couple of meters over López and Alejandro Valverde, who gets back to 2nd overall -20″ behind the Briton- as Nairo (5th today) remains in 3rd, now 25″ behind the yellow jersey. Sunday will bring the Queen stage of this year’s Vuelta, with 178km that include the Alto de Santo Emiliano (Cat-3) right after the start, plus the two slopes of the Mirador del Fito (Cat-1), prior to the legendary, decisive Lagos de Covadonga (HC).

Lopez and Valverde

Miguel Lopez (blue jersey) and Alejandro Valverde near stage 14's finish. Sirotti photo

REACTION:

Alejandro Valverde: “If I’m honest, I’m a bit sad because I’ve got the impression I could have won this one. I was going really werll, but it ran off my control. Sometimes you’re doubtful about your own chances, about being able to keep up with the others’ pace to win. It was hard for me to know I did a mistake today, because I had the energy to go for it yet mistimed my final efforts. I didn’t know the climb well, I thought the final slopes were going to be harder — don’t get me wrong, full credit has to go to Simon, who deserved this victory. It was just that I waited for too long, thinking those slopes were going to be more difficult, but when I wanted to pick up the pace into that ‘sprint’, I was already too far. As I saw López coming from behind, it was all the same if I finished second or third – I just didn’t win.

“After all that, I must say I loved the climb – but that might have been because it went well for me. For me, though, this is less tough than La Camperona. At the initial slopes I went off the front, trying to push and set a good pace, gain some sort of ground so I could help Nairo if he decided to attack. The truth is, these slopes really don’t suit him well at all, he just did everything he could. All main rivals are still pretty much close. Considering it’s going to be a really tough stage tomorrow, with such a different finishing climb – Los Lagos – and it being the third consecutive day in the mountains, anything can happen. Giving the race a deep blow? I don’t know if I’ll be hit by the race instead tomorrow (laughs).”

Nairo Quintana: “In stages like this one, you’ve got to take a shot to win it, and you can either hit your target, like I sort of did yesterday, or miss if, like today. I wasn’t on my plans to lost time today. López didn’t dare taking a small turn when we attacked – he might be doubting about his real condition and keeping that pace, it’s a choice you make at the end, nothing I can argue about. He just chose to continue behind my wheel and at the end, he also put some seconds on me. Tomorrow’s climb is quite different; I think it suits me better. Los Lagos bring me some good memories, it’s beautiful for me to get back, and I hope to be victorious again. It will be a crucial day for those like us, who are aiming for victory in La Vuelta.

“We could see that the other contenders are really strong, and also that yesterday’s result didn’t mean anything when it comes to race hierarchy – they won seconds back while we had put some on them yesterday. There’s a strong man, which is Yates, which we’ll have to fight against. However, we’ve got a strong advantage in Alejandro, always being by our side, and our strategy to defeat him must be based on making him nervous. He just was a bit stronger than us in this specific case, in a very particular stage with difficult descents, splits, accelerations – and an explosive final climb which might not be the best for me. We’ll see how things go tomorrow.”

And Bora-hansgrohe sent me this Vuelta report:

For the whole of this second day of three in the mountains, the peloton would be dreading the day’s finale climb. The Alto les Praeres was only 4km long, but with its maximum gradient hitting 17%, all but the most able climbers would struggle on its wall-like slopes, and nobody would be having an easy day. The peloton timed its catch of the day’s small break to the foot of the final climb, and this was where the action started. Being careful not to push himself into the red by responding to the relentless attacking of his GC rivals, Emanuel Buchmann maintained tenth position in the overall standings, finishing twelfth on the stage.

The Stage
With one day in the mountains down it was another two to go. Stage 14 saw a parcours of two parts, with the first 60km of this 171km stage a steady ascent towards the first of five categorised climbs, while the remaining 111km were much more jagged, crossing no fewer than four categorised climbs here, three of these being first category. The first climbs of the day would empty the already tired legs if the riders, while the summit finish would give the climbers and the GC riders a chance to either fight it out for the finish, or to take some time on the overall race. Like yesterday’s stage, the day’s final climb and summit finish was relentlessly tough, with an average gradient of a massive 12.5% on the Alto les Praeres. It may be short, at 4km in length, but the only place the road would drop below 10% was just ahead of the finale, and this was still 7.2%. Even for the more able climbers, this final ascent, with its maximum gradient of 17%, was going to feel more like a wall than a mountain.

The Team Tactics
Having already spent a day in the break on yesterday’s demanding stage, the team would have no qualms about jumping in the escape for a second day – but only if the conditions were right and the group large enough. The ride for Emanuel Buchmann in the GC race was the priority for the squad, keeping him in contact with the overall riders, and the team would have no intention of sending riders in the break if it was only a small group and they would have to expend energy unnecessarily. Otherwise, the BORA-hansgrohe riders would concentrate all of their efforts on Emanuel to make sure he was brought in safely on the monstrous final climb.

