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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, August 31, 2019

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Vuelta a España stage seven team reports

Here's the report from stage winner Alejandro Valverde's Team Movistar:

The Movistar Team continues to offer impressive performances in the 2019 Vuelta a España, its strength as a group rewarded again on the 183km stage seven from Onda to the grueling Mas de la Costa climb (Cat-1; 4km at 12.3% avg.). Alejandro Valverde raised his arms victorious in La Vuelta in the rainbow jersey as World Champion, a dream picture made possible by the hard work and commitment from all seven team-mates, including a sensational Nairo Quintana (4th).

Alejandro Valverde

Alejandro Valverde takes stage seven ahead of Primoz Roglic. Sirotti photo

Jorge Arcas and Imanol Erviti took to the front of the bunch with 70km remaining, starting to reduce the gaps against a ten-man breakaway which took more than sixth kilometers to form, and never built a gap exceeding five minutes. The subsequent, continued efforts by Rojas, Pedrero and Oliveira and the support by Marc Soler -who also did well on the final climb to take 12th– helped Valverde y Quintana reached the decisive ascents with all chances to win. Further accelerations from Astana and Jumbo-Visma left ahead only the ‘Fantastic Four’ in this Vuelta, with Primoz Roglic (TJV) and Miguel Ángel López (AST) following Quintana and Valverde as they played their cards intelligently. While the Colombian made the opposition suffer with his pace changes, the Spaniard saved his energy for the end and took the lead since the last 400m, winning the sprint with a great final effort.

Friday’s success marks Valverde’s 12th career stage win in La Vuelta, the marvel from Murcia up to 127 pro wins and now sitting in 3rd place overall, with Nairo Quintana in 4th – both barely half a minute within race leader López. The race will visit Catalunya on Saturday’s stage eight, starting from the late Xavi Tondo’s town of Valls and climbing Montserrat towards Igualada, in the eve of Sunday’s brutal Andorra mountain stage.

REACTIONS:
Alejandro Valverde: “I’m so, so happy. This season has already been good to me, always up there within the best, but taking a stage like this one in La Vuelta, with such a strong competition – it really makes me happy. I want to thank all of my team-mates for the huge gamble they made on us for the win, and Nairo in particular, because he rode brilliantly over the last climb. He tried to distance Roglic and López with his attacks, but seeing they were able to match him, he set a steady pace so I could go for the victory later on. I was confident, I knew I was doing well, and the worst result I could have got was fourth (laughs). I just tried to keep the moves under control, and I knew I was the fastest of the three, so I remained calm until the end. It’s still a long way to go in this Vuelta, but for the time being, it seems like we two, Nairo and myself, are within the top four contenders for the GC win at this specific point.

“Aiming to win this? Of course it would be incredible to take the victory, 10 years after my first one, but I must remain realistic. We’ve got two stage wins at the moment, one by Nairo and one by myself, we’re up there in the GC – we can’t really ask for more at this point. What there isn’t is a a single problem between us. Nairo said he wants me to be the team leader, but I think he must not rule himself out of contention at all. He’s doing really well, and he’s talented enough to aim for this victory. At Javalambre on Wednesday, there was some controversy from Colombia about me pulling Roglic, but the thing is, if I didn’t have López riding away from us, I wouldn’t have ridden that way. I couldn’t lose time against him, since he’s so dangerous. Roglic has proven to be really strong, too, and he should be the best of us four at the ITT, but anything can happen.”

Nairo Quintana: “I wanted to push hard into those slopes to pay the team back for their hard work all day, while Alejandro saved energy at the back of the group to try and sprint to the win, just like he did. It was our plan before the stage: I went on the attack to test our rivals’ legs and maybe even going solo, while Alejandro tried the move he delivered at the end. When he sees the finish, Alejandro transforms himself. The climb is quite peculiar, with those steep slopes, and considering we’re into day seven of the Vuelta, and after two previous, consecutive mountain stages, the wear and tear starts to show and it encourages you to keep trying, seeking for a mistake from your rivals. Alejandro is currently ahead of me in the GC, he’s doing better and I stand by what I said earlier this week, but we remain day-by-day, seeing what happens. It’s stil a long way home, and together with the team we must continue to do our best.”

