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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, April 27, 2019

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy. - William Butler Yeats

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Tour of the Alps stage four reports

We posted the organizer's report with the race results.

Here's the report from final GC leader Pavel Sivakov's Team Sky:

A perfectly measured team ride on the final day saw Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart complete a one-two at the Tour of the Alps - the team’s last stage race as Team Sky.

Sivakov and Geoghegan Hart crossed the line together after a pulsating final stage to finish a near-perfect week in northern Italy.

Geoghegan Hart and Sivakov backed up their first professional wins on days one and two respectively with superb week-long performances, culminating in today’s result. Chris Froome also played a major role in the victory as he builds his form ahead of the Tour de France, and helped swing the race back in the team's favour when the result hung in the balance on the final day.

With early escapee Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec) a hefty seven minutes up the road and holding a near-four minute lead on the virtual GC, Froome put in a massive effort on the race’s key climb to keep Sivakov and Geoghegan Hart in contention.

Pavel Sivakov

Pavel Sivakov wins stage two.

Then it was Vincenzo Nibali’s turn to try and spoil the party, but Sivakov was equal to his three attacks near the top of the climb. Geoghegan Hart was able to bridge back to the duo and he and Sivakov worked well together in the closing stages to bring home the result.

Masnada stayed clear to take his second stage win of the race but he wasn't able to hold on to his early gap. Sivakov and Geoghegan Hart finished ninth and 10th on the stage, just over two minutes back, comfortably holding onto their GC positions.

It was a true team performance in tough conditions, with Leonardo Basso, Salvatore Puccio and Kenny Elissonde also playing their part.

Pavel Sivakov: “Today was a really tricky race, with a really strong breakaway but the team did perfectly. I was a bit stressed early on, but I knew the guys would do everything for me and in the end it was amazing. This victory is our victory.

“We’ve been really consistent all week, with Tao winning two stages, and today we managed the race perfectly - I have no words! Chris was amazing on the last climb. He did basically the whole climb on his own and closed a big gap. It’s amazing to be his teammate.”

Tao Geoghegan Hart: “We always had the situation under control but there was definitely times when the gap was too big and also not coming down despite us riding really hard. So that was definitely concerning. But Nico Portal was super calm and as a result so were we.

“Froomey did a huge turn and then we were also lucky to have some really nice plateaus in the climbs where I could go hard. In the end those two things made the difference I think.

“We were always checking the gap, we knew what we had to do and once we got to the last flat 8km we knew we’d done enough, so we could relax a little and just ride it home. It was good to have done what we needed with time to spare!

“I think the one-two on GC summarises Team Sky perfectly and how we ride as a team and stick to our plan no matter what. We stayed absolutely united as a unit and didn’t panic. The whole team rode absolutely superbly today, and all week. It was a really great performance for our last ever stage race as Team Sky.”

Lotto-Soudal previews Liège-Bastogne-Liège

The team sent me this:

On Sunday 28 April, the 105th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège will mark the conclusion of the spring Classics. After several years of absence, the iconic triptych Côte de Wanne, Stockeu and Haute-Levée will again be included in the course. The most crucial change is situated in the very finale of La Doyenne; the uphill finish in Ans has been replaced by a flatter run-in to the city centre of Liège, which means that the steep Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, located at fifteen kilometres from the line, will be the last climb of this year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Lotto Soudal will start with the same seven riders as in the past Ardennes Classics. Also in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Tim Wellens, Jelle Vanendert and Bjorg Lambrecht will spearhead the team.

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens at this year's Ruta del Sol. Sirotti photo.

Tim Wellens: “Liège-Bastogne-Liège means the last chance for a good result in the Ardennes Classics, only afterwards conclusions can be drawn. So far, I haven’t been able to show why I am taking part in the Walloon Classics. I had an off-day during the Amstel Gold Race and I could not convert the good sensations in Flèche Wallonne into a nice result. I think that I did not meet the expectations just yet. Last year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège was not bad but I was struggling on the Roche-aux-Faucons. Then, I finished sixteenth, my best result in Liège to date. I do expect more coming Sunday. I can’t be satisfied with top ten, but I know that I can be judged for that afterwards.”

