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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, July 25, 2016

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The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it. - Lou Holtz

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The 2016 Tour de France is in the books. Team Sky with Chris Froome was so dominant that Oleg Tinkoff said he's not going to sponsor another team until Chris Froome retires.

Tour de France stage 21 team reports

First, here's Team Sky's update:

Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle

Chris Froome has been crowned the winner of the 2016 Tour de France, taking his third victory in the prestigious Grand Tour, and Team Sky's fourth. Crossing the line flanked by his team-mates after 21 days of racing, Froome capped a momentous performance to write another page in the history of Team Sky and British cycling.

Claiming the yellow jersey by an eventual winning margin of four minutes and five seconds, Froome laid the foundations for victory during an attentive opening week, before snatching the lead with a daring late downhill dig on stage eight into Bagneres-de-Luchon.

Surviving a well-publicised scare while attacking on Mont Ventoux, Froome rebounded to pad out his advantage in the mountains, and in the race's two time trials, the second of which brought another victory on stage 18.
Despite a late crash on a slick Alpine descent with two days to go, Froome came home a dominant winner, backed up by an equally dominant eight Team Sky team-mates and staff.

The race culminated as ever with the famous run into Paris, taking in triumphant circuits of the Champs-Elysees and a bunch sprint eventually won by Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal).

The team's seventh Tour de France marked the first time all nine riders had finished together in Paris, and they did so decked out in custom yellow Rapha kit.
Sergio Henao, Wout Poels and Mikel Nieve have combined to form a superb triple threat in the high mountains, setting a searing tempo and chasing down attacks, all the while looking after the interests of Froome.

Team Sky

All nine Sky riders finished

Mikel Landa and Vasil Kiryienka also put in huge mountain shifts, in addition to exemplary domestique work. Embodying that team spirit was Geraint Thomas, who again rode a mightily impressive race, and famously gave up his bike for Froome in the shadow of Mont Blanc.

Ian Stannard battled back from a hard crash on stage 12 to support Froome every step of the way, with Luke Rowe again demonstrating an old head on young shoulders as road captain, combining with Stannard to grind out kilometre after kilometre on the front. Rowe particularly enjoyed the run for home, attacking briefly alongside Poels and bridging to the day's breakaway with 18km to go.

In a moving speech on the podium in Paris, Froome paid tribute to his teammates, his growing family and everyone affected by the tragic Nice attacks which took place during the race.

He said: "To my teammates and support team - this is your yellow jersey too. I wouldn't be standing here if it wasn't for your commitment and sacrifice.
"A massive thank you to Dave Brailsford, and my coach Tim Kerrison. This is one special team - and I'm so proud to be a part of it!

"To Michelle my wife and my son Kellan - your love and support make everything possible. Kellan, I dedicate this victory to you. This tour has obviously taken place against the backdrop of terrible events in Nice, and we pay our respects once again to those who have lost their lives in this terrible event. Of course these kind of events put sport into perspective, but they also show why the values of sport are so important to free society.

"We all love the Tour de France because it's unpredictable, but we love the Tour more for what stays the same. The passion of the fans from every nation along the roadside, the beauty of the French countryside, and the bonds of friendship created through sport. These things will never change."

Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford was understandably thrilled, and called the race the most enjoyable Tour to date. "It's very satisfying, I'm very happy, and this was by far the most enjoyable Tour I think we've done," he admitted. "We raced differently, we used a different, more effective offensive set of tactics - it was fun, it was racing - and as always you get to this point, you get to Paris, you see the Union Jacks and you feel proud.

"It's a British success story I'd like to think and the team was perfect. It's the best team performance we've put together. Chris was brilliant, so overall it's been a great three weeks. We'll come back and do it again next year!"

Tinkoff won the points and mountains classifications. Here's their report:

After three weeks, twenty-one stages and 3,519km, Tinkoff had taken three stage wins, three days in the yellow jersey, the Maillot Vert and Maillot à Pois, the Super Combative rider prize and a top ten in the GC overall. On the 103rd edition of the Tour de France, this was the team’s most successful edition of La Grande Boucle. Today, it would all end on the Champs Élysées, where the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, took his fifth Maillot Vert in a row, while Rafal Majka took his second Maillot à Pois.

