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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday July 24, 2016

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The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age. - Lucille Ball

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I admit it. This being the Tour de france's final day in the mountains, I was a bit surprised today when there was no mighty bid to upset the standings. Besides Bauke Mollema's and Dan Martin's attacks, the contenders were rather quiet today.

Caley Fretz of Velo News posted an excellent analysis of the stage, showing that given Team Sky's power and the possiblity of a bad crash on the wet roads, the payoff wasn't worth the risk.

Your can read his essay here.

Tour de France Stage 20 team reports

Here's stage winner Jon Izaguirre's Team Movistar report. Note: Izaguirre, being a Basque rider, is referred to by several spellings: Jon or Ion, Izagirre or Izaguirre.

Things are not as they commence, rather than as they finish. After three long weeks of struggling and pressure, the Movistar Team will complete its 2016 Tour de France, still one stage remaining in the traditional Champs-Élysées in Paris, with one stage victory (Saturday’s grueling, 146.5km trek between Megève and Morzine) and a third place in the overall general classification. Ion Izagirre flew to success in Morzine, following an impressive descent of the Col de Joux Plane which saw him leave Vincenzo Nibali (AST) and Jarlinson Pantano (IAM) behind, and claimed his maiden stage win in the Tour de France under a deluge which added  epic notes to the biggest achievement in the Basque allrounder’s pro career. A triumph which completes a magnificent 2016 for him, with GC podiums in Romandie and Suisse plus the Spanish time trial championships last month in Alicante.

It was a huge moment of joy for the team and one to make tribute to older brother Gorka, who had to leave the Grande Boucle just four days before the end due to a crash. In turn, Colombian Nairo Quintana all but secured his third spot overall, always pending the final march. Nairo will be joined by Romain Bardet (ALM), runner-up, and the winner of this Tour, Chris Froome (SKY), who conserved yellow from day eight in the race; the man from Boyacá will complete his third Paris podium appearance in as many finishes (2013, 2015, 2016), and becomes the second GC top-three finisher for the Movistar Team after Alejandro Valverde’s 3rd place in the Giro d’Italia.

Jon izaguirre

Izaguirre wins stage 20

The peloton will be transferred tomorrow to the outskirts of Paris for the final stage, a 113km route between Chantilly and the French capital for the traditional eight laps around the Champs. Barring any misfortune, the squad directed by Chente and Arrieta will be the winners of the team GC for the fourth time in their history, after 1991, 1999 (Banesto) and last year’s success.

Ion Izagirre: “It was an amazing day. A victory in the Tour de France, in the Alps, is something every cyclist could dream of.  victoria en el Tour y en los Alpes es algo soñado. It was a difficult breakaway, with many talented riders, but our legs responded well, and we could crown it in the best of possible ways. It was clear to me that both Pantano and Nibali were good descenders, but when you’ve struggled so much through the stage you might lack that bit of self-conviction. That’s why it was clearly set on my mind, ever since the top of the Joux Plane climb, that I had to start the ‘real’ descent at the front to reach the finish solo with at least a few meters. I was focused on keeping the right line and all strength into that downhill, giving 100%; it all went well and we’re super happy about this win.

“At the finish, I could only think about all the efforts and suffering leading up to this victory - they all were truly worth. At the end, it was a good Tour de France for Movistar Team; we all came here with our sights set on the #SueñoAmarillo, but Froome proved to be stronger than the rest of the field. I think that completing this race with a stage win, the team GC and Nairo’s podium place in Paris are phenomenal results. This win goes to Gorka, the whole team, my girlfriend and my little baby, expected to be born in October.”

BMC sent me this:

23 July, 2016, Morzine (FRA): Richie Porte has all but wrapped up fifth place at the Tour de France, his best result to date, after the final day in the mountains on stage 20.

With only 1'06" separating second and fifth place on the General Classification going into the stage, a showdown on the four climbs was expected. Torrential rain made for difficult conditions and neutralized any attacks from the General Classification contenders.

An early breakaway group of 37 riders eventually dispersed over the climbs, making way for multiple attacks throughout the 146.5km stage. Whilst many riders attempted to go solo, it was Ion Izaguirre (Movistar Team) who launched a successful solo attack on the descent of the Col de Joux Plane to take the stage win.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte in stage 15

Porte crossed the line in Morzine with the yellow jersey group to secure fifth place, capping off a successful first Tour de France with BMC Racing Team.