Here's the report from second-place Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team:

Primoz Roglic has done some good business in the overall classification in the seventh stage of the Vuelta a España. The Slovenian leader of Team Jumbo-Visma was second only to World Champion Alejandro Valverde on the steep climb to the finish at Alto Mas de la Costa. In the overall standings, Roglic has moved up to second place, just six seconds behind Miguel Angel Lopez.

With George Bennett, Team Jumbo-Visma has a second rider in the top ten overall. The rider from New Zealand finished ninth on the stage and is now eighth overall.

With an average speed of almost fifty kilometre in the first hour, it took a long time before eleven riders could get away. The leading group was reeled in at the foot of the final climb, after which Sepp Kuss and George Bennett increased the pace. Roglic left a strong impression and took some seconds back on Lopez.

"It was a short, tough, but sweet climb," Roglic said. “This is the kind of finish that is perfect for Valverde. I have shown that I can also do these climbs, but Alejandro was the best today. I am very happy with this second place and with how things go. Everyone knows that it is difficult to win races without a team. What the team showed today was impressive. My compliments to them for how they supported me today. They were really strong. We are doing well and are in a good position.”

Bennett emphasises the team spirit. “Today I have seen a strong team. The young riders in particular were very strong. This is beautiful to see and gives us confidence. Especially after what we have been through in the past days with the many crashes, all the cuts and bruises, and Steven having to leave the race. After the team time trial we had to attack and we kept our heads up and kept fighting. Now it is important to keep Primoz in this position until the time trial next Tuesday."

Sports director Grischa Niermann concurred with his GC riders. "The team was very strong. Robert, Neilson, Sepp and George assisted Primoz well in the final. Primoz competed with the best on the steep final climb and did not face any problems. With George also in the top ten we are doing really well."

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

The final of the 7th stage of the Vuelta a España became a place of a great battle between the favorites of the general classification. Four riders went away clear on a super steep 4-km-long climb Mas de la Costa to fight for the stage and the lead in the overall standings.

Miguel Angel Lopez, Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and Primoz Roglic created a leading group, fighting on the slopes of 15-20%. In the end of the day, nobody could get an advantage, and everything ended with a powerful uphill sprint, won by Valverde, followed by Roglic and Lopez.

Finishing third at today’s stage, Miguel Angel Lopez returned into the lead in the general classification, retaking the red jersey back.

Miguel Lopez

Miguel Lopez will start stage eight in red. Sirotti photo

- I can’t say that this climb suited me well as it was a steep and explosive powerful climb. However, I gave my best today and I think I can be happy with my performance. I knew this climb and I knew it would be a big test for everyone. We had a super fast start and in general it was a fast stage, so, everyone was already tired coming to the bottom of the final climb. Our team did a great job, I was always in a good and protected position. At the last climb my teammates did a good acceleration, placing me well in front. Finally, we remained four in the lead, everyone tried to do something, but it was impossible to gain terrain on these steep slopes. I expected that Alejandro Valverde would be a big favorite today as this climb suited him perfectly. Anyway, once again I am in the red jersey and I am happy with it. We did a good stage and it is nice to come back into the lead. On Sunday we will have another very hard day and, I think, the climb in Andorra will suit me much better. So sure, with the whole team we will keep on fighting in this Vuelta day by day, - said Miguel Angel Lopez.

- I think we can be satisfied with the way we did this stage. The team was strong, working really good for Miguel Angel. We expected that the final climb won’t suit him perfectly, so we just tried to do it as good as possible. The team brought Miguel Angel in front in a perfect moment, so he could follow the move of Quintana, Roglic and Valverde. On the climb Lopez had good legs, he looked strong. It was difficult to win the stage against Valverde, but he managed to finish third and to take back the red jersey. It is a nice end of the day, - said Alexandr Shefer, sports director of Astana Pro Team.