At 113km, today’s route from Chantilly into Paris was the race’s shortest road stage, but the distance and the stage’s one categorised climb meant little to the peloton, who were taking the opportunity to celebrate the end of the race on what was mainly a ceremonial ride into the French capital – ceremonial that is, until the riders hit the Champs Élysées and began the eight circuits of the centre of Paris around l’Arc de Triomphe before the most famous sprint in cycling.

Matching their equipment to their jerseys, Peter Sagan and Rafal Majka started the day on their custom green and polka dot Specialized bikes. The first 50km of the stage gave all riders a chance to consider the race behind them before the pace ramped up for the finale.

Peer Sagan

Peter Sagan collected his fifth green jersey

Having suffered an early setback with Alberto Contador’s crashes on stages 1 and 2, the team continued a spirited ride, taking the yellow jersey after Peter’s win on stage 2 and holding it for three days, before racing to take the green jersey and then the polka dot jersey. On the penultimate stage, a hard ride from Roman Kreuziger pushed the Czech national road champion into the GC top ten, while Peter was awarded the prize for the most combative rider of the Tour.

Looking back on the Tour, Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, had every reason to be happy with the team’s strong performance. “Overall it was a good Tour. It was very unfortunate that we lost Alberto after two stages really, as after that he was not the same. All the boys did well though, especially Peter – he was showing himself as a true champion – yesterday he helped Roman to get into the top ten and before that he helped Rafa go in the decisive break for the polka dot jersey. He was an amazing team-mate.”

In characteristically humble style, in spite of taking three stage wins, Peter was also pleased to have been in a position to support the other Tinkoff riders. “The first victory and second victory were amazing, and I also tried to help my teammates, and all the Tour went very well - it was a good Tour de France. I enjoyed helping my teammates.”

For Rafal Majka, his win in the mountains classification was as exciting as the first time he took the prize in the 2014 Tour. “I don't think this win is any different from the first – it's like I've won it for the first time. I'm so happy with this jersey, and happy for my teammates as this year we've done a really great Tour de France as a team, a top ten with Roman and two jerseys with Peter also the most aggressive rider. We were always there fighting every stage and giving our best.”

Arriving on the Champs Élysées as the sun dipped lower in the sky, the race was on. A breakaway came and went but the entire peloton knew how the stage was going to end today. With the pace increasing ever faster with each of the eight final circuits, racing was frenetic with teams jostling for position and pushing to get their rider to the front to take the final sprint of the race. Keeping guard at the front of the race, the Tinkoff riders were keeping the Green Jersey safe and ensuring the Peter had a chance to contest the finish.

As riders came round the final bend, Peter was surrounded by teammates keeping him safe, dropping away as the sprint began. In spite of the Maillot Vert coming from behind and surging forward with an incredible pace, he was just beaten to the line. His second spot added to his tally of points however, and ended the race having taken a total of 470 points and three stage wins.

Peter’s strong ride crowned a great edition of the Tour for the UCI World Champion. “The Tour de France has always been good for me - the last two years I didn't win but this year I won three stages and I'm happy for that. I always try to give my best and nearly got a fourth today. I started my sprint a little late today, but Andre did a good sprint and I'm happy for him to have won a stage too. Everybody's happy. Now after the Tour de France I can go and relax a little bit, and I will then go for the mountain bike at the Olympics. It would be something special for me as I started in mountain bikes. That would be nice.”

At the finish, De Jongh, was pleased to see Peter brought to the line safely by the team after 21 hard stages. “Today was a very nice day and at the end the boys did a good job to bring Peter to the finish in a good position. Greipel was really strong and second is still a good result. There were a lot of crashes and flats, but our guys stayed out of trouble.”

For Rafal, triumphing through adversity through teamwork was one of the key features of the Tour for him. “After five years this is our last season as Tinkoff and we did our best, not only me but all the team – also fighting for Roman's top ten and our jerseys, as well as three stage wins – it has been a great Tour de France. After our bad luck at the start of the Tour it was hard but we had a good talk with the Sport Directors and knew we had to fight for our other goals and we did.”

