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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, August 25, 2016

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Vuelta a España stage 5 team reports

We'll start with race leader Darwin Atapuma's BMC's news:

24 August 2016, Lugo (ESP): Darwin Atapula has secured the leader's red jersey for a second day at the Vuelta a España after a crash-marred sprint finish on stage 5.

Atapuma spent the day in the peloton safely tucked behind his BMC Racing Team teammates, while up the front a two-rider breakaway escaped early in the 170.3km stage. BMC Racing Team controlled the situation, keeping the breakaway's advantage within five minutes, and spent most of the day at the front of the bunch, with help from the sprinters' teams in the final 50km.

The sprinters' trains started to form as the race came back together with 13km to go, setting the stage for a fast and furious finale. Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team) attacked with 3km remaining and Philippe Gilbert jumped on his wheel to establish a gap on the peloton.

The duo was reeled in and a crash in the final 2km caused splits in the bunch, leaving a small group to battle for the stage which was won by Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep). Jempy Drucker contested the sprint and crossed the line in eighth place for his second top ten result this week. Although caught behind, none of BMC Racing Team's riders were involved in the crash.

Darwin Atapuma

Darwin Atapuma will start stage 6 in red

Darwin Atapuma:"To wear the red jersey today was a dream come true. I'm so happy and the emotions are strong so I can't really express how happy I am, I can only feel it. All of the support from the fans on the side of the road was incredible, especially the Colombians. Sport is really big in Colombia, especially cycling, so for all of the Colombians that live in Spain it is really special for them to be able to share this excitement with me."

"The team did a great job to protect me today and keep me in red. We were lucky to have only two riders in the breakaway so that we could save energy for the following stages. I think I have a good chance of keeping the jersey tomorrow because the team is very strong and I feel good. In cycling you never know but I am confident with my form and my sensations even if it is a tough stage."

And here's the report from stage winner Gianni Meersman's Eitxx-Quick Step team:

Gianni Meersman added another win to the one on Sunday and reclaimed the green jersey.

Founded by the Celts in honor of their god Lugus and later conquered by the Romans, Lugo has been added in recent years on UNESCO's World Heritage Site list as the only town in the world completely surrounded by intact Roman walls, all dating back to Late Antiquity. Integrating beauty and elegance in its architecture, Lugo was prepared on Wednesday afternoon for a different kind of visit than the ones of two millenniums ago, welcoming the Vuelta a España riders for the first time in a decade, with a finish spiced up by a short unclassified climb, averaging 3.2% over 3 kilometers.

With just two riders in the break – Tiago Machado (Katusha) and Julien Morice (Direct Energie) – the peloton was more concerned about the rain and slippery roads which led to a slow race in the first half of stage 5, when the leaders were allowed to go six minutes clear. Once the sun began to smile again to the riders, the chasers picked up the pace, among those to move at the front being also Etixx – Quick-Step's Martin Velits, who worked hard to ensure everything comes back together before the last ten kilometers.

Gianni Meersman

Gianni Meersman wins Vuelta stage 5

On the uphill section of the old town, Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) attacked and opened a 10-second gap, but despite their combined efforts they were soon reeled in, just before the final kilometer. The narrow road and nervous fight to find a good position after that small climb led to a crash in the peloton, which was split by the incident, leaving only a dozen riders in the mix for the win. Piloted by an incredible Zdenek Stybar, who provided a superb lead-out, Gianni Meersman out-gunned Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) and Kevin Reza (FDJ), sprinting to his second victory in just four days and Etixx – Quick-Step's 44th of the year.

Tinkoff sent me this update:

After two days of uphill finishes, the fifth stage of the Vuelta a España was another chance for the fast men to have a shot at stage victory, but a large crash in the final kilometres saw many riders out of contention. While team leader Alberto Contador managed to stay clear of the carnage, teammate Robert Kiserlovski wasn’t so lucky, coming down heavily. Further updates will follow once medical checks have been made.

With the race all back together, the final 10km looked set for a fast finish, but a small climb in the final saw attacks and disorder at the front of the peloton. The team did a strong job of keeping Alberto at the front of the race, but as the sprinters teams vied for contention, a touch of wheels on a right hand corner saw several riders crash, leaving a small front group to contest the stage win. “Kiserlovski is going to head to the hospital for some x-rays so we hope he’s OK,” explained Sport Director Steven De Jongh after the stage. “It was a very hectic final after a steady stage. It was raining during the stage and the temperature was down to 19 degrees from 39 yesterday, so that was hard for some guys but the team did a good job again today.

“At the end we tried to put Alberto in position, and they were up there but then I didn’t see what happened but Kiserlovski was involved in the crash while the others had to stop but didn’t crash. We hope for the best and will know more later.”

