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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, August 25, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

'Do you pray for the senators, Dr. Hale?' No, I look at the senators and I pray for the country. - Edward Everett Hale

Current racing:

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Vuelta a España stage one team reports

We'll start with stage winner Team Astana's report:

The Kazakh Astana Pro Team had a great start at the last Grand tour of the season La Vuelta Ciclista a España, winning the opening team time trial of 13.4 km in Torrevieja.

Team Astana

Team Astana was the fastest. Sirotti photo

From start to finish Astana did a very strong race, passing both the intermediate point and the finish line with the best time. At the finish, the Kazakh team stopped the clock on 14 minutes 51 seconds, and this became the winning time. Miguel Angel Lopez crossed the finish line on the first position and, thus, became the first leader of the race (red jersey), taking also all other jerseys, including the new white jersey of the best young rider.

- We did a very good time trial, all guys put a great effort today and in the end of the day everything worked out perfectly. It is our team’s success and we all are very happy with this victory. What a great day for Astana Pro Team! I am so happy with the red jersey, it was maybe a bit unexpectable for me, but now it gives me a lot of motivation. It was not planned for me to cross the line on the first position. I was sitting on the second position before the last corner, when Gorka Izagirre said me to come in front. I passed the corner and realized there were just 150 meters to go, so I just gave my all until the finish line. Indeed, this is a perfect start of La Vuelta for our team. But, this is just the beginning and the whole race is still ahead. We will keep on racing with a cold head and calm, moving through it day by day, - said Miguel Angel Lopez.

- This is the best possible start of the race you could imagine! We knew we have a strong team here and we were aimed for a high result. A victory today – is a super great result for us, but we know that the race just started, and we have to continue working hard day by day. Anyway, today we are happy, and it is a great pleasure to bring this nice win to Kazakhstan, all our fans, partners and sponsors, especially our main partner Samruk-Kazyna, - said Alexandr Shefer, sports director of Astana Pro Team.

The second stage of the Spanish Grand tour will be held tomorrow: 199.6 km from Benidorm to Calpe.

Here's the Vuelta update from second-place Deceuninck-Quick Step:

On the day Rome was sacked by the Visigoths 1609 years ago, Alicante – the region which until then had been part of the Hispania Tarraconensis, one of the Roman Empire’s most important provinces – hosted the start of the Vuelta a España. For the 14th time this century, the season’s final Grand Tour kicked off with a team time trial, whose opening section was set against the spectacular backdrop of the Torrevieja Salt Marshes, dating back to the 13th century.

The penultimate squad to roll down the ramp, Deceuninck – Quick-Step went through the Avenida del Agua checkpoint eight seconds in arrears, but upped the pace in the second part of the stage, avoiding the slippery roads that previously caused several crashes, as well as another team’s car parked in a corner with 1700 meters to go.

Deceuninck-Quick Step

Deceuninck-Quick Step on the road. Sirotti photo

On the line, our riders had a deficit of just two seconds on Astana, who took the win, being clocked in 14:51 after averaging over 54km/h, an impressive result for the Wolfpack, considering the conditions that added too much excitement to the opening stage of the race.

“We didn’t start too fast and we were a couple of seconds behind at the first intermediate, but we still had the entire team and pushed hard in the last five kilometers. There were many incidents on the course that were out of our control, and these impacted on the outcome. We would have liked to win, but at the end of the day, we are happy that nobody crashed”, sports director Wilfried Peeters said.

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this:

The 76th edition of the La Vuelta a España got underway today in Torrevieja with a 13,4 kilometers-long team time trial on a quite technical course. In the evening the teams headed onto the course and BORA – hansgrohe was one of the last teams to roll off the ramp.

Bora-Hansgrohe

Bora-hansgrohe on their way to finishing fifth. Sirotti photo

Gregor Mühlberger led the team from Raubling, with Davide Formolo, Sam Bennett, Pawel Poljanski, Felix Großschartner, Rafał Majka, Jempy Drucker and Shane Archbold behind him. The team was quick to find its rhythm and showed a really strong performance on today’s short but technical opener. Setting one of the best times at the intermediate check point, the team kept up their effort until the line. Coming in with a strong time of 15:04, the team took fifth place at the end of the day.

Following this respectable result both GC contenders, Rafał Majka and Davide Formolo, ranked in a good position for the overall.

From the Finish Line:
“We couldn't expect a better start to this year's La Vuelta than we had. The guys worked perfectly together and found the rhythm right after the start. It was great to watch such teamwork, I think we can be really happy with this result and it gives us motivation and confidence for the upcoming stages.” – Patxi Vila, Sports Director

“I think we started really good, of course it is a pity, we missed a podium place by just some seconds but it is how it is. We worked well together and heard on the radio that we should be careful on this corner, where some teams crashed, therefore we went through slower but all in all it was a good start to this final Grand Tour of the year.” – Felix Großschartner

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

The Vuelta a España has started very unfortunately for Team Jumbo-Visma. Four riders from the team of Addy Engels and Grischa Niermann crashed halfway through the 13.4 kilometre long team time trial and eventually lost forty seconds on the winning team Astana.

