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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 29, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

Upcoming racing:

Latest completed racing:


Liège-Bastogne-Liège team reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from winner Jakob Fuglsang's Team Astana:

After a third place in the Amstel Gold Race and a second place in Flèche Wallonne, today Jakob Fuglsang took the win with an impressive solo in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. With a strong lead-out of almost the entire Astana Pro Team, Fuglsang attacked at the final climb of the day for his first Monument victory, the third win by an Astana Pro Team rider in La Doyenne.

Jakob Fuglsang

Jakob Fuglsang enjoys his win. Sirotti photo

- It’s fantastic, I’m so happy. It’s the biggest one-day victory in my career, to finish this great week with this result is very special. The team positioned me perfect for the final climb, on the important moment they were there for me. They did an amazing job because for me the finish line was at the top of this climb, so I gave it all. At one moment I looked back and then I knew it was possible and I tried to keep going. There was one scary moment in the downhill, but luckily I was able to get my bike back under control. I was feeling good all day and I tried to stay out of trouble and to stay warm. It was the perfect scenario for me because it was a very hard race. I look forward to a small break now, but this gives a huge motivation for the next races this season, - said Jakob Fuglsang.

- It’s an amazing win for Jakob Fuglsang, but also for the whole team because we finish a great start of the season by winning a Monument, our 23rd victory already this season. I need to thank all the sponsors and for sure our main sponsor Samruk, without them this wouldn’t’ve been possible. The team is very well-balanced now and we take victories with a lot of different riders. Today, the man who also worked for other riders in other races was able to take one of his biggest wins in his career with the help of his teammates. It’s incredible and for sure this is a great motivation for everyone in the team, for riders and staff, - said sport director Dmitriy Fofonov.

In rainy and windy circumstances, the 2019 Liège-Bastogne-Liège took off. The fourth Monument of the year had an early break with eight riders, but with 100 kilometers to go this group the peloton started to split on one of the hard climbs in the Belgian Ardennes. This resulted in a new leading group including Omar Fraile, and a strongly reduced peloton close behind.

At the bottom of Cotes des Forges, less then 30 kilometers to go, there was only one lonely leader left and the riders of Astana Pro Team started to go to the front of the peloton. They performed a perfect lead-out for Jakob Fuglsang, who attacked at the final climb of the day. Two riders were able to hang on, but not much later Fuglsang went solo to the finish line to take the first Monument of his career.

Bora-hansgrohe got 2nd and 3rd places. Here's their report:

Having had good weather for most of the Classics season so far, for Liège-Bastogne-Liège the skies were cloudy and the roads wet. This Monument was without a doubt going to be made all the more difficult by the more challenging weather conditions – but then this is what Belgian cycling is famous for. Each of the 256km, with its eleven short and sharp climbs and undulating terrain throughout, was going to be tough when bodies are cold and the roads are more treacherous.

Wrapped up in rain jackets and leg warmers, a flurry of riders attacked as soon as the race started, with six forming a break that quickly built up a lead of more than nine minutes. With a long day’s riding ahead, the peloton was happy to let them go, given there were no riders in this group who they believed would threaten to take the win. The bigger climbs came in the second half of the race, and it was here the break began to suffer.

While the climbs were short, many were incredibly steep and the gradients of 15% and above were causing the escape group to splinter. This and the pressure of the chasing peloton, BORA-hansgrohe’s Cesare Benedetti driving the pace hard, saw riders steadily drop off until the last man out front was picked off with 69km remaining. It was here the warm clothes came off and the attacks came, a small group pushing hard to get away, but unable to gain even a minute over the bunch. Patrick Konrad rode hard on the front to keep things under control only to make the jump himself into the break with 40km to go, allowing his teammates to recover, before Davide Formolo made his own move, jumping with the attack that turned out to be the day's decisive moment.

Davide Formolo

Davide Formolo finishes second. Sirotti photo.

Heading into the final 10km, BORA-hansgrohe were out in force, Davide working hard to stay in touch with the solo rider on the front, while Max Schachmann made his way into the second chasing group, less than a minute behind with 5km to go and with some very determined riders in the German rider’s group working hard to make the catch. Davide gave it his all as the final kilometre came into view and while the Italian was unable to take the prize, with the winner finishing alone, he took one of the best results of his career by finishing in second, with Max outsprinting the chasers to load the Liège podium with BORA-hansgrohe riders.

