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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, August 28, 2016

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Above anything else, I hate to lose. - Jackie Robinson

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Vuelta a España Stage 8 team news

Here's stage winner Sergey Lagutin's Katusha team report:

For a third day in a row Team KATUSHA riders were eager to animate the race by going in strategic breaks and working toward the goal of a stage win. Today’s efforts paid off in spades with Sergey Lagutin able to out-sprint his two breakaway companions to win atop the super steep Alto de La Camperona.

- Finally the dream came true. I was dreaming about this since I was little, about winning a stage in a grand tour like the Vuelta. Now it has happened and I still can’t believe it has happened to me. I’m 35 years old and in some ways I was thinking this was probably it, but I hope this makes things start all over for me. Without a big leader here we start with new goals and we’re all free to try something for ourselves when we see the opportunity. We are still competitive and looking forward in this Vuelta. I will be happy and proud of this stage win for the rest of my life. This win gives me more confidence and for sure I will look for other stages. We’ve just started – we have another two weeks ahead of us, - said stage winner Sergey Lagutin.

Part of an original 11-man break that went clear after only 10km of racing on Saturday’s 181.5km stage 8 starting in Villapando, initially teammate Jhonatan Restrepo took a chance to steal a stage win, but was brought back early on the narrow finishing climb. An attentive Lagutin seized the moment to surge ahead, joined by two others, and the trio managed to fight for the finish among themselves. Lagutin showed his patience and experience by waiting for the closing 100m to sprint around Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondiale) to easily distance the others and win the stage in the 71st Vuelta a España by 10-seconds. It was a first grand tour stage win for Lagutin and the blue polka dot jersey of the best climber is now his.

Sergey Lagutin wins stage 8

Sergey Lagutin wins Vuelta stage 8

- I honestly didn’t expect this. The finish didn’t really fit me. I just caught the right breakaway with some strong climbers and I was able to win the stage. This is the most important victory of my entire career. I’m happy it finally happened to me. We kind of planned our move on the climb. I could see that Restrepo was excited when he attacked and he showed he had good legs. I was able to sit in the wheel of the breakaway, not work and save my energy. All the little things came together for us. All thanks to our sports directors who were talking to us on the radios and telling us what to do. I will try to keep this climbing jersey for the next few days, - said Lagutin. Last week in stage two Lagutin was in a crash that required two left fingers to be taped together for racing. He also suffers from rib pain but has battled on day-after-day and was rewarded for his perseverance with today’s stage win. 

For his efforts and time in the lead today, teammate Jhonatan Restrepo, 21, earned the daily honor of most aggressive rider and took ninth of the stage at 1:30.

- This day was very, very hard. Spending the day in the breakaway with Sergey was crazy. The feeling in my legs was good, but the last climb was so hard. I felt good when I attacked, and in the end my work was good for Sergey. I am very happy for this win for Team KATUSHA and for winning the most aggressive rider today, - said Jhonatan Restrepo.

With a late attack of his own, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) moved into the race lead by 19-seconds ahead of Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde. Chris Froome of Team Sky remains in third place at +0.27.

Racing continues on Sunday for the second of 3 stages in the mountains. Stage 9 at 164.5km begins in Cistierna and ends in Oviedo on the Alto del Naranco.

Here's what GC leader Nairo Quintana's Movistar team had to say about the day's racing:

The Movistar Team is starting to feel like this year’s Vuelta a España could be a good one for them. They had brought serious power to the last Grand Tour of the year, with strong helpers and two courageous, talented leaders. And on Saturday, atop the grueling Alto de La Camperona, Nairo Quintana took the leader’s jersey by leaving all rivals behind in the last three kilometers of incredible slopes in the Sabero valley, following 181km from Villalpando where the Arrieta/Chente-led squad always behaved well.

José Herrada, Rory Sutherland and Imanol Erviti led their team-mates out into the run-in towards the climb, while an excellent Jonathan Castroviejo, Rubén Fernández and José Joaquín Rojas kept the group strung out through the 5km section between the foot of the ascent and the earl start of the steepest part of the climb, after the village of Sotillos. As Froome (SKY) went on his own from behind and race leader Atapuma (BMC) was soon dropped back, Alejandro Valverde made sure that a steady pace was kept at the GC peloton to make things harder for the Briton. Froome would bridge back and eventually created the big selection: the Sky leader, Contador and Quintana, with Valverde struggling some meters behind.

