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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 1, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology. - Carl Sagan

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Volta a Catalunya stage seven final reports

We posted the race report from the race organizer and stage winner Davide Formolo's Team Bora-hansgrohe with the results

Here's the report from GC leader winner Miguel Lopez's Team Astana:

Miguel Angel Lopez became the overall winner of the 99th edition of the prestigious UCI WorldTour race Volta Ciclista a Catalunya ended today in Barcelona. The Astana rider, supported by the whole team, was able to defend his lead at the seventh stage of the race on a hard Montjuic circuit in Barcelona.

- I am super happy with this victory! It is something great! Together with the team we considered this race as one of the main points in the beginning of the season and today we could complete our goal. It was a nice race and I had a great support of my team. I felt good during the whole week here in Catalunya, and, in the same time, I was improving day by day. After my win atop La Molina I believed that together we can do it until the end. I thank all the team for this week! It is our common, Astana Pro Team victory! – said Miguel Angel Lopez.

Miguel Lopez

Miguel Lopez wins stage four.

Stage 7 of the Volta a Catalunya with start and finish in Barcelona (143.1 km) provided a very difficult route with 8 Montjuic climbs on the local laps. Once, the peloton arrived on the laps, the race has exploded with attacks. Adam Yates, second in the general classification, made a powerful attack for some time taking the virtual lead in the race.

Davide Villella, Andrey Zeits and Pello Bilbao did their best inside the final few laps to chase Yates just not to give him too much space. On the final lap the Britton has been, finally, caught by the group of Miguel Angel Lopez, and after that the favorites finished all together.

- We knew the rivals will try to do something on Montjuic, so we were ready. I had strong teammates next to me and they did absolutely incredible job! In every moment of the race, even than Adam Yates went away we tried to keep calmness, gaining the terrain back second by second. In the end it worked out perfectly and I could save my jersey. It was a super hard day on the road, but I’ve got the final victory for my team and now I am happy! – added Miguel Angel Lopez.

The Italian Davide Formolo took stage 7 win after a brave solo breakaway, the Spanish rider Enric Mas finished second, while the German Maximilian Schachmann closed the daily podium with third place. Miguel Angel Lopez finished 13th inside the GC contenders group, thus, confirming his win in the final general classification of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. Adam Yates took the second place, while Egan Bernal did third.

Besides, Miguel Angel Lopez won the jersey of the best young rider of the race.

For Astana Pro Team it is the 21st victory in this season.

- We had a very good group of riders here in Catalunya, with a great atmosphere and fully dedicated to our common goal. Today I saw a very strong team, where everyone gave his best to help Miguel Angel Lopez to win this race. It is a big result for our young leader, but, also, it is a very nice win for all Astana Pro Team. Indeed, we have a fantastic start of the season and we still continuing in the same way. I want to thank all guys, riders and staff for this amazing week. And, of course, I want to thank all Astana sponsors and partners for a huge support of our team, especially our general partner Samruk Kazyna, - added Dmitri Sedoun, sports director of Astana Pro Team.

And here's the report from GC second-place Adam Yates' Mitchelton-Scott team:

Stage three winner Adam Yates displayed great determination and motivation on today’s final stage of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, fighting all the way to the finish line in Barcelona in his attempt to claim the overall title.

After breaking away with his brother Simon, with just three laps remaining, the Yates brothers took the bull by the horns and at one point, it almost looked as though Adam had done enough to secure the overall title.

In the end a solo move by Adam was brought back on the final lap by a chasing group including Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team), which meant Adam had to settle for second place overall, a bitter feeling, just two-weeks after losing the overall title on the final day of Tirreno-Adriatico. 

Davide Fomolo

Davide Formolo wins the final stage.

The riders headed away from Barcelona city centre for an opening 52kilometre lap where a breakaway of 11riders formed within the first 10kilometres of the stage. The group opened up their advantage to over four-minutes before returning to Montjuic, ready to complete eight local laps of a 11.2kilometre hilly circuit.

Mitchelton-SCOTT led the peloton into the final circuits as the leader’s advantage dropped down to just two minutes.

With the hilly terrain around Montjuic and a main 2.2kilometre climb with an average gradient of 5.3%, the race soon changed as the riders headed around the final circuits.

Davide Folomo (Bora-Hansgrohe) attacked away solo from the breakaway group and behind, Mitchelton-SCOTT continued to lead the peloton before starting to attack one-by-one.

With less than 25kilometres to go, Simon Yates launched a second attack and quickly opened up a gap and was immediately followed by his brother. The pair went in hot pursuit of the solo leader, with three more riders bridging across for a short period.

Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quickstep) continued ahead with the Yates brother as the others two riders dropped off and shortly after Adam made a move into the final lap.

As the virtual leader, his advantage continued to increase but with just five kilometres to go, the chasing group caught Yates and ended his pursuit of glory.

Formolo held on to take the stage win with Adam crossing the line in seventh place to maintain his second place overall, to add to his stage win on day three.