From the Finish Line:
"I think the result of this Monument speaks for itself and reflects the strong performance of the team! Patrick Konrad attacked with 40km to go so that Max and I could save our legs for later. Then, on the last climb, everybody was waiting for the start of the real race. Fulsgang attacked and I quickly jumped, reaching him. I was able to stay with him after the top but he was the strongest today. It was a good race for us." – Davide Formolo

"Horrible weather, I think this was one of the most difficult days in my professional career but with a very good finish. At one moment after Bastogne I was thinking we had lost the race because we got dropped in the crosswind but we made it back to the group. I was able to save energy and I knew the squad was there with me. The whole team did a brilliant job today, we raced in a smart way, we were there when it mattered and we still had five guys in the finale. Davide showed his class in the last climb while I stayed at the back of the chasing group, saving my legs for the sprint to third. I think that second and third place in a Monument such as the Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a big success for BORA-hansgrohe." – Maximilian Schachmann

"Hats off to all the guys, it was a brilliant race. I'm proud of the entire team, everybody followed the plan and strategy we had and everything played out perfectly. After La Redoute, we still had five riders in the group and we had decided that if any of the guys were feeling strong, we would give him the liberty to attack before the last climb. That's when Patrick Konrad went, doing a great job because Davide and Max could save energy for the last climb. Since the start of the race, our strategy was to wait for that final climb. At that point, it was all down to the legs the riders had, so it was great that Davide could stay in the wheel of Fulsgang but Max was also very well placed in the chasing group. It was a big success because Davide was able to hold on to second place and Max raced very cleverly in the finale and secured our second podium spot. Overall, a great day. I'm really proud of BORA-hansgrohe!" – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

Here's the report Tim Wellens' Lotto-Soudal team sent me:

Tim Wellens finished eleventh in Liège-Bastogne-Liège today after he rode a strong finale. On the final uphill slopes of the Côte des Forges, the penultimate climb of the day, the Lotto Soudal rider went on the attack, together with Daryl Impey. Moments later, they caught the leading duo Kangert-Konrad and at the foot of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, Wellens immediately attacked and left his breakaway companions behind. However, the Belgian was not able to stay ahead as Team Astana set a high pace at the front of the leading group, to ready their leader Jakob Fuglsang for an attack. The Danish rider, who was one of the main favourites before the start, dropped all his rivals after the Roche-aux-Faucons and eventually finished solo in Liège. Bjorg Lambrecht rode once again a strong race; the 22-year-old Belgian was part of a ten-rider move that attacked on the Col du Rosier. Lambrecht concluded his fine Ardennes campaign with a 27th place.

Bjorg Lambrecht

Bjorg Lambrecht charges up La Redoute. Sirotti photo

Tim Wellens: “I felt good today but unfortunately, Deceuninck-Quick Step lit up the race a long way from the line, just at the moment when I wanted to dispose some clothing and would have a final pee break. That way, we needed to chase and I already had to make a serious effort to get back to the front. I knew that I needed to go on the attack to get rid of some guys. I went over La Redoute quite comfortably and afterwards, I attacked. I felt good but I needed some more advantage at the summit of the Roche-aux-Faucons, because Team Astana was there in full strength to close the gap. That was the end of my story.”

 “I can’t be completely satisfied with the past Ardennes Classics. The Brabantse Pijl went well, I had an off-day during Amstel Gold Race and the result in Flèche Wallonne did not match the good sensations. Today, I tried to obtain a nice result by riding aggressively. Then, you just know it might fail but I can’t be unhappy about today’s performance.”

Bjorg Lambrecht: “The tank is completely empty and due to an upcoming cold, I knew it would be difficult to battle until the very finale. But when the peloton split into different groups, I was part of the first one. Afterwards, I think that I’ve created a good situation by joining the nine other riders on the Col du Rosier. When we got caught, I hoped to be up there for a little longer to maybe end up in a first group, but at that moment, it went so fast that a nice result wasn't possible anymore.”

Jumbo-Visma had a rough day. Here's their report:

Disillusioned, Team Jumbo-Visma has left Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the last spring classic of the season. Laurens De Plus competed for a top ten position for a long time and eventually finished in seventeenth place. Robert Gesink crashed hard and sustained a broken right collarbone and a fractured pelvis. As a result, the Dutchman won’t be able to start in the Giro d’Italia.

Robert GEsink

Robert Gesink (shown at the 2019 Tour Down Under) crashed badly at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Sirotti photo

In a soaking wet Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Team Jumbo-Visma lacked a bit of luck. In addition to Gesink, Antwan Tolhoek also had to abandon the race. Tolhoek suffered from hypothermia symptoms.

After La Roche-en-Faucons, team leader Laurens de Plus found himself in a group that sprinted for eleventh place. He finished seventeenth.

Gesink’s injuries meant a big disappointment for sports director Addy Engels. “Robert crashed badly in the descent of the Mont-le-Soie. It was very slippery due to the rain. This is a big blow for himself and for the team with regard to the Giro. Robert was an important pawn for Roglic. He is strong, he has shown to be riding at a good level and he is very experienced. We will definitely miss him in the mountains.”

De Plus, who will also assist Roglic in the Giro, was shocked. “This is a big loss for the team. Robert was doing really well the last weeks. When I look back at my own race I was too far behind at La Roche-en-Faucons. I was able to fight my way back, but the best riders in the race were already gone. On the Cote des Forges I tried to join an attack by Van Avermaet and Gilbert. I thought it was possible with this weather, but there was no cohesion. You also have to be lucky in such a race. However, my form is good with regard to the Giro.”

