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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, March 17, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. - e. e. cummings

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Paris-Nice stage seven team reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Stage winner Daniel Martinez's EF Education First team sent me this report:

Part of a young crop of Colombian talent shaping the narrative of the still-young season, Dani Martinez has managed to fly under the radar – until today.

The 22-year-old took his third victory of the season on Saturday, and the biggest of his flourishing career. In the final kilometer of the queen stage of Paris-Nice, Martinez rode compatriot Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) off his wheel to win atop Col du Turini.

Daniel Martiez

Daniel Martinez wins Paris-Nice stage seven.

“I am very excited about this victory,” said Martinez. “It’s a special day for me. Paris-Nice is one of the great races in the world.”

The seventh stage of the Paris-Nice covered 181 kilometers between Nice and the race’s eventual finish at the top of Col de Turini. Despite its popularity with Monaco- and Nice-based professional cyclists, the Col de Turini, 14.9-kilometers long with an average gradient of 7.3%, is a new inclusion in Paris-Nice. The summit finish was the sixth climb of the mountainous day.

A group of 39 riders split off from the peloton on the Côte de Gourdon, the stages second categorized climb. Martinez represented EF Education First Pro Cycling in the selection. With the best-placed rider more than two minutes down on the general classification, the breakaway’s chances looked promising.

“Dani and the whole group were highly motivated to confirm the excellent results of the TT also in the mountains,” said head sport director Charley Wegelius. “The size and make up of the big break that formed were ideal for him."

Thirty kilometers from the finish, the breakaway maintained a six-minute advantage over the peloton. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) and Lopez were the first to launch attacks on the lower slopes of the Col de Turini. Martinez marked the moves as the breakaway group exploded in his wake. Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) joined the party up front, making it a four-man fight for glory.

An uneasy cooperation between the leading quartet gave way to a round of attacks with the finish line looming. All four frontrunners spent brief stints of time alone up front at various points in the final five kilometers.

“I was controlling Lopez and Yates,” said Martinez. “I didn’t want them to surprise me.”

“It was a tough fight,” said EF Education First CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “Dani was tactically very astute. His ride was gutsy.”

Martinez upped the pace under the flamme rouge, drawing out Lopez as Yates and Edet were distanced. Lopez rode back to Martinez’s wheel only to fall off the pace again at the 500-meter mark. Although Lopez was able to claw his way back once more, Martinez powered away again in the final 100 meters, crossing the finish four-seconds ahead of Lopez.

“I was tired, but I gave everything I had left in the last kilometer,” said Martinez. “I was more afraid that Simon Yates would return because he won the time trial and is in great form.”

“Dani managed his energy and his nerves perfectly all day,” said Wegelius. “In the end, he showed his class with a great win.”

Martinez’s victory is the sixth for EF Education First this season and the third for Martinez, who won the Colombian national time trial title and was part of the Tour of Colombia team time trial victory.

“The win was highly deserved for all the riders and staff,” said Wegelius. “It was a true team effort today.”

Paris-Nice concludes with a short, sharp stage on Sunday. The 110-kilometer route covers five categorized climbs before a steep drop into Nice. Identical to last season’s Paris-Nice finale, Sunday’s stage eight should deliver drama and excitement.

Here's the report from new GC leader Egan Bernal's Team Sky:

Egan Bernal moved into the race lead at Paris-Nice following a tense penultimate stage that finished atop the Col de Turini and as won by Daniel Martinez (EF Education First).

Egan Bernal

Egan Bernal is the new GC leader.

It was a day of mixed emotions for Bernal, who moved into the race lead at the expense of teammate Michal Kwiatkowski who was dropped on the final climb as the pace picked up to nullify the threat of Deceuninck-Quick-Step veteran Phillippe Gilbert, who had been virtual leader on the road for much of the stage.

The Colombian youngster now has a 45 second lead over Gilbert and is 46 seconds ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar) ahead of Sunday's punchy 110km stage around Nice.

Earlier, Gilbert had escaped as the biggest GC threat in a high quality group of 39 riders which included a host of climbing talent including Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Martinez.

As the group's lead swelled, Team Sky combined well on the front to at first cap the escapees' advantage before slowly picking up the pace to reel in the breakaway. Large turns on the front from Luke Rowe and Jhonatan Narvaez helped control the breakaway's advantage leading into the final climb, where Sebastian Henao and Tao Geoghegan Hart worked hard on the Col de Turini to reduce the numbers of the break.

The stage win was being contested by Martinez, Lopez, Yates and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) at the head of the race, while Ivan Sosa picked up the pace to close the gap on the tiring Gilbert who was now isolated behind the leaders, but still ahead of the GC group on the climb.

Unfortunately this acceleration also proved too much for Kwiatkowski, who moved down to fourth overall, but it helped propel Bernal to the finish with only Quintana for company to setup a gripping final stage on Sunday.

"While I am very happy to be wearing the leader’s jersey, I have mixed feelings because my teammate Kwiato was in the leader’s jersey and lost it today. But I think he had the pressure [of being the leader] for a few stages and he did very well, but with Gilbert infront we had to go full gas today.

