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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Thursday, July 23, 2015

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

Today's Racing

The Tour de France will spend Thursday in the high Alps.

Here's what the riders will face in stage 18:

Stage 18 profile

Stage 18 profile

The Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen (Women's Tour of Thuringia) has its last stage today.

Tour de France Team reports

This report came from Giant-Alpecin:

Simon Geschke (GER) soloed to victory in the first Alpine stage of the Tour de France, taking the stage win the team has been working so hard for.

For the third stage in a row, Geschke was part of the breakaway group. He attacked ahead of the penultimate climb of the day to try to go solo. At the summit, he enjoyed a gap of 1'40 on the chasers and was able to stay away on the descent and final climb to the mountaintop finish to win his first stage in a Grand Tour.

Simon Geschke wins Tour stage 17

Simon Geschke wins Tour stage 17

Simon Geschke (GER): “I didn't feel great. I joined the breakaway group together with John [Degenkolb], which was a strong group. After the sprint I attacked and started the final climb with an advantage. I had 1'30" for a long time, and I thought I’d just see what would happen.

"I knew it was a difficult descent and I went pretty fast. On the last climb I gave it my all and was able to hold on to my advantage. I suffered incredibly but I cannot put this feeling into words.

"This is a dream come true. After so many attempts it finally happened. I cannot believe it." 

Marc Reef (NED): “What an incredible day. This is unbelievable. Simon [Geschke] rode an excellent, strong race, and the way he won after a solo of 50km was so great. It was a long battle before the break got away, and there were a lot of strong riders out there, some of whom were relatively high up in the GC, so at first it was a question of whether they would get the space.

“With John [Degenkolb] we went primarily for the intermediate sprint. Shortly before the sprint Simon came by the car to make a tactical plan. Simon attacked directly after the intermediate sprint, which was the ideal moment as the collaboration in the chase group was far from ideal and he immediately created a gap. The important thing then was to save energy and not give it all along the way.

“He rode a very fast descent and maintained his advantage at the line. It is unbelievable that we have won such a stage in the Tour. I have no words for it. It gives all the other results even more shine, as we have been close so many times already. We kept on fighting to reach our goal despite the bad luck we had." 

Iwan Spekenbrink (NED): "It was a traditional start to the stage. We had two riders in this break and Warren Barguil behind, who is well positioned in the GC. I was behind him with coach Marc Reef, and in watching the race develop we started to see the possibilities, but things don’t always work out. For someone like Simon [Geschke], who is not a pure climber, it is important to attack early to seize the opportunity and after the intermediate sprint it was the right moment to take advantage.

"Simon got more and more motivated. Marc did a great job behind him as coach and Simon had one of his best days on the bike. It is great to see our development as a team. We started winning sprint stages, and this year we even won monuments like Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, and the next step is to develop our team in the mountains. We did not fully expect to win a mountain stage in the Tour already, but the victory is more than welcome." 

LottoNL-Jumbo had this to say about Tour stage 17:

Robert Gesink moved up to the sixth place in the general classification of the Tour de France. Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team), one of Gesink’s competitors, abandoned the race in the first stage through the Alps and he was able to hold off Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

Steven Kruijswijk gave the 17th stage colour in the breakaway, but he wasn’t able to stop Simon Geschke (Team Giant-Alpecin) winning the race.

It was a big fight for a while in front of the peloton before a breakaway got enough space to escape. Kruijswijk took part in that fight. “When you go gambling or waiting for the perfect moment, it doesn’t turn out the way you want to all the time,” he said after the stage.

Robert Gesink

Robert Gesink

“That’s why I went all in from the beginning. It was quite a war for an hour, but I kept feeling good and in the end, I was in the breakaway. I was able to take it easy afterwards. It was important to save some energy, because I knew that it was going to explode on the Col d’Allos. When Geschke attacked, I thought that it was too early. I tried to catch him afterwards, several times, but I didn’t have the legs to win today. That’s a pity, but I can go on with this performance.”

A few minutes behind the leading group, a lot happened in the general classification as well. Tejay van Garderen, who was third overall before the 17th stage, was dropped early and abandoned the race afterwards.

“That means something,” Gesink said. “I heard that he was just at a total loss. That’s why I moved up to the sixth place and I’m satisfied with that. I was hoping that Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) would have been a little less strong, but maybe I can challenge him in the upcoming days.”

