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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Wednesday, July 8, 2015

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

Today's Racing

Both the Tour de France and the Tour of Austria (Osterreich Rundfahrt) continue.

The Giro Rosa (Women's Tour of Italy) is also being raced.

Today we've got David L. Stanley's look at the Tour de France's fourth stage

Tour de France stage 4 team reports

Here's BMC's take on stage 4:

Cambrai, France - BMC Racing Team's Greg Van Avermaet finished fourth on Tuesday's cobblestone stage of the Tour de France while teammate Tejay van Garderen held onto his third place overall.

Van Garderen finished 24th and in the same time as 34 others in a group that was chasing solo winner Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step). The longest stage of the three-week event included seven sectors of cobblestones comprising 13.3 km of the 223.5-km race.

Van Avermaet, the third-place finisher in April in the cobbled classic of Paris-Roubaix, said it was a nervous day.

"Going into every cobblestone section, there was a fight for positioning because everybody wanted to have their leader in front.," Van Avermaet said. "We kept it pretty good in the front. We were always there, always ahead of the situation. I think we did a good job. I would have preferred to have have won the stage, but Martin chose a good moment."

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet rides the cobbles of today's Tour stage.

Van Garderen said strong teamwork was behind his solid performance a year after he crashed on a rainy, cobblestoned stage of the Tour de France.

"I am just happy to have gotten through this stage unharmed," van Garderen said. "My team was incredible. They sat in the wind, on the front. They are just some hard-hitting head bangers. They paved the way for me all day. I barely had to lift a finger."

Past Swiss national road champion Michael Schär, who led the peloton onto the final section of pavé, said he was glad to put the day behind him.

"I don't think anybody really looks forward to these kind of stages because you know it is going to be madness," he said. "We had a really clear plan going into the race and a super experienced group of riders who have worked many years together. So that makes a big difference."

Schär said another difference was a reconnaissance session last Wednesday. "You have to move up at the very last moment to be first into the sectors," he said. "If you move up too early, like a kilometer too early, the guys come around you and then you are in position 50. We knew exactly every tree, every little hill that was coming up and we moved up perfectly. That was a key point to the result today."

In the overall standings, van Garderen is 25 seconds behind Martin, who now leads the race by 12 seconds from Chris Froome (Team Sky). Van Avermaet is sixth overall, 40 seconds back.

And Tinkoff-Saxo had this to say about the cobbled stage:

Tour de France had cobbles on the dreaded menu of stage 4, which greatly reduced the size of the front group that made it to the line in Cambrai. Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador thanks his teammates for their support including Peter Sagan, who managed to grab 3rd place behind stage winner Tony Martin after having dedicated his energy to the overall team objective.

Alberto Contador finished safely with good sensations on the demanding stage 4 of Tour de France and was quick to thank his team after crossing the finish line in Cambrai.

“I’m very satisfied with today because my sensations were very good. I also congratulate the team for their effort because they worked very well today including Peter Sagan, who did some excellent work for me. So I wish to thank them a lot. The objective today was to pass the day without problems and the only problem I had during the race was with my rear wheel in the last 25 kilometers. As we entered the last three kilometers I thought about the possibility of changing my bike but I decided to continue and fortunately I could. It would have been very risky to change bike in the last kilometers”, comments Alberto Contador.

Stage 4 offered seven cobblestone sections, which made for a tough race, where the fight for positioning increasingly intensified before each sector. During the final, crucial part of the 223.5km stage, Alberto Contador had the backing of Sagan, Bennati and Kreuziger, who stayed close to their captain. According to Peter Sagan, who finished 3rd on the stage behind Tony Martin, his main objective was to support Contador.

“I am in the team with Alberto and that is important to understand. I did my very best to help him and make sure that I did my part in keeping him in the first group. Then I was almost dropped from the first group after I had closed a gap but I was able to recover a bit for the final sprint. But I didn’t expect that I could finish 3rd, as I had spent a lot of energy. I’m very happy with the result today, as I spent much energy and I’m glad that Alberto got through the stage in a nice way – this is the most important”, says Peter Sagan, who underlines that the situation on each day will decide whether he will go for the sprints.

