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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, February 17, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

The cat is such a perfect symbol of beauty and superiority that it seems scarcely possible for any true aesthete and civilized cynic to do other than worship it. - H. P. Lovecraft

Current Racing:

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Deceuninck-Quick Step reports on Tour of Colombia stage five

Here's the team's post:

Julian Alaphilippe savoured his third victory of the year, and Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s fourth in three days, at the end of the hardest Tour Colombia stage so far, which took the riders over a mountainous 177.2km-long course around La Union, packing five classified climbs, more than 2 000 vertical meters and a finish at 2 519 meters, enough to make an important selection in the peloton and bring significant changes to the overall standings.

The day started with Bob Jungels in the orange jersey, which the Luxembourger donned after powering to a solo win on the previous stage, and continued with his French teammate booking a place in a strong breakaway group which contained several riders that posed a serious threat to the general classification. After the first intermediate sprint, which Julian won, the leaders nudged out their advantage to three minutes, and even though the fierce tempo of the peloton eroded it to a minute by the time the escapees entered on the final lap, they victory played between those at the front.

Before the road went up one more time and the riders faced again the 5% average gradient of the 7.4km-long Alto La Union, Alaphilippe accelerated off the front together with Ivan Sosa (Team Sky) and built a ten-second gap over what was left of the escapees’ group. On the toughest segment of the climb, the Colombian got out of the saddle and gained several bike lengths, while an attack from behind saw Daniel Martinez (EF Education First) join him.

Julian didn’t panic and rode his own pace, always dangling around 15 seconds behind the newly-formed duo. Together with Richard Carapaz (Movistar) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), the 26-year-old Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider began to make up ground on the fast descent and came back to the duo inside the last kilometer. Despite leading out the sprint, Alaphilippe remained cool as a cucumber and expertly navigated through the final corners, before kicking out with 200 meters to go, on a short uphill drag.

As the confetti rained down, Julian triumphantly punched the air to celebrate another victory which confirmed his good early-season form, that so far has netted three wins and three other podiums in less than two weeks of racing.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe, here shown enjoying a good day at the 2018 Tour de France. Sirotti photo.

“I am very happy! Coming here, my goal was to win a stage and I am delighted I could bring another one for the team after those of Alvaro and Bob. It was a very hard day, but we knew it was going to be like this, so that’s why I jumped in the breakaway, where we rode full gas despite many having tired legs after what has been a tough week of racing here”, Julian said following the thrilling stage 5 finale.

Just like last year, his victory at the Tour Colombia took Alaphilippe to the top of the general classification, where teammate Bob Jungels sits in fifth place, but despite having the orange jersey on his shoulders, the Frenchman insisted the overall isn’t a priority: “Today, I won with my head and heart after a great effort and I want to enjoy this beautiful moment. I have a few seconds over the next riders in the standings, but I’m not thinking of this now. We’ll see tomorrow what the race will bring and how things will unfold.”

Alexander Kristoff wins first stage of 2019 Tour of Oman

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

Here's the update Kristoff's UAE-Team Emirates sent me:

Alexander Kristoff won the first stage of the Tour of Oman today along in Al Sawadi Beah a Suhar Coniche. After 138.5km, he topped the sprint ahead of Frenchmen Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis).

The Norwegian now leads the race and wears the classification jersey after the win today, the ninth victory for him in Oman.

Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff wins in Oman.

“Mercato and Bystrom did a good lead-out for me and put me in a good position,” said Kristoff. “It was fast with a tailwind in the final straight, I was seated the whole sprint. I timed it well. I am proud of how the team worked. It was a very good team effort. We had a good start as Team UAE and I’m happy to contribute to it and get my first victory of the year here in Oman.”

“We decided that we’d have to make the race and we took on that responsibility,” said Sports Director Simone Pedrazzini. “At 70km out, we tried to break up the group in echelons since we were feeling well.

“In the sprint, once we brought back the escape, we guided the group for Alex. In the last curve, Marcato led through, followed by Bystrom, who led out Kristoff starting in the last 200 meters and holding off Coquard. For sure, it’s a good moment for all of the team because wins bring more wins.”

