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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, July 25, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. - Henry David Thoreau

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Luke Rowe and Tony Martin expelled from Tour

Here is the report from Reuters: GAP, France (Reuters) - Defending champion Geraint Thomas’s Ineos team mate Luke Rowe and German Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma) have been disqualified from the Tour de France following a brawl during the 17th stage, organisers said on Wednesday.

Both riders were seen tangling near the top of the last climb of the day as they appeared to fight for position, which led to their disqualification by the race stewards.

Martin is a Lotto Jumbo-Visma team mate of Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk, who is third overall and 12 seconds adrift of second-placed Thomas.

Race stewards report to the International Cycling Union (UCI) and communicate their daily decisions to the Tour organisers.

“To come here with this team, a bunch of good mates, I feel like I’ve let them down and of course let myself down,” said Rowe.

“We were both trying to do a job. Maybe we both overstepped the mark slightly, but it feels harsh to be thrown off the race, both of us.”

Here is Team INEOS' posting on the subject:

Joint statement on the disqualification of Luke Rowe and Tony Martin from the Tour de France

Team INEOS and Team Jumbo-Visma have tonight released a joint statement, following the disqualification of Luke Rowe and Tony Martin:

We believe this is a very harsh decision by the race commissaries and against the spirit of what has been such a fantastic race to date. It was the sort of incident that merits a fine and a warning but certainly not expulsion from the race - a ‘yellow card’ but not a ‘red’. Luke and Tony recognised it for what it was - a minor spat on the road at the end of a sweltering day in the saddle. It didn’t affect any other rider and it didn’t disadvantage any other team. They rode to the end of the stage together where they both shook hands. There was no ill will and they clearly still have a lot of respect for one another. We believe it is unjust that their Tour could come to an end over something like this at this point in the race.

Tour de France stage 17 team reports

We'll start with stage winner Matteo Trentin's Mitchelton-Scott team:

European champion Matteo Trentin soloed to his first Tour de France victory in five years and the team’s fourth of the race on stage 17 into Gap.

The Italian made it into the break of the day before attacking over the final climb and soloing to an impressive win by over 30-seconds.

Matteo Trentin

Matteo Trentin solos in to win stage 17.

The stage was seen by many as the last chance for the opportunists to succeed before the race heads back into the mountains tomorrow and as a results, a big fight to get down to road ensued as soon as the flag dropped on the outskirts of Pont du Gard.

Mitchelton-SCOTT were keen to have numbers in the move and Trentin and Dane Chris Juul-Jensen managed to infiltrate a large group of over 30-riders that split the bunch in the opening kilometres. But with several teams missing out on the move, the peloton set about chasing the escapees down as the gap was held at around one-minute.

Eventually the chasing teams gave up on their attempts at catching the break and succumbed to the pressure from the general classifications teams who were hoping for an easier day in the saddle. As the bunch sat up the advantage of the break quickly went out and stood at over 11-minutes over the first of the two categorised climbs.

The real action was expected to come on the run into the foot of the final climb of the day, the category-three Col de la Sentinelle, and so it proved as the first attacks began to roll out of the breakaway with 35-kilometres remaining. But, both Juul-Jensen and Trentin were alert to the moves, with the former marking the attacks well for his teammate.

With the first attacks being launched the group began to breakdown and a select group of 11-riders sprung clear of the rest of the breakaway. Trentin was amongst the selection and the 29-year-old was keen to reduce the numbers at the head of the race even further as he upped the pace.

Just six riders remained on the approach to the climb and as the cooperation faltered, Trentin made his move. The Italian raced into the ascent and quickly opened up a sizeable gap as the chasers looked at each other. Trentin made it over the summit with a 30-second gap and there was no chance of catching the now three-time Tour de France stage winner as he powered to a famous solo victory.

Matteo Trentin:
“It was really an emotional finish because I’ve actually only won two races in my career alone, and doing it here in the Tour de France, with this finish line, with this group in front. It was amazing.”

“Chris was a really big help. We spoke to each other and decided he would cover the early attacks and he did cover a lot. Then when that strong move went, I was able to follow and it was the perfect scenario.”

“I tried [to attack] a few times, because there was no collaboration and I knew that if I got maybe a 10-second gap and they start to watch each other, with the legs I have I can finish it off. I was a bit scared with the headwind and the guys behind taking a turn each they could have taken some time, but it wasn’t the case. When I was on top of the climb the only intention was to go full gas, taking as little risk as possible.”

Matt White (Sports Director):
"It’s been a dream run, we really needed Matteo or Daryl (Impey) in the break today, like on stage nine, because they’re the fast guys who can finish it off. But the unsung heroes are the guys like Chris Juul-Jensen, the workers. When there’s a group of that size it’s always valuable to have a teammate because you can rely on that person."

"When you look at the group there, I would put (Jasper) Stuyven as faster than Matteo and you don’t want to mess with Greg Van Avermaet in a small group sprint. Matteo is obviously very confident of his condition at the moment, so the safest option if you’ve got that sort of condition is to go alone and eliminate all the risks."

"Every person that is with you in a group is a threat and complicates things, so if you’ve got the condition to do what he did, it was the perfect move. Matteo had incredible legs to finish it off, all he had to do was get to the top of the final climb with any sort of lead and nobody is going to catch him on a descent."

"If you’d have told us at the start of the Tour de France that we’d walk away with four stage wins, yeah we’d have taken it. It’s pretty rare that teams win four stages from breakaways, to win from four breakaways is pretty impressive, but we are not done yet."

Here's the report from 2nd-place Kasper Asgeen & GC leader Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Kasper Asgreen showed again his talents and continued to impress in a season which so far saw him take second at his debut Ronde van Vlaanderen, conclude third overall at the Tour of California (where he adorned his palmares with a stage win and the points jersey) and dominate the National ITT Championships.

Asgreen has been everywhere at the Tour de France since the Grand Depart in Brussels, but not in a breakaway, until Wednesday that is, when he jumped from the peloton in the opening kilometers of stage 17 (Pont du Gard – Gap, 200km) and joined a sizeable group which ended up building a 20-minute lead over the bunch. Kasper brought his fair share of work before the front group disintegrated on the run-in to the last climb, when nine riders attacked.

With remarkable ease, the 24-year-old closed a 200-meter gap and continued to set the tempo, even after Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) attacked and rode clear. One kilometer from the top of Col de la Sentinelle, Kasper got out of the saddle and accelerated, dropping his companions and going in pursuit of the Italian. Despite reducing the margin separating them, the Danish powerhouse rode out of road and had to be satisfied with second in Gap, a stage finish for the 24th time in history.

“I am really happy with the confidence the team gave me today. I felt pretty good and had a fun day in the break. On the Sentinelle, I decided to make my move inside the last kilometer, but at this point in the race there wasn’t too much power left in the legs, which made the gap really difficult to shut down. Second is a nice result, my first Grand Tour stage top 3, and I hope to keep it up in the last days of the Tour, which has been really great for us”, said Kasper after his eye-catching ride, which netted Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s 100th podium of the season.

In the peloton, Yves Lampaert, together with national champions Michael Mørkøv and Maximiliano Richeze, took over the front, exchanging turns, keeping at all times the gap in check and protecting overall leader Julian Alaphilippe, who stayed hidden for most of the stage and spent an uneventful day as the pack decided to conserve their energy ahead of the first test in the Alps.

Julian Alphilippe

Julian Alaphilppe finishes the stage with teammates close by. Sirotti photo.

Escorted by Dries Devenyns and Enric Mas on the climb and subsequent descent, Julian rolled over the line some 20-odd minutes behind the break and made another visit to the podium, where he was rewarded with his 13th yellow jersey, which the 27-year-old Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider will try to defend on Thursday, between Embrun and Valloire.