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana climbing to GC leadership

Nairo didn’t hesitate: he countered Froome’s move and soon opened a considerable gap, which grew towards 25” over Contador on the line, 33” to Froome, Pardilla (CJR) and a brilliant Valverde. ‘Bala’ used all his experienced and tenacity to keep his 2nd spot overall, now 19” behind his team-mate -Froome sits at 27”, Chaves 57” in arrears-. With Dani Moreno in 8th place (+1’44”) and more than able to help the team, Eusebio Unzué’s group seems to show the strength that it’s needed to start their defense from tomorrow’s traditional Naranco climb in Asturias (164.5km).

Nairo Quintana: “The smile I carried through the finish line was just a grimace of pure suffering. But happily, we achieved our goal of the day. This was my main expectation for the day: trying and putting some time on our rivals. We started, however, those steep slopes of La Camperona with much caution; we were waiting for Froome’s attack, which obviously came, and we had energy enough to respond to it. I was coming to this Vuelta with lots of ambition, like in every single GT I start, but it always boosts your confidence to see you’re a little bit ahead of your rivals for one day.

“It’s never soon to get a leader’s jersey: it’s better to be ahead with a few seconds than trying desperately to make them up from behind. The GC is looking quite sorted out, which is reasonable, taking into account that we’ve raced really fast over the week, with demanding stages which take its toll in finishes like today’s. From now onwards, with such a strong team that we have, I’m sure I’ll defend myself well, starting off with tomorrow, when we will wait and see how things go.”

Alejandro Valverde: “What else can I ask for in this race? I’ve spent many days on the fight, I’m still in 2nd overall after a demanding finish, I’ve contested the stage wins many times… and now we’ve got Nairo in the lead, and should he need any help, he’ll find it from myself. I’m super happy with the result up to this point. It was actually a bit of my task into the steepest part of the climb, pulling so the pace didn’t stop into the first kilometer. We really hit the front hard in the beginning of the ascent, as we tried to avoid any crashes nor troubles.

“Froome upped the pace at a certain point - he’s one who really develops a plan, riding by his own pace and knowing where he can go full-gas - and Nairo reacted really well, countered and grabbed some nice seconds. He rode really well. Some interesting days are ahead for us. I’ll try to profit from any chances I find, while I help Nairo chase his goal. I’m satisfied with the fact that I’m here, in this Vuelta, after two GTs, in such a good position. And while it lasts, I won’t stop going.”

BMC's Darwin Atapuma lost the GC leadership today. Here's the team's report:

A short and steep summit finish on stage 8 saw Darwin Atapuma’s red jersey reign come to an end after four days as leader of the Vuelta a Espana.

Eleven riders broke away in the first 10km of racing, all of whom posed no threat to Atapuma’s red jersey, and managed to build a lead of more than ten minutes. BMC Racing Team controlled the situation throughout the 181.5km stage which was completely flat in the lead up to the final 3km climb.

With gradients of more than 20 percent, the final climb completely broke up the General Classification contenders’ group who battled it out behind the surviving breakaway.

Darwin Atapuma

Darwin Atapuma in his last moments in red

Sergey Lagutin (Team Katusha) took the win from the breakaway, and behind him Nairo Quintana attacked to take the overall lead. Darwin Atapuma lost time on the climb but holds on to sixth place overall, with Samuel Sanchez in tenth.

Darwin Atapuma: “I thought that I would be better today on the last climb. I didn’t know if I could keep the jersey but I wanted to do everything possible to keep it. I did my best in the last climb even though I was really suffering. The team did a great job of working for me and protecting the jersey in the last four days. It was a difficult day for me today but there are still a lot of stages here at the Vuelta a Espana. From tomorrow the climbs are less explosive and less steep than today so they’re much more suitable to my riding characteristics.”

“To wear the red jersey was a dream and something that I’ll always remember. But the Vuelta a Espana is far from over and I think we as a team can get more good results in the next two weeks.”

Valerio Piva, Sports Director: “It was a nice surprise to have the red jersey for BMC Racing Team, and for Darwin Atapuma. We helped him to stay in this position for as long as possible. Today we knew that it would be difficult but we took the responsibility of the red jersey and did a lot of the work at the front of the peloton. We made sure Darwin and Samuel Sanchez were well-positioned as the base of the final climb and finally they are both still in the top ten.”

Alberto Contador did well today. Here's his Tinkoff's team report:

Alberto Contador put in a solid display of climbing on the first mountain finish of the Vuelta a España, just one day after a heavy fall put his whole race in jeopardy. True to his motto 'querer es poder', where there is a will, there is a way, El Pistolero showed his fighting spirit.

