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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, August 30, 2016

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If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants. - Isaac Newton

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Vuelta a España Stage 10 team news

We'll start with Nairo Quintana's Movistar team report:

Nairo Quintana completed one of the best rides in his excellent pro career on Monday atop the Lagos de Covadonga, end of stage 10 in the 2016 Vuelta a España (189km). Supported by a sensational Movistar Team, the Colombian wrote his name down the list of winners in the legendary climb in Asturias, and got back to GC leadership in the Vuelta a España with a minute’s gap over… his own team-mate Alejandro Valverde. The Spaniard - 5th over the summit - showed again that his experience and class are unrivalled in the pro scene, and remains fully in contention after spending two-and-a-half Grand Tours within the top guns.

The squad directed by José Luis Arrieta and Chente García Acosta -which suffered an early crash (10km in), with only minor blows and bruises (knee, hip and elbow - Nairo), for Quintana himself as well as Rory Sutherland- took command in the field with 60km from the end. The relentless duo of Rory and Imanol Erviti pushed hard into the flat before the Mirador del Fito (Cat-1) and on the section between the penultimate climb and the foot of the ‘Santina’, where Jonathan Castroviejo took the relay from the two big rouleurs. With the gap quickly shrinking from 2’30”, which the day’s break held at the bottom of the climb, 'Castro', José Herrada and a fantastic sensacional Rubén Fernández selected the group with big turns into the first half of the ascent. With 6km to go, the decisive moment came: an acceleration from Alberto Contador (TNK) forced Nairo to react.

Quintana’s two attacks helped him to drop Contador back, leave Chris Froome (SKY) behind and close in on solo leader Gesink (TLJ), eventually overtaking the Dutchman to win the stage with twenty-three seconds on Froome. The Briton, dropped at the beginning of the climb, started progressing in his usual, consistent style to reach Alejandro Valverde, who always rode on his own pace. The two ended up pretty much close to the Colombian from the Movistar Team, which takes the Blues up to 33 victories in 2016 and leads both the GC and Combination standings. ‘Bala’ has taken over the 1st place in the Points ranking.

Nairo Quintana

Quintana climbs to the finish line

The 58-second gap between Nairo and Froome in the overall classification means Quintana will have to keep attacking into the second part of the race, looking towards the decisive stage 19 TT in Calpe. For the moment, the Blues will enjoy a much-deserved first rest day in Asturias on Tuesday.

Nairo Quintana: “Let’s hope this one is a jersey we can keep for a longer period! What I felt and saw today was wonderful - it really makes me confident that I can fight to win this Vuelta. I felt well all over the day, leaving aside that crash in the beginning. The great work by the whole team was visible today, and made for a bigger motivation to win and reward them with the stage. I had always dreamt to win here and I could make that dream come true today. It really makes me happy to put my name under this stage, and especially how we did it, together with the team. It would have been impossible without them.

“I felt myself strong in the beginning of the climb and it was easy to get into the right position, thanks to the fantastic pace by all of my team-mates, above all Rubén Fernández. He made it look easy and avoided all previous attacks. As I saw he was running out of gas, Alberto’s (Contador) attack came - I followed him and jumped twice to open the gaps with Froome and seek for the stage win. Chris remains pretty much close for the remainder of the race. We must to continue to pick up the pressure, doing the same we’ve done until this point: attacking and attacking to keep him further. Should we keep this minute we have when the Calpe TT looms, he’ll be the main favourite. I think three minutes would be a reasonable gap to tackle the time trial with calmness.

“It feels great to lead the race. I always trusted my abilities, but sometimes you feel better while other times your body reacts worse. Now that everything goes through the right path, I enjoy and live everything with great excitement. What my body asks from me at this point is saluting my whole family, especially my mum. She always prays for me so everything can go right. I just love her - he’s the best mum I could ever dream of having. Also, this goes for the team - they’ve made possible for me to fulfil these dreams. It’s not only about those in the Vuelta, but the whole group in general. Tomorrow? We’ll have to keep our legs rolling for a while and trying to recover after the early crash.”

Alejandro Valverde: “So, the Lagos? They were tough! (laughs). I really feel happy about today. Winning the stage with Nairo, finishing right behind Froome… I’m super happy. I’m even surprising myself. It’s my third Grand Tour of the year, already 10 stages in, many demanding ones… and we’re still in the mix. I’m ‘enjoying’ the bike, between quotation marks as you endure lots of suffering. Results have been good up to this point, we’re offering spectacle to the fans and I just hope they’re enjoying our efforts. It’d be great to continue this way for long.

“I knew that Froome would come really fast from behind, and as Nairo attacked, I kept my own pace and stayed with Rubén, who set a fantastic pace. I was conserving some energy so as to follow Froome when he came past - even after his furious pace at the end, I only lost three seconds to him. Froome isn’t surprising: he always drops back, he was even trailing by 40” halfway through the ascent, yet he overcomes riders at an impressive pace. It’s not the first time - we all know about his excellent abilities. GC-wise, this minute Nairo has on Froome isn’t much, but there’s a lot of mountains ahead. God knows we’ll give our all to increase that gap.”