The front man of Team LottoNL-Jumbo must keep on climbing at a high level to reach that goal. “That went quite well today. I was the sixth man of the peloton to reach the top of the Col d’Allos. That’s moderate. I did the descent afterwards with Wout Poels (Team Sky) and Thomas. On that last climb, they went all the way and I had to leave a small gap, unfortunately.”

“Robert finished the stage on his spot,” Sports Director Nico Verhoeven said. “He moved up one place in the general classification, so it was a good day for us.

“It started hectic and tough. In the end, there was a big breakaway with Steven in it. That’s what we wanted.”

The profile of Thursday’s stage looks like a similar scenario is possible. “It’s again a tough start to the stage,” Verhoeven continued. “We have to climb a ten-kilometre-long climb in the beginning. A group of good climbers will probably escape and it’s a question of if they will get enough space. The most important thing for us is that we support Robert as well as possible. We’re going to aim for a spot in the top five of the general classification in the next days.”

BMC sent this sad report about Tejay van Garderen:

Pra Loup, France - BMC Racing Team's Tejay van Garderen, who was sitting in third place overnight at the Tour de France, withdrew from the race Wednesday due to illness.

Van Garderen lost contact with the peloton on the ascent of the Col de Toutes Aures, about 50 kilometers into the 161-km race. With the help of several teammates, he caught up with the peloton on the descent. But not long after, the lead group split and van Garderen was once again alone. He stopped with 70 km to go.

"To be fighting for a podium in the Tour de France, and then the next minute you are sitting in the car, was really hard," van Garderen said. "It was hard to look my teammates in the eyes. It was hard to call my wife and explain to her what was going on. It was a lot of emotions."

Van Garderen said he had been fighting a bit of a cold he picked up after Stage 13.

"For awhile I was dealing with it just fine," he said. "It was just a little bit of the sniffles and not a big deal. But it kept getting a little bit worse. Then, on the rest day (Tuesday), I was having some feverish symptoms and chills. This morning, I woke up and thought the worst of it had passed. I felt ready to race and was back, closer to normal. But then once I got out there, the muscles just had no energy. Straight away from the start, I kind of knew this wasn't good and hopefully I could just hide and maybe ride into it for a few kilometers and start to feel better. But the sensations never came. It is hugely disappointing."

After helping the BMC Racing Team win the Stage 9 team time trial, van Garderen had been sitting second or third overall. He was 3:32 behind race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) when the stage began. Samuel Sánchez, at 17:52 off the lead and in 13th, is now the BMC Racing Team's best-placed rider.

"We lost our GC (general classification) contender for the podium and that means we have to re-focus tonight and set some new goals for tomorrow and the rest of the tour," BMC Racing Team President/General Manager Jim Ochowicz said. "There are still four big days in the Tour de France ahead of us. We are not going away. We are going to be fighting tomorrow for something new. So we will carry on until Paris."

Tejay van Garderen

Tejay van Garderen in stage 3 of this year's Tour.

BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa said there was no indication the respiratory situation van Garderen was suffering from would sap his power so significantly on the first race's day in the Alps.

"We were hoping by the rest day, he would have gotten over it," Dr. Testa said. "Today was very hard at the start. So the combination and the fatigue that he built up in the previous days cost him the race."

Van Garderen was one of six riders to withdraw from the Tour de France Wednesday. It was his first abandonment in five participations after twice finishing fifth (2012 and 2014), 45th in 2013 and 81st in 2011. He won the race's "best young rider" honors in 2012.

Simon Geschke (Team Giant-Alpecin) soloed to win Wednesday's stage while Froome kept the overall lead, 3:10 ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team).

Tinkoff-Saxo suffered misfortune in stage 17 as well:

Tinkoff-Saxo lost valuable time on stage 17 of Tour de France to Pra Loup after a crash down the penultimate climb Col d’Allos cost team leader Alberto Contador two bike changes and 2’14” in the GC, while a malfunctioning radio prevented Rafal Majka from aiding his captain. “Right now the most important thing is to recover”, says Contador, who sits 5th in the GC. Simon Geschke took the stage win from the break.

A grand team strategy, where the squad positioned three outposts, was cut short after a crash stopped Alberto Contador in his tracks. Upon crossing the finish line atop Pra Loup with skin scrapes on his right side, Contador explains:

“My wheel slipped and I fell. We tried to fix my bike but it wasn’t working and I took Peter’s bike. I tried to descend as well as I could but at the bottom of the climb I had to change back to one of my own bikes to minimize the losses. Cycling is like this, sometimes you do well sometimes you don’t. But right now the most important thing is to recover”, says Alberto Contador.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador finishes the stage with torn shorts from his crash.

