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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

One race today, the Vuelta a España's fourth stage.

Fabian Cancellara abandons Vuelta

This is not Fabian Cancellara's year for Grand Tours. He crashed out of this year's Tour de France. And now, he had to abandon the Vuelta a España's third stage with stomach troubles because of a bug he got last week.

Fabian Cancellara

The 2015 Tour de France started well for Cancellara...

Here's how His Trek team described the situation:

Fabian Cancellara suffered his way through the first road stage at the Vuelta a España Sunday, and pale and weak he bravely opted to start stage three, but with 37 kilometers remaining, and already struggling more than 30 minutes behind the peloton and out of the time limit, his illness won the battle.

Cancellara climbed off the bike and into the team car, forced out of his second straight Grand Tour only three days in. It is his third major setback this year after breaking two vertebrae on two separate occasions, the first eliminating him from his season’s biggest targets, the cobblestone Classics.

“It was probably one of my hardest days on the bikes today,” said Cancellara. “I wanted to keep going, I did not want to stop, but Josu (Larrazabal, director) told me to stop because I was already out of the time limit and it didn't make sense to continue."

Cancellara’s roller coaster season appeared to be on a climb back to the top as he lined up at this year’s Vuelta, but the stomach flu refused to comply, plunging Spartacus down the tracks again, as if two injuries and earlier illness were not enough.

“After a year like I had so far I didn’t want to stop," Cancellara continued. "It was like when I was in the Tour [de France], I was alone on the road, and I had so many flashbacks from the whole entire year and it was why I kept on pushing. But in the end it’s your health that counts the most and if you are not 100% you feel it. I don’t know how many percent I had, but I was completely empty.

“It’s sad to abandon the Vuelta, a pretty big disappointment. It can always get worse, for sure, but I did not expect this, having this again.”

Get well soon Fabian. We want you back in there racing.

Vuelta a España team reports

Tinkoff Saxo sent this happy report:

Peter Sagan claimed a pure sprint win on stage 3 of Vuelta a España after a powerful acceleration into the final hundred meters. “I’m very happy for this victory – it’s good for the entire team”, says Sagan, who was delivered at the final sprint after an extended team effort managing to grab the win in front of Bouhanni and Degenkolb.

After an extended and resolute fight for stage wins at Tour de France, Peter Sagan came to the fore and conquered the day on the first stage suited for fast action towards the line in Málaga. Sagan triumphed after launching a well-timed sprint off the wheel of John Degenkolb and his lead-out.

“I’m very happy for this victory because I think it’s good for the entire team. This is a good start to the Vuelta a España. And finally I had a victory! I’m always trying to get the win and someday it has to come. And it did today, also thanks to my teammates, who were pulling all day and I’m very grateful for their effort. I’ve had many second places but you cannot always finish second. So today I finished first. That’s how cycling is, sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. I was searching for a victory during the Tour and now it has come”, says Peter Sagan and adds about how the victory came about.

“My team spent a lot of energy, mostly in the last 20km, where we had headwind and we wanted to catch the breakaway. Bennati crashed in the descent so he couldn’t be there with me in the final kilometers. Today was also a day for Degenkolb and Bouhanni but their teams didn’t work at the front before the last three kilometers and I decided to take Degenkolb’s wheel, which was the right decision”.

Peter Sagan wins Vuelta stage 3

Peter Sagan wins Vuelta stage 3

Peter Sagan is at the Vuelta with dual ambitions in the shape of a quest for stage wins and building shape towards the World Championships in late September.

“I’m here at the Vuelta to do the best for my team and to get race kilometers into the legs before the World Championships. It’s good to know already that I have some speed in the legs and then we’ll see how it goes. The Vuelta is very hard but this is a good start for me and my teammates”, tells Peter Sagan.

Tristan Hoffman, Tinkoff-Saxo sports director, explains that the pre-race plans before the 158km stage 3 from Mijas to Málaga had focused on delivering Sagan at the final sprint in a favorable position.

"We had a meeting this morning and everything worked out according to our plan. We thought that Peter was our best option to take the stage, so we wouldn't go into the breakaway and instead work for him. We had the young guys that worked in the flat parts and for the finale we should have had Bennati, Bodnar and Poljanski. Unfrtunately, Bennati had a crash and wasn't able to do his job. Fortunately, he didn't suffer any serious injuries and he will be able to carry on tomorrow".

"Peter managed to be in a good position and did a fantastic sprint. Bouhanni and Degenkolb came next to him, on both sides. He had to pull for a long time but still managed to stay in the front and finish ahead of them. After the opening team time-trial and our defeat by a few hundredths of a second, the relief is even bigger today. This victory is fantastic for the team and for him. Tomorrow, the stage has a very hard finale but I think that Peter is in very good form and can have a good finish tomorrow and the day after", finishes Tristan Hoffman.

Orica-GreenEdge is having a good Vuelta as well:

Colombian Esteban Chaves, winner of yesterday’s stage, has finished safely in the bunch on stage three of the Vuelta a Espana to retain the red leader’s jersey. Further capitalising on their hard work at the front of the peloton, the 25-year-old’s ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates fought to set up Australian Mitch Docker for seventh place in the bunch sprint finish.

“The team worked fantastic today, all of the guys for me,” Chaves said. “It’s really good to have the experienced guys like Mat Hayman, Simon Gerrans, Daryl Impey and Cameron Meyer to help keep the red jersey.”

Asked if wearing a Grand Tour leader’s jersey created any nerves, the 2014 Tour de Suisse and Tour of California stage winner conceded. “Of course,” he laughed. “I’m really scared, not nervous, scared. It’s a really big responsibility, but this is part of the game, this is beautiful.”