At the end of the 14km final climb to the line, after a largely flat stage, Alberto was only bested by Nairo Quintana of Movistar to the line. Ahead, the day's early break took the stage, but Alberto moved himself up to seventh overall with his performance, finishing 13th on the day, second from the GC favourites.

Sport Director Steven de Jongh said after the stage: "I'm proud of what the team and Alberto, in particular, achieved today. He had a very hard crash and we were all worried but he fought hard all day, he rode well on the climb and had a very strong finish, which was really important. This result is good for team morale and promising for the upcoming stages. He showed his fighting spirit and that it is important to keep riding and never give up."

"It was a very straightforward day and everything played out the way we had planned. The squad worked hard to place Alberto in a good position and he took over from there. In such a hot day, hydration was important and the riders were coming back for water bottles. Everybody did their job perfectly today."

Alberto Contador

Despite his stage 7 crash, Contador had a good Vuelta stage 8

The race got underway with an early break of 11 riders, working well from the off to pull out over seven minutes advantage. When the chase picked up behind, it was more for control than to bring the break back, and towards the base of the final climb it was clear the break would fight out the stage with still 10 minutes advantage.

Behind the GC battle kicked off proper, with the attacks coming as the road kicked up. Tinkoff put Alberto in position at the base of the climb and despite initially losing ground to some of the GC favourites, he fought back to set his own pace and limit his loses, passing others on the way to the finish.

Looking back at the race, Alberto said: "There is no doubt today's result is important for my morale. It is also important for the morale of the staff and my teammates that work their fingers to the bone for me. After yesterday's crash thousands of thoughts were in my head but I didn't want to think I would again go back home, even if it was a possibility."

"We managed to save the day today and my only thought was to make it alive to the finish. We lost time to Nairo Quintana and this is a problem because he's one of my direct adversaries. But looking at the positive, we gained a few seconds on other riders. Now the most important is to recover as much as possible, thinking about tomorrow's stage, which could even be harder for me than today. Quite often, the second day after a crash is the worst one."

"It hurt during the stage today but it hurts even more when I get off the bike. When you ride there isn't as much tension on the calf as when you walk. The sensations I have aren't the best but I remain optimistic. Riding the final kilometers of the race, cheered by the spectators who were urging me not to give up was extraordinary. My motto is 'querer es poder', where there is a will there is a way. We will take the rest of the Vuelta day-by-day and see what we can achieve."

Tomorrow's ninth stage is another tough test with five classified climbs along the 164.5km route, the last of which is the second category Alto del Naranco, which takes the riders to the finish line.

"We have two difficult stages ahead," commented de Jongh. "Tomorrow we have another uphill finish but not as steep as today. However, rain is expected and as a result we will have to be careful. The day after tomorrow will also be hard with a finish to the famous Lagos de Covadonga. It will not be easy but Alberto doesn't give up easily!"

LottoNL-Jumbo sent me this update:

George Bennett finished 26th in the eighth stage of the Vuelta a Espana. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s New Zealander ended as 14th of the peloton on the steep final climb to La Camperona. Sergey Lagutin (Team Katyusha) won the stage, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) took the overall lead. Bennett is now placed 20th at 3’37”.

“I expected the teams of the overall contenders to be interested in the stage victory today,” Sports Director Addy Engels said. “They weren’t, unfortunately, so the winner came out of the break. In a stage like this, we only have George Bennett and Robert Gesink who are able to win on such a final climb. Robert doesn’t have the form to do that yet and George’s overall position is too good to get the space.

“The performance George delivered today is strong if you ask me,” Engels continued. “He ended up 14th out of the peloton. The differences between the overall contenders weren’t too big, as well, only Quintana took a lot of time.”

Bennett wasn’t completely satisfied with his performance. “I made some mistakes before the final climb, so I didn’t start it in optimal form,” he added. “I pushed as hard as I could, afterwards. I exploded in the end, so I lost some places in the final kilometres. I was really disappointed after Steven Kruijswijk had to leave the Vuelta, but I’m making some new plans and I’m eager to make the most of it.”

BMC headed to the Tour des Fjords

The team sent me this news:

28 August 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): BMC Racing Team will race in Norway for the second time this month when the Tour des Fjords gets underway on Wednesday, 31 August.