The Race
The start of the day would see some gentle climbs on which a breakaway could take advantage and build a time gap, but knowing what the finale was going to look like, the question was of who would decide to go ahead today. Within the first 10km, a small group had formed, made up of six strong riders, who quickly built up a healthy advantage. Their lead hitting more than three minutes, the peloton started to take notice, not wanting to allow any of the potential GC contenders to take time today, and the lead was brought down, with the advantage rising and falling with the terrain as the day went on. Picking off the climbs and the kilometres, the race was nearing the finale, and with 50km remaining, the gap was sitting at two minutes – still a healthy lead given the day’s profile. Even before the Alto les Praeres, riders were suffering, with even the third category Alto de la Falla de los Lobos seeing riders lose contact, including the race leader, so draining had the final climbs been. A compact group of GC riders was forming, and with three BORA-hansgrohe riders in amongst them – Davide Formolo, Rafał Majka and Emanuel Buchmann – there was strength in numbers for the team here. Having steadily reeled in the break, of which only one rider remained, it was all back together from just 5km out – the foot of the final climb.

When the catch was made and the road steepened, the fireworks started and while one rider attacked off the front, it was impossible to ride alone on these steep slopes. With Rafał riding in support of Emanuel, the two settled into a rhythm, not allowing themselves to be swept up in the chaos and lose energy. The road narrowing for the final kilometre there was still so far to go to the finish, with barely room to move for all the fans lining the route. Crossing the line in twelfth position, Emanuel was careful not to go into the red and lose more time on the GC. In the overall standings, Emanuel had maintained his tenth position, but had lost some time to his rivals.

From the Finish Line
"In today's mountain stage, the team worked very well for Emu, he was protected all along and we all rode with a strong team spirit. In the end, he had a good result, he lost 57 seconds and on such steep climbs, this is what we were expecting from him. He's still 10th in the GC, so we are close to where we would like to be and look forward to the coming stages." – André Schulze, Sports Director

"Once again, the team did a great job. I am so grateful to them, they gave everything for me. Today, a smaller group attacked, so we stayed in the peloton and took control of the pace. The finale was brutal, small gravel roads and thousands of people. Rafał stayed at the front and Davide supported me. The final kilometre was too steep for me, so I rode at my pace and finished some seconds behind Yates who was the strongest today. In the GC I am still tenth but, of course, the goal is to climb up some positions." – Emanuel Buchmann

Tour of Britain stage seven news

We posted the report from organizer with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Ian Stannard's Team Sky:

Ian Stannard put in an attacking masterclass to claim a memorable solo victory on stage seven at the Tour of Britain. The Brit was on the attack right from the start and powered his way into a five-man breakaway on the longest stage of the race.

Stannard blew the group apart with hard, committed riding and was able to accelerate away from rival Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) after a trio of attacks on the run into Mansfield. The pair went toe to toe in a thrilling 15km individual pursuit, with Stannard holding a slender and tantalising advantage before the gap eventually began to spin out as Politt started to fade.

Crossing the line with a winning margin of 59 seconds, the win marked a second stage success for Stannard in his home race, and back to back victories for Team Sky following Wout Poels’ heroics 24 hours earlier.

Ian Stannard

Ian Stannard wins Tour of Britain stage seven.

The peloton had given up all hope of chasing down the move, with Poels able to sit in and cross the line safely to retain second place overall. With just one stage now remaining the Dutchman remains just 17 seconds off race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors), with a bunch sprint expected on the final day in London.

After the stage the achievement began to sink in for Stannard. Describing his big day out, he confirmed: “We were worried about the wind, but once we got racing and realised it wasn’t as bad as we thought I went with some moves and ended up where I was. I went for it from quite far out and there’s no coming back from there.

“It was always quite close – around seven or eight seconds – and it was getting quite tough. I got a few more little kicks towards the end and managed to put a bit more of a gap in so I was happy then. Once I got in the break I was pretty confident. I was looking at the guys and how they were riding all day and knew I had the edge.”

Team Sky Sport Director Matteo Tosatto had a front row seat as he followed Stannard in the breakaway. Describing the powerhouse performance he told TeamSky.com: “It was a crazy day and the stage started out very fast. There was a bit of wind around and a lot of the time they were riding into a headwind. Once Ian got into the move we could see it was a good group – five guys all pulling well and contributing. Ian felt good today so we looked to the win. It was important to have a good advantage to the group and he put in the first attack with 22km to go. Politt was really strong but he was able to get clear in the last 15km to the finish.

“He was really strong and focused, right from the meeting this morning where we discussed going in the breakaway. In the last 10km he was really incredible. It was a really strong performance today and great for Ian’s confidence.”

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