The peloton now prepares for the finale in Paris on stage 21 and one last chance for the sprinters to take the win on the Champs-Elysées.

Richie Porte: "It's a great result but it's a bit bittersweet to just throw away time like I have done on a few days. I think it leaves me a little more motivated for next year so I look forward to having another go at it. I move on and now I've got the Olympics to look forward to so hopefully I'll take some good form out of this race and have a good go there."

"Coming down off those descents before the Joux Plane, everyone was just frozen solid. The Joux Plane is not an easy climb and at the pace they set it was quite hard to do anything from it. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) set a place that was basically impossible to attack off. It is just a nice day to get done. Every descent we did today was just dangerous and slippery so I don't think anyone wanted to risk anything, and I think Team Sky had it under control anyhow."

"It does give me confidence for next year. A few times there I had a bit of bad luck but it's exciting for next year. I'll hopefully come back and give it another crack and see what I can do."

Yvon Ledanois, Sports Director: "It's really unfortunate to have lost 1'45" on stage 2 due to Richie's mechanical. If you look at the final top ten you see what a difference a time loss like that might have made to Richie's overall place. Richie probably would have had the podium in Paris, but that's cycling."

"Richie was super strong the whole race. He showed what he can do and fifth place is a great result for him in his first attempt as a team leader. This result is a great motivator for next year. We know we have a strong leader with Richie and I'm really proud of him and the way the team worked around him. He had some bad luck with the mechanical problem on stage 2, the disaster on Mont Ventoux and the crash yesterday, so finally fifth place is a really good result."

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's report:

Wilco Kelderman was in front of the peloton the whole day during the final mountain stage of the Tour de France. The Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider was among the best climbers during the final climb to Joux Plane, but was dropped by stage winner Jon Izaguirre (Movistar) in the end. Kelderman crashed afterwards, in the final descent and finished seventh. “Wilco Kelderman escaped immediately in the first kilometre of the stage,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said. “They broke away with a big group of 36 riders. Bert-Jan Lindeman was part of that group as well, but he was dropped afterwards. Thirty riders were able to stay in front, eventually with George Bennett among them. When the breakaway fell apart, George set the pace on the Col de la Ramax to bring Wilco back in the race. That succeeded.”

Wilco Kelderman

Kelderman after crashing in stage 8

On the Col de Joux Plane, a man-against-man fight arose between the best climbers of the breakaway. “Wilco had to let Izaguirre go and crossed the top of the mountain in fourth position,” Zeeman continued. “The descent was very technical and slippery because of the rain. He was back at 15 seconds on the descent, but missed a turn with one kilometre to go.”

“Just before the final kilometre, a sharp turn appeared suddenly,” Kelderman added. “My wheel slipped away on a white stripe and I rode into the fences at 60 kilometres an hour.

“I fell on my back and it hurt so much that I wasn’t able to push hard anymore. I’m only suffering some scrapes and bruises fortunately, so I don’t have too much damage.

“I gave everything and fought for what I was capable of. When I crashed, I was in fifth position and that would have been the best possible place today.”

According to Zeeman, Kelderman delivered a beautiful stage. “He faced a difficult Tour de France, but he was competing to win the stage today. He should be proud of that. Wilco deserves a compliment for his combativeness. He proved to be resilient.”

Here's Tinkoff's Tour de France news:

The penultimate day of the Tour de France, with only the traditional procession into Paris to come after, meant that this was the last chance for teams to throw their hat in the ring for stage or GC glory. With the Green and Polka Dot Jerseys already claimed by the team, it was Roman Kreuziger’s turn to go for glory, and after riding hard in the break all day, with strong support from Peter Sagan, the Czech national road champion cracked the top ten of the GC after pushing hard throughout the Tour’s three weeks. The team will wear the Maillot Vert and Maillot à Pois into Paris tomorrow.

Similar to yesterday’s stage in both distance and profile, the 146.5km route saw the grand finale of the stage take place not on an ascent, but on a downhill run in to the ski resort of Morzine. Climbing and descending on categorised climbs four times through the day, the most fearsome mountain was the Hors Catégorie Col de Joux Plane – a legendary 11.6 km-long climb at 8.5% that even the greats of the Tour have suffered on over the years. Reaching the peak of the climb, there was still another 12km of descending before the stage’s finish.

