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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, March 14, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven. - Emily Dickinson

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Paris-Nice stage four team reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Stage winner Magnus Cort Nielsen's Team Astana posted this race report:

After being part of the breakaway for almost 200 kilometers, Magnus Cort won stage 4 of Paris-Nice after an impressive attack in the final kilometer, surprising the three other escapees. It’s the first victory of the season for the Danish rider of Astana Pro Team, and the sixteenth win for the team in 2019 so far, making it the most successful start of the season for the Kazakh team.

Magnus Cort Nielsen

Magnus Cort Nielsen enjoys his stage win.

- It was not a real plan to do something in this stage, but for sure I knew this day could suit me quite well and from the start of the stage, I was up there in the front, following the attacks. We went away quite early in the stage, I think after 10 or 15 kilometers we were already there with a small gap. At first, a group of riders attacked to create a small advantage and later me with four more guys were able to catch them. So, on the first climb of the day, we went clear. I felt quite good today and, in the breakaway, we managed to work well together. There were a few really strong guys in our group, so I had to be attentive to all of them. In the end, after 200 kilometers in the break, you never know how your legs could answer in the sprint, so I decided to anticipate with an attack inside the final kilometer. It was a good move and I was able to take the win! I am very happy with this victory, it is my first win this year, but as you could see the team started this season pretty well and I am happy to bring one more win to the team. We still have some GC ambitions in this race with Luis Leon Sanchez staying good at the second place. He is motivated, and we will do our best to support him, - said Magnus Cort.

- Paris-Nice is one of the main goals of the team at the start of the season, it is like a first repetition of the Tour de France and we aimed to come here in a good form. The team is doing a very nice race, all riders work hard for our common success. Today we knew it could be a good day for us and Magnus Cort realized his chance in this race! So far, we have a very good start of the season and today Magnus brought the team its 16th victory in 2019. We are happy to bring this new victory to all our sponsors and partners and, especially, to our general partner Samruk Kazyna as a present for our Kazakh holiday Nauryz! - said sports director Dmitriy Fofonov.

Stage 4 was the longest stage of this year’s Paris-Nice, covering a total of 212 kilometers. A group of thirteen riders including Magnus Cort got clear at the first climb of the day, after 18 kilometers of racing. They gained a maximum advantage of 7 minutes during the day but going into the final 10 kilometers, the peloton tried to close the gap with the breakaway. It was close, with just 40 seconds advantage for the break in the end, which was enough to race for the stage win.

With an explosive attack in the final kilometer, Magnus Cort surprised the three other riders who were still there from the early break. With an impressive solo finish, he secured his first win of the season and the sixteenth victory for Astana Pro Team so far in 2019. Thomas De Gendt finished second, Giulio Ciccone third. Michal Kwiatkowski is the new race leader, just five seconds in front of Luis Leon Sanchez.

Tomorrow the riders will go for a Time Trial of 25.5 kilometers with start and finish in the town of Barbentane. 

Here's what new GC leader Michal Kwiatkoski's Team Sky had to say:

Michal Kwiatkowski moved into the overall lead at Paris-Nice following another composed team performance on the longest stage of the race.

Michal kwaitkowski

Michal Kwiatkowski (shown at the the 2018 Vuelta a España) is the new Paris-Nice GC leader. Sirotti photo

Kwiatkowski finished 10th on stage four as Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana) won from a long range breakaway while Egan Bernal moved up to fourth (+11 seconds) as previous leader Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma) fell out of contention.

Nielsen prevailed from an initial break of 13, with Team Sky content to help contain their advantage to the five minute mark as none of the escapees were in overall contention before Mitchelton-Scott took on the race in the closing stages.

And while the pace picked up to reduce the leaders' advantage to under a minute as the race sped towards the finish in Pélussin, Nielsen timed an attack to ensure he could not be caught and Kwiatkowski and Bernal finished in the bunch kick to the line.