Alexis Guerin (Delko), Emiel Panckaert (Sport Vlaanderen), Michael Schaer (CCC) and Sergio Rodriguez (Murias Team) marked the stage with an escape. They never gained much ground and were pulled in with five kilometres to race thanks to the sprint teams.

Tomorrow, the teams face as stage from the Royal Cavalry Oman to Al Bustan, 156.2km. It should be a nervous stage with four small climbs, the last being 1.4km with sections of 9% and leaving only 5km to the finish.

Annemiek van Vleuten to return to racing at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

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

World time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten has made a faster than expected recovery from her knee injury, sustained after a crash at the 2018 road world championships, and will kick start her 2019 season next weekend at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Annemiek van Vleuten

Annemiek van Vleuten winning the 2017 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Sirotti photo.

After fracturing the knee and detaching the ligament, extensive rehabilitation was needed and Van Vleuten was forced her off the bike for seven-weeks.

It has been a long and tough recovery process for the Mitchelton-SCOTT rider but she has once again displayed relentless determination, working hard with her daily rehabilitation to be able to return to the peloton just five months later, for the team’s first European race.

Despite coming off her best season to date, where Van Vleuten claimed a consecutive world time trial title, finished the season as the world number one ranked female rider and individual women’s WorldTour series winner, 2018 ended with one of the biggest challenges of her 36-year-old´s career.

The Dutch rider has dealt with numerous setbacks and injuries throughout her career but believes this one was one of the hardest to deal with. “In total it was eight-weeks before I could ride my race bike again, but after seven-weeks I could do a little bit on the home trainer or the town bike,” Van Vleuten explained. “People were sometimes talking about my Rio injury but this one was for me very hard. The injury itself was harder than Rio, there was more impact.

"Rio looked very bad, it was big because in the end I couldn’t go for the win but also in Innsbruck. That’s what made it very hard, knowing my shape was super good and it was a course that suited me very well. I also didn’t have any guarantees that I will be back at the level I had last year, I am a bit older and sometimes it is harder to come back after injury.”

With huge ambitions and goals for 2019, Van Vleuten had to completely reassess the future, strip things back to basics and set new small realistic targets. “Before the injury we had the goal to be at top shape for the Ardennes this year because I was never really at my top level in the Ardennes,” Van Vleuten said. "When I was injured I didn’t have any goals anymore apart from rehab goals, like first to bend my knee, the second step to go on the bike again, then the third step to go on the bike outside, so very small steps.”

“I am proud of how I approached the rehab. I went full gas with my rehab, I could go three times a week to physiotherapy but when I heard they were open six-days a week, the physiotherapy at the national sports centre in the Netherlands, I thought well if I can go six-times then I'll go six-times."

Originally, it was predicted that Van Vleuten would return to racing around the Ardennes but exceeding all expectations, the Mitchelton-SCOTT rider will pin a number on her back straight away at the team’s first European race of the season, the 123km Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, followed by the first Women’s WorldTour race of the season, Strade Bianche.

“I just had to give everything for the rehab and see then see how it was going. I wasn’t really stressed about when I would return and the team wasn’t which also really helped me. But then when I felt ok and strong and my knee wasn’t reacting to training then I said to Martin (Vestby - sport director) maybe I could join the team at Nieuwsblad,” Van Vleuten continued.

“I am not at all nervous but I am excited because I had such a long time training now. The people say you are so fit but I have had eight weeks without training and then eight weeks now with the bike, so that’s not really long. So I am really excited to be back to racing again and also Nieuwsblad is a very beautiful race and Strade Bianche, they are both every unique races.

"I can say in all my career I have never missed one time Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, I have raced every edition since 2008 onwards. So it will be my 11th time and I am excited to go and support my teammates."

Willing and ready to work for her teammates, Van Vleuten is excited to head back into the bunch to test her fitness level but also to use this opportunity to help and give full support to her teammates in a domestique role.

“It is a good opportunity for me to help my teammates,” Van Vleuten continued. “I don’t have or feel any pressure from the team so it is a good opportunity to race for the team, they all raced so hard for me last year so it is nice to give something back to them. They had an awesome Australian summer so I am excited to see how they will be at this race.”

“For me personally being back in the bunch and doing my job for the team will be the most important thing and a success for me."

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