Early on the stage, Tinkoff-Saxo had deployed Rafal Majka and Peter Sagan in the breakaway, while Michael Rogers went on the attack later on the stage all in an effort to support team leader Contador in the crucial final part of the stage. Team Head Sports Director Steven de Jongh explains the situation around the crash:

“Alberto hit a hole and suffered a crash at high speed. It’s very unfortunate, as we tried hard and succeeded in setting up a promising strategy. We wanted at least one guy in the break and ultimately we had Majka, Sagan and Rogers, who were all ready to support Alberto. What happened happened and we will see how Alberto is, when he wakes up tomorrow. It normally has an impact on the body, when you crash at high speed”, tells Steven de Jongh.

The bad luck continued after Contador’s crash, as a malfunctioning radio meant that Rafal Majka did not know that his team leader had crashed behind him.

“The crash was unfortunate and moreover it was unfortunate that Rafal’s radio didn’t work, either due to bad reception or the water he had poured on himself. Tristan Hoffman had stopped to assist Alberto with a new bike, so Rafal was up the road without knowing that Alberto crashed. He continued at a slow pace up the climb to Pra Loup and he was obviously very frustrated afterwards that he hadn’t been able to assist”, adds de Jongh.

Michael Rogers, who had been waiting for Alberto Contador on the summit of d’Allos, explains the stage and subsequent crash.

“We made a move and sent two guys out in the break and then I made a move, a bit far out. The idea was to have a group of guys waiting for Alberto on the top of the penultimate climb. It worked out perfectly, we had Peter, Alberto and then myself in that select group with Rafal further ahead. Unfortunately, Alberto slipped in one of the corners. There were a lot of bumps and his front wheel slipped and before we knew it he was on the ground. In the end, we were there and able to send him off on his way again. It was a very nervous moment and indeed a shame, I think Alberto was motivated today”, comments Michael Rogers.

Peter Sagan increased his lead in the points classification to 104 points, whereupon he met up with Rogers and then a rapidly approaching Contador, who had scaled the Col d’Allos in the select group of favorites.

“I’m not sure what exactly happened in Alberto’s crash. I was waiting for him on the Col d’Allos and I wanted to help him but Nibali attacked from the start of the descent and everybody was stressed. But just after, Alberto crashed a couple of kilometers down the descent and I had to change bikes with him and he did the entire descent on my bike before he changed again at the bottom of the climb. But it was not a very good day today. It was very obviously hard today to seek the breakaway and we’ll see what tomorrow brings”, finishes Peter Sagan.

BMC had every reason to be happy with GP Pino Cerami

Frameries, Belgium - BMC Racing Team's Philippe Gilbert won his first race back from injury Wednesday by out-sprinting the likes of Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing) and Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick Step) at Grand Prix Cerami.

Winner of two stages of the Giro d'Italia in May, Gilbert had been sidelined from competition since withdrawing from the Tour de Suisse on June 16. An MRI performed between the Giro and the Tour de Suisse had revealed a small, non-displaced fracture on Gilbert's lower right leg.

But on Wednesday, the former world road champion said he felt no pain during the 211.5-kilometer race.

"More important than the win was that my feeling was good on the bike and that was the biggest news of the day for me," Gilbert said. "I didn't have pain the last week in training. But training is always different than a race. So for me, this is very good news for the next month."

Gilbert's win was the BMC Racing Team's 20th of the season. He and teammates Dylan Teuns and Loïc Vliegen were part of a 42-rider group that escaped in a hilly part of the race after about 40 kilometers. From that selection, five riders went on the attack before the last of three laps of a 13.2-km finishing circuit.

"Dylan and Loïc did a very good job to help close the gap on that breakaway," BMC Racing Team Sport Director Valerio Piva said.

Gilbert took the win ahead of Van Poppel, with Tom Devrient (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) in third. Boonen was fourth and Sébastian Turgot (Ag2r La Mondiale) finished fifth.

Gilbert said the victory was extra special for him, coming in the race named for Giuseppe "Pino" Cerami. A classics specialist and the oldest rider to win a stage of the Tour de France (at age 41), Cerami died last September at the age of 92.

"Pino was one of the first big stars of Wallonie, so I am very proud to have my name on the list of the winners of this race," Gilbert said.

Philippe Gilbert wins the GPPino Cerami

Philippe Gilbert wins the 2015 GP Pino Cerami

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