In what will be the Tinkoff team’s last Tour de France, De Jongh was taking away good memories of a spirited ride in the world’s most famous cycling event. “We leave with two leaders' jerseys and with a very good memory as the Tinkoff team as we've showed that we're very strong, and we leave with a very good feeling and very good memories.”

Orica-BikeExchange sent me this:

In just his second attempt, Adam Yates today became the first British rider to win the best young rider classification at the Tour de France. The 23-year-old rode an impressive race to finish in fourth place overall, well above expectation, giving ORICA-BikeExchange its best ever general classification result at the Tour.

Three weeks of racing saw the Australian outfit top the team classification over the first few stages before Yates won the white jersey on stage seven and held it all the way to the finish in Paris.

A series of impressive performances over several tough mountain stages saw Yates move into second overall before slipping to fourth over the last two days of racing, only 21seconds behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in third. Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) won the race by over four minutes with Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) taking second.

Aam Yates

I'm sure we'll see a lot more of Adam Yates

“We came here not really riding for the overall,” said a smiling Yates in Paris. “It just kind of happened and the whole team have been incredible in their support, all the riders and the staff who have worked so hard everyday. There has been no pressure, other than what I put on myself. We approached the race day-by-day and I’m very happy with how it has turned out, this is a fantastic honour.

“I had a bad day on stage 19 and I wasn’t sure how my legs would respond but I recovered well and here we are. I’ve won the white jersey and fourth overall and that’s very satisfying.

“I wouldn’t say that we are disappointed not to have made the podium, it's one of those things. This is only my second Tour and all of the guys ahead of me have competed for the general classification in previous Grand Tours so I think we have done very well.

“The future is ahead of me and I’m sure I will be back fighting for a podium place or even challenging for the yellow jersey. I will try my best, you never what will happen, but I’m going to continue working hard and do everything possible to improve.”

The achievements of ORICA-BikeExchange at this year’s Tour de France have come down to a strong work ethic running throughout the Australian team. Michael Matthews finally laid some ghosts to rest by taking a brilliant victory on stage ten after Luke Durbridge and Daryl Impey controlled the breakaway and perfectly set up Matthews for the sprint and his first Tour de France stage win.

Sport director Matt White praised the effort and performance of the whole team over the course of the race, in particular that of 23-year-old Yates. “This has been a very gratifying Tour de France for us,” said White. “We came here with ambitions to win a stage, that was our main objective so in that respect the first few days were key for us.”

“We targeted stages where we knew we had a good chance of getting a result and we did finally achieve that on stage ten. However once the first few days had passed we could begin to focus on the overall and the performances of Adam (Yates).

“Of course we knew that Adam is an incredible talent and full of potential and now I suppose the whole world also knows that. I think it's very important not to put a 23-year-old like Adam under too much pressure and as we saw he responded very well and maintained a high level of consistency. We have always had faith in Adam’s ability and the way the whole team rallied around him throughout the race has been extremely pleasing and we have achieved a great result.

"It really is sensational. We have ticked every box, stage win, white jersey and fourth overall.”

How it happened: Today’s final celebratory stage from Chantilly to Paris covered 113 easy kilometres, allowing the peloton to relax and enjoy the moment after three brutally difficult weeks of racing.

As tradition dictates champagne was passed around the peloton before the field arrived in Paris for the eight most famous finishing circuits in cycling. The white jersey of Yates joined Froome in yellow, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) in green and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) in red and white at the front of the peloton as the four jersey winners led the field through the neutral zone.

The speed of the bunch finally increased along the banks of the Seine as the field made its way through central Paris towards the Champs Elysees. A breakaway of eight riders escaped on the second circuit and held a lead of around 30seconds before being caught with two laps to go.

Impey led the peloton into the final circuit with crashes occurring as the field sped over the cobbles towards the sprint. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) won the sprint on the Champs Elysees with Matthews finishing close behind in fifth.

ORICA-BikeExchange completed a successful Tour de France with the white jersey, fourth overall, a stage victory and numerous top ten finishes.