LottoNL-Jumbo had a good day. Here's their report:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s Robert Gesink finished second in the Vuelta a España’s stage 10 to Lagos de Covadonga today. Gesink made the escape with his team-mate Victor Campenaerts and was the last rider to hang on, finishing behind winner Quintana (Movistar) and holding off Chris Froome (Sky).

"This was a nice day, it’s not fun that another rider was faster, but it gives me a good feeling,” said Gesink. He marked the attacks and then left his former escape companions behind. "It is not about who is the first to attack and who goes the fastest immediately, so I set my own pace and I quickly noticed that I could drop the others.

"Campenaerts did a good job, too. He ensured the speed stayed high when there was a lack of collaboration in the break. Even I went to the front a few times to set the pace because the majority were mainly concerned with the last climb, instead of maximising the lead we had."

The stage began with a bit of chaos and some falls. "We saved ourselves in the first two hours of the race. We avoided the crashes, as well,” said Sports Director Addy Engels. "We made the break of 16 with our men. Victor Campenaerts did a lot of work so that Gesink could go free. The only thing Robert could do is ride as hard as possible, and he did that.”

Robert Gesink

Robert Gesink finishing ahead of Chris Froome

"My goal is to be good in the second part of the Vuelta,” Gesink continued. “My feeling is that today, the second part of the Vuelta began. "We all were in a difficult spot after Kruijswijk had to abandon. It lasted for days, but now we have turned things around."

"The last few days were a lot better,” Engels said. “It is nice to see that the team has picked itself up. It took a while but we are back on track."

Behind the escape, George Bennett rode among the favourites for a long time. The New Zealander finished 23rd and remained in the classification’s top twenty.

"Bennett held up well during the final climb, but it’s not our plan to keep him in the GC,” Engels added. “We want to ensure that, like today, we can create a chance to win a stage. I also see an opportunity for Bennett."

Tinkoff sent me this update:

The Tinkoff leader, Alberto Contador, today showed the fighting spirit that has made him one of the most successful riders in the professional peloton. With the race’s first top category climb coming the day before the race’s first rest day, the Spanish rider surged forward in the final 10km of the stage to finish a strong 8th position that saw him jump to a top five position in the GC.

The Especial Meta. Lagos de Covadonga loomed over stage 10’s profile today, the race’s first top category climb coming at the day’s finish. Before this, the first category Alto del Mirador del Fito, cresting 148km into the 188.7km parcours, would make a perfect springboard for any riders with their eyes on the stage win, a climb up the GC – or both.

On what could be a pivotal stage, the peloton kept a close eye on the breakaways to ensure no-one escaped up the road who could threaten the GC standings, but with a lot of the day to come and the final fireworks likely to take place on the last climb, a group of five was allowed up the road. As the day went on, attacks and counter attacks came and went, and the lead group grew in number, with the advantage on the peloton growing with it. Extending their lead to around five minutes, this was as much as the peloton was going to allow.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador is still bandaged from his earlier crash

With his wounds sustained on stage 7 still bandaged up, the Tinkoff leader, Alberto Contador was biding his time in the bunch, supported well by his teammates as the halfway point came and went. The final two climbs of the day were where the action was going to take place, and so the Spanish rider saved his energy – the peloton pushing on hard to make the catch.

Having started the day 7th in the GC, Alberto saw an opportunity to take some time as the race entered its final 10km and the pace rose substantially. In spite of his injuries, he took up the chase for the line with two of his GC rivals to reel in the last members of the break. The drizzle in the air didn’t dampen his spirits as he crossed the line in 8th position – his strong placing pushing him up to 5th overall after excelling on the hardest day of the race so far.

The Spanish rider gave some insight into how the ascent of the Meta. Lagos de Covadonga unfolded. “Following Nairo in the final climb took its toll because he kept changing the rhythm. I had two options on how to do the race. The first one was to try to go with Nairo and the second one to follow Froome because I thought I had Froome in 2012 and 2014, who had problems at the finish. I played the Nairo card and I made an error. He was very strong, he changed the rhythm and that made me blow up. Afterwards, I had trouble getting back my pace. We know how Froome rides on the climbs, he focuses on his watts and sticks to that and everybody now knows his tactics but it worked brilliantly for him.”

From the finish, Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, saw that his crash had slowed him down, but his rise up the GC showed promise for the race to come. “Today we saw the crash cost Alberto, but he fought hard. When Quintana attacked, he couldn’t follow and he set his own pace. We have to look ahead – he’s 5th on the GC now and I’m sure we can move up in the stages to come.”