Jelle Vanendert: “Due to the course that was modified, I expect a more open race, similar to the Amstel Gold Race. The peloton will probably be heavily reduced between the Côte de Mont-le-Soie and Haute Levée. Bad weather conditions could cause more nervousness and if that’s the case, positioning will be more important. Seen the new route, some riders or teams will maybe take some more risks, to avoid a scenario in which a sizeable group starts the Roche-aux-Faucons. In the Amstel Gold Race, Alaphilippe and Fuglsang were by far the best riders. Behind them, some twenty guys were evenly matched. As for myself, I will need a bit of luck. I am not a fast finisher so I have to try something myself and hope for a tough race. The fact that we could be in the finale with three riders, gives us a tactical edge.”

Bjorg Lambrecht: “It will be my second Liège-Bastogne-Liège with the pros. So I don’t have enough experience to really feel the changes that have been made to the course. For riders who will be participating for the sixth or seventh time, it’s another story but I am not thinking about it too much. Last year, I was held up behind a crash on La Redoute. I finished the race but at the end, I was exhausted. Between the Côte de Mont-le-Soie and the Haute-Levée, the climbs follow in quick succession. The race can already be partly decided over there. I prefer nice weather, not that I am afraid of bad weather conditions but the cold is not really my ally. People maybe have higher expectations of me now, but I try to lower those, mainly for myself . Anyway, my first part of the year has been successful and much better than I could have dreamed, regardless of the result on Sunday. Of course, I hope to be up there during the finale but fortunately, I don’t need to do so as a leader because the pressure attached to being the leader of a team can’t be underestimated.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Tomasz Marczyński, Maxime Monfort, Bjorg Lambrecht, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Herman Frison.

Ag2r headed to Liège-Bastogne-Liège

The team sent me this:

Romain Bardet: "Liège-Bastogne-Liège is my favorite classic. My third place last year only added to my affection for this race. With the new finale, we all go into the unknown. It may be more tactical than in previous editions, where the selection was made based on the physical strength, especially on the côte de Saint-Nicolas. This time, we do not really know how it will unfold, whether the race will ignite far from the finish or if we will end up with a large group in the last kilometers. This new situation will be interesting to discover even if there are a lot of uncertainties because many scenarios are possible. My form was on point at the Amstel Gold Race (9th), though my legs were less good at the Flèche Wallonne (13th). I'm looking forward to fighting at la Doyenne.”

Romain Bardet

Romain Bardet going deep in last year's Dauphine. Sirotti photo

THE NUMBER: 6
In six participations at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Romain Bardet has never finished below 13th. He finished 3rd in 2018, 6th in 2015 and 2017, 10th in 2014, 13th in 2013 and 2016.

THE NEWS: The last 100 km today
Our riders riders (except Alexis Vuillermoz, 6th of the last stage of Tour of the Alps) recon the last 100 km of Liege-Bastogne-Liege this morning, starting from Cote de Mont-le-Soie.

CCC Team eyes time trials at Tour de Romandie 

The team sent me this:

26 April 2019: CCC Team will focus on stage success at the upcoming Tour de Romandie, which features two time trials. The UCI WorldTour stage race will kick off with a short prologue and will end with a 16.9-kilometer individual effort.

The team will line up at the start of the race without one particular leader for the General Classification but, with multiple opportunists and time trial specialists who are capable of delivering good results next week, Sports Director Fabio Baldato explains.

“Our main objective for the Tour de Romandie is the prologue and the final time trial. With Patrick Bevin and Joey Rosskopf in the roster, we believe that we can fight for a top-five result or even a podium on those two stages. We are coming to Switzerland with no pure climber, and since there is a tough mountain top finish stage on day four, we don’t have big expectations in terms of the General Classification. However, we want to race aggressively and battle for stage wins. Riccardo Zoidl can do well in the mountainous terrain and Jakub Mareczko, who is also in good condition, should be up there with the best sprinters on stages two and three if it comes down to a bunch finish."