Here's the report from third-place Greg van Avermaet's CCC Team:

Greg Van Avermaet, after a day in the breakaway with CCC Team teammate Michael Schär, secured third on the finish line in Gap after a tough battle in the closing kilometers of the race saw him leave everything out on the road.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet racing in stage 13. Sirotti photo

Stage 17 provided the last chance for the opportunists, before three big days in the Alps, and as expected, it was a fight for the breakaway to go clear at the start of the 200-kilometer stage.

A large group of 33 riders, including Van Avermaet and Schär, escaped quite quickly but having missed the move, Total Direct Energie proceeded to chase for the first 40 kilometers before finally conceding defeat.

Once the peloton sat up, the breakaway’s advantage quickly grew to more than five minutes and with none of the 33 riders a threat to the General Classification, it was clear it would be a day for the breakaway to go to the finish line.

With the peloton happy to let the breakaway go and solid cooperation amongst the large group, the advantage increased to over 15 minutes after the first climb of the day, the category four Côte de La Rochette-du-Buis.

A brief period of heavy rain provided a welcome relief from the scorching heat experienced this week but, it was back to business in the final 40 kilometers when riders started to attack from the breakaway.

Schär was quick to cover the early moves and the breakaway remained all together with 30 kilometers to go before, just a handful of kilometers later, a strong 11-rider selection, including Van Avermaet, was drawn out at the front of the race.

More attacks saw the group whittled down to six riders approaching the category three Col de la Sentinelle, which topped out with just 8.5 kilometers to go, but it was here that Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-SCOTT) launched his ultimately winning solo move.

Van Avermaet showed his constant determination in the first chasing group behind, giving it everything he had left in the closing kilometers of the race before eventually taking a hard-fought third place on the line, 41 seconds behind the day's winner.

Greg Van Avermaet:
"I think I did everything right. I went in the good moves at the right moments and on the climb, I was on my limit so I have to say that there, the others were stronger. I did a good sprint in the end though and I think that winning was impossible so I tried to get the maximum out of the day and I think I did that."

"It was good to be in the breakaway with two guys, me and Michi, and it's really important to be in the right moves and on the right wheel and that's what I did well today. On the last climb, it was about the legs and I was strong but not strong enough to take the victory."

"It was really warm today and in the end, I suffered quite a lot because of it but, luckily we had that one rain shower in the middle of the race and that helped to cool us down."

Michael Schär:
"It was really rough at the start. I started on the first line and I knew that Thomas De Gendt was going to do something and he did it. He was able to explode the bunch himself and I was suffering on his wheel but I made it into the group as one of the first five riders. We then started rolling and I didn't know if I could roll through because I didn't know if Greg was in the group. So, at first, the guys were not so happy with me because I didn't help them but once I got confirmation that Greg was there, because in a situation like this you can't look back, I was super happy and started to work."

"Greg and me have known each other for long enough, we know who has what role in the circus so in the final, I was covering the first moves and again it was rough and I went really deep to do that so then, in one moment, I paid for it and I was at the back of the group. It was lucky because at this moment, Greg moved by himself and that was the split that stuck. He's a smart rider, he can smell when it's time to help or when it's time to go by himself. I was happy he was there and from then on, I had a completely different role. I had to be defensive and not help find the harmony in the back group so again, guys were again annoyed with me but that's my job. It was good though and I think we can all be happy that we gave it our all."

Sports Director, Valerio Piva:
"It was a big group out in front and we were able to have two guys in there. Some other teams had more but, it was perfect for us. We had the right man in there for us, Greg, and he and Michi did a perfect job all day together. Finally, we knew that it was a narrow road when the group split and I told the two guys that and they moved perfectly with Greg jumping in the smaller group before the climb. He was able to stay with the best six riders on the climb and he also did a good move but when Trentin went, I think he was the best."

"Greg was waiting a little bit but Trentin was able to make a big gap quickly. I think third was the maximum that Greg was able to do today with this kind of finish and the climb in the final. He made the best out of the day and, as a team, we did a good job. We were where we needed to be and we tried to win the stage. Third is not bad and we will try again."

And here's the report from Team Bora-hansgrohe:

The temperature was rising in France, and riders on the Tour knew only too well that in the coming days, the road would be rising as well. On the last day before the race hit the high mountains, it was an undulating route from Pont du Gard and Gap, covering 200km exactly.

There were two climbs on the parcours – a fourth category early on, followed by the third category Col de la Sentinelle less than 10km from the finish. Whatever shape the stage had taken by this point, this would be a perfect springboard for a late attack.

Today, it looked like a good day to be in the breakaway – with a huge group going on the attack from the drop of the flag. In this group of thirty-three were Daniel Oss and Lukas Pöstlberger, and so it was understandable that their advantage leapt out to six minutes by the time they hit the intermediate sprint, and kept on growing as the day went on, reaching ten minutes at the halfway point and fourteen minutes with 50km to go.

As the race neared its conclusion and the breakaway riders assessed the threat from the other riders in this group for the finale, the attacks started. A group of eleven formed on the front and Daniel made the jump to make sure he was in amongst the strong riders who could challenge for the win. The gap to the peloton at this point was out at eighteen minutes, and it was clear that with just 15km to go, the win would come from the break – the only question was who was going to take it.

With just the Col de la Sentinelle to climb, with its 5.4% average gradient, a lone attacker made his move, with one other trying to chase. While others tried to close the gap, including Lukas, who put in a huge effort to bridge to Daniel’s group, there was no stopping this soloist. Daniel ended the day in seventh – one of his best finishes in a Grand Tour – while Lukas wasn’t far behind, taking twelfth.

From this point, it was a matter of waiting for the peloton to come in, and while they were twenty minutes behind the breakaway, there was nobody in the escape group who was any threat to the GC standings, an outcome that saw Emanuel Buchmann maintaining his sixth position by finishing with the peloton. With the break taking both the intermediate sprint points and the stage win, Peter Sagan holds the Maillot Vert as the race goes into the big mountains.

Peter SAgan

Peter Sagan is still in green. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"I'm disappointed with the outcome of the stage but it's the third week of the Tour de France, so strange things can happen. Everybody is looking at each other without knowing who is the one with good legs and enough energy in the third week. I would say there was a lack of cooperation when the group split and especially when Trentin attacked. In my view, it doesn't make sense that riders like Van Avermaet would refuse to work because, ultimately, we all lose. I missed the first split and then put in a huge effort to bridge over to Daniel's group. Unfortunately, he was still pulling and had spent too much energy to catch Trentin, so he didn't have much left in the tank. It was a strange race and a strange finale. Trentin was strong but not the strongest in my view. He deserved the win but I also think that a lot of riders played too much poker today." – Lukas Pöstlberger

"It was a big break group, more than 30 riders and during the stage, we discussed what would happen. We were aware that sooner or later, there would be some fight or that someone would like to attack before the last climb. Matteo and I were two of them. I wouldn't say we agreed but we were looking for the right moment to go for it. Initially, ten of us went and then, later on, we were reduced to five. Matteo did the right move and attacked a km before the start of the climb. I thought that in a small group of strong riders such Van Avermaet and Izaguirre we would be able to catch him. I tried to attack and incite the others to follow suit but Trentin was the strongest." – Daniel Oss

"During this morning's team meeting we decided we wouldn't fully commit ourselves to a sprint finish for Peter because the points classification is in our favour. Had there been a situation where other teams pulled as well, we would have contributed but it wasn't the case. In addition, letting a big break group go was fine with us because all the points would be taken by it. However, we wanted to be inside such a big group, so Daniel and Lukas went in it. It was a good race for both of them, being in the front until the end. Lukas put in a great effort to catch the first and second chasing groups in the climb but unfortunately spent all his energy there and had no options in bridging over to them. The day's effort had also taken its toll on Daniel, so in the end, it was the strongest rider that won. All in all, I think it was a good day for BORA-hansgrohe, we tried, we fought until the end and it was the best result we could have achieved, given the goals we had." – André Schulze, Sports Director 

Team Sunweb sent me this note about Soren Kragh Andersen's abandonment:

Suffering from saddle sore problems, Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN) abandons the Tour de France after stage 17.

Soren Andersen

Andersen racing in 2018. Sirotti photo

“Over the past few days Søren has been suffering from saddle sore problems,” explained Team Sunweb physician Anko Boelens. “The problems worsened yesterday and during today’s stage Søren was suffering even more. It doesn’t make sense for him to continue at the Tour de France.”

Søren added: “It’s obviously sad to leave the Tour but I’ve struggled with a saddle sore over the last few days and it got worse in today’s stage. The sensible decision is to pull out and focus on recovery.”

Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek added: “The saddle sores definitely impacted Søren’s performance in the past few stages, it left him struggling to survive. He can look back proudly on his Tour. He was really strong and riding at a high level, doing a great job. We’re sad to see him leave but it is the right choice.”

Lotto-Soudal previews GP Cerami and Tour de Wallonie

The team sent me this:

While the Tour de France is coming to an end, another part of the Lotto Soudal team goes to the French speaking part of Belgium to participate in the GP Pino Cerami and the Tour de Wallonie. On Tuesday 25 July, the GP Pino Cerami takes place and on Saturday 27 July the Tour de Wallonie - a five-day Europe Tour stage race through the Walloon hills – starts. Sports director Bart Leysen looks ahead.

GP Pino Cerami
Bart Leysen: “Tuesday we start again with the GP Pino Cerami. For many riders, that’s the first race of the second part of the season. This race can be compared to the GP Le Samyn, because it’s also not that hard. There are some little hills, but mostly a big group heads to the finish line. The GP Pino Cerami is something for riders who are extremely motivated and who already have good legs. With Enzo Wouters and Gerben Thijssen, who by the way rides his first race as a pro, we have two fast men in our team. If it would come to a group sprint, we certainly got the right arms to fight with.”

“We always try to get the best possible result. We appear at the start with only one goal and that is winning. I will make sure that riders who feel good that day will get as much support as possible. There’s not really one man in particular considered to be the leader. It will rather be a matter of having a fast rider left in the finale.”

Tour de Wallonie
Bart Leysen: “The Tour de Wallonie consist of five stages of which the first one, in my opinion, is the hardest. That’s a stage through the Flemish Ardennes in which the riders have to conquer Hameau des Papins, Côte de Beau Site and the Kruisberg. I expect an immediate first selection there. The fourth stage to Lierneux is also one for the riders who are aiming for the overall win.”

“As for our team I rather think about the general classification than about stage wins. Tosh Van der Sande can handle that classification and he also has fast legs. Furthermore, we also have riders like Jelle Vanendert and Tomasz Marczyński who are in full preparation for the upcoming races. Another factor is that the race is in Belgium, so there won’t be any lack of motivation. The Wallonian region is becoming increasingly popular and the Tour de Wallonie isn’t considered as a small race anymore.”

“We have a team to race aggressively. We might not have the best finishers and that’s why we love to make the race as hard as possible. On the one hand the good results of our colleagues at the Tour de France take away the pressure, but on the other hand it pushes us more to perform equally well.”

Jelle Vanendert

Jelle Vanendert will be on the start line for both races. Sirotti photo

Line up Lotto Soudal GP Cerami: Frederik Frison, Nikolas Maes, Rémy Mertz, Gerben Thijssen, Jelle Vanendert, Brian van Goethem and Enzo Wouters.

Line up Lotto Soudal Tour de Wallonie: Stan Dewulf, Frederik Frison, Nikolas Maes, Tomasz Marczyński, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert and Brent Van Moer.

Sports director: Bart Leysen.

Races:

GP Cerami: Tuesday 25 July: Saint-Ghislain – Frameries (210 km)

Tour de Wallonie

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