Here's BMC's Tour stage 21 news:

24 July, 2016, Paris (FRA): Richie Porte has secured his first top five result at the Tour de France as the peloton made their way onto the Champs-Elysées for the final stage of the race, which was won in a bunch sprint by Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)

As is tradition, the peloton enjoyed a relaxed start to the 113km stage departing from Chantilly. Marcus Burghardt was part of a short-lived breakaway and Greg Van Avermaet launched an attack, before the sprinters' teams controlled the final laps on the Champs-Elysées.

Stage 21 wraps up a successful Tour de France for BMC Racing Team. In addition to Porte's General Classification result, Greg Van Avermaet leaves as winner of stage 5 and with three days in the yellow jersey to add to his palmarès.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet spent three days of this Tour in yellow

Porte not only claimed his best result ever at the Grand Tour, but is the best-placed Australian rider at the race since Cadel Evans' victory in 2011 with BMC Racing Team, and only the third Australian rider to crack the top five at the Tour de France.

Van Avermaet now holds the record within BMC Racing Team as the rider to wear the yellow jersey for the most number of days, and the first rider to win a stage in two consecutive years.  BMC Racing Team has claimed third place in the Team Classification, a testament to the work of the team around leaders Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen.

Brent Bookwalter: "That's the Tour de France, pushing yourself to the absolute physical and mental limit. I definitely did that. I started kind of on a rough note but I had awesome support from the team. I'm proud to be finishing in Paris with a great group of guys."

Marcus Burghardt: "I think it was a pretty good Tour de France for us. I think every rider did a good job and we all came through healthy and with no major crashes, so that's already important. I think for the team it was a nice success to have the yellow jersey and winning a stage. Being up there on GC with Richie in 5th is great, especially as he could have been on the podium without his bad luck on stage 2. That's cycling and we can't change this. I was impressed that he stayed focused after this, which gave me motivation to do my best."

Damiano Caruso: "For me it was a great Tour de France because I think a did a good job for the team, for our two leaders. I'm happy to be in Paris with Richie in the top five. I think this makes us even more motivated for next year and I'm looking forward to being back here and fighting for the yellow jersey again."

Amaël Moinard: "We had a big goal to put one of our two leaders on the podium, which we remained focused on throughout the race. Then we had a big bonus with Greg Van Avermaet's stage win and the yellow jersey for three days, so that was a highlight of July, instead of focusing on Richie Porte's misfortune. Personally, starting the Tour de France in my home region was something really big. I will remember this for a long time, and it was also nice to be in the breakaway towards the end to try something for our leaders."

Richie Porte: "Fifth place, although a bit bittersweet, is a great result. I'll always think about what could have been with the time loss on stage 2, but it makes me even more hungry to back and try and win the yellow jersey. I had a great Tour, I climbed really well, and also had a bit of bad luck. I'm looking forward to coming back and giving it another shot with BMC Racing Team. I had great support from my teammates and all in all, it was a great experience."

Michael Schär: "It feels like it was three years ago that we were in Normandy for the start of the Tour de France! Once you start it goes very quickly and I had a great time. I think we had a very successful Tour with the yellow jersey, stage win, and top five in GC. Personally, I'm pretty happy with my performance here."

Greg Van Avermaet: "It's my most successful Tour de France. I was in the breakaway plenty of times, won a stage and especially I think wearing the yellow jersey for three days was something really special. It's been a really good Tour de France for me. My first Tour was really hard and I asked myself why did I have to come here. And now it's a bit different, I've had a lot of chances and it couldn't get any better than this."

Tejay van Garderen: "It's been a very memorable three weeks of racing. I was glad to be able to share in all of the successes of the team. My personal goals weren't really accomplished but I'm certainly proud to be here in Paris with this group of guys."

Jim Ochowicz: "From day one until Paris we were completely on the offense in the race and we were animating the race. We were focused on the race and never lost our concentration. Throughout all of that we won a stage with Greg, we spent three days in yellow with Greg, we got Richie into fifth place at the end of the race and we were the third best team overall. We won a lot of prizes along the way and we were the best team for 12 days. When you add all of that up and look at what we have been doing compared to our competition, I think everyone has done a great job here and now we've got a great foundation to build on and work from for 2017."

Yvon Ledanois, Sports Director: "I'm really proud to be here in Paris with these eight guys. We can be really happy with the way the guys have raced over the past three weeks. Bad luck aside, fifth place is a good result for Richie, and to have the yellow jersey for three days with Greg was amazing. We had a strong team and this makes us even more motivated for next year."