“No matter how hard the stage is, we all work for Alberto and if we can do something for him in the GC then I’m satisfied with the outcome. It’s difficult to both win stages and help Alberto, which is my main focus. We will see if I can take a stage win in one of the flat stage in the next days, but it’s very dangerous and it’s a bit like lottery. Maybe you win but you can also crash, so I have to be really careful”, adds Peter Sagan, who retains the white jersey.

When asked about his evaluation of the overall team effort, Head Sports Director Steven de Jongh declares himself very pleased with the execution of the team strategy.

“I think that the performance of the guys speaks for itself. I’m very satisfied and I think they showed excellent teamwork. All the boys up there in the finale did an excellent effort, especially Sagan and Bennati were very important, as their job was to stay close to Alberto throughout the stage no matter what. Alberto had a problem with his rear wheel, it was something that we followed closely but he was able to finish without having to change bike”, says Steven de Jongh, who notes that there is a sense of relief on the team after the challenging stage.

“Alberto is very happy with today and there was a very relieved atmosphere in the bus. It was very important to have Sagan’s experience today and he was very attentive in some crucial situations but we also have to mention Bennati, who never left Alberto out of sight. I think we can be satisfied with the first four days. I see a team that works and operates well. We will see how the next days unfold but it’s obvious that the sprinters will try to get the most out of them”, finishes Steven de Jongh.

Lotto-Soudal sent me this Tour update:

The fourth Tour stage took the riders from Seraing to Cambrai. There were lots of people to watch the second start in Belgium. Many GC riders weren’t looking forward to this stage because of the distance and the seven cobblestone sectors. With 223.5 kilometres, this was the longest stage of the Tour. The victory was for the German Tony Martin. Tony Gallopin rode very well again and raced attentively. He finished on place eight and is still fourth overall.

After one kilometre Thomas De Gendt attacked. He got in a breakaway with Brun, Westra and Quéméneur. At a certain moment they had a lead of more than nine minutes, but when they got closer to the cobbles, the gap decreased quickly. De Gendt was the first at the top of the Citadel de Namur and was also first at the intermediate sprint. With forty kilometres to go the four leaders were caught. Then there was an acceleration and the peloton got reduced, about fifty riders were left in front. In the finale there were attacks of among other Vanmarcke and Froome, but nobody got away. At the end Tony Martin attacked and stayed ahead. He’s the new leader. Tony Gallopin is fourth overall, at 38 seconds. André Greipel keeps the green jersey.

Tony Gallopin

Tony Gallopin hammers away on today's cobbles.

Thomas De Gendt: “The goal of my attack was to stay in front till after the third of six cobbled sectors in the finale, to help the teammates. But a nervous peloton made that impossible. The first cobbled sector and the intermediate sprint caused an acceleration of the bunch, so our advantage shrunk quickly. At the start I saw Westra, it’s not like him to be at the start that early and we decided to go in a break together. We hoped to be with about ten riders, but it was only a quartet. And with the headwind it was hard. I took the only point for the KOM classification today. I don’t think about it in the first ten days, but because I was riding in front, I could better be first at the top.”

Tony Gallopin: “It wasn’t easy today, but among other Sieberg and Greipel made sure I was positioned well at the beginning of every sector. It’s good that I could stay with the first group, but I was ‘à bloc’ at every sector. I wanted to attack the last two kilometres, but a very strong Tony Martin was first. Chapeau! There weren’t any problems today, but still I’m glad this stage is over. Everyone was very nervous and a crash can happen everywhere.”

LottoNL-Jumbo had this to report:

Robert Gesink managed to hang on to the first group of riders on Tuesday in the fourth stage of the Tour de France. The captain of Team LottoNL-Jumbo finished 14th in Cambrai after a 223.5-kilometre ride that was particularly difficult because of 13.3 kilometres of pavé split over seven sectors.

“We rode as a team at the front and commanded respect that way,” Gesink said. “Racing collectively was key today. As a team, we showed a great fighting spirit. We knew it could be dangerous today, but fortunately I rolled through the day well. I’m satisfied with that. Unfortunately, Sep punctured twice in the final kilometres. That cost us a result.”

Nico Verhoeven shared Gesink’s satisfaction. “We are pleased with the way the team rode today,” the Sports Director said.

Sep Vanmarcke: Sep Vanmarcke had been looking forward to the cobblestone stage for months and was handed the chance to fight for the stage victory by the team, but two punctures in the final kilometres threw him back far away.