The Vuelta a España will continue tomorrow with stage 8 from Valls to Igualada of 166.9 km.

Rafa Majka's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

The peloton had to face a real wall at the end of stage 7, climbing up to Lato Mas de La Costa, a 4,1km ascent with a gradient of 12,3%. But before the riders tackled the final climb, they had to cover already 182 kilometres and four categorized climbs. Unfortunately, Davide Formolo had to withdraw from La Vuelta today. The Italian Champion was able to finish yesterday’s stage after his heavy fall but was suffering from pain in the right side of his pelvis, which did not improve overnight.

After several attacks, a group of 10 riders managed to distance themselves from the main bunch and opened up an advantage of three minutes. While the German team stayed in the pack to protect their GC contender Rafał Majka. The race situation stayed unchanged for a long time with the breakaway being at the front. However, the race spiced up as the reduced bunch closed the gap to the leaders at the front on the final climb.Rafał was brought into position by his teammates Felix Großschartner and Pawel Poljanski perfectly. The polish rider, who has been showing strong form in the Spanish mountains so far, was part of the first group until the decisive move from Valverde, Roglic, Quintana and Lopez. Still, Majka was able to stay in contention all the way up, only 25 seconds behind the race leaders.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka is now in fifth place in the GC. Sirotti photo

After an exciting finale and a stunning performance, the BORA - hansgrohe leader climbed to fifth place on the stage, but also moving up to fifth overall. His teammates crossed the line several minutes down the stage winner, while Sam Bennett lost the green jersey today, sitting now in third position in the points classification.

From the Finish Line:
"I am really happy with my performance and result today. I felt good and I am normally better on longer climbs, therefore I am satisfied that I could follow the attacks taking 5th place at the end. And also on the general classification I moved up to 5th place. This wouldn’t have been possible without the help from my teammates, they did such a great job, therefore a big thanks to them. Of course, it is still a long way to Madrid but we take it day by day and see what we can achieve all together. However, tomorrow will be again a chance for the faster men in the peloton before we head into the mountains of Andorra.” – Rafał Majka

"We can be really satisfied with today's result. Rafał showed such great legs and the team brought him into position perfectly. It was a brutal finale, but the guys did once again their job perfectly. Especially Felix and Pawel worked hard until the final climb and rode then their rhythm up to the finish. We are now sitting with Rafał fifth in the overall, which is a really strong result so far. We will still give our best to achieve a result we can be proud of at the end."  - Patxi Vila. Sports Director 

Stage win and leader's jersey for Alexander Kristoff in Germany

Kristoff's UAE-Team Emirates sent me this:

Alexander Kristoff won the second stage of the Tour of Germany, over 202 kilometeres from Marburg to Göttingen, the longest stage in this edition, in a reduced sprint.  Second place went to Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), third Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck – Quick Step). The standings are the same in the general classification where the Norwegian now leads by 10 ’’ and 12 ’’ advantage respectively.

Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff (shown at this year's Tour of Switzerland) now leads the Tour of Germany. Sirotti photo

“I suffered all day” says Kristoff. “I broke away in the middle of the stage but then I managed to get back into the group where, as the kilometers went by, I started to feel better. On the last ascent I lost contact, but managed to get back on.  In the sprint I felt really good. When Colbrelli jumped I was a bit boxed in, but then I managed to pass.

"Yesterday I felt good, but I was not able to finish off the excellent work of the team. I didn’t win since Switzerland, before the Tour de France, where I wasn’t at my best.  Now, however, I am returning in good condition to aim for the world championship.

"For the overall GC I think it’s difficult because today I was at the limit and tomorrow it will be even harder, but I will definitely try”.

Tomorrow the third stage from Göttingen to Eisenach over 189 km, with a nervous ending that could see a select group  at the finish.

Stage 2 results:
1 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates 4:21:04
2 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida s.t.
3 Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick Step s.t.