Michal Kwiatkowski:
"It was maybe not the plan to take the yellow jersey, but the opportunity was there. We knew that it was going to be a tough stage and very demanding for a lot of sprinters, we were expecting fireworks in the final, and I have to say it was a very strong breakaway and there were so many teams in it, so it gave them an opportunity to stay away. I could “only” take the yellow and not go for the stage win, but we are happy with it still.

"It is still beginning of the race and the crucial part of the race Is coming with the TT tomorrow and then the stage to the top of Turini and the last one to Nice. So the weekend is going to be exciting I guess and we are looking forward to try winning the race together with Egan Bernal. Now I am in the leaders jersey, so it is always nice to start the TT as last man, so I have all the splits and maybe even gain some time.

"Right now I am the leader, of course, but I believe that Egan can also do really well, and it’s always easier even for myself when you have two cards to play in this race."

Lotto-Soudal sent me this note about Thomas De Gendt now leading Paris-Nice mountains classification:

Lotto Soudal rider Thomas De Gendt finished second in the fourth stage of Paris-Nice, covered between Vichy and Pélussin. He was part of a thirteen-rider breakaway, of which four battled for the victory. Cort Nielsen eventually took the stage win ahead of De Gendt, who gained enough points to take over the mountains jersey.

Thomas De Gendt: "I did not really intent to go for a stage win today, but at the team meeting this morning, the sports director said he wanted someone to be in the breakaway. I gave it a try and that appeared to be the right decision, because we managed to stay ahead. It was important that all thirteen riders would work together. That was the case, as everyone did their part of the job. We agreed to ride at a fast pace towards the hill zone and after that, we would see who would remain and what our advantage would be. With 40 kilometres to go, we still had a nice gap and then I began to believe in a possible stage win.”

“At less than one kilometre to the finish, Cort Nielsen took the lead and I wanted De Marchi to take his wheel, getting myself in third position for the sprint. But De Marchi looked at me and he stopped for a moment. Cort Nielsen saw he had a small gap and he started to sprint already. I tried to jump on his wheel, but he was too strong. He is an extremely good rider and he probably would have beaten us in a sprint anyway. The first one to attack from such a small group, is mostly lost. So I hoped someone else would go, but that did not happen.”

“Taking over the mountains jersey was not something I was aiming for ahead of this stage. On the first two hills, I did not sprint to save my legs for a possible stage win. I did however take some points and I was the first to cross the final climbs as well. It certainly is a consolation prize for me today. We will see how it goes, but a stage win still is the most important goal for the team. The day after tomorrow, we will do our utmost again to win with Caleb Ewan.”

Thomas de Gendt

Thomas de Gendt (shown in the 2018 Vuelta) is now the Paris-Nice King of the Mountains. Sirotti photo.

The opening stage of Tirreno-Adriatico today was a team time trial of 21.5 kilometres in Lido di Camaiore. Lotto Soudal achieved an excellent sixth place. They finished 54 seconds behind the winning team Mitchelton-Scott. Victor Campenaerts reacts to this great team performance.

Victor Campenaerts: “A sixth place in the team time trial of Tirreno-Adriatico is for sure a result we would have been happy with beforehand. Lotto Soudal does not really have a big team time trial tradition but thanks to Kevin De Weert who joined the team, we have been working on it really hard and that is already paying off now. The puncture halfway the team time trial seriously thwarted our plans but we still managed to finish sixth. The first teams have taken quite an advantage in the general classification but we are satisfied with the result today. My trainer called the team time trial a kind of ‘midterm’ and I think I passed that intermediate test. I am happy with the way I felt today.”

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this Paris-Nice report:

The first few days of Paris – Nice were tailored to the fast men of the peloton, but today’s stage was one for the climbers and GC contenders. The longest stage in this year’s edition of Paris – Nice started in Vichy and took the riders over 212 demanding kilometres to Pélussin. The course covered five categorised climbs, the last one coming 10km ahead of the finish.

