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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, March 16, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

That pleasure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating and the most intense, is derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the beautiful. - Edgar Allan Poe

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Paris-Nice stage six team reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Stage winner Sam Bennett's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

The sixth stage of Paris – Nice took the peloton from Peynier over 176.5 km to Brignoles. The course featured three categorized climbs, all in the second half of the stage.

As three riders went clear from the bunch, the peloton held them on a short leash, never allowing them more than three minutes advantage. Right before the first ascent of the day, the Côte de la Sainte-Baume, the gap fell quickly as the bunch increased the pace significantly. Before the break crested the climb, the race was all back together. From that point on the tempo remained high and strong wind effected the race as well. As a result, some of the sprinters lost contact and the bunch split into several groups. With Bennett, Drucker, Großschartner and Poljanski BORA – hansgrohe had four riders at the front.

There was another selection on the last climb and a greatly reduced bunch approached Brignoles. On the fast run down into the city, BORA – hansgrohe was able to deliver Sam in a very good position. The Irish Sprinter waited until the last minute to open his sprint, but got his timing almost to perfection, overtaking A. Démare to the line with the highest speed. With this impressive second stage win at Paris-Nice, Bennett also took over the points classification. 

Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett emphatically wins Paris-Nice stage six

From the Finish Line:
“I wanted to go hard today, because it was a perfect stage in terms of preparation for Sanremo. I thought I wouldn’t be able to survive the second last climb, but I made it. In the last few kilometres I had really good legs. I knew there is no need to panic, I just had to follow my teammates, who did a fantastic job. I got almost boxed in on the final metres but made my way through. I could beat some of the best sprinters once again, I am really looking forward to Sanremo now, which is my first goal of the season.” – Sam Bennett

“Sam is in an amazing shape. He climbs impressively well and knows when to ride in good positions. The team supported him more than perfect today, and this paid off with an impressive second stage win. The stage was not just undulated, there was wind up to 75 km/h which made the day other than easy. After six days of racing we have two stage wins, the green jersey and Felix in 6th position overall. I think we can be more than happy with that.” – Jens Zemke, Sports Director

Here's the report from GC leader Michal Kwiatkowski's Team Sky:

Michal Kwiatkowski was pleased to extend his overall lead at Paris-Nice after the riders endured tough conditions from the start on stage six.

Michal Kwiatkowski

Michal Kwiatkowski remains the Paris-Nice GC leader. Sirotti photo

The finish came down to a reduced bunch sprint won by Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) but Kwiatkowski again picked up bonus seconds in the final intermediate sprint to extend his lead over Egan Bernal to 18 seconds. This was important after Luis Leon Sanchez's (Astana) had won an earlier sprint to close the gap by three seconds on Kwiatkowski and Bernal in difficult conditions.

A tricky final led to some nervous moves in the bunch and Tao Geoghegan Hart was caught in a crash with four kilometres to go, but was ok to finish and escaped with cuts and bruises. 

Afterwards Kwiatkowski was pragmatic about the stage and revealed how tough it was saying: “I was hoping for a pretty straightforward day out there, but it was anything but! We had some crosswinds straight from the start, the wind was strong.

“The guys were trying to split the bunch from 5km which I thought was strange. It created a lot of stress, everyone was on edge. That’s why there were so many crashes. It was a really testing day, but thankfully I was always out of trouble and to stay in front after such a hectic day was really good. Today wasn’t an easy stage, but we’ve come through it and we’re in a positive position."

Kwiatkowski's attention now turns to the summit finish atop the Col de Turini which could prove pivotal in the overall race. 

“My head and my mind is already focused on tomorrow - it will be another tough stage," he added. It’s a pretty steady climb - I’ve done it a few times before. I did it a few weeks ago - it’s nothing crazy - and I’m looking forward to it."

Francisco Ventoso breaks Metacarpal bone in Paris-Nice crash

Ventoso's CCC Team sent me this bad news:

15 March 2019: Francisco Ventoso has been forced to abandon Paris - Nice after a crash in the second half of stage six which left him with a broken fifth metacarpal bone in his left hand, CCC Team doctor, Dr. Piotr Kosielski confirmed.

"Francisco crashed around 90 kilometers into today's stage in France and he was immediately taken to hospital for observation. X-Rays revealed that he has sustained a broken fifth metacarpal bone in his left hand. He will require surgery at home in Spain but providing everything goes to plan, Francisco should be able to resume training indoors within the week after surgery. The normal recovery period for this sort of injury can be up to four to five weeks and, I think we can except Francisco to have made a full recovery and be training on the road within that time frame. We will continue to monitor his recovery to determine when he will be able to race again," Dr. Kosielski explained

Francisco Ventoso

Francisco Ventoso (shown in the 2012 Giro) is out of Paris-Nice. Sirotti photo.

Ventoso is disappointed about the crash but motivated to make his return to the peloton with CCC Team as quickly as possible.

"I had bad luck today because the crash happened after a tree branch on the road got caught in my front wheel. I didn't see it in the middle of the road but, it immediately broke my front wheel and I flew over the top of my handlebars. I am of course disappointed with the situation but, these things happen and now all I can do is try to have the necessary surgery as fast as possible and get myself back on the bike as soon as I can," Ventoso said.

CCC Team will continue to provide updates on Ventoso's recovery.

Tirreno-Adriatico stage three team reports

We posted the report from GC leader Adam Yates' Mitchelton-Scott team with the results.

Stage winner Elia Viviani's Deceuninck-Quick Step team posted this report:

Tirreno-Adriatico continued with the longest stage of this edition, a 226km-long journey from Pomarance to Foligno, where Elia Viviani made it two in a row for Deceuninck – Quick-Step after capitalising on Zdenek Stybar’s flawless piloting and putting in a perfectly-timed sprint which saw him blast clear of the other favourites and add another win to his impressive palmares, which now counts 71 pro victories, a record among active Italian riders.

Elia Viviani

Elia Viviani wins Tirreno-Adriatico stage three.

“I am very happy with this win and continuing my good form. This victory is important in my build-up to Milano-Sanremo not only confidence-wise, but also because it came in Italy with the national champion jersey on my shoulders. Having it is an honour, that’s why I’m trying to enjoy every single moment and give something to cheer about to all the Italian fans who come to see me”, a smiling Elia said after bringing the home nation’s first win in four years at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Before it came down to this thrilling bunch sprint, one rider stood out from the peloton, second-year pro Kasper Asgreen, who rode a steady tempo at the head of the pack behind the six escapees from the start of the stage, peeling off the front only after reeling in the remnants of the breakaway on the outskirts of Foligno, the town where in 1472 Dante’s masterpiece “La Divina Commedia” was printed for the first time.

A technical finale, spiced up by two bends and a corner, made positioning paramount going into the last kilometer and Elia Viviani jumped on the wheel of Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) as he came out of the final corner and sped past his opponent at a maximum speed of 74.2km/h, pulling off his fourth victory of the season and the 17th of Deceuninck – Quick-Step, which tops both the team and wins classifications.

Viviani praised his teammates, who were once again prominent at the front and played an important role in his success as he became the first reigning Italian Champion in 15 years to score a stage win at the race: “The guys did a remarkable job and we remained calm at all times despite the break having a big advantage at one point. The tricky finish made things chaotic and Sagan came out first from the last bend, but I was in a good position thanks to Styby and had a powerful sprint, which helped me maintain my perfect start to the season, with victories in all the races I’ve started with Deceuninck – Quick-Step.”

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

The longest stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, at 226km, was set to be a battle of the fast men. With the two categorised climbs out of the way with 100km still to race, the sprinters were bound to make their presence known in Foligno at the end of the day – if they could make it round a tricky right-hand bend just 250m from the line. Ignoring the sprinters’ ambitions for the stage, a group of six escaped early on, building a lead of six minutes at its peak. However, this didn’t last, with the peloton making a concerted effort to reduce the gap to a more manageable distance, while two members dropping off the escape group made it easier to draw them in. With just over 10km to go, the gap was just thirty seconds, the break clinging to their lead to the final 4km, but once it was back together it was on for the sprint finish.

BORA-hansgrohe drove the pace high, stringing out the bunch as speeds ramped up for the final push. The late bend at the end meant there was no chance for sprint trains to form, and the Slovak National Champion, Peter Sagan, had to stay at the front, starting his sprint as soon as the road was straight. In spite of his sickness having sapped his energy, Peter held his own, just being beaten to the win on the line and taking second after a strong effort – an excellent performance in one of the longest days of the season so far.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan before the start of stage three. Sirotti photo.

From the Finish Line:
"I knew it wouldn't be an easy sprint but I wanted to give it a try. Although my form is still not at the level it should be right now, I was feeling quite better today. I'd like to thank the rest of the team for their great work, especially in the final kilometres where they put me in a perfect position. It was a nice sprint and close finish, something to be expected when you are against strong sprinters like Gaviria and Viviani. I'm improving day by day and in every stage, we will try to get the best result we can." – Peter Sagan

"It was a long stage and our focus was to work for Peter and the sprint finish. The guys did a good job in the stage and in the finale, they were there and brought Peter in a good position. He was the first to launch his sprint and in the end, got second place. It was a very good result, taking into consideration the problems he had during the last weeks. We see this as a sign he's getting stronger every day which, combined with the nice job by the team, makes us feel satisfied." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director. 

Might Team Sky become Team Ineos?

VeloNews posted this report:

March 15, 2019: Billionaire owner of global chemical company is linked to Team Sky as a potential sponsor to save the team after 2019 season.

British media are reporting that one of the UK’s richest businessmen will likely be the new backer for Team Sky after 2019.

The Daily Mail reported earlier this month that Jim Ratcliffe, whose personal fortune is estimated at more than $25 billion, was in sponsor takeover talks with Team Sky. The Cycling Podcast and CyclingNews both report this week that a deal is imminent.

Ratcliffe is the majority shareholder of Ineos, described as one of the world’s largest chemical companies with sales topping $90 billion annually.

Team Sky

Will these gents be wearing Ineos jerseys next year? Sirotti photo.

Team Sky remains mum about any details of its future sponsorship structure, only insisting that the team plans to continue beyond 2019 when longtime backer Sky leaves at the end of the racing season.

You can read the whole VeloNews story here.

Amer Sports sells Mavic to U.S. private equity firm

Bike Europe sent me this industry update:

HELSINKI, Finland – After announcing its intention to sell its bicycle business as part of its group portfolio, stock-listed Amer Sports Oyj has now entered into an exclusive agreement with global private equity firm Regent, LP to sell Mavic S.A.S. The purchase price is not disclosed. Amer Sports second bicycle component brand Enve is not included in the sale.

The completion of the contemplated transaction and the transfer of ownership is expected in the second quarter of 2019. The acquisition of Mavic will probably be completed before the planned Amer Sports takeover by the Hong Kong investor consortium led by Anta Sports.

According to a Amer Sports press release the intended Mavic sale follows; “Amer Sports’ comprehensive strategic review on the cycling business, which we announced while updating our strategy in September 2018”. The divestment has no impact the results of Amer Sports’ continuing businesses. The Finnish sporting goods giant has already reported its cycling business as “discontinued operations” for full year 2018.

“As part of our strategy we continue to focus the group portfolio and capabilities towards areas of faster growth, better profitability, and scalability. Over the past cycle we have concluded that we are not the best owner for Mavic which only represented approximately 3 percent of our sales and which has distinct business drivers and little synergies versus the broader group. We believe that the iconic Mavic brand has strong potential, which would be better realized as part of Regent. Amer Sports continues to capitalize on its strategic priorities, especially Softgoods, Direct to Consumer, China, and United States”, comments Amer Sports President and CEO Heikki Takala.

You can read the entire story here.

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