General Classification after stage 2:
1 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates 8:10:18
2 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida +10 “
3 Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick Step +12 “
7 Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates +15 ’’

Greg van Avermaet returns to racing at Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France

Van Avermaet's CCC Team sent me this:

29 August 2019: Greg Van Avermaet will lead CCC Team at Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France this Sunday, 1 September, with the UCI WorldTour one-day race marking the start of his final block of racing for the season.

Greg Van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet will be racing in France Sunday. Sirotti photo.

Van Avermaet will be supported by a strong team on the new parcours, which is well suited to Van Avermaet, Sports Director Valerio Piva said.

“It’s clear that Greg Van Avermaet is our leader at Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France, where he has twice placed in the top ten, especially this year as the changes in the parcours should suit him even more. The narrow roads and two gravel sections coming 60 kilometers from the finishing circuit are the kinds of terrain Greg likes. He is in good shape and has been training well so, he is motivated for a good race on Sunday,” Piva said.

“We have a strong team in support of Greg and as the race often comes down to a bunch sprint or a small group staying away, we need to race attentively and aggressively to cover all moves and ensure we are present at the front of the race. Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France is always a good indication of everyone’s form in what is the start of the last two months of racing.”

Van Avermaet is motivated to return to Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France after missing the race in 2018. “I’ve been training well in Saint Moritz since my last race at Binck Bank Tour and I hope to see the results this weekend at Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France. I’m feeling good and I’m motivated to start my last races of the season in the lead up to the World Championships. It’s a race that is always quite unpredictable but I hope we can make it a hard race as that is always in my favor,” Van Avermaet explained.

“Although it’s not a race where I have been on the podium, I think the new parcours is going to suit me more and a good result will give me confidence ahead of the races in Canada and the World Championships, which is a big goal of mine this season.”

Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France (1 September)

Rider roster: Josef Černy (CZE), Łukasz Owsian (POL), Michael Schär (SUI), Laurens Ten Dam (NED), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Guillaume Van Keirsbuck (BEL), Łukasz Wiśniowski (POL)

Sports Director: Valerio Piva (ITA)

Lotto-Soudal will ride Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France

The team sent me this update:

On Sunday 1 September, Lotto Soudal will be at the start of the 53th Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France. During this French one-day race, part of the WorldTour circuit, the riders will face a challenging course of 250 hilly kilometres between the start and finish in Plouay. Last year, Tim Wellens finished third during a soaking wet and truly memorable edition, it was Oliver Naesen who sprinted to his second win in Plouay. Sports director Frederik Willems discusses the ambitions of Lotto Soudal for this year.

Oliver Naesen

Oliver Naesen winning the race in 2018.

Frederik Willems: “Following a long period in which the organisation opted for a local circuit, once again, another course has been drawn this time. Now, the riders will only do one local lap at the end, which includes the Ty Marrec, a hill of around one kilometre in length, on a narrow road. Last year, the rainy conditions made for a super tough race. Even there might be no rain this year, it will be hard, that is for sure. A scenario in which a big group sprints for the win, seems highly unlikely to me. A sprint with 30 to 40 riders is a possibility, but in my opinion, a rather small group will fight for victory, just like last year. After 180 kilometres of racing, the riders face two gravel sections, which will undoubtedly cause some nervousness in the bunch and I think that’s where the race will kick off.”

“With Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst and Tim Wellens, we have three riders within our line-up who came out of the Tour de France really well, something they also proved with a stage win in the Tour of Denmark and the BinckBank Tour. It could certainly be to our advantage when for example Tiesj and Tim would be part of a considerable front group. Jasper is another card we can play if it would come down to a group sprint. We need to give guys like Oliver Naesen or other favourites a hard time with these three riders. The other Lotto Soudal riders will mainly ride at the service of the team. This race is an ideal opportunity for Stan Dewulf to gain experience with the coming years in mind. It is a course that really suits him and I think he will be able to compete for the victory in the future.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Stan Dewulf, Rémy Mertz, Maxime Monfort, Brent Van Moer and Tim Wellens.

Sports director: Frederik Willems.

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