“It was a really hard stage, it was strange for the legs having had lots of flat terrain and wind to contend with earlier in the race to suddenly be in the mountains, but in the final I was in the front and able to do well. 

"Now we have kept the jersey in the team we have to give our best tomorrow. I have a good chance to win Paris-Nice, tomorrow but it will be a tough stage, it always is, and we will have to concentrate all day.  Now I have the pressure on me, I am really confident in this really good team and I will try my best to win the race.”

What's next?
Team Sky will be aiming to win Paris-Nice for a sixth time in eight years as the ‘Race to the Sun’ comes to a thrilling climax in Nice. The punchy 110km circuit around the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department has produced enthralling finishes in recent seasons, with the race being decided by mere seconds for the past three years.   

And here's Bora-hansgrohe's stage seven report:

The closing weekend of Paris – Nice will decided the general classification of the race with two consecutive mountain stages. None less than six categorized climbs were on the menu of a 181.5-kilometer-long course today, finishing on the famous Col de Turini. Due to this change in terrains, some of the sprinters left the race, one of them was two-times stage winner Sam Bennett.

The Irish BORA – hansgrohe sprint captain felt tired after an intense week of racing, and with his focus towards Milano – Sanremo, recovery will be key for him. Relatively early in the race, a big group of 35 riders went clear from the bunch. For BORA – hansgrohe Pawel Poljanski made it to the front, while the peloton had to dig deep to keep them under control. With team Sky pulling in the bunch for most of the day, the gap to the breakaway group went up to more than six minutes.

On the foot of the final climb was clear that the stage win had to be decided between the leaders, and Pawel Poljanksi launched an early attack to give it a try. But Pawel couldn’t hold off his chasers, and after being caught he waited for Felix Großschartner who was sitting in the main field. While at the front D. Martinez and M. Lopez made their move, Sky was driving the pace to distance rider after rider in an incredible elimination race. Unfortunately, also Felix was in trouble with about 5 km to go and got dropped. Still he showed a strong performance, keeping his rhythm to limit his losses and finishing in 32ndplace at the end. He lost some places in the GC but sits still in a good 13thplace ahead of the last stage of the race to the sun. While Martin took the stage in a sprint against Lopez, E. Bernal moved into the overall race lead.

From the Finish Line:
“I tried to stay with all the other GC contenders as long as possible, but unfortunately, I had to let them go with 5 km remaining. I followed my own pace then, and I am still satisfied with my performance which was an improvement compared to last year’s mountain top finish. Tomorrow is another demanding stage and last chance, therefore I will give it my all.”  – Felix Großschartner

“After our successful start into this year’s Paris – Nice with two stage wins, we wanted to ride for Felix today. First of all, we wanted to be part of the breakaway, and Pawel did a great job to be part of that big group. Unfortunately, Patrick, Felix’ domestic, had a puncture on the bottom of the final climb, therefore Felix was on his own relatively early. When Pawel’s attack failed in the front, he waited for his leader and did some important work. However, Felix wasn’t able to follow the best today. We hoped for more, but he is still in touch with the top ten and tomorrow is another hard day. There is still a chance and we’ll try to take it.” – Christian Pömer, Sports Director

Tirreno-Adriatico stage four team reports

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

Here's the report from stage winner Alexey Lutsenko's Team Astana:

He went solo with 37 kilometers to go, crashed two times, dropped back in a group of four and still won stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico: Today was a rollercoaster ride for Alexey Lutsenko. While Jakob Fuglsang controlled the chasing group behind Lutsenko, the Kazakh champion crashed two times, but both times he managed to get back on his bike as quick as he went down. In the final sprint with three other riders, he had the strongest sprint towards the finish with his teammate Fuglsang finishing fourth behind Primoz Roglic and Adam Yates.

Alexey Lutsenko

Alexey Lutsenko descending to the finish at Fossombrone. Sirotti photo.

- It was a crazy race today. I felt really good, so I decided to attack, but it was still far to the finish. Jakob Fuglsang did a great job controlling the group behind me, as the whole team performed really well today to get me and Jakob in a good position before the start of the final. I went in TT mode, but somehow I missed a corner and crashed at the side of the road, but I could only think about moving on and I was able to get on my bike really fast again. The second crash was more bad and harder, and this time the three riders behind me including Jakob were able to come back. But in my head, I still didn’t lose the race, I still believed in a stage win. When I won the final sprint and took the victory, I was happy but in a lot of pain at the same time. I’m very proud that I took another win for my team, I really believe this is something we achieved all together because of our hard work at the several training camps, - said Alexey Lutsenko.

- We had a really strong team today, they did a fantastic job. They were all united during the race, working for Alexey Lutsenko and Jakob Fuglsang. We were not afraid to attack far from the finish line, because we knew a lot of riders would decide not to follow, because it’s a risk to lose everything. But today we were strong and brave with these attacks, this was the key point of our success today. Of course, Alexey and Jakob finished it very well, even when Alexey crashed two times. We have many victories so far, but this is not what is most important for us. The most important thing is that all of our riders started the season in very good shape, they were ready to get results and work together. As a result of this, you get victories, and of course we are delighted with all these wins, - said sports director Alexandr Shefer.