Right from the start, several riders fought to be in the breakaway of the day, and after a few kilometres of racing, 13 riders went clear. One of the escapees was BORA – hansgrohe rider Christoph Pfingsten, who was able to open up a gap of six minutes over the main bunch, together with his breakaway companions. The break stayed at the front of the race for many kilometres, but as expected, as the race approached the final four climbs of the day, the breakaway disintegrated. Christoph Pfingsten waited for his teammates, in order to bring them into a good position for the upcoming demanding kilometres.

Patrick Konrad and Felix Großschartner put in a good performance and managed to ride in the chasing group, a few seconds behind the leaders. But the original breakaway was able to keep its advantage until the finish line, where M. Cort (Team Astana) took the stage win. Both BORA – hansgrohe climbers crossed the line in the first chasing group, in 23rd and 27th place. Following this result, Felix Großschartner moved up to 10th in the general classification of Paris – Nice.

From the Finish Line:
“It was a tough day today. A tailwind made the race fast, and we had a solid breakaway with riders who were strong enough to make it from the break all the way to the finish line. But the team worked very well to bring Patrick and me into position, and we stayed with the other GC contenders. Now, we’ll focus on tomorrow’s TT stage and will of course give it our all.” – Felix Großschartner

“There was a big fight for the breakaway, and as we expected, a very strong group went clear. The whole peloton tried to close the gap, but it ultimately didn’t work out. It could have also been because we had to wait for the train to pass, and so we couldn’t go all out for a top result today. However, we’ll do our best again tomorrow.” – Patrick Konrad

“Ahead of tomorrow’s time trial, we wanted to bring home our GC rider Felix safely today. We also knew that a strong breakaway would dominate today’s stage, and we therefore planned to have one guy up there. With Christoph we had the right man in the break, and he did a great job. Shortly before the finish, he just lacked that last punch but was the perfect relay-station for our two climbers. We’ll now turn our attention to the time trial, and with Felix having taken fourth place last year, we are looking forward to that stage.” – Christian Pömer, Sports Director

Tirreno-Ardriatico stage one team reports

Winner Mitchelton-Scott sent me this:

Mitchelton-SCOTT powered their way to victory in the opening team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico, taking the stage by an impressive seven seconds in Lido di Camaiore.

Despite being the last team off the start ramp, the seven-man squad didn’t let the pressure get to them, setting the second fastest time at the intermediate split before upping the pace and taking the win. Australian Michael Hepburn was the first rider to cross the line and will line-up on the start in Camaiore for stage two in the leader’s jersey.

Mitchelton-Scott

Mitchelton-Scott was the fastest team.

The opening stage got underway in rainy conditions, making the relatively straightforward 21.5km course more technical, with a slippery road surface to contend for the teams setting off early.

As the last team off the start ramp, Mitchelton-SCOTT had to deal with mixed conditions with the sun having dried some sections of the course, while others remained wet.

It was a strong start with Australian time trial champion Luke Durbridge putting in some big turns on the front as the squad passed the time check just two seconds down on the fastest time set by Team Jumbo-Visma.

There were some nervous faces in the hot seat as it became obvious that Mitchelton-SCOTT were on a fast one with five riders still taking their turns on the front. Disaster almost struck heading onto the finish straight when a member of the public strayed onto the course and the team had to take avoiding action, narrowly missing the woman and her dog.

With a short run to the line the squad regrouped and powered over the line to take the day by seven seconds and start the week of racing in perfect fashion.

Michael Hepburn:
“Team trials are very technical these days and it’s something our team enjoys doing, especially myself. Tirreno is one of my favourite races of the year, I always seem to be in good condition here, but to be completely honest, I don’t deserve the jersey more than anyone else in the squad, that was just the order we were coming into the home straight.” 

