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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, September 15, 2018

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Vuelta a España stage 19 reports

We posted the race organzer's stage summary with the results.

GC leader Simon Yates' Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this:

A confident ride by stage 14 winner Simon Yates has seen him finish second on stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana to extend his overall lead to one-minute 38seconds with one difficult and decisive mountain stage to come tomorrow.

Yates attacked the favourite’s group with 10km remaining on the final climb to bridge across to a lead group of three riders. Eventually, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) won the stage, but Yates gained 47seconds to Enric Mas (Quickstep Floors) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) and 1-minute seven seconds to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) on the line.

Movistar Team were motivated from the outset of the first of two final decisive stages of this year’s Vuelta as they moved immediately to the front of the peloton to control and chase any moves that dared to try off the front.

The Spanish outfit, sitting 25seconds down on the general classification at the start of the day, eventually let a move of two gain over two minute’s advantage as the entered the final 50km but it still didn’t look hopeful they would survive to the final and they were eventually caught on the low slopes of the final climb. The group began to whittle down immediately on the climb, but it was Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) who was the first to attack. The Colombian was joined by George Bennett and Steven Kruijswijk (Team LottoNL-Jumbo).

Bennett dropped off the front as Pinot was the next to jump across keep three in the lead. Jack Haig kept the pace up just behind for Mitchelton-SCOTT and had the gap within 12seconds when Yates attacked with 10km remaining. Joining the trio in the front, Simon shouldered a lot of the work and as Quintana dropped off to help Valverde. Pinot also joined in and assisted with the workload in the hunt for his second stage win.

There was no cooperation in the chase behind and Adam Yates patrolled the unorganised chase for Mitchelton-SCOTT in case of a regrouping.

Eventually, Pinot sprinted to the stage victory with Yates in second place for extra bonus seconds on top of those made over the line.

Simon Yates

Simon Yates finishes stage nineteen. Sirotti photo

Simon Yates:
"I felt good, I felt good myself which is why I tried, the team did a fantastic job again, Jack Haig did a good ride to really set me up before I went away and Adam was behind incase I came back. We did fantastic job.

"I have to thank Thibaut for helping me a lot in the final, of course he could have sat on and not helped, so chapau, you don't forget things like that very fast.
"We didn't really have any plan today, just to see how we felt, keep control and calm and I was. When you feel good you have to try sometimes so I did.

"There is only one more day to go, we really need to focus on that now, we will enjoy this moment but it is not over for another day. I know too well in one-day everything can chance so we will try to recover and give it everything to try and win the race now. I will just try to stay focussed now, it is not over until it is over."

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this Vuelta stage 19 update:

A relentless climb awaited riders at the end of the stage, and with only today and tomorrow left on which the GC contenders could realistically take some time, there would be some action taking place here, with the race crossing over into Andorra for the day’s finale. The Coll de la Rabassa wasn’t the Vuelta’s most difficult climb in terms of its length or steepness, but a tough section at the bottom would send riders straight into the red and make it difficult to stay in contention for the rest of the ascent to the finish line. It was here that the BORA-hansgrohe teamwork took centre stage, as Rafał Majka paced Emanuel Buchmann up the higher sections of the climb after the German rider had been careful not to be swept up in the chaos of the GC race. Passing some of the overall contenders for whom the going had been just too much, Emanuel was able to stay in eleventh in the GC as the Vuelta reaches its most difficult day tomorrow.

The Stage
The 154.5km of near constant climbing for the peloton meant only the strongest were going to survive today. Heading north from yesterday’s finish town of Lleida, the day would spend 20km of the stage in the principality of Andorra, and 17km of those would be spent with the riders making their way up the day’s only categorised climb. The Coll de la Rabassa, with its average gradient of 6.6% would see a level of difficulty that belied its first category classification. Its steepest slopes coming at the lower section, the maximum gradient of 13.75% would come at the first kilometre, exhausting the riders with so much of the climb still to come – but with the intermediate sprint here as well, a surge in pace from the peloton would make the going even more draining. While the remainder would be easier, even the shallower gradients would feel ten times harder after the initial efforts, and the steeper inclines in the final 2km would once again put riders into the red.

The Team Tactics
Much of the action would take place on the day’s final climb, but the most important work to be done was to get both Rafał Majka and Emanuel Buchmann to the bottom of this mountain pass in the condition to perform on the Coll de la Rabassa. It would be important once the race crossed the border to ensure that neither rider went too far into the red on the more difficult lower slopes of this climb, with the possibility of making up any gaps that formed when the gradients eased up as the day went on. However, with nearly three weeks of hard riding in their legs, so much would depend on how everyone felt once their wheels were on the road.

The Race
While the day’s only categorised climb wouldn’t come until the final 17km of this 154.5km stage, it was climbing from the start, and so riders would have to find that extra push if they wanted to jump in the day’s break. This was the case, with a number of attempts being brought back quickly, and in the end it took 80km for the breakaway to come together, a group of three pushing ahead and building a slim advantage. Hitting 2:20 at its peak, the break would be brought close and then, with a renewed effort, would put some distance between themselves and the peloton. Never looking as though it would challenge for the stage win, the lead was down to 1:30 with 30km remaining, and by the time the race crossed the border from Spain into Andorra, the catch was all but made.

Some aggression from the peloton to take some points in the intermediate sprint saw the remnants of the break swept up, and it was all on for the Rabassa. The GC contenders made their intentions known from the start with some explosive moves forming a small group on the front with a bigger group of riders a little further back. In amongst this second group were Emanuel Buchmann and Rafał Majka – Rafał working hard on the gradients that suited his riding style, while Emanuel rode at his own pace, looking to decrease the gap when the road evened out. The GC leaders turned themselves inside out in their quest to take extra seconds, with several riders blowing up and being passed by groups further back. Rafał and Emanuel combined their efforts to ride together, crossing the line after Rafał had paced the German rider up the tough final 2km to protect his eleventh position in the overall.

From the Finish Line
"We had a fast start to the stage with Movistar working to make it a hard race. This didn't allow any big breakaway group to form and we worked to protect Emu. Although he suffered a lot in the last climb, Rafał provided very good support, so he was able to defend his 11th spot overall. We wanted to fight for the stage win but with the way the stage unfolded, it wasn't possible." – Steffen Radochla, Sports Director

"It wasn't an easy stage today. My legs weren't responding the way I would have expected, so I tried to limit my time losses. Rafał Majka stayed with me in the final climb and supported me in order to make sure I was also able to hold on to my position in the GC. I will now focus on recovering and on performing tomorrow, in the last mountain stage of this Vuelta." – Emanuel Buchmann

Dylan Groenewegen wins Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen

Groenewegen's LottoNL-Jumbo team sent me this report:

[Ed: This is not a race BikeRaceInfo posts results for]

Dylan Groenewegen has won the Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen in an impressive way. The sprinter of Team LottoNL-Jumbo easily won the bunch sprint in Koolskamp.

Groenewegen was perfectly postioned for the final sprint by his teammates after having controlled most of the race. It is Groenewegen’s thirteenth season victory and the thirty-first for Team LottoNL-Jumbo this year.

“I am really pleased to finally take the win here”, Groenewegen said. “Last year, I finished second, one year I was sick and once I crashed really bad. Then it is really nice that it has worked out this time.”

“It was not an easy sprint”, Groenewegen continued. “It is difficult to perfectly time your sprint because the finish was slightly uphill and there was some headwind too. I positioned myself in Degenkolb’s wheel before I started my sprint. It worked out well. The team did a great job today and for that, I am grateful to my teammates. It has been a wonderful season so far. I am very happy with my thirteenth victory.”

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