Sports Director Yvon Ledanois said that BMC Racing Team is heading to Norway with a competitive line-up. "We are heading to the race with a strong mix of riders who are all capable of producing good results. We are not going with a specific leader so we will be taking the race step by step and see where the opportunities take us. We are definitely going to Tour des Fjords with an ambitious team and I know every rider will give it their all," Ledanois said.

Joey Rosskopf is feeling motivated about lining up at the Tour des Fjords for the first time in his career. "I'm still feeling really excited to race going into Tour des Fjords. I've tried to do a healthy mix of resting and training since Tour du Limousin to try to prolong this good late-season form that I've found. I think I'm also coming into Fjords with a little bit of new found confidence after pulling off the win last week. Plus, this will be the first time I've ever raced in Norway, so I'm definitely looking forward to it," Rosskopf commented.

Tour des Fjords (31 August - 4 September)

Rider roster: Damiano Caruso (ITA), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Floris Gerts (NED), Fabian Lienhard (SUI), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Michael Schär (SUI)
Sports Director: Yvon Ledanois (FRA)

Rider signing news

This came from Bardiani-CSF:

Bardiani-CSF is pleased to announce its fourth new signing for 2017 season, Luca Wackermann. Born in Milan’s province in 1992, he now lives in Tuscany with Ilaria and newborn daughter Aurora.

Luca Wackermann

Luca Wackermann winning a stage at this year's Tour d'Azerbaidjan

After a promising experience in young categories and the title of European Junior Champion in 2009, Wackermann achieved professional cycling at the end of 2012 season as trainee for team Lampre-ISD, becoming the year’s youngest rider of UCI World Tour circuit. In 2015 he moved to team Southeast and in January 2016 started a new experience in UAE with team Al Nasr-Dubai. Nine wins in his palmares so far, all achieved during current season - two stages and final classification at Tour d’Oranie and Tour de Blida, one stage and final classification at Tour D’Annaba and one stage at Tour d’Azerbaidjan.

“I’m excited about my next year experience with Bardiani-CSF, the best team I could aim to revamp by ambitions” said Wackermann. “It’s a solid squad, with a great story behind. Many young riders had the chance to stand out during past years and I want to run over the same road. I’ve five years experience in professional cycling, unfortunately conditioned by few injuries, but now I feel ready for the definitive relaunch”.

“Right now I’m living a very formative and global experience with team Al Nasr-Dubai. I’m increasing my professional knowledge and I’m ready to bring it with me next year. And, most important thing, I’m racing without any physical problems. I’ve a lot of targets thinking my future with Bardiani-CSF. I want to pay back Reverberi’s trust showing I can compete at the highest level of cycling. My dream so far? Riding Giro d’Italia”.

“Wackermann’s signing is a sort of exception for the #GreenTeam, because he’s not an Under 23 rider, but in line with our philosophy” said Bruno Reverberi. “Even he became pro-rider few years ago, he’s still young and with a lot of unexpressed talent. He showed us a great desire to race and win - our target is providing him the best support to be successful”.

And LottoNL-Jumbo sent me this:

Stef Clement joins Team LottoNL-Jumbo from January 1st in 2017. The Dutchman is ready for a role as a team captain after two years with IAM Cycling. He signs for two years with the Dutch World Tour team.

“I heard in May that IAM Cycling was about to quit as a team after this season,” Stef Clement says. “At that moment, I was on a mountain with a broken collarbone, doing a training camp at altitude. I didn’t have a good spring and I didn’t have too much to count on in negotiations, but I had to look for a new team. I kept on working on myself since that moment. That’s why I went to IAM Cycling in the first place. To develop myself as a person and as a rider and this is a good moment to return to the place where I want to be the most.”

Stef Clement

Stef Clement at this year's Tour de France

Technical Director Nico Verhoeven is delighted with Clement’s return. “He showed what he’s capable of in the Dauphiné, the Tour de France and the Arctic Race,” he adds. “He’s acting on a high level and might be an important factor in our team for the grand tours. To support Steven Kruijswijk in the Giro d’Italia is going to be a target for him. We are getting stronger with Clement and Van den Broeck.”

“I come to the team to help the overall competitors uphill,” Clement concludes. “I never experienced how it feels to go for a strong result in the general classification of a grand tour. Now I did, I think that I will be able to support our front men more accurately. I didn’t improve in my time trial in Switzerland and while I was busy working on myself, Team LottoNL-Jumbo improved as well. They were the strongest team in time trials, often. That was an eye-opener for me.”

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