Going into the first rest day in Oviedo, Alberto will be concentrating on recovering after ten hard days in Spain, as well as to allow his injuries to continue healing. With a long way to go until the finish in Madrid, this Vuelta is far from over, and tomorrow the whole team would be taking a well-deserved opportunity to rest, explained De Jongh. “We have to see now day by day – luckily tomorrow is a rest day so can recover. The other guys made it through today – Jesús had a fall early and had a few cuts but he should be fine.”

Alberto echoed his Sport Director’s comments, and was concentrating on recovering before tackling the remainder of the race day by day. Tomorrow we have a rest day and on Wednesday we resume the battle, hoping it gets better for us. The differences, for various reasons, are enormous and this makes the rest of the Vuelta an uphill struggle. However, we'll keep on, taking it day-by-day in order to see what we can do.”

When the race returns on Wednesday, the flatter start to stage 11 will gently ease riders back into the race after their rest day. The 168.6km stage sees the race tackle a fairly flat parcours until the last 10km of the stage, where the day will end on the first category Peña Cabarga – a 9.8%, 5.6km final push that the GC riders will doubtless be saving themselves for.

There were some hard days ahead, but the Tinkoff leader was committed to the fight. “I still think it's too early to make a judgment on the Vuelta. I think we need to be calmer in order to take a decision. We have to assess the pros and cons, the circumstances and based on that decide what the best strategy will be. Obviously, my goal isn't just to ride a good race, my goal is to fight for the overall win. It's true though that right now this is quite difficult, I don't want to use the word impossible because I don't like it. We are still halfway through the Vuelta and on a day you have a crisis you can lose quite some time but we'll keep on fighting."

Cannondale-Drapac headed to Tour of Alberta

This news came to me from the team:

The Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team sends an opportunistic roster to this week’s Tour of Alberta, headlined by Canadian Mike Woods and Americans Alex Howes and Lawson Craddock.

The Canadian race runs from September 1-5. This season, the route focuses on the southern to central portion of the Alberta province. It begins in Lethbridge and culminates in Edmonton.

The team has tasted victory in Alberta before, taking three of the stages on offer at the 2015 edition of the race.

“Our team at this year’s edition of the Tour of Alberta is designed to ride a very offensive race. We won't be able to be competitive in a bunch sprint but absolutely have the necessary qualities to escape and take the victory,” sport director Andreas Klier said. “On a day-to-day basis we will ride as offensive as the race profile allows. The overall will be won on stage four with the time trial. But if we keep the spirit from day one high, I don't see a single problem not to be in the top three on GC ... but of course anything can happen.”

Joining Craddock, Howes and Woods are Andre Cardoso, Phil Gaimon, Kristijan Koren, Kristoffer Skjerping, and Toms Skujins.

Howes is looking forward to getting to Canada. He’s off the Tour de France, The Tour of Utah, and, more recently, the Leadville Trail 100 MTB, where he finished in sixth place.

“What's not to like?” asked Howes. “The Canadian Rockies are one of the earth's greatest gems and the race supplies the victors with some of handsomest cowboy hats to be found north or south of the upper 49th parallel.”

Gaimon raced in Alberta in 2014. A factor at the Canadian race always seems to be the weather: rain, cold, water blowing sideways…. “It was cold and rainy. Training recently it was windy out but fine otherwise. Fingers cross it stays decent,” Gaimon said.

Gaimon added the team would ride in a familiar style. “We have a strong team so we'll be aggressive,” he said. “I'd like to put in a good time trial, be opportunistic for stage results, and have a good time with my teammates.”

Cannondale-Drapac for the 2016 Tour of Alberta: Andre Cardoso, Lawson Craddock, Phil Gaimon, Alex Howes, Kristijan Koren, Kristoffer Skjerping, Toms Skujins, Mike Woods

Giant-Alpecin going to Tour of Britain

This was in my inbox today:

TOUR OF BRITAIN (2.HC) : Team Giant-Alpecin will be participating in the 13th edition of the Tour of Britain, starting this Sunday in Scotland. The first five stages of the British race features plenty of undulating roads suitable for bunch sprints and breakaways. Stage six will see the general classification unfold on the tough uphill finish to Haytor. On the penultimate day, the riders will tackle a 15km individual time trial in the morning followed by a short road stage in the afternoon. The Tour of Britain comes to a climax in London with a flat circuit and a fast finish can be expected.

Coach Marc Reef (NED) said: "The Tour of Britain is a very interesting race with a challenging parcours. The stages present plenty of different opportunities as it will be an open race. We'll take our chances in the sprints and breakaways and with our line-up we'll challenge for stage results."

"Tom returns to racing after his silver medal at the Olympics. He has already proved his capabilities against the clock this season and will be looking for a strong performance at the time trial."

RACE: Tour of Britain (2.HC)

DATE: 04-11/09/2016

COACH: Marc Reef (NED) 

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