Jakob Mareczko

Jakob Mareczko wins a stage in last year's Tour of Hainan

“We want to give the opportunity to everyone on the team to go out there and try to get a personal result. Some of the riders usually ride to support their leaders and in this race, they will have a chance to showcase themselves. Łukasz Owsian and Will Barta will look for their chances in the breakaways and hopefully one of them will go all the way. Even though the top ten of the General Classification may be hard to achieve, we are still very motivated to do well. We will take every stage day-by-day and see where that approach will take us. We are hoping that Bevin will have a successful performance in the prologue and then we will take it from there. A good start to a race always raises morale and the team spirit for the next stages,” Baldato explained.

Bevin, the reigning New Zealand National Time Trial Champion, will make his debut at the Swiss stage race. “I’m very excited for the Tour de Romandie where I want to showcase my skills. The time trials here are the biggest focus of my spring, so I’m very motivated to do well. It's been a tough few weeks for me, but I feel that I bounced back and I believe I can deliver a good performance in both of the time trials. Also, some of the other stages may suit me, but we will see how things unfold,” Bevin said.

For Francisco Ventoso, who crashed out of Paris-Nice in March breaking a bone in his left hand, the Tour de Romandie will be an opportunity to get his race rhythm back. “I’ve been feeling very well in the last few weeks and I’m looking forward to the upcoming race. My recovery process went smoothly and I had a chance to do some solid block of training - first at home and now in Sierra Nevada. My sensations during training rides are good, but I know that after such a long break from racing, the Tour de Romandie will be a tough test for me. I’ve been working very hard in the last four weeks to build my form back up, so I can help our guys get a nice result next week. I will also use this opportunity to get my racing rhythm back since it’s very important to me to be ready for one of the biggest goals of mine, the Giro d’Italia. I’m happy that I can finally pin my race number and line up at the start,” Ventoso said.

Rider Roster: Will Barta (USA), Patrick Bevin (NZ), Jakub Mareczko (ITA), Łukasz Owsian (POL), Joseph Rosskopf (USA), Francisco Ventoso (ITA), Riccardo Zoidl (AUT)

Sports Directors: Fabio Baldato (ITA), Gabriele Missaglia (ITA)

Mark Cavendish confirmed for Tour de Yorkshire

The race organizer sent me this update:

The star riders are coming thick and fast with Mark Cavendish the latest cycling legend to confirm he will be riding the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire.

Cavendish is a true icon of the sport who has won no-less than 30 Tour de France stages in a glittering career that also includes the 2011 UCI Road World Championships title and a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The 33-year-old Manxman, whose mother lives in Harrogate, received a hero’s welcome when he competed in last year’s race and it is that reception that has influenced his decision to compete again between 2-5 May.

Mark Cavendish

Mark Cavendish (shown at the 2018 Tour de France) will be on the start line for the Tour de Yorkshire. Sirotti photo. 

He said: “I’m really excited to heading back to the Tour de Yorkshire along with my Dimension Data for Qhubeka team-mates to race in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I really enjoyed the tough but beautiful parcours last year as I rode the race for the first time, and I look forward to seeing what’s in store for us in the 2019 edition.

“Over and above the racing though, it always blows my mind to see the incredible support of the fans. With some of my family in Yorkshire, it makes it so special and I can’t wait to see them all again.”

Cavendish will be joined in a strong Team Dimension Data line-up by Nic Dlamini, Bernhard Eisel, Mark Renshaw, Tom-Jelte Slagter and Rasmus Tiller.

Those riders join four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome, Marcel Kittel and Lizzie Deignan who have already announced they will be competing in the 2019 edition. Cavendish will join that trio onstage at the Tour de Yorkshire Eve of Tour celebrations in Millennium Square in Leeds between 6-7pm on Wednesday 1 May. This free event offers fans the perfect chance to get close to the riders before racing begins.

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