Adam Yates:
“We wanted to be aggressive in the final and today was the last opportunity to take some time. Everybody knows this circuit is not like rolling into Paris, it is not an easy day, it’s not an easy circuit and we tried to make it hard from the beginning.

“Even earlier on before the circuits we rode, just to make sure we were out of the wind and in good position and at the end there we were aggressive. We had Grmay Tsgabu riding to make it hard and then the guys attacking every lap or every other lap.

“I think it was three laps to go when Simon attacked again and that was the moment so I went across to him. It wasn’t planned or anything but we rode well there for a couple of laps and it not too easy to take time on this circuit.

“It was the last chance so why not have a good go and we tried, we gave it a go and all the guys rode really well today. On to the next one.”

Julian Dean - Sport Director :
“Our objective coming in was a podium finish overall and a stage win so we liked those boxes. We went down fighting today, the guys did an amazing ride and we can’t ask anything more than that from them.

“One thing about Adam and Simon is they are racers, they know what to do and when to do it and that is the one of the exciting things about working with them. They really have the racing instinct and we saw that today.”

And Thomas de Gendt's Lotto-Soudal team sent me this report:

Thomas De Gendt splendidly secured his lead in the KOM classification during the final stage of the Volta a Catalunya today. With a stage win, three days in the leader’s jersey and the polka dot jersey, the 99th edition of the Volta a Catalunya became an unforgettable one for the Lotto Soudal rider. Davide Formolo - part of the early break - took the final victory in Barcelona. After a thrilling battle on the slopes of Montjuïc, GC leader Miguel Ángel López did not let the overall victory slip through his fingers.

Thomas de Gendt

Thomas de Gendt wins stage one.

The Volta a Catalunya was traditionally closed by a stage on a city course in Barcelona, with the famed Montjuïc hill as the decisive climb. Once again, Thomas De Gendt did not miss out on the breakaway as he escaped the peloton together with ten other riders. On the first climb of the day, De Gendt immediately took another three KOM points and also during the local laps in Barcelona, he managed to collect some more. That way, he secured his second Volta a Catalunya KOM classification and added another jersey to his already impressive collection.

Thomas De Gendt: “The plan was to be part of the breakaway today, not only to secure the KOM jersey, but also to go for the stage win. Eventually, the winner – Davide Formolo – was in the break, so it seemed like the right tactics. But unfortunately, I did not have the legs anymore to join Formolo. I knew that I had to take the points on the first three climbs of the day to be sure of the mountains classification. Right after, Formolo attacked, but I just couldn’t respond anymore. After a tough week in Catalunya and also a hard Paris-Nice, the tank was a little empty today.”

“Of course, I am very satisfied with the Volta a Catalunya I rode. Especially the stage win was very nice and it gave me a great feeling to already add a win to my name. The polka dot jersey on top is a nice bonus. Of course, I wanted to hold on to the leader’s jersey as long as possible but a nice spot on GC was never within reach because I know really well what I am capable of on the climbs. I rode in a leader’s jersey during six out of the seven days, so I can say it was a successful week of racing. After a long training camp in Calpe, the Tour de Romandie will be my next race.”

The 81st edition of Gent-Wevelgem was a real elimination race, but after over 250 kilometres of racing, a reduced group sprinted for victory. It was Alexander Kristoff who proved to be the fastest today, the Norwegian rider beat John Degenkolb and Oliver Naesen. Tiesj Benoot and Jens Keukeleire were part of the first group but did not manage to take a top ten result.

Gent-Wevelgem team reports

We posted the report from winner Alexander Kristoff's UAE Team Emirates with the results.

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

Cobblestones, gravel, narrow roads and steep, steep climbs. Gent-Wevelgem has all the hallmarks of a great Spring Classic. The 252km parcours has it all, and the ten difficult climbs are where the action really happens. Saving the best until last, the hardest climb of the day is the Kemmelberg, a cobblestone climb with sections hitting a ferocious 22% gradient, but with 35km still to race after cresting this hill, the prize would go to the rider who could tackle the undulating terrain and still have enough in the tank to contest the finale.

The high pace made it hard for a break to stick, although many attempts came in the early stages. It was the high speed and aggression that saw the escape form, with a strong group of twenty splitting the peloton, Peter Sagan, Pascal Ackermann and Rüdiger Selig joining this move. While their lead of 1:30 was slim, it was the sheer strength of this group that made them such a threat. With Pascal and Rudi keeping the Slovak National Champion safe, the break covered the bulk of the day’s climbs with ease, and with 35km remaining, a small group of five was all that was left, with Peter driving the pace in this select group.

However, in spite of their best efforts, the catch was made with 18km to go, and while attacks came and went, nothing really stuck, the peloton always looming large behind. Once one attack was brought in, another went out, but it was all back together for the finale. In a long sprint, Peter knew early on that he was out of contention, but it was here Rudi stepped up, sprinting hard for eighth spot – an impressive show of strength after already riding hard in the day’s break. 

Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff wins the 2019 Gent-Wevelgem.

From the Finish Line:
"It was a beautiful and exciting Gent-Wevelgem but a very hard one! We were going over 50km/h in the first two hours and when the strong winds created splits, I decided to take the opportunity and jump in the big break, together with Pascal and Rudi. They did a great job, worked hard and when we were left just four of us in the group, I gave my best to help stay ahead of the peloton. It wasn't possible and in the finale I didn't have the legs to go for the bunch sprint." – Peter Sagan

"It was a really tough Classic race with a lot of wind, many echelons and a furiously strong pace in the first part. In the first two hours of racing, the peloton had an average speed of nearly 53km/h! Then there was a breakaway of 20 riders, where we had Peter Sagan, Pascal Ackermann, and Rüdiger Selig. From that moment, they had a nice race, they stayed in the front for most of the day and were caught by the remnants of the peloton in the closing 20km. After putting all that effort, it was clear Peter couldn't do the sprint finish. It was a hard day for everybody on the team." – Steffen Radochla, Sports Director 

Here's what second-place John Degenkolb's Trek-Segafredo had to say abut the race:

After weeks of frustrations and no results, Trek-Segafredo pulled together its best team effort and delivered and much-needed second place in Gent-Wevelgem.

Right from the drop of the flag the race was on, and Trek-Segafredo never missed a beat, placing four riders in the first significant split that saw 18 riders form a threatening lead group, and continued the incredible team effort until the finish line where John Degenkolb sprinted to second behind Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates).

“I was very nervous already in the neutral zone,” admitted Degenkolb. “The race was super hard straight from the gun. I don’t ever remember the wind coming from this direction in Gent-Wevelgem so it was quite clear that at one moment it would split. It was just amazing that we were there with four guys. I don’t want to say the F-word, but it was super, super hard today. It was unbelievable."

The chase was on from behind, but it would take the peloton 180 kilometers to bring back the last remnants of the leading group after Edward Theuns’ attack saw four men move clear 67 kilometers from the end. They became five when Sky’s Luke Rowe bridged across adding more firepower, and it wasn’t until 18 kilometers to go that the bunch finally was one unit.

“I was fighting with myself to stay in the bunch after the first time up the Kemmelberg. But after I could recover because we had Eddie (Theuns) in front with the group with Sagan so we only had to control and the other teams had to ride,” continued Degenkolb. “On the Kemmelberg I was already exploding. Then I dropped back to the next group and then I could find my legs again and hang on. But it was also a mental fight to keep there. I felt better after the last time up the Kemmelberg, and it was also mentally easier to know there were no climbs anymore.”

Despite a stiff headwind for the run-in, Trek-Segafredo continued its pressure with Mads Pedersen, and Jasper Stuyven trading blows in the last 10 kilometers to try and get clear. Stuyven’s attack with five kilometers to go almost succeeded. Taking three riders with him, the quartet survived into the final 1000 meters, but a headwind, lack of cohesion, and tired legs ended their bid, and a reduced bunch sprint was on order.

Degenkolb: “We did a great race as a team, and that’s the way we have to ride. Basically, we were always one step ahead of the other teams, especially Quick-Step. Everyone knows that Quick-Step is the team to beat, but since the first split, from that moment, they were running behind the fence. It was a good move.

“In the end, we could rely on our power to make a result, and it didn’t matter who it was. I was focusing on the sprint and Mads and Jasper were attacking to make a split and covering all the attacks. Just before the finish, Jasper was in a small group so he also could have made a good result.”

After such a grueling race, it was a hardman’s finish into a headwind. The power sprinters came to the fore, with Kristoff earning a huge victory, and Degenkolb finding back enough legs to finish second ahead of Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale).

“It was a really hard sprint with the wind, everything had to be perfect. I was focusing on Viviani, but they all got boxed in on the left somehow and just before I had to touch the brakes I could go to the right and keep my speed. Alex (Kristoff) did an amazing sprint, to be honest.  He was super strong. I could come on his wheel… but today he was by far the best. After such a hard race it’s what you have left in the tank. I did a lot earlier on, but that’s also racing. I enjoyed today -it was a great day in Flanders fields.”

Trek-Segafredo has struggled over the opening weeks of the Classics and faced misfortune in the first monument, Milan-Sanremo. The result in Gent-Wevelgem was a much-needed boost of morale and confidence ahead of its two biggest races, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

“We were struggling a lot in the last weeks, it was a hard period,”  agreed Degenkolb. “How we raced today was fantastic after so many races with no results. We are strong riders, but everyone was pointing at us and wondering what we are doing – in the end, it was not an easy situation to handle.

“We worked very hard the whole winter, and we all know what we have done and sacrificed for this, but then you miss the results for whatever reasons… sometimes you just need a race like this, one click, and we’re back. Today we showed how we can ride as a team; we turned the page after quite a few disappointments this year. It was great to see, and a deserved and needed mental boost for the next two weeks.”

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