“I did everything I could to be good today and when it ends likes this, there’s obviously disappointment,” the Belgian said. “After my first flat, I managed to return, but on the final pavé section, I needed to take risks to get back to the front. Because of the dust, I quickly couldn’t see a thing anymore. When I punctured again, I knew it was over.”

Wilco Kelderman: Wilco Kelderman was one of the last riders to enter the first cobbled sector because he picked up some water bottles just before, but he still managed to surprise.

“My legs were so strong that I suddenly passed everyone,” Kelderman said. “It was surprising to see that things were going so easily for me on the cobblestones. I haven’t ridden on cobbles a lot, but I like it. Perhaps that’s why it went this good.”

Wilco Kelderman

Wilco Kelderman enjoying the pavé of stage 4.

Laurens ten Dam: Laurens ten Dam started Tuesday’s stage completely wrapped with bandages after his painful crash on Monday. Eventually, he finished 186th, 16 minutes and 53 seconds behind stage winner Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep).

“I was quickly dropped and was amongst the last five or six riders in the race, but I still managed to finish in a nice group,” Ten Dam said. “I feel a little stiff, but I’m glad that the worst is now behind me. Those 13 kilometres of cobblestones were a severe test.”

Wednesday: The peloton will ride from of Arras to Amiens on Wednesday during the fifth day of Le Tour. A bunch sprint seems a logical conclusion after the 190-kilometre stage, which is mostly flat.

“Over the next four days the riders face some flat stages,” Verhoeven said. “We must remain watchful at all times, but Laurens will now have time and space to recover.”

Here's Lampre-Merida's take on the cobbled Tour stage:

Seven cobblestones sectors were the key part of the 4th stage of the Tour de France, 223.5 km from Seraing to Cambrai. The 13.3 kms of pavè (first sector after 123 km in the race) were a demanding challenge and for Rui Costa they were even tougher considering that he had been involved in one of the crashes that characterized Monday's stage.

Despite the contusions on the leg and on the hip, the Portuguese champion started from Seraing with determination, with experienced team mates for help on the cobblestones. Approaching the final part of the stage, the bunch got selected and Rui was with precious mate Nelson Oliveira, who succeded in helping him to enter in last sector in a good position.

"In these kind of races, most part of the energy is spent in the approach to the pavè, so it was important for me to follow Nelson for entering the last sector in a good position - Rui Costa explained - There was an acceleration and I tried to push, but the pain of yesterday's crash gave me trouble. I exited from the last cobblestone sector with few meters gap from the head group, but then there was another increase in speed and I could not come back to the front group. I was aware that, after yesterday crash, it would have been very difficult to face today's stage, but I tried to do my best".

In Cambrai Rui Costa was 38th at 51" to the winner Tony Martin, who's also the new yellow jersey (Rui 25th at 4'10").

Lampre-Merida's mechanics set upfor the cobblestones the Merida Ride bikes, using Fulcrum Light carbon low profile and 28 mm Continental tyres, inflated to 6 bar for the front wheel and 6.5 bar for the rear wheel. Only one puncture (Cimolai).

Tour of Austria Team Reports

Here's what BMC sent me:

Note, this was already posted on the Tour of Austria stage 3 report.

Gratwein-Straßengel, Austria - One day after crashing in the final corner, BMC Racing Team's Rick Zabel earned his first victory as a professional by winning a reduced bunch sprint finish Tuesday at the Tour of Austria.

Zabel out-sprinted Ángel Vicioso (Team Katusha) and Jan Tratnik (Amplatz-BMC) at the end of the 181.8-kilometer race after a small breakaway group that included teammate Dylan Teuns was caught with two kilometers to go.

"I was one of the last guys to make it over the steep climb on the circuit," Zabel said. "Fortunately, it was still about 10 kilometers from the top to the finish, so I was able to recover a bit. After the breakaway was caught, there was a bit of chaos because nobody was strong enough to control it any more," he said. "So I just stayed in the first few positions all the time. Always going from wheel to wheel just to stay in the front."