Johan Esteban Chaves

Johan Esteban Chaves remains in red.

Sport director Neil Stephens said the team’s priority was the red jersey, knowing that the tough mid-stage category one climb could potentially make it difficult for neo-pro sprinter Caleb Ewan in his first Grand Tour.

“This morning we had to make a bit of a decision,” Stephens explained. “We had a fantastic win yesterday, but also the time differences were really important. We have the leader’s jersey of one of the biggest races in the world, that’s nothing to blow off and we want to keep that for a few days longer. Caleb didn’t actually miss the top of the climb by much, in fact he got over the climb but just lost touch on a pinch later on.”

Stephens also praised Docker, who stepped up from his lead out duties to contest the sprint. “It was nice to see Mitch Docker, who is generally our lead out guy and one of the workers, have a bit of a sprint in the finish,” he said. Seventh place in a Grand Tour sprint, that’s nothing to take lightly.”

How it unfolded: After an active start, eight riders established the day’s main breakaway. ORICA-GreenEDGE immediately took their position at the front of the peloton to control the advantage and defend the red jersey on the back of Chaves.

The gap hovered between two and four minutes over the first climb and toward the day’s major climb, a category one. Over the top of the tough 15km climb, and with just under 70km to go, the gap had reduced to two minutes. Tinkoff-Saxo took over duties at the head of the peloton as ORICA-GreenEDGE sprinter Caleb Ewan lost contact. Giant-Alpecin also pitched in and with 15km to go the race came back together for the expected sprint.

In reward for their contribution to the chase efforts, Peter Sagan claimed the victory for Tinkoff-Saxo. Tomorrow’s stage four is a long 203km journey from Estepona to Vejer de la Frontera.

On paper it looks a lot easier than today’s stage with no classified climbs but two ramps and narrow technical streets in the final four kilometres should spice it up for the final.

And here's what LottoNL-Jumbo had to say about the Vuelta's third stage:

The yellow and black of Team LottoNL-Jumbo was seen at front of the race frequently during the third stage of the Vuelta a España. Maarten Tjallingii was the engine of an early flight and was the final rider to be caught with 15 kilometres to go.

Tom Van Asbroeck tried to mix in on the sprint, but the Belgian lost the wheel of his team-mates Mike Teunissen and Dennis van Winden. All three men finished in the top 20, enough to secure the win day’s team classification, but didn’t get close to the podium. Van Asbroeck finished 10th, Van Winden and Teunissen ended up 13th and 16th. Tomorrow they will be called up to the stage to pick up their flowers.

Mike Teunissen

Mike Teunissen after the Tour de l'Ain prologue earlier this year.

Maarten Tjallingii: “It was a tough day for me. I’d set my sights on the mountain jersey, but soon had I regretted being in the break a bit. At first, I was part of a nice group, but later on three good climbers joined us. I still tried to make the best of it, though. On the first category climb, I tried to surprise the others with an all-or-nothing effort, but 200 metres from the top, I broke down.”

Merijn Zeeman thought that Tjallingii, the eldest of the young Team LottoNL-Jumbo squad, set the right example. “Maarten has done everything in his power and fought for the mountain jersey,” the sports director said. “Today was challenging”, he continued. “Many sprinters were dropped along the way but Martijn Keizer and Maarten Wynants made sure that Tom found his way back to the peloton. They deserve a compliment. “In the final kilometre Tom lost Mike and Dennis. We want to do better in the coming sprints. I’m confident that we will.”

Lampre-Merida sent this Vuelta update:

The morning of the 3rd stage of the Vuelta a Espana (158.4 km from Mijas to Malaga) began in a positive way, thanks to the good news about the health condition of Przemyslaw Niemiec, who was involved in a heavy crash in the 2nd stage. The Polish rider, after that he had undergone another one CAT, obtained permission to leave the hospital, since the exams did not underlined further problems. Niemiec will fly to Poland on Tuesday.

Rpzemyslaw Niemiec

Przemyslaw Niemiec wins a stage in the 2014 Vuelta

Just after the start of the race, a blue-fuchsia-green cyclist, Ilia Koshevoy, demonstrated his fighting spirit, as Oliveira had done yesterday, by escaping from the bunch on the hill of Alto de Mijas. The Byelorussian rider, who is in his first participation in a grand tour, formed a breakaway with other 7 riders, namely Velits, Tjallingii, Berhane, Fraile, Gougeard, Chavanel and Pedraza.

The group of the attackers got selected on the climb half-way into the stage (Puerto del Leon, 16 km at 5.2%, summit at 82 km from the finish) and on the dowhnill sector where Koshevoy was dropped from the head of the race.

Lampre-Merida's neo-pro was joined by the bunch with 40 km to go, while the last former member of the breakaway was caught by the peloton at 14 km from the finish.

Before that moment, at 20 km to go, a crash in the peloton involved some sprinters. In addition to Bouhanni and Bennati, Richeze also crashed, but he had no consequences and, thanks to the quick help from his team mates, he could come regain the bunch.

The massive final sprint was without problems, thanks to the high speed attained by the riders on the final straight. Richeze had a good starting position which gave him the 5th final place, behind the winner Sagan, Bouhanni (2nd), Degenkolb (3rd) and Drucker (4th).

"I'm happy for a good team performance - sport director Maini explained - "Koshevoy could join the main breakaway, it was not simple because he chased the head group and he succeded in closing the gap. I really appreciated also the support that all the team's riders gave to Richeze in order to allow him to come back in the peloton after he had been involved in a crash".

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary