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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, May 13, 2016

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

Say what you will about the ten commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them. - H. L. Mencken

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Giro d'Italia stage 6 video

Giro d'Italia stage 6 team reports

We'll start with Lotto-Soudal's, team of stage winner Tim Wellens:

Tim Wellens managed to win the sixth stage in the Giro d’Italia, his first victory in a Grand Tour. The speed was very high right from the beginning of the stage, three riders set up a break after about twenty kilometres. In the descent of the first climb of the day, the pace increased in the peloton and therefore the lead of the escapees went down really fast. At 70 kilometres from the finish, Pim Ligthart, Tim Wellens and Laurent Didier accelerated in the peloton. The three attackers bridged the gap to Zhupa and Bisolti, the two remaining escapees. The advantage of the five leaders increased steadily and they got a maximum lead of almost nine minutes.

At fifteen kilometres from the finish, Tim Wellens attacked in the front group. Pim Ