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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, July 9, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' - that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. - John Keats

Current racing:

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Tour de France stage three team reports

We'll start with winner Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Exhausted, overcome with emotion and in seventh heaven – that’s how Julian Alaphilippe crossed the finish line of the 215km-long Tour de France stage 3, after uncorking a tremendous attack on the last classified climb of the day and keeping the chasers behind on the rolling terrain taking to Épernay, a stage finish for the first time in 56 years.

Julian Alaphilippe comes in alone. Sirotti photo

The win, his 11th of a stellar season, that includes triumphs also in Milano-Sanremo, Flèche Wallonne and Strade Bianche moved Alaphilippe into the yellow jersey, as he became the first Frenchman to wear the prestigious garment in the year it celebrates a century, closing a five-year gap, the longest in the history of the race without a home rider in the iconic yellow jersey.

“It’s an incredible feeling. Before the Tour I was dreaming of this scenario, to take the win and the yellow jersey here, so I was really focused, although I knew it was going to be difficult. I rode full gas and gave everything, and to take also yellow together with this victory is definitely one of the best moments of my career”, a delighted Julian said after being congratulated by the Deceuninck – Quick-Step teammates and staff.

Monday’s stage was one of the longest at this year’s edition, but that didn’t bother our squad, who duly took the front of the peloton and cut a significant chunk of time from the escapees’ six-minute advantage by the time they entered in the final 50 kilometers. Another injection of pace further shrunk the gap and resulted in four of the five leaders being brought back before the 900m Côte de Mutigny, a short but nasty and narrow climb averaging 12.2%.

That’s where Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s 27-year-old rider launched an explosive burst as soon as Dries Devenyns finished his top job at the head of the pack and rode away from the thinned-out bunch, catching the last survivor of the breakaway over the top of the hill and powering clear on the descent, where he nudged out his lead to 50 seconds. The long roads didn’t quite play into his favour, but Alaphilippe was unfazed by this and continued to push the pedal to the medal, riding at a 47.2km/h average through the famous vineyards of the Marne department.

Going into the closing kilometer, Julian possessed a 20-second margin over the chasers, which proved sufficient for him to notch up with panache a third career stage victory at the Tour de France and ensure a spell in the maillot jaune – the sixth different Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider since 2003 to pull on the famous jersey.

“The team protected me throughout the day and I tried to save energy before the final kilometers. Then, on the Mutigny, I asked Dries to up the tempo so I could assert the situation on the climb, before going full gas and never looking behind. I didn’t plan to go solo, but I continued to push and stretched out my advantage to nearly one minute. I knew the finale, I knew that it suited me, but it’s always difficult to meet the expectations when you are the favourite”, said Julian after becoming the 85th Frenchman to wear the leader’s jersey. “I am speechless, I am living a dream in this moment and all I want to do now is savour this unbelievable moment together with my team.”

Here's the report from second-place Michael Matthews' Team Sunweb:

Awaiting the riders on the third day of racing at the Tour de France was a teasing profile. With a parcours backloaded with climbs, the route would not have looked out of place as a hilly spring classic.

Once out of the neutralised zone there were several attacks before a break of five riders established itself relatively early into the day. They quickly managed to get a gap of over four minutes but the peloton always had proceedings under control. Their advantage was slowly whittled down throughout the day and coming onto the final categorised climb of the day with 20 kilometres left, only Wellens remained out front. The peloton exploded on that climb, with riders going both out the front and off the back. Eventual stage winner Alaphilippe made a stinging attack on the ascent and went clear of the peloton.

The team worked strongly at the front of the bunch in an attempt to bring it back together and set up Michael Matthews for the finale, but Alaphilippe held on for the stage win. Matthews showed his class by delivering a really good turn of speed on the difficult uphill finale, winning the sprint in the peloton to take a great second place on the stage.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews (center, red jersey) will win the sprint for second. Sirotti photo

“On the categorised climb where Quick Step really pushed it and exploded the bunch I was almost dropped there,” explained Matthews after the finish. “I had really good team mates around me who kept me motivated and brought me back to the front; to keep me in the race. It’s unfortunate that Alaphilippe stayed away because my sprint was really good and I really gave it everything I had to the finish. Today is a confidence booster for us going forwards.”

Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek continued: “We were pretty much in control during most of the stage. We were a little bit on the back foot after Reims, where we lost each other but the guys did well to get back into position. On the climbs Quick Step made a hard pace, especially on the steep one where Alaphilippe attacked. Michael was on the limit and the guys stayed with him to bring him back. We tried to up the pace with Lennard because we saw that the gap was getting bigger but we couldn’t go too hard because Michael was suffering. We did what we could and in the end Alaphilippe was too strong. Michael kept fighting and came back, which was really good to see. In the end he took second place still which was impressive. It was an honest final in which we got second place with some good team work.”

Green Jersey Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent this report:

The Tour de France finally made its way into French territory today with a rolling 215km stage. Leaving Belgium around the day’s halfway point, the parcours headed due south the entire day towards the finish in Champagne country in Épernay. The intermediate sprint came before the day’s climbs, with four categorised ascents coming in the last 40km. The undulating finale would make the going tough for the sprinters, particularly with a kick uphill to the finish; it looked like the day would be one the all-rounders and Classics specialists would be contesting.

After a day on the time trial bikes, the peloton was clearly happy to be back on a road stage, with attempts to break from the drop of the flag. Five riders made their move and quickly established a strong lead, using the flat start to the day to their advantage. With the gap jumping out to more than six minutes at its peak, but the moment it passed this magic number, the peloton was spurred into action – not least because they wanted to reduce the escape’s lead ahead of the intermediate sprint. The break took the top prizes in the sprint, but with plenty of points still up for grabs, the BORA-hansgrohe riders led Peter Sagan out to take second from the bunch. The stage passing the halfway mark, as well as the flurry of activity for the intermediate sprint, brought the gap down fast, and with the break steadily losing steam, a solo rider went off the front, putting some distance between himself and the break. The peloton had the scent of victory in their noses though, and as the distance remaining dipped below 20km, the bunch had reduced the lead to less than a minute.

There were still some hard climbs to go though, with the final climb – the Côte de Mutigny – the hardest of the day at 12.2%. Daniel Oss was keeping Peter Sagan safe over these climbs before peeling off, with Maximilian Schachmann taking his place. No sooner had the catch been made, another solo attack went off, but this time with a quartet behind him trying to reel him back, Maximilian having made the move to this group, but with more strength in the chasing bunch, this group dropped back to support the peloton. The gap dropped to less than thirty seconds with 4km remaining, but it was incredibly tense.

Riding on the front, Peter Sagan posed a clear threat both to the escapee as well as the riders in the bunch. The stage won by the solo rider, the peloton was licking at his heels. Coming over the crest of the final brutal climb, Peter was third man back, fighting for space on a twisting finale and taking fifth on the line. The points claimed today pushed Peter to the top of the points standings, pulling on the race’s coveted Maillot Vert for the first time as the true points leader.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan leads the points classification. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line :
"It was a very, very hard stage today, 215km long, with very high speed from the start and four categorised climbs. The last two were really tough while the finishing ramp, although not categorised, was tough after a long and strenuous day in the saddle. I finished fifth, taking fourth place in the bunch sprint, and together with the points in the intermediate sprint, I now have the green jersey. I'm, obviously, happy to pull it on the podium and I look forward to the next stages." – Peter Sagan

"It was a really hard finale, with an extremely high tempo. Even before Alaphilippe's attack a lot of riders were dropped and everybody was on the limit, so when he launched his attack nobody could react. I then tried to grab the opportunity when nobody was willing to organise themselves but this move didn't come to fruition. So, I waited for Peter for the eventual sprint which didn't come. I felt quite well today and I think everything is on track. It's a pity we didn't win the stage but in terms of the overall classification, I think everything is going smoothly so far." – Maximilian Schachmann

"As expected, today's finale was very hard. We were hoping to take the win with Peter but in the end, he was fifth. Nevertheless, I think it was a good day for BORA-hansgrohe, as Peter claimed the green jersey while our GC riders were in the front, well positioned, and avoided losing any time to the main contenders, something important today. All our climbers finished in the big group, so they are in good shape. Maximilian Schachmann was also free to go and take a chance in the finale but Alaphilippe was just too strong. Our strategy was to wait for Peter and aim for the sprint but the only way to win today was to follow Alaphilippe when he attacked but it was impossible today. Last but certainly not least, the news on Emanuel Buchmann is very good. He didn't feel any pain today, so it seems that all is good and his crash didn't have any long-lasting effect." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

And King of the Mountains Tim Wellens' Lotto-Soudal team sent this report:

Tomorrow, Tim Wellens will start the fourth stage of the Tour de France as the leader in the King of the Mountains classification. The Belgian already attacked after three kilometres and got, partly due to a flat tyre, caught at fifteen kilometres from the finish. He punctured on the last climb and therefore could not join Julian Alaphilippe, who attacked from the bunch and went on to win the stage. Wellens was rewarded with the most aggressive rider award and the polka dot jersey. Tiesj Benoot was the first Lotto Soudal rider on eleventh place.