As soon as the flag was dropped following the neutralised section, two riders broke clear and that was the situation for much of the stage, with the peloton happy to let them push on ahead. They enjoyed up to a 6’30” lead before the bunch gradually upped the pace to reel them back in. Following a split up front, just one rider was left against several teams behind and a sprint was all but assured.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador is sitting in 13th place, 1min 52sec behind Darwin Atapuma

The catch came with just over 10km to race and from here the pace was fast and frantic all the way to the line. The hectic stage finish showed that you cannot switch off at any point during this race as there’s always something around the corner.

Alberto gave his comments on what was a hectic stage finish: “Fortunately, I was able to jump over the leg of a rider that had crashed in front of me. I had enough time to react and jump, so I was able to make it to the finish. Unfortunately, Kiserlovski crashed and I hope it isn't anything serious. This kind of finish is very dangerous.

“It was an easier day for me because it was a bit uphill, but for the ones that had to sprint it was complicated and in the end there was a crash. Today, even if it seemed it wouldn't be very hard, it was raining in the first 120 km so the legs got harder. In the end it was an additional effort and I hope this plays into my favour.

“The key today was to stay safe in the final kilometres - we are here to give our best and fight for the GC. It was risky and I have to praise the extraordinary job of the squad, Bennati was incredible. I ticked off another day and it is now important to recover. Let's cross our fingers and hope Kiserlovski didn't suffer anything serious. In a transition day one would expect a calmer stage but this isn't the case. We now battle for a second as if it were one minute.

“I still can't draw any conclusion on my form and we have to think ahead. The Vuelta is long and far from over."

Looking ahead to tomorrow, De Jongh said: “I think it will be another day like today, with a hectic finish as the roads are quite twisty and narrow. We will look to stay out of trouble and then turn out focus to the mountains.”

Stage 6 takes the riders over a rolling 163.2km parcours, punctuated by a second category ascent that starts after 105km, climbing for 10km. With two more uncategorised climbs before the finish it could be a day for the breakaway or one where the GC riders test each other once again.

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's unhappy news:

Steven Kruijswijk crashed heavily during the fifth stage of the Vuelta a España today in Lugo. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s leader hit a metal pole in the final three kilometres and broke his left collarbone, forcing him to abandon this Vuelta. Gianni Meersman (Etixx - Quick Step) won the stage.

“It didn’t go the way we wanted in this race,” Sports Director Addy Engels said. “The first summit finish already was a disappointment. It went a little bit better yesterday and we were positive about the possibility that Steven Kruijswijk would have been able to reach his top level during this Vuelta.

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk racing in pink in stage 18 of this year's Giro d'Italia

“This crash is an enormous setback. Steven’s general classification was the team’s main target in this race. Now, we have to change plans. We only covered five stages so far, so we need some time to get used to this scenario. It’s not something we’re immediately capable of because we were all here with the mindset to do it for Steven. We have to take a look at our options. We definitely will have some chances, because we’re here with a strong team.”

“My ribs and collarbone hurt a lot,” Steven Kruijswijk added. “I crashed heavily into that pole. It’s terrible that I have to leave this race because of an object that shouldn’t have been there. I’m going home immediately tomorrow. This was, after the Giro d’Italia, my second big target and I’m really fed up about the way I’m leaving this Vuelta.”

Tour du Poitou Charentes LottoNL-Jumbo report:

Tom Van Asbroeck won the second stage of the Tour du Poitou Charentes today in France. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s Belgian sprinter had goose bumps during the final kilometres of the stage because of his team-mates’ perfect lead-out and followed through with it, also taking the overall lead.

“I’m speechless,” Van Asbroeck said after his first victory as a Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider. “I yearned for a win. The team supported me. They believed in my chances even more than I did.

“I had goose bumps because of the team’s level. Bert-Jan Lindeman absolutely flew to the front straight through the wind in the final four kilometres of the race. When we only had 1.5 kilometres left, I still had four team-mates in front of me. That was when I thought, ‘Damn, we’re doing a great job!’

“I felt comfortable and that gave me a euphoric feeling. After Bert-Jan, Robert Wagner took the matters in his hands and Dennis van Winden brought us to the foot of the final hill afterwards. The pace Sep Vanmarcke set at that little uphill almost scared me. With 300 metres to go, he gave another knock at it. It was unbelievable, Sep is as strong as a bear.

“The team delivered a phenomenal performance and I should have been ashamed if I didn’t finish it off. I wouldn’t dare to show myself anymore.”

Sports Director Frans Maassen enjoyed his sprinter’s words. “It’s great to hear Tom saying this,” he said. “There was a crash in the final sprint, but according to Sep, the other sprinters never would have been able to close the gap on Tom anyway. He didn’t steel this victory.

“The only setback of this stage was that Wilco Kelderman was involved in that crash, but he barely suffered any damage, fortunately.”

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