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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Let us not listen to those who think we ought to be angry with our enemies, and who believe this to be great and manly. Nothing is so praiseworthy, nothing so clearly shows a great and noble soul, as clemency and readiness to forgive. - Cicero

Current racing:

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Tour of Switzerland stage four team reports:

Here's the report from Geraint Thomas's Team INEOS regarding his crash:

Geraint Thomas was forced to abandon the Tour de Suisse following a crash on the fourth stage. The pace in the peloton had increased heading into the final 30 kilometres, with Thomas going down as part of a two-rider crash.

Clearly disappointed, the Welshman was quickly sat up and speaking to team and race medical personnel at the roadside. With abrasions to his shoulder and a cut above his right eye, the 2018 Tour de France winner headed to hospital for further checks. Further update to follow.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas gets attention after his crash.

With a four-rider break caught, up the road the team supported Egan Bernal on the run-in, with Ben Swift and Kenny Elissonde riding towards the front on the final climb of the Eichenberg.

Bernal crossed the line as part of a bunch finish, taking the same time as stage winner Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and remaining firmly in the GC picture, now 13th overall. Jonathan Castroviejo is the team’s best-placed rider in ninth.

Reaction:
“There was a lot of road furniture about and a rider crashed in front of [Geraint]. He got a little cut over his eyebrow which was bleeding. The doctor felt it was safest to take him to the hospital for further checks. We’ll have to wait until they check him properly and then we’ll know more.

“I think all riders are the same. They want to go back to the bike and race. But thankfully we have a doctor in the car and it’s his decision to make.” - Gabriel Rasch

Later in the day this update came:

Geraint Thomas has escaped relatively unscathed following today’s crash at the Tour de Suisse.

Thomas was taken straight to hospital having suffered abrasions on his shoulder and a cut above his right eye in the wake of the crash, but thankfully the 33 year old has not sustained any further injuries.

Speaking to TeamINEOS.com, the reigning Tour de France champion explained how the incident occurred, commenting: “There was a lip in the road that came out of nowhere. An Astana rider hit the lip and crashed and I had nowhere to go. I landed on my shoulder and my face and there was quite a bit of blood. You’ve always got to be cautious with a head injury, and whilst I was keen to carry on, the doctors made the right decision to pull me out of the race.”

Thomas’ involvement in the Tour de France isn’t likely to be affected by today’s crash and he is already looking forward to being on the start line in Brussels on July 6th, adding: “Clearly it’s frustrating and a small setback for my Tour de France preparations, but there’s still plenty of time before we start in Brussels in a few weeks' time. We will recalibrate and I’m sure my coach Tim (Kerrison) will have a plan in place to ensure I’m ready for July 6th.”

Team INEOS doctor Derick Macleod told TeamINEOS.com: “Geraint took a heavy fall. The main area of impact was to his head. He passed his initial concussion roadside test but with the nature and severity of the impact, it was felt unsafe for him to continue in the race. He was taken to hospital and thankfully all the X-rays and scans have come back clear. He’s now back in the Team hotel and in good spirits.”

He added: “He’s been given the all clear which is great but we will continue to monitor him over the next few days. Knowing Geraint, it won’t take him long to get back on his bike but we’ll need to ensure he’s symptom free in the next few days before he does so. We’re optimistic he’ll make a full recovery over the coming days though and all being well he’ll be back on his bike very soon.”

Here's the report from stage winner Elia Viviani's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Elia Viviani bounced back after finishing a frustrating second in Murten yesterday and captured his maiden win at the Tour de Suisse, which he is racing for the first time since 2012. For Elia, one of the best sprinters of the last two seasons, it was the 23rd success since joining Deceuninck – Quick-Step and came in the nick of time, in his last stage race before the Tour de France.