Time Wellens

Tim Wellens will start stage four in dots. Sirotti photo.

Tim Wellens: “It wasn’t the initial plan for me to go on the attack. Thomas De Gendt would try to go in the breakaway, but he doesn’t get a lot of space.  After all those years, the other teams of course have come to know him. I only had to move along once and I was already in the right breakaway of the day. The cooperation with my fellow escapees went very smoothly and we built up an advantage of six minutes quite easily, but when the peloton started accelerating, I noticed I had to attack because the tempo in the breakaway wasn’t high enough. So I attacked at 45 kilometres from the finish line, because I knew I was the strongest rider up front.”

“Initially I attacked because I wanted to take the points for the polka dot jersey, but at one moment I started believing there could be more. Immediately thereafter, the peloton started picking up the pace and winning became a lot more difficult. At the foot of the last climb, I had a flat tyre, so I had to stop. Luckily, I was able to get those last two points for the polka dot jersey, but following Alaphilippe and going for a better result was no longer possible.”

“Beating Alaphilippe would be very difficult, but you never know. Maybe I could keep up with him and get a better result. That being said, I am very happy with the polka dot jersey. There will be no danger of losing it tomorrow. On Wednesday and on Thursday, there are a lot more points to win and then it will depend on the shape of the day if I can be in the breakaway again and keep the jersey a bit longer.”

Who should you trust? Helmet makers dispute Consumer Reports findings

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News sent me this:

LONDON (BRAIN) — The maker of a helmet model that failed a recent Consumer Reports test said the results are "fake news." He also questioned whether the publication's in-house testing should be given more weight than the multiple national standards his helmets have been certified to pass.

Consumer Reports told BRAIN it stands by its tests, which it said are intended to identify differences between helmets, not to certify they reach a minimum level of performance.

CR announced July 2 that three helmets had failed its testing. The $199 Bontrager Ballista MIPS failed because its buckles broke, while a Woom youth helmet and a Morpher folding helmet each failed the magazine's impact tests, which are similar to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission test required for sale in the U.S. All three helmets are certified for sale in the U.S. according to the CPSC; the manufacturers said they passed multiple in-house and independent tests as well.

Jeff Woolf, founder and CEO of Morpher, told BRAIN that CR's article giving the Morpher helmet a "Don't Buy-Safety Risk" rating will "wreck" his company.

He said he has sold tens of thousands of Morpher helmets, which fold to reduce space for commuters. The helmets have been certified to pass multiple standards, including CPSC and European standards.

"(Consumer Reports) are really calling the whole CPSC verification system into question," Woolf, based in London, told BRAIN in a phone interview. "I think it's kind of fake news actually; I don't think they should be doing this. Who says their test is better than the CPSC test? It's a terrible thing to say."

The $149 Morpher helmet is manufactured in China by Strategic Sports, a Hong Kong-based company that manufactures for many well-known bike helmet brands. The Strategic Sports website says its clients include Bell Sports, Giro, Cannondale, Abus, Fox, Schwinn and Decathlon.

Woolf said that besides testing required for certification, Strategic Sports tests production samples and has never failed a Morpher helmet. He also said the company has never received a report of an impact damage breaking the helmet or any injury from impact damage affecting any user.

"(Strategic Sports) don't think it was done correctly (by Consumer Reports). They don't think our helmet will fail that test and they test thousands of helmets."

He also said he was given only a few minutes to talk to a CR reporter before the article ran, and doesn't remember telling the reporter that he found the rest results "hugely worrying," as he was quoted as saying in the article.

Trek has had a more measured response to the test results, releasing a statement that did not accuse Consumer Reports of fake news but that pointed out that, "As certified laboratories have been unable to replicate Consumer Reports' findings, we believe that they are not indicative of the performance or safety or the Ballista MIPS helmet." Trek reported the results to the CPSC.

In 2006 Consumer Reports failed a Trek helmet model for not meeting impact tests, and Trek later recalled that model.

You can read the entire story here.

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