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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, July 21, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

It was morning; through the high window I saw the pure, bright blue of the sky as it hovered cheerfully over the long roofs of the neighboring houses. It too seemed full of joy, as if it had special plans, and had put on its finest clothes for the occasion. - Hermann Hesse

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Tour de France stage 14 team reports

Here's what GC leader Julian Alaphlippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step team had to say:

Julian Alaphilippe defended his maillot jaune with panache on the demanding slopes of Col du Tourmalet (19km, 7.4%) – which served as a stage finish for just the third time in the history of the race, after 1974 and 2010 – and is now more than two minutes clear of his closest rider with one stage left before the Tour’s final rest day.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe finishes stage 14 just seconds after winner Thibaut Pinot. Sirotti photo

Coming off the back of his extraordinary ITT victory in Pau, Alaphilippe knew that the 117.5km-long stage from Tarbes will provide a stern test in his attempt to keep the GC lead, but Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s rider rose to the challenge and supported by a strong and motivated team, he made it over the top of the Col du Soulor – the day’s first challenge – and onto the first ramps of the Tourmalet, where the group frantically shelled riders off the back.

A composed and imperious ride on the Hors Catégorie ascent, which appeared for the 83rd time on the race, saw Julian remain with the best as the kilometers ticked down and the gradient stiffened; the 27-year-old didn’t panic not even when the tempo suddenly changed at the front and several riders tested the waters with a series of accelerations inside three kilometers to go, confidently climbing up the group and matching his opponents with the flamme rouge in sight, while showing the same grit and determination that have so far propelled him to a brace of stage victories.

Eventually, Julian came home second, just a handful of seconds behind Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), and gained valuable time on the general classification ahead of the final day in the Pyrenees: “It wasn’t easy today and you could see that everybody was suffering. I just tried to go with the best for as long as possible and seeing how I fared makes me very happy. It’s an incredible feeling to retain the maillot jaune at the end of such a tough stage, but the GC isn’t on my mind because I know there are many hurdles left along the way. Like I said also the other day, I just take it day by day and enjoy the moment.”

Third-place Steven Kruikswijk's Jumbo-Visma team posted this report:

Team Jumbo-Visma has left a strong impression as a team in the fourteenth stage of the Tour de France. Leader Steven Kruijswijk was assisted on the flanks of the Tourmalet by George Bennett and Laurens De Plus until deep in the final. The Dutchman eventually sprinted to third place behind stage winner Thibaut Pinot and overall leader Julian Alaphilippe.

Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk leads thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe up the Tourmalet. Sirotti photo

Team Jumbo-Visma took the lead in the final kilometres of the Tourmalet. De Plus and Bennett continued to pull so hard that ten riders could only barely follow. Kruijswijk battled long for the stage victory, but could not outpace the acceleration of first Pinot and then Alaphilippe.

“This was a great day for us”, Kruijswijk said. “I think my shape is good. Laurens and George rode so fast that I had to slow them down a bit. When I looked over my shoulder, I saw that only ten riders were able to follow. Then I focused on the last five hundred metres. I finished in a good way and this certainly provides perspective. The team was really strong today. That is really good to see. During the first ten days, we were strong as a team in the sprints and now we were still represented by three riders among the best ten on the Tourmalet. After having lost Wout, we had to refocus. I think that worked out well today. I’m going to give my all every day. If I can hold on to this in the coming week, it will look good for the podium. But some others showed that it can be over from one day to the next. So let’s not get ahead of ourselves regarding the overall podium.”

George Bennett praised the team. “The team was really great and Steven is also very good. This gives confidence for tomorrow and towards the Alps.”

Sports director Grischa Niermann had witnessed a strong team, but he is careful about the podium chances of his leader as well. “The last week is going to be really tough. There are going to be a number of climbs that are much longer than today’s and they also exceed two thousand altitude metres. We went on an altitude training camp a month ago and we did a recon of the Alp stages. I think the stage to Val Thorens will be decisive. I hope that after that stage we will be in the same position as today and that we can achieve more of these kinds of results over the next few days.”

Fourth-place Emanuel Buchmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent this:

At just 117.5km, this was the shortest road stage of the 2019 Tour de France, but there was no chance of it being the easiest. Today, towering over the entire parcours was the foreboding shadow of the Hors Catégorie Col du Tourmalet.

The famous climb would have riders in the red from the very start of its 19km length. Its average gradient of 7.4% belied its true difficulty, with its maximum gradients exceeding 10% and the majority of the route being above 7%. The GC riders knew they would have a lot of work to do today, but few expected Peter Sagan to join the break on a mountain stage. The Slovak rider made his move in the first 10km, joined by one other, knowing that there were points available at the 86km point – there was just the small issue of the first category Col du Soulor to get over first. Peter’s group grew in size to seventeen, with others trying to jump on, which would make it easier to tackle the 7.8% slopes.

While Peter did lose contact towards the summit of the climb, he had ridden strongly and was in good form to claim points after the descent, taking seven crucial points for his green jersey total. From here, the break all but disintegrated, with what remained of the peloton sweeping them up, and it was now all about the GC contest on the Tourmalet.

A select group of GC riders was on the front, knowing how important the day’s result was going to be. In this group was Emanuel Buchmann – the German rider riding comfortably mid-pack while others were clinging on at the back. The steeper slopes towards the top were where the attacks would come, and with 1.1km to go, Emanuel took to the front and set the pace for the finish. Here, he showed his strength as a climber, not just hanging on, but controlling the finale as he rode away from the other GC favourites, only a few able to match his pace.

The stage victory was fought out between the remaining five riders on the front, with Emanuel taking fourth with an exceptional ride – a finish that saw him reclaim fifth in the overall standings.