Elia Viviani

Elia Viviani (on the right) is the day's fastest man. Sirotti photo

“This victory is a real confidence booster, especially for the next couple of weeks! It’s always important to win a World Tour race and you can see that all my 2019 successes came in such races, which speaks a lot about my season, despite not matching the number of wins I had last year”, a happy Viviani said at the press conference in Arlensheim.

On paper, stage 4 was one for the peloton’s fast men, but a 3km-climb inside the last 20 kilometers and a fast descent threatened to derail the expected bunch gallop. Surrounded by a strong Deceuninck – Quick-Step squad, Elia made it over the Hochwald ascent and remained well-positioned in the group, from where several riders tried to slip away, only to be overhauled. The last two kilometers were extremely technical, peppered by tricky corners and even cobbles, but the Wolfpack stormed to the head of the field and protected the Italian, as they continued to stretch out the bunch.

After best young rider Kasper Asgreen peeled off the front, Belgian Champion Yves Lampaert upped the tempo as they passed under the flamme rouge, before Michael Mørkøv pulled Elia into position for the sprint. The Italian Champion swung around the Dane and kicked out 200 meters from the line, unleashing an astonishing burst of sprint (71km/h maximum speed, according to Velon’s data) and holding off the charges of Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) and Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), who rounded out the podium.

“We were hoping it will come down to a bunch sprint and were keen on trying again after finishing second yesterday. The guys were absolutely perfect, helping me get over the final climbs, and I was confident in them, because I know we have the best lead-out in the world. We took the responsibility in the last kilometers and made sure we were near the front going into the descent, because this was very important, Michael put me in a perfect position and I could finish off the job. Today’s victory means a lot to me and makes me extremely happy”, Elia said after becoming the first reigning Italian Champion in over two decades to notch up at least nine wins in the iconic tricolore.

GC leader Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

The terrain getting progressively harder as the race goes on, the profile for stage 4 was a much more jagged affair. The second category climb that summited just past the halfway point of the 163.9km stage was the more obvious one, with its slopes hitting nearly 10% on the way up, but it was the second climb – the third category Hochwald – that could see the day decided. Close enough to the finish for a late attack, a bold breakaway could steal the stage from the sprinters, who would be fighting to have their fun on the flat finish in Arlesheim.

The BORA-hansgrohe riders had the added responsibility today of protecting the yellow jersey holder, Peter Sagan, after his win on yesterday’s stage, but with a long day ahead of them, they were happy to let the break go out, a quartet building up a lead of more than three minutes. With the bigger climb out of the way, the entire BORA-hansgrohe squad took to the front to drive down the gap in preparation for the finale, and as the number of kilometres remaining dropped, so too did the break’s advantage. With 25km to go, it was down to 1:25 and falling, and the desperation in the break was clear as they began attacking each other to try and stay out in front, but it was no use – with Daniel Oss, Marcus Burghardt and the rest of the BORA-hansgrohe squad on the front, it was all back together with 11km to go.

From here the speeds ramped up, with the sprint teams responding to last-ditch attempts to break away. Staying on the front, Peter’s yellow jersey was easy to spot, four riders back and being careful not to sprint too early. Leaving the rest of the bunch behind, there were only three riders in contention, but while he gave it his all, Peter just didn’t have enough in the tank, taking third on the line. While disappointed not to take the win, this podium result helped the Slovak National Champion maintain his lead in the overall standings and keep hold of the black points jersey, while a strong finish from Patrick Konrad saw the Austrian rider move into the GC top ten.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan remains the GC leader.

"I wanted to win this stage but it wasn't the day. The team did a perfect job, they pulled in the front almost all day and the stage was decided, as expected, in a fast bunch sprint. I did my best but today Viviani was the fastest. I feel well, my form is where it should be right now but it wasn't my day. Thanks to my third place and the sprint bonus, I keep the yellow and black jerseys." – Peter Sagan

"We had three goals today, take a shot at winning the stage and keep the two jerseys. We achieved two of these goals, Peter is still leading the GC and the points classification. The guys once again put in a tremendous effort from the start and made it a tough stage. Everybody really gave all they had to control the race, catch the breakaway and position Peter for the sprint. He also pushed hard but in this kind of finishes, Viviani can be hard to beat. Peter took third and I think we can be satisfied with our performance today." – Jan Valach, Sports Director 

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

A strong performance throughout the day kept Michael Matthews safe during a hectic finale and ultimately helped to deliver the Australian into an ideal position in order to take second place amongst a messy sprint.