And finally, here's LottoNL-Jumbo's closing Tour report:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo finished the Tour de France today in Paris with all nine men, including five debutants Dylan Groenewegen, Timo Roosen, Bert-Jan Lindeman, George Bennett and Robert Wagner. Sky’s Chris Froome won the 2016 race over Frenchman Romain Bardet (AG2R). André Greipel won the final stage. Timo Roosen crashed in that stage while Dylan Groenewegen and Maarten Wynants punctured in the decisive part of it.

“It was our goal to win a stage, but we weren’t able to do that,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said. “Beyond that, Dylan Groenewegen did well to finish this Tour. It is beyond all expectations and very strong of him. It’s important for the development of his career. He gained a lot of experience and endurance.

“In the bunch sprints, we showed that we’re not there yet, but we have great potential. The men in the sprint train performed well, but they weren’t immediately able to win a stage in the Tour. Robert Gesink could not start after his crash, so we weren’t able to fill that gap for the stage win.

“Wilco Kelderman had a difficult Tour de France. His first week was good, but after his first crash, he struggled. With his fight in the final weekend, he showed that he’s mentally strong. We backed that up by riding into Paris with five debutants. For a first-time Tour cyclist, that’s special.”

Wilco kelderman

Wilco Kelderman racing in horrible weather the day after his crash.

Dylan Groenewegen agreed. He said, “It’s awesome to finish the Tour de France. I don’t think many people expected me to make it. I feel great about this Tour. I don’t like the mountains, but I managed to ride them a little easier every day. I’m satisfied about some of my sprints, as well. I proved to be able to compete at this level. I still have to learn a lot on the other hand.”

“It went better and better with the lead-out for the sprint,” Sep Vanmarcke added. “We delivered some good result. No superb results, but we don’t have to be too disappointed about that. Personally, I was happy with the stage to the Mont Ventoux. That I managed to finish in the top 10 was beautiful. I enjoyed this Tour. It was the most pleasant one I ever rode.”

Timo Roosen enjoyed the stage to the Mont Ventoux, as well. He said, “That was an awesome experience. It gives me a special feeling to finish my first Tour. It has been three tough weeks, but it was beautiful. I really loved playing such a big role in the lead-out for the sprint. I felt that I was strong. It just should have come out just a little bit better for us, though.”

“We learned so much,” Maarten Wynants explained. “Now we know the level we have to reach. There is a lot of chaos in the Tour and we learned a lot from that. To ride the Tour is different from other races and it’s beautiful to experience that part of our process. I’m glad that I finished this Tour and I’m happy that I’ve been able to do my thing for Dylan’s sprint.”

Paul Martens enjoyed working together in the sprint train, as well. He said, “Personally, I didn’t have much to aim for myself in this Tour. The stages were too hard or too flat, and never suited me. Everything went quite well with Dylan. We work well as a team. We can build on that.”

“Blood, sweat and tears,” Robert Wagner described his first Tour. “A dream came true for me. I finished my first Tour and at the age of 33, I feel like a real cyclist for the first time in my life. I finished the Vuelta  three times and they were very hard, as well. Those grand tours aren’t too different physically, but the Tour de France is special.”

Bert-Jan Lindeman debuted in the Tour, as well. “To ride a grand tour is the most beautiful thing for me,” he explained. “I noticed the difference of level between the Tour and other races. It’s a lot harder to be part of the breakaway. All the riders are at a top level and motivated. I fought for the stage win one day and I would love to come back here to go for it another time.”

“It was a rollercoaster,” George Bennett said. “I’ve had some good moments, bad moments, frustration and successes. This is a learning process. I started with the task to help Wilco, but after his crash in the first week, we changed tactics. I’ve been riding aggressively and gave it all. You learn the most if you approach it like that. I’m very happy with finishing my first Tour.”

Wilco Kelderman had to deal with some disappointments, but recovered to show off in the final days of the race. “I stayed motivated until the end,” he said. “I just wasn’t able to make it into the breakaway too often. I gave it all and fought as much as possible.”

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