Annemiek van Vleuten storms to solo victory at Women's Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Van Vleuten's Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this:

Double time trial world champion Annemiek van Vleuten stormed to an amazing solo victory at Liege-Bastogne-Liege to cap of an impressive spring campaign.

The Strade Bianche winner attacked over the famous La Radoute climb with 30-kilometres remaining and held off the chasing pack to take the spoils in style.

The win brings to an end a stunning classics season for Van Vleuten which saw her claim victory at Strade Bianche, before three runner-up finishes at the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallone.

Annemiek van Vleuten

Annemiek van Vleuten winning this year's Strade Bianche.

It was a fast start to the day in wet and windy conditions, with several riders finding the pace too tough in the opening kilometres. The high speed in the bunch prevented any early attacks from going until a solo leader edged clear after one hour of racing.

Their lead didn’t last long however, as Mitchelton-SCOTT moved to the head of the pack to bring the race back together before the Cote de Wanne. The tempo over the first categorised climb caused serious damage in the bunch, with the peloton reduced significantly on the slopes.

With the race reset following the descent, two riders attacked clear over the Cote de Brume and opened up a gap of over one minute. Mitchelton-SCOTT again amassed at the head of the pack with Australian Lucy Kennedy setting a strong pace.

With the two escapees reeled back in, all eyes then turned to the famous Cote de la Redoute with attacks expected amongst the leaders, and so it proved with Van Vleuten attacking solo over the top.

The 36-year-old quickly stretched her advantage out to 45 seconds as a strong group of nine chasers formed behind. But as the chasing pack struggled to get organised Van Vleuten extended her lead further over the final categorised climb of the day, the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucon, with the margin growing to just shy of two minutes.

With the climbs dealt with, it was down to Van Vleuten to time trial her way through the streets of Liege to the finish line, and there was no stopping the reigning TT world champion as she put more time into her rivals to take the victory in impressive fashion.

Annemiek van Vleuten:
“Sarah Roy and Moniek Tenniglo did an epic lead out into La Radoute, I was super safe there, I didn’t have to do anything, then when we hit the bottom, I knew some girls were maybe out of position and I just went!”

“My words for today were ‘when I go, don’t look back, attack, commit and go’ and that’s what I did. I can’t control what the others were doing behind, so I just had to commit, and I know that I can do a 30-kilometre time trial.”

“The weather was a hard one, it was cold and I just had to focus myself and think ‘it’s my day’. I learned from the last two races, Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallone that I have to believe in my own strength, the longer it is, the better it is and the harder it is the better it is for me.”

“Shout out to my team because they made it hard on every climb, we took responsibility of the race to make it hard, so it was a real team effort which makes this win more beautiful. This was really high on my list and to finish off my spring with another win and three second places after my knee injury, I’m super happy.”

Martin Vestby (Sports Director):
“Finally it’s a victory, the girls have been working really well in the three Ardennes classics and today it finally paid off. We got it just how we wanted it and how we planned it so that was really great to see all come together.”

“We wanted to make it hard on the two climbs in the middle of the race and really tire people out and we succeeded with that, then Annemiek just launched it from the bottom of La Radoute, and that was the plan, to go and not look back.”

“She’s a brilliant time triallist and you know that those chasing behind would need to go really hard and work together to bring her back. When the gap went up to 45-seconds we started to believe she could do it, but you’re never sure until you cross the finish line.”

Liege-Bastogne-Liege Results:
1. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-SCOTT
2. Floortje Mackaij (Team Sunweb) +01'39"
3. Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg) +01'43"

What Olympic medalist Rebecca Twigg, homeless in Seattle, wants you to know

This heartbreaking story appeared in the Seattle Times:

When Rebecca Twigg was 7, she rode a bike for the first time. There were no training wheels, but Twigg took off like she’d done it in a previous life. She fell only when she realized she didn’t know how to stop, and steered into a wall.

“I took to the road like I was born to do it,” Twigg says today. “Except for the little part about stopping. I’m not a very good planner.”

The Seattle-raised athlete went on to become one of the most famous American cyclists in the ’80s and ’90s, winning six world championships and medaling in two Olympics. She appeared on cycling magazine covers, in sponsor ads and in features in Sports Illustrated and Vanity Fair.

But then, in 1996, she left the team abruptly during the Olympics and the next year, retired from cycling. She re-entered the workforce. It didn’t work out.

“Once you’ve done something that feels like you’re born to do it, it’s hard to find anything that’s that good of a fit,” Twigg says today. “Anything else that feels that way.”

Rebecca Twigg has now been without a home for almost five years in Seattle, living first with friends and family, then in her car, then in homeless shelters and then, for a night, under garbage bags on the street downtown. She hasn’t had a bike for years, and no one recognizes her anymore, she says.

You can read the entire story here.

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