Just like on Monday, Zabel was the second rider through the final turn, with 600 meters left. "With 400 meters to go, I was already in front, but I waited a bit and a rider from the Amplatz-BMC team passed me," Zabel said. "So I went on his wheel and he actually did a good lead out for me. In the final meters, Vicioso came close to me, but luckily I was strong enough to hold on for the win."

Rick Zabel

Rick Zabel on the Tour of Austria's podium

BMC Racing Team Sport Director Valerio Piva said it was nice to see Zabel bounce back from Monday's crash that happened on a tricky circuit that included half-a-dozen turns in the final kilometer. Zabel's victory also came on the 45th birthday of his father, Erik, the six-time winner of the points classification at the Tour de France.

"Rick did a fantastic job to take the win," Piva said. "It is a nice present for his dad and it is nice for him and for all of us."

BMC Racing Team's Brent Bookwalter also finished in the top 10, in seventh, and joins teammate Ben Hermans in the top 10 overall. Hermans is ninth and Bookwalter is 10th. Both are 12 seconds back of Vicioso, who is the new race leader.

"My personal plan coming here was to take it day-by-day and look for opportunities and I will continue to do that," Bookwalter said. "I think we have a few guys here who can ride a good overall. I wouldn't say we have the best climber in the race, but we have some strong guys on good form who I think will be up there."

Tinkoff-Saxo is also racing the Tour of Austria:

Tinkoff-Saxo faced a sprinter’s stage in Tour of Austria and took the opportunity to save the legs before the road kicks up, as the race hits the mountains Wednesday. Team sports director Bruno Cenghialta notes that the squad of climbers is ready to fight for GC captain Kiserlovski’s chances.

Stage 3 of Tour of Austria was decided in a bunch sprint, where BMC’s Rick Zabel proved the fastest. Meanwhile Tinkoff-Saxo tried to use the day of somewhat lower intensity to conserve energy.

“In fact, it was a very easy day but hot. In the beginning three guys rode off into the breakaway and got a five-minute lead before some sprinter’s teams took up the chase. At the end, our goal was to stay put in the bunch and use the opportunity to prepare for tomorrow, where we will face a difficult challenge with the finish line on top of a 17km climb to 1650m”, tells Bruno Cenghialta, sports director of Tinkoff-Saxo.

Stage 3 presented the riders with an 181.1km parcours from Judendorf to Strassengel. The riders faced two categorized climbs in the beginning of the stage and a last climb before the finish line, where Tinkoff-Saxo’s Pawel Poljanski took part in a late attack.

“Today the breakaway was caught before we faced a short, final climb with about 2.5km to go. There Pawel Poljanski made a move together with a group of other riders, but BMC took over and pulled them back as we rode under the 1-kilometer marker. I would say that it was a relatively good day for us. We wait for tomorrow and when I look the boys I think we can do well. The terrain suits them and I think they are ready to hit the mountains to position Kiserlovski in the top of the GC”, finishes Bruno Cenghialta.

Cult Energy is also racing the Tour of Austria:

The Tour of Austria peloton was challenged with a 181 kilometer long slightly mountainous stage between Windischgarsten and Gratwein where a breakaway threatened to take the glory. But again, the stage was concluded in a bunch sprint decision. And likewise, Troels Vinther demonstrated impressive skills in the finale.

Going into the finale, the front group started splitting up while the peloton slowly but surely dragged the escapees back in. On the final 20 kilometers, the attacks from the bunch started flying and a new group of seven riders were thundering away towards the finish line. But as they started attacking each other, the average pace went down and the chasing pack soon inhaled them.

In the bunch sprint, Cult Energy Pro Cycling's Troels Vinther took his third consecutive top-10 result as he finished 9th. Rick Zabel (BMC Racing Team) won the stage.

Vinther says: "I can only thank my teammates for putting me in this excellent position in the finale again and their effort at least partially explains my results in the past three days. However, I assure you that it'll be over tomorrow where we face a grueling uphill finish and I'll repay our climbers and support them as much as I can until the foot of the final climb."

DS, André Steensen states: "It was another very hot day on the road and the thermometer said 40 degrees, which made the stage extremely tough. We wanted to put Troels in a good position and when the seven escapees threatened to take it all, Gustav (Larsson) went to the front of the pack and helped bringing them back in. Tomorrow, we face a different kind of stage where we'll have to support our climbers until the finale with an uphill finish over 15 kilometers."

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