Emanuel Buchmann (on right) is the front group headed to the Tourmalet's summit. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"I'm very happy today. I had great legs from the start, I didn't encounter any problems on the Soulour and on the Tourmalet I was never on the limit until the final 2km. When I saw the others were suffering, I knew I could still ramp up my pace, so I launched an attack. I would, obviously, have liked to take the stage but I'm happy I was able to split the group of favourites and I feel satisfied with my fourth place. I think I'm on the right track, I moved one spot to fifth in the GC and if I can continue like this, I feel confident about the upcoming mountain stages." – Emanuel Buchmann

"My goal today was again to get as many points as I could. That's why it was important to attack as early as possible and be in the breakaway. I was able to stay with the leading group halfway up the first climb but the tempo in the last part was too fast. I gave it all I had but it wasn't possible to follow all the way to the top. However, this allowed me to be in the intermediate sprint with the yellow jersey group and take seven points. Tomorrow, we have another tough mountain stage." – Peter Sagan

"Obviously, we are very happy with Emu's performance. It is a result we were looking forward to but you can never be sure because the outcome also depends on your opponents. I think he rode smartly, didn't make any mistakes and waited until the right moment. He rode offensively and attacked with 1.5km to go, a move that split up the group of favourites. We are proud of his performance. He wasn't the fastest in the finishing sprint, the other riders in that small, select group had more punch but this is something we already expecting. We are happy with fourth today and in my view, we can be optimistic about tomorrow.  He showed he was strong today, while some of the main contenders suffered, so it will be a tough stage we look forward to." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

Geraint Thomas is still in second place in the GC. Here's the report from his Team INEOS:

Egan Bernal moved back into the white jersey at the Tour de France with fifth place on stage 14, while Geraint Thomas dug deep after dropping time on the Col du Tourmalet.

Bernal crossed the line eight seconds behind stage victor Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) at the top of the famous climb, with team-mate Thomas coming home eighth, 36 seconds down, after losing contact in the final kilometre.

The result saw Thomas retain his second place overall, with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) placing second on the stage, extending his race lead to two minutes and two seconds.

Bernal jumps up a place to fourth, three minutes off yellow, after hanging tough in an ever-reducing group of favourites.

Team INEOS were happy to let a number of GC teams set the tempo across the short, sharp Pyrenean test. Luke Rowe helped Groupama-FDJ with the tempo on the Col du Soulor before Movistar began to turn the screw.

With the team down to five riders, on the Tourmalet it was Dylan van Baarle and Wout Poels who held firm in a drastically reduced group. With 7.2km to go Pinot was the first contender to attack as the group continued to break apart.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas works to limit his losses on the Tourmalet. Sirotti photo

Geraint Thomas:
"I just didn't feel quite on it from the start really to be honest - just quite weak. At the end I just knew I had to try to pace it. I didn't really attempt to follow when they kicked. I thought it was better just to try to ride my own pace and limit my losses that way, rather than stay with them and blow up on the steepest bit at the end. Maybe I should have tried to stay with them - it's just one of those days.

"I was hoping I'd come round a bit. On the last climb it was just a matter of staying there for as long as possible.

"It was a tough day out there. There's still a lot more to come and hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow."

What's Next?
The weekend concludes with more tough ascending, including a summit finish on the Prat d'Albis. A trio of first-category climbs finishes out another monster mountain day, with close to 5000 metres of combined climbing. Expect more movement on the general classification.

CCC Team headed to GP Cerami and VOO-Tour de Wallonie 

CCC Team sent me this update:

20 July 2019: CCC Team will be heading to the start line in Belgium next week with almost identical rider rosters lining up at Grand Prix Cerami (25 July) and the VOO-Tour de Wallonie (27 - 31 July).

Sports Director Jackson Stewart will lead an opportunistic CCC Team squad at both races.

"We are taking a similar team to both Grand Prix Cerami and the VOO-Tour de Wallonie including some very experienced riders and, as always, we will be going in with the objective of trying to win. I think we can expect the three Belgian riders to be motivated about racing well on home soil with Thursday's one-day race leading nicely into the start of VOO-Tour de Wallonie on Saturday. Jakub Mareczko and Francisco Ventoso will make their return to the peloton in Belgium and these races are perfect for getting their racing legs going again after their respective breaks. Overall, everyone will be free to race aggressively and to try to make the most out of the opportunities that present themselves," explained Stewart.

Jakob Mareczko

Jakub Mareczko winning the first stage of the 2018 Tour of Hainan.

Mareczko will be looking to start the second part of his 2019 season with some good racing in any bunch sprints on Belgian soil. "For me, it has been a long period without racing, around one month, so I am looking forward to being back at the start line with CCC Team. I have never raced Grand Prix Cerami or the VOO-Tour de Wallonie so they will be new to me but, overall, we have a lot of experience and knowledge in our team and good guys who can help me if a bunch sprint is on the cards. I have done a solid block of training so, these races will be about seeing how the legs feel. I hope I can do a nice result for the team in any bunch sprints over the next week or so and go into the next part of the season with a good feeling," Mareczko said.

Grand Prix Cerami (25 July):
Rider roster: Paweł Bernas (POL), Kamil Gradek (POL), Jakub Mareczko (ITA), Gijs Van Hoecke (ITA), Nathan Van Hooydonck (ITA), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (ITA), Francisco Ventoso (ESP)

Sports Director: Jackson Stewart (USA)

VOO-Tour de Wallonie (27 - 31 July):
Rider roster: Paweł Bernas (POL), Kamil Gradek (POL), Jakub Mareczko (ITA), Szymon Sajnok (POL), Gijs Van Hoecke (BEL), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BEL), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL)

Sports Director: Jackson Stewart (USA)

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