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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, April 13, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different. - Aldous Huxley

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Tiesj Benoot & Jens Keukeleire ready for Paris-Roubaix

Lotto-Soudal sent me this:

On Sunday 14 April, exactly one week after the Tour of Flanders, the riders will take on the mighty cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. Between the start in Compiègne and the finish on the legendary velodrome in Roubaix, an extremely demanding race of 257 kilometres through the Hell of the North awaits. Troivilles à Inchy – the first of 29 cobbled sections – looms after about 100 kilometres, after which the secteurs pavés follow in quick succession. The five-star sections Trouée d’Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre are most likely to play a crucial role during the 117th edition of Paris-Roubaix.

Lotto Soudal rider Jens Keukeleire will start his tenth Hell of the North and wants to conclude a strong Classics season with a top result. Tiesj Benoot will be at the start of Paris-Roubaix for the third time in his career and hopes to animate the finale.

Jens Keukeleire: “I have never been in a better shape at the start of Paris-Roubaix. In 2015, I was already close the victory when I finished sixth. Back then, I became ill just before Paris-Nice and I only felt at my best again in Paris-Roubaix. Now, I’ve had a nice spring season, which brings some peace of mind. Of course, my performance in the past Tour of Flanders gives me confidence. I have been performing consistently the past spring Classics, but I still wait for that one peak result. In previous years, I missed that little percentage to stay with the best, but the past races have shown that I don’t need to fear other riders during a finale. Now, I am able to make the selection myself during key moments in the race. I feel that winning is a possibility on Sunday.”

Jens keuleleire

Jens Keukeleire training on the Flanders course last week. Sirotti photo.

“There is no race in which experience is more important than in Paris-Roubaix. It will be my tenth participation and I still learn every year. Contrary to the Tour of Flanders, the course of Paris-Roubaix – except for Tour stages – is only ridden once a year. The recon and the race itself are one of the few moments you are able to feel the cobbles. The more experienced you are, the more you can read how the race will unfold.”

“Because of the headwind that is being predicted, I expect the race to be closed a little longer than usual. But once racing kicks off, it is of course all hands on deck. On the tough sections like Bersée, Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre, there will be a tailwind and that is exactly when differences can be made. It is one of the first years that I don’t need to attack from afar. Moreover, joining an early break is always a gamble, certainly because of the predicted headwind during the run-up to the cobbled sectors. That way, you can waste a lot of energy, which you’ll need during the finale.”

Tiesj Benoot: “I will start in the Hell of the North for the third time in my career. During my first participation in 2015, I punctured twice. The next year, I crashed hard during the Tour of Flanders, and in Paris-Roubaix, I had two flats on a very bad moment. That means that I have never been up there during the finale but I hope to do so this year. In the first place, I need to prove to myself that I can make it to the finale and if that succeeds, a nice result is possible. My shape certainly won’t be the problem, I still feel fresh. For me, only two chances remain during the spring Classics. If I can avoid bad luck and if everything falls into place, a podium spot will be amongst the possibilities. The Tour of Flanders maybe suits me – thanks to the many climbs – a little better, but Paris-Roubaix is of course less about explosive racing. A really hard race will certainly play to my advantage. I have to try to attack from a little further and hope for some hesitation behind or that some strong riders will join me.”

“It will be important to always stay at the front. Once we’ve ridden through the Forest of Arenberg, a new race begins, so to speak. The wind always plays an important role in Paris-Roubaix. During the recon, I noticed that on the sector prior to Mons-en-Pévèle and on the five-star section itself, the wind will be favourable to really start racing. We’ll have to deal with headwind during a lot of the cobbles, but not out there.”

“Many riders start Paris-Roubaix with the goal of setting an outstanding performance. During the past races, the pool of contenders was smaller, which makes it difficult to name some favourites for Sunday. Of course, I expect riders like Oliver Naesen and Wout Van Aert to be up there, but during an event like Paris-Roubaix, it is not a good idea to base your race on other riders.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Stan Dewulf, Frederik Frison, Jens Keukeleire, Nikolas Maes, Lawrence Naesen and Brian van Goethem.

Sports directors: Frederik Willems and Herman Frison.

Team reports on the fifth stage of the Tour of the Basque Country

UAE-Team Emirates sent me this report:

The 5th stage of the Itzulia Basque Country, uphill to Arrate, reshuffled the top of the general classification, launching Daniel Martin to 4th place and Tadej Pogačar in the top 10.

The demanding stage with six climbs, including the final one towards Arrate, was won by Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), with 1’08” on a trio consisting of Ion Izaguirre (Astana), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and with 1’24” on the UAE Team Emirates duo including Tadej Pogačar (5th) and Daniel Martin (6th).

Emaanuel Buchmann

Emanuel Buchmann wins the fifth stage of the Basque Country Tour.

Buchmann built his victory with an attack after 120km of racing, an action that UAE Team’s Colombian Sergio Sergio Henao joined, in addition to Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana). Less than 10km from the finish line, the Bora-Hansgrohe rider rode free of his escape companions (all reabsorbed by the big group), flying towards the stage success and towards the leadership in the general rankings.

Daniel Martin faced the Arrate climb with a managable pace, slipping behind the Izaguirre-Yates-Fuglsang trio a few metres, but finding team-mate Pogačar a valid ally. He now sits 1’32” from Buchmann and Pogačar (10th) at 2’25”.

The 6th stage, 118.2km with start and finish in Eibar, will end the Itzulia Basque Country. They face three 3rd category climbs, a 2nd category climb, and two 1st category climbs, with the last rise (500 meters at 10%) located 4km from the finish line.

Sports director Neil Stephens said, “It was a good day for the UAE Team Emirates. We were able to count on Henao, Martin, Pogačar and Ulissi in the leading group and with Sergio, we went into action, seeking stage success and offering a foothold for our other riders.

Unfortunately, Buchmann proved to be on a great day, but we can be satisfied for bringing Martin to the 4th position in the standings and for having climbed in the team ranking, in which we are now second. All the riders of the team are giving good signs, this leaves us optimistic also for the last stage“.

And here's the Deceuninck-Quick Step Basque Country report:

A patched up Enric Mas, consequence of the crashes in which our rider has been involved two days in a row, was one of the major instigators on the cracking stage 5, which travelled from Arrigorriaga to the mythical Santuario de Arrate and was ridden as a relentless pace as soon as the flag was dropped.

A plethora of attacks were fired off the front of the peloton, but to no avail, as the bunch was keen on keeping things together. When three riders eventually managed to break the deadlock, they weren’t allowed to put more than a minute between them and the chasers, who kept the speed high and made sure the peloton was back as one inside 70 kilometers to go.

On the fourth of the day’s seven classified climbs, Enric Mas went on the attack, splitting the field and cresting the summit in the lead. A regrouping took place in the valley, only for more attacks to be soon launched from the yellow jersey group, which numbered around 30 riders. Best young rider of the previous edition, Enric was on the move again, but a lack of cooperation by some members of the group spelled the end of their time at the front.

Twenty kilometers from the finish, three men rode away from the bunch and from there Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe) attacked and sailed to both the win and the leader’s jersey, more than a minute clear of the first chasers. Despite not being at his best due to the previous days’ events, Enric Mas gritted his teeth and pushed hard on the gruelling slopes of Arrate, crossing the line a few seconds behins the riders who rounded out the Friday’s podium.

With one day left at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Enric is Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s best placed rider in the general classification, where he sits in 12th place. On the final stage, punctuated by seven classified climbs and small “wall” which comes inside the closing four kilometers and features a 10% gradient, he’ll get another chance of making inroads in the overall standings.

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