“It was a good little advantage for us being last off, knowing the times and also with the weather, the road dried up a little bit.”

“We’ve been here before and gone off early and the wind changes, but finally this year we had a bit of luck on our side. We were quietly confident in our team, we have a lot of big boys, a lot of powerful time trialists and today was one of our chances to get some time and we did that.”

Adam Yates:
“Super start! We’ve been trying to win a TTT for a long time, I think I’ve been here four or five years now and every time we try, every year we bring a super strong team and we’ve been close and now we’ve finally got it!”

“Tonight we’ll look at the standings and work out where we are, it’s going to be tough, there’s no big, super hard mountain stages this year, but we’ll see and just take it stage by stage.”

Bora-hansgrohe crashed during the team time trial. Here's their update:

The 54th edition of the ‘Race of the Two Seas’ would see riders make their way from the Tyrrhenian to the Adriatic coasts, with seven days of action-packed racing ahead of them. However, it was an unlucky opening stage for BORA-hansgrohe, with two riders crashing today. The race opened with its traditional Team Time Trial in the seaside town of Lido di Camaiore – an out and back 21.5km route on pan flat roads with little that would trouble the riders in terms of terrain.

Bora-hansgrohe

Bora-hansgrohe had the misfortune of having a moron walk in front of them.

However, with rain falling on the course all day, the roads were saturated and deep puddles dotted the course, making the racing slippery and treacherous. Some of the team were also coming back after a break in racing, while Slovak National Champion, Peter Sagan, was assessing his health after a difficult stomach virus. As one of the first teams on the road, the BORA-hansgrohe riders had barely started their ride when, 3.5km into the stage, a pedestrian walked out in front of the squad, taking out Rafał Majka and Oscar Gatto. While the remaining five worked together well to reach the finish, the team slipped down the rankings as the day went on.

Finishing the day in a time of 24:22 and in 20th position, the team vowed to keep their spirits high and work hard to create opportunities later in the race. The stage was ultimately taken out by Mitchelton-Scott, who stopped the clock with a time of 22:25, a total of 1:57 faster than the team from Raubling. 

From the Finish Line:
"It's a pity we started the Tirreno-Adriatico with such an unlucky incident. I felt well and I think we were doing a good time-trial but the crash so early in the stage was not a good thing at all. We lost our momentum and we had only five riders left for most of the stage, so it was difficult to be competitive. I wish Rafał and Oscar a speedy recovery" – Maciej Bodnar

"Unfortunately, we had a very bad day. Just 3.5km into the stage, a spectator crashed into the team, taking down two riders and splitting up the squad. From then on our guys weren't in the best mood but still gave a fight. The good news is that Rafał Majka is set to continue the race. He doesn't look good after the crash but he will be there. Our chances at the GC are probably gone now but we will try to fight for, possibly, a stage win that will keep our spirits high. Still, it was a very bad day for us." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

"We had an unlucky day, marred by a bad crash. Oscar Gatto has quite a lot of bruises while Rafał Majka went down hard. He has hematomas and abrasions on his head and we will have to run additional tests and diagnostics in order to evaluate whether the impact caused a concussion or not." – Jan-Niklas Droste, Team Doctor

19-year-old killed by car while previewing Redlands TT route

VeloNews posted this tragic story:

Tate Meintjes, 19, of Reno, Nevada, dies after he was hit by a car while previewing Redlands Bicycle Classic stage 1 route.

Tate Meintjes, 19, of Reno, Nevada, died Tuesday after a car hit him while he was pre-riding the time trial route for this week’s Redlands Bicycle Classic, according to an announcement from the race organizer.

A California Highway Patrol statement said that Meintjes was following a car on Sand Canyon Road, part of Wednesday’s stage 1 time trial route. The car turned in front of him, causing the crash.

The crash occurred at 10:52 a.m., according to the police report. Although he was taken to Loma Linda University Hospital, Meintjes died.

You can read the entire story here.

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