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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, February 23, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

It is never too late to be what you might have been. - George Eliot

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Ben Swift recovering after Tenerife crash

Here's the news from Swift's Team Sky:

Ben Swift is making progress after suffering a crash during a training ride in Tenerife on Wednesday.

Swift was out training with teammate Geraint Thomas on Wednesday morning when he clipped a rock whilst descending, causing him to crash heavily. The 31 year old sustained multiple contusions following the crash and while scans have shown no evidence of any fractures, there is evidence of multiple areas of bruising on the scan.

There has been an injury to the spleen that caused bleeding, but this bleeding has now stopped. A procedure was performed on Wednesday afternoon to reduce the risks of this bleeding starting again. Swift will remain in close observation for the next few days.

Ben swift

Ben Swift racing in the 2017 Dauphine. Sirotti photo.

Team Sky Doctor Inigo Sarriegui, told TeamSky.com: “Swifty suffered quite a heavy crash whilst out training. Thankfully though, he didn’t lose consciousness and was aware of the incident afterwards.

“We will continue to monitor him over the coming days, but 24 hours on from the crash he is already feeling better."

Everyone at Team Sky wishes Swifty all the best for a speedy recovery!

Pierre Latour fractures wrist preparing for UAE Tour

Here's the post from Latour's Ag2r team:

Preparing to race the UAE Tour, Pierre Latour crashed this morning in training. “He suffered a fracture of his left wrist (scaphoid and lower radius), and will be operated on once he returns to France. He will likely be unavailable for at least six weeks,” explained Dr. Eric Bouvat, medical director of the AG2R La Mondiale. Pierre Latour will be replaced by Aurelien Paret-Peintre.

Pierre Latour

Pierre Latour at the 2018 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

Tim Wellens wins time trial in Andalusia

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

After he won the opening stage of the Ruta del Sol, Lotto Soudal leader Tim Wellens now also took the time trial win. He finished the 16.3 km between Mancha Real and La Guardia de Jaén in 22 minutes and 25 seconds. That way, he beat Astana teammates Jakob Fuglsang and Ion Izagirre with two and nine seconds, respectively.  The 27-year-old Belgian extends his GC lead to seven seconds.

Time Wellens

Tim Wellens on his way to winning the time trial. Sirotti photo.

Wellens began the time trial with a five-second advantage on Fuglsang, Izagirre and Jack Haig. It promised to be a very intense battle against the clock to defend his yellow jersey. The course included the Alto de 7 Pillillas, a third-category climb. One and a half kilometres after the summit, Wellens came through as second at the intermediate point.

For a long while, Adam Yates had the best time, but Kruiswijk, Izagirre and Fuglsang even set a better time. All eyes were then on Tim Wellens, who gave his all during the final uphill slopes to the line. In the end, he improved the top time yet again with two seconds and he could celebrate for the second time this week. Tomorrow, the Lotto Soudal rider will start the queen stage from Armilla to Granada with a seven-second bonus.

Tim Wellens: “We prepared the time trial really well. To get a good view of the course, Kevin De Weert did a recon the day we arrived. The start was tough, then there was a descent and the end went uphill again. We made a plan to go for the victory here, but to put that into practice is another thing. It turned out perfectly though. It is fantastic to be rewarded for all the hard training work I did. This is my first time trial win as a pro and also my second victory in three days. Of course I am really happy with my shape and the results.”

“However, the advantage in the general classification is limited, so I expect that tomorrow’s 120 kilometres long stage will be a spectacle. I think the Astana riders will attack me already from the first climb. They have various riders who are well-positioned in the general classification. It will not be easy, but we will surely give our all to defend the lead. There are no bonus seconds to earn and the finish lies after a long descent, so that is to my advantage.”

In the Volta ao Algarve, there was a time trial scheduled as well. It was a course of 20.3 kilometres in and around Lagoa. Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) took the win, ahead of Søren Kragh Andersen and Yves Lampaert. Frederik Frison finished as first Lotto Soudal rider on a 24th place. The Slovenian Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) keeps his leader’s jersey.

Sep Vanmarcke wins Haut Var opener

Vanmarcke's EF Educaton First team sent me this report:

Sep Vanmarcke won a small group sprint in Mandelieu-la-Napoul, France on Friday. The Belgian benefited from an adaptable team prepared to react to any scenario on the opening stage of Tour de Haut Var. With the stage win came the yellow race leader’s jersey.

Sep Vanmarcke

Sep Vanmarcke takes the first stage. Sirotti photo

“I’m really happy to win,” said Vanmarcke. “It’s my first win in nearly three years. It feels so good to be back on the top step.”

Groupama-FDJ showed their cards early, taking control of the pace-setting in the peloton behind the three-rider breakaway. The 154-kilometer stage offered up undulating terrain, and EF Education First Pro Cycling Team had discussed several different plans to approach the tricky route.

“There was a false flat part with 30-kilometers to go,” said sport director Ken Vanmarcke, Sep’s older brother. “If the gap to the breakaway was small, we wanted to anticipate action with Sep and Matti [Breschel]. The gap wasn’t small enough to do anything then, but on the second to last climb, the gap was down to 40-seconds and Lachlan [Morton] tried to go across. The climb was too short for that.”

With initial efforts thwarted, EF Education First regrouped ahead of the last climb.

“Normally the final would be hard for me with a five kilometer climb,” said Sep. “But I felt really good all day, and I wanted to give it a try.”

Only 20 riders remained in contention over the top, Vanmarcke and Hugh Carthy among them. Crashes and splits on the technical descent further reduced the group. Fourteen riders hit the four-kilometer flat run-in to the line.

“Hugh knew Sep had a big chance to win the sprint, and immediately started riding in the front of the group to keep the pace high,” said Ken. “He pulled into the last corner,” Sep added. “I could focus on the sprint. My timing was good. I made it a long sprint and could hold on to take the win.”

The younger Vanmarcke brother is EF Education First’s Classics captain.“I think we see that Sep is on a really good path for the Classics,” said team CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “I don’t want to overstate anything because of course the Tour of Haut Var and the Tour of Flanders are completely different things, but he’s obviously in a good place.”

 “A lot of the things we’ve been working on for two or three years now are coming to fruition. There’s no magic thing that just started happening. We have the same directors, and a lot of the same riders. It’s just that little by little we’re able to build on things,” said Vaughters. “The serenity of having EF’s support allows us to better execute and plan for the future. Everyone isn’t worried about where their next paycheck is coming from; they’re looking at how to win the race. And that’s showing.”

The Tour du Haut Var continues on Saturday with a hilly 200-kilometer day between Le Cannent-des-Maures and Mons. “We will enjoy the jersey, but we have to be realistic,” said Ken. “Sep won’t have the jersey on Sunday evening. We will try to keep it on the team but on different shoulders.”

 “Tomorrow will be another hard day, and on Sunday the final is on a longer climb,” said Sep. “I want to give something back to Hugh. He’s our strongest climber here, and I suspect well work for him this weekend.”

 “As always, Sep worked this winter,” said Ken. “He’s on the right track towards the Classics.”

The Haut Var victory is the team’s fifth win in the still young season. Last year, the team recorded six victories in total.

“A lot of the things we’ve been working on for two or three years now are coming to fruition. There’s no magic thing that just started happening. We have the same directors, and a lot of the same riders. It’s just that little by little we’re able to build on things,” said Vaughters. “The serenity of having EF’s support allows us to better execute and plan for the future. Everyone isn’t worried about where their next paycheck is coming from; they’re looking at how to win the race. And that’s showing.”

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