The day started with an excruciatingly-fast pace, and while the breaks wanted to go, the ones that did exploded shortly after. With such aggressive riding, it was hard to get a break to stick, but after 15km a large group made the escape. In this group, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was looking for some extra points for the Maillot Vert contest, while he was joined by the Czech national road champion, Roman Kreuziger, who had his eye on pulling some time back in the GC.

Roman Kreuziger

Roman Kreuziger in Tour stage 9

Like yesterday, the roads were soaked and the rain was falling, making riding treacherous. With so many riders having hit the deck on stage 19, it was essential that riders stayed upright and the pace was noticeably slower. In the bunch, having won the Maillot à Pois on yesterday’s stage, Rafal Majka was sitting at the back of the peloton, avoiding trouble and making sure there were no upsets in the road ahead. This was also a well-deserved rest for the Polish rider, who had attacked on each of the three previous road stages.

Attacking on the descent of the Col de la Colombière, Roman and Peter were part of a group of eight who split away from the main breakaway group, quickly forming an advantage of more than six minutes on the peloton. While Peter dropped away shortly after, the UCI World Champion had worked hard to support Roman and get him in position for the latter part of the stage.

Attacking riding has been a theme of Tinkoff’s Tour de France, and during the stage, Peter was awarded the most aggressive rider of this year’s race. “I’m happy to have taken the most aggressive rider. I’m happy we finished this very hard week and am looking forward to tomorrow. I was expecting to win the most aggressive prize last year, but didn’t, so to win it this year I’m very happy.”

The long final climb over and done with, it was just the descent into Morzine to go. In spite of having lost some time on the climb, Roman had the downhill section to draw back an advantage on the chasing peloton. Soaked to the skin, Roman crossed the line in sixth spot. After a nervous wait, it was confirmed that his hard ride and strong effort had helped him crack the top ten of the GC.

Crossing the line in 15th spot having stayed safe today, Rafal Majka was confirmed as the King of the Mountains. “We’re happy and I’m pleased to have finished the day safely – I stayed with the GC riders and stayed safe in the finish. I didn’t want to risk it on the descent. The team was all the time in the front today – all the time in the breakaway. We had a lot of time in the breakaways this year – Peter especially is the most aggressive rider and he deserves that accolade.”

Continuing, the Polish national road champion was quick to praise the team’s efforts, and thanked Oleg Tinkov for his strong support. “It’s really important for me and my teammates to have won the two jerseys. Oleg is leaving the sport so we wanted to give him something in this Tour to say thank you – three stages and two jerseys. We did it for Oleg after his five years of sponsorship of the team. It’s great because Roman took a top ten in the GC and we have two jerseys going into Paris. It’s been a great Tour de France – at the start we had bad luck, but now it’s much better and we’re really happy. We had bad luck with Alberto but congratulations to Chris Froome for the yellow. I love the race and am really pleased to have my second jersey – I’ll be celebrating tomorrow.”

Having taken three stage wins and the Maillot Vert, Peter was pleased to have performed so well throughout the race. “With these wins it feels like 2012 when I won three stages and the green jersey. I’m very happy for myself and the team, and to have finished this very hard week. It’s important to fight hard – we’re the top team in the world and we had to make sure we kept getting those results.”

Approaching Paris from the north this year, the final stage of this year’s Tour de France is mainly a procession for the jersey wearers for the first 50km, but when the race arrives in Paris, it gets much more serious. Eight laps of the finishing Champs Élysées circuit come before the final, most prestigious sprint in cycling. Who will take the victory on the Tour’s final stage?

Other Team News

Here's BMC's team rider medical update:

23, July 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): In the interest of increasing communication around the health and fitness of BMC Racing Team's riders, the team will release a regular update from Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa on all rider injuries and illnesses. The update below concerns three of BMC Racing Team's riders.

Silvan Dillier:

Dr. Testa: "Silvan suffered a fractured finger in the Giro d'Italia which forced him to abandon the race. He has recovered very well and took the necessary precautions in order to be back at his normal level ahead of the Olympic Games."