Tour of Switzerland

Across the front, from the left, as the sprint heads for the line: Michael Matthews, Peter Sagan and Elia Viviani. Sirotti photo

Stage four’s 162.9 kilometre course was ideally suited to allowing the breakaway to take much of the day’s focus, as a group of four riders eventually formed, pushing onwards to the day’s two categorised climbs with the hope of staying clear of the sprinters come the finish.

However, once the escapees began to fracture as a result of the day’s climbing their advantage soon dropped, motivating the peloton to rapidly eat away at their advantage until only a single escapee remained heading into the concluding 20 kilometres of racing.

With Marc Hirschi contributing a lengthy turn on the front to keep the bunch under control, the race headed into the deciding kilometre with Matthews tucked neatly upon the wheel of his major rivals. Having opened up his sprint, Matthews surged to the finish, crossing the line to take second place; a convincing performance after two consecutive sixth place finishes this week already. The result also means that Matthews is yet to finish outside the top six places after four days of racing.

Speaking after finishing second, Matthews said: “It was another good team performance today from all the team, we were fully committed to sprint with me in the final. Everyone played a massive role in the whole stage and into the finish to position me really well and I was able to come up with a second place. It’s definitely a confidence booster from the last few days today and I’m looking forward to the coming stages.”

Team Sunweb Coach, Luke Roberts, summarizes: “Today was again a difficult final, a three kilometre third category climb to pass in the final 20 kilometres as well as some difficult and technical terrain running into the final and the finish line itself. We wanted to set up a sprint for Michael, hopefully in a decimated bunch without some of the fast riders there. We wanted to keep the pressure on in what was a tough final final – the bunch dwindled down but some fast guys still made it up there but Michael did a good sprint and we’re very satisfied with second place. Unfortunately one guy was just quicker today.”

Tomorrow takes the shape of a rolling Stage 5 from Münchenstein to Einsiedeln, totalling 177 kilometres, featuring two categorised climbs in the concluding 50 kilometres of racing.

Team Sunweb's upcoming racing

The team sent me this schedule:

ZLM Tour: JUN 19-23

Matt Winston - Team Sunweb coach:
"The ZLM Tour returns this year with a varied route, including; a prologue time trial on the first evening, followed by two flat days, a queen stage in the Limburg region and a flat final day into Tilburg. The team will aim to set Max up for the sprint stages and we of course want to have a good showing on the Limburg day. We have a strong team to support Max in the sprints so it will be interesting to see how the race develops throughout the week."

Max Walscheid

Max Walscheid (shown at the 2018 Munsterland Giro) will be at the ZLM Tour.

Line-up:
Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (DEN)
Jan Bakelants (BEL)
Cees Bol (NED)
Roy Curvers (NED)
Jai Hindley (AUS)
Florian Stork (GER)
Max Walscheid (GER)

Le Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc: JUN 20-23

Bennie Lambregts - Team Sunweb coach:
"Le Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc is one of the toughest races at this level, with five difficult stages over four days of racing. There are three mountain top finishes and they will be important in shaping the overall standings. The team arrives at the race in a confident mood after Leon's recent national success. Last year Felix finished fourth on GC at this race and the team is motivated to support him again this year, with the aim of finishing on the podium or possibly higher by the end of the week."

Line-up:
Felix Gall (AUT)
Leon Heinschke (GER)
Niklas Märkl (GER)
Tim Naberman (NED)
Martin Salmon (GER)
Nils Sinschek (NED)

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