Neilson Powless, Lennard Hofstede, Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk went down on a sudden wet patch of road. At first glance it seems there is little physical damage. Sepp Kuss had a mechanical failure and had to be left behind soon after the start.

Jumbo-Visma

Jumbo-Visma limiting their loss. Sirotti photo

German time trial champion Tony Martin tells his story. “We were riding at full speed towards that bend when things went sideways. There was no way to avoid it. We couldn't react in time, and the guys in the front slipped away on the wet road surface. Luckily everyone was able to continue their ride. Now we will have to see how things go, day by day. For now this is a blow to our morale."
Sports director Addy Engels is also licking his wounds. “It's far from ideal to start a grand tour like this. Just after the intermediate checkpoint there was some water on the road, which wasn't on the road during our recon ride. As a result, half the team crashed, including our leaders Primoz and Steven. At that moment it is all over for a good result and then you need to try to ride as well as possible to the finish. We have lost precious time. We will have to assess the damage and see how we will deal with it in the coming days and weeks. We certainly had not taken this scenario into account. We were a favourite and it would have been close if we hadn't crashed. Now we are forty seconds behind."

Engels is disappointed by that. “Whether the injuries aren't too bad or not, there is always damage. I have asked the organisation how this could have happened. They went to the house where the water came from. That is five hundred metres from the course, on a steep slope that goes straight onto the roundabout. There was a child playing in a inflatable plastic swimming pool that broke. As a result, according to the organisation, all of that water flooded down onto the road all of a sudden."

Caleb Ewan returns to racing at EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg

Ewan's Lotto-Soudal team sent me this:

This Sunday, the 24th edition of the EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg, a one-day race, part of the WorldTour since 2005, takes place. With four ascents of the Waseberg - the final one at fifteen kilometres from the finish - the race offers opportunities for both sprinters and attackers. However, it has been over ten years since an escapee managed to triumph in the city centre of Hamburg. Also this year, a lot of top sprinters will take the start and that way, another bunch sprint seems to be almost inevitable. Lotto Soudal will line up with triple Tour de France stage winner Caleb Ewan, who won the Hamburg Classic in 2016. Next week, the Australian will also take part in the four-day Deutschland Tour.

Caleb Ewan

Caleb Ewan winning in Hamburg in 2016.

Caleb Ewan: “I was quite tired after the Tour, and I also came home to our baby, which did not really favour the recovery. It has been a challenge to adjust to dad life and I’m still getting used to that, because you’re not sleeping so good but you still need to train. So I think my recovery from the Tour has been good, but not perfect.”

“The Hamburg Classic is a big race. Like in most races where I have the opportunity to win, I really want to go for the victory. But it is hard to tell where my shape is if you haven’t raced for a while. I’m hoping that I can still use my Tour form, because  it is more about maintaining than adding new shape. If my form is good, it is a race that really suits me because it is quite hard at the end, with the local laps and the steep climbs. As there aren’t too many Classics that end in a sprint – especially in the second part of the season – a lot of the sprinters will want their team to control. The finishing straight is always quite fast and technical. It is a kind of finish where it is hard to move back up, so you need to be in good position relatively early. Getting your timing right will be crucial. We have quite a good team and I also have Roger alongside me. Hopefully, I can be competitive and get to the finish in pretty good position, so I can contest the win.”

“I will need to wait and see how the legs feel on Sunday and hope it’s good, so I can carry it in the Tour of Germany. There will be some sprint opportunities there, so I hope I can contest those. It has been a long season, I also had never done an entire Grand Tour before, so I’m just hoping for the good legs to get some nice results.”

Sports director Herman Frison: “After the start in Hamburg, the riders will do a big loop, after which two small local laps follow, with each time an ascent of the famous Waseberg, a steep but not all too long climb. The riders will then cross the finish line for the first time and head for another two local laps where again, a double ascent of the Waseberg is on the menu. The riders will be presented with undulating terrain before finishing in Hamburg. Caleb Ewan is part of our line-up, so it is natural that we will aim for the sprint, but we will need to await his form after he finished a really successful but hard Tour de France. Due to the altitude metres, the course should suit Caleb perfectly, something he already proved with a victory in 2016.”

“Roger Kluge will ride in his home country and will be extra motivated to race. If it comes down to a sprint, Roger will be the final guy, but just like at the Tour, we will try to get Caleb in the best possible position towards the sprint and we definitely have a strong team to do so. If Caleb would not feel good, Stan Dewulf - who did a strong BinckBank Tour - is a perfect rider to join a possible breakaway. Also a rider like Lawrence Naesen - who replaces Frederik Frison, who fell ill - can perform such a role. But if Caleb is feeling well, we will definitely go for the sprint.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Stan Dewulf, Caleb Ewan, Roger Kluge, Nikolas Maes, Rémy Mertz, Maxime Monfort and Lawrence Naesen.

Sports director: Herman Frison.

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