Dillier: "I'm in the last training period for the Olympic Games where I'm going to compete in the Team Pursuit. All is going well, my condition is getting better and better and my finger doesn't disturb me at all. I had great support from my hand specialists in order to get the best result in the shortest time, so I'm 100% ready for Rio and the upcoming races."

Stefan Küng:

Dr. Testa: "Stefan crashed heavily during the Swiss National Time Trial championships, sustaining a fractured collarbone and iliac bone which required surgery. He is doing well and all of his injuries are steadily improving. He will have a check up with his surgeon next week and at this stage he is limited to training on the rollers until around mid-August. He is progressing well, is in good spirits and is motivated to have a good end to the season."

Küng: "I'm feeling good and have made a lot of progress in the last two weeks. I still have a bit of pain but I'm taking things one day at a time on the rollers and am looking forward to getting back on the road around mid-August."

Manuel Quinziato:

Dr. Testa: "Manuel sustained a shoulder injury at the Tour de Polonge. He injury has since been evaluated by a shoulder specialist and X-Rays revealed two non-displaced minimal fractures of the shoulder. He will need to rest before he can get back on the rollers and doing physical therapy. At this stage no surgery is needed and we will continue to monitor his improvement over the coming weeks."

Quinziato: "I'm feeling pretty good, especially since it was confirmed that no surgery will be necessary. I'm not really in pain which is a good sign because it means the fractures are stable. I'm going on long half-marathon walks and this is definitely helping me to keep my shape before I can get on the rollers. I have to keep my shoulder and arm in a brace for another three weeks and then we can reassess my recovery, but I'm staying really positive and looking forward to recovering well before the UCI World Championships."

George Bennett renews with LottoNL-Jumbo:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider George Bennett has extended his contract. The New Zealander, riding since 2015 for Team LottoNL-Jumbo, and will continue with the Dutch WorldTour team through 2018.

"It is good news that I can stay with Team LottoNL-Jumbo. For two years, I've  been riding for this team and I get all the support of the team, not only mentally but also in terms of equipment, training and nutrition.” "I feel at home among the other boys and that is equally important. The team looks not only at how fast you can ride, but also who you are as a person. So I get every opportunity to develop myself. "

George Bennett

George Bennett at this year's Tour Down Under

"Bennett has shown himself in the Dauphiné and the Tour of California this year. These results have ensured that he could start of the Tour de France,"  Technical Director Nico Verhoeven said. "He confirmed his good form being in the breakaways in the Tour.”

Bennett himself sees that he has developed. "Since I joined the team I've already improved a lot, and especially in recent months, it is getting better. I want to be a good helper for the GC-guys, but also I want to be a contender in the major races."

Tim Wellens part of Belgian Olympic team. This came from Lotto-Soudal:

Yesterday federal coach Kevin De Weert announced the Belgian selection for the Olympic road race. Lotto Soudal rider Tim Wellens is one of the five riders who will go to Rio. The others are Laurens De Plus, Philippe Gilbert, Serge Pauwels and Greg Van Avermaet. Tim Wellens will also ride the time trial.

Tim Wellens: “The Olympics are one of my goals this season. I’m doing all I can to start with the best possible condition. The coach has given us a lot of info about the course. Louis Vervaeke, who took part in the test event last year, also shared his experiences. Everyone says it’s really hard. It’s good that the road race is scheduled first, because that’s my main goal, but I am definitely motivated for the time trial. I will do my best in the time trial.”

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens having a good sixth stage at the 2016 Giro d'Italia

“After de Tour de Pologne I took two days rest and then I started training again to be very good in Rio. I decided to ride no criteriums. Next Saturday I will take part in the Clásica San Sebastián. I think it’s perfect to race there one week before the Olympics. Two days later we are leaving for Brazil.”

“I think it’s a good selection, although I would have loved Louis Vervaeke to be part of it as well. It’s a course that suits him. But it’s definitely right that these riders are selected. No doubt that the Olympic Games will be a unique experience. I am very curious to see the Olympic Village. It’s something special: athletes from different sports who take part in the same event. I’m looking forward to it very much.”

The road race is scheduled on Saturday 6 August, the day after the opening ceremony. The time trial takes place on Wednesday 10 August.

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