It was another long stage after yesterday’s 226 kilometers, starting from Foligno to finish in Fossombrone after 221 kilometers of racing, including two hard HC categorized climbs in the final 20 kilometers. A group of ten riders formed the day’s breakaway and they created a gap with the bunch of more than 9 minutes. But going into the final 100 kilometers, several riders started to chase from the peloton, including our Dmitriy Gruzdev. From that moment, the race exploded. The breakaway was reeled in, there were several crashes in the descent and in the end there was a select group including Alexey Lutsenko and Jakob Fuglsang.

With 37 kilometers to go, Alexey Lutsenko decided to attack. The Kazakh champion managed to create a gap of more than 50 seconds, with Jakob Fuglsang controlling the chasing group. But due to the two crashes, Lutsenko got caught by Jakob Fuglsang, Primoz Roglic and Adam Yates. In the sprint for the stage win, Lutsenko showed he didn’t give up after his crashes, winning stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico. His teammate Fuglsang finished fourth, behind Roglic and Yates. Adam Yates holds the race lead after stage 4 and with three stages remaining.

Tomorrow the riders will start in Colli al Metauro to finish in Recanati after 180 kilometers of racing with multiple challenging climbs.

Team Sky's Geraint Thomas quit the race. Here's the team report:

Wout Poels climbed up to seventh overall at Tirreno Adriatico after a gruelling fourth stage in Tuscany, while Geraint Thomas was forced to withdraw from the race due to illness.

eraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas withdrew partway through stage four. Sirotti photo.

The Dutchman remained at the pointy end of the action across the closing 40 kilometres and came home 10th on the 221-kilometre stage, 23 seconds back on winner Alexey Lutsenko (Astana).

Unfortunately Thomas was forced to stop midway through the day due to illness. The Welshman has been struggling with stomach issues for a couple of days and the decision was taken for him to stop and rest up.

Thomas said: “I’ve been struggling with stomach issues for a couple of days now. I wanted to start this morning but I knew as soon as we hit the first climb that I wasn’t right.

“I could have battled through but it wouldn’t have done me any favours. We agreed on the road that it was better I stop and rest up. I’ll head home, have a couple of easy days, and then get back into training early next week.”

Stage five in Italy will take the riders from Colli Al Metauro to Recanti and looks set to be the hardest day of the race so far. Poels will hope to improve on seventh overall and close the gap to current race leader Adam Yates.

Lotto-Soudal 's update on Victor Campenaerts' World Hour Record attempt

In the run-up to the Hour Record attempt, Lotto Soudal will give twice a week an inside look into the preparation of Victor Campenaerts. On the one hand, Victor will talk about the run-up, on the other hand we will each time highlight a specific topic.

Part 2: one month to go – Warming up in Tirreno – Adriatico

Victor Campenaerts: “Getting used to riding in the peloton”

“Monday, I arrived in Tirreno – Adriatico, the same day on which the guys who rode Strade Bianche made the trip to the start location, Lido di Camaiore. I rode about an hour just to loosen up the legs and I was very happy to – since a very long time – be at the table with my teammates again. Tirreno-Adriatico is for myself of course the ultimate preparation towards the Hour Record, but for Tim and Tiesj it is an important objective of the season. I want to avoid risks but I will for sure help them when possible. It is my habit to cool down on the time trial bike after every stage, but now I’m holding the specific cadence I want to maintain on my track bike within a few weeks.”

“The team time trial did not fully go like we discussed during the theoretical meeting but such things happen very often in team time trials. Still, it is important that we took another step forward what concerns the approach. The fact that we finished sixth is certainly not a bad performance. In the last part of the race, I tried - together with Tim and Tiesj - to go for the best possible result. Tomasz Marczyński was our fourth rider and had to hold on. Thursday meant the first chance for Tim and Tiesj to improve their standings on the general classification and to maybe go for a stage win. I had to get used to riding in the peloton again because the last time I did so was in the final Vuelta stage on the 16th of September, six months ago…”

Victor's schedule:

Below is an overview of the calendar in the run-up to the Hour Record attempt, with the bronze medal at the TT World Championships in Innsbruck as the starting point.

* 22 September – 26 September: World Championships Innsbruck
* 29 September: 30-minute test on the track in Grenchen, Switzerland
* Winter break: holiday to San Francisco and Ironman Hawaii from 7 till 19 October
* 29 October: restart training
* 13 November – 20 November: Olympian training camp Lanzarote
* 8 December – 18 December: training camp Lotto Soudal on Mallorca; no on-bike training due to knee injury
* 20 December: first training post knee injury
* 2 January: take-off training camp Namibia
* 26 February: announcement UCI Hour Record attempt
* 4 March: return from Namibia training camp
* 11 March – 19 March: Tirreno – Adriatico
* 20 -26 March: final week in Belgium with a focus on recovery, final track test, sleeping in an altitude room, climate training and lactate test
* 27 March: departure to Mexico
* 16 or 17 April: Hour Record attempt
* 19 April: return to Belgium
* 29 April – 5 May: Tour de Romandie
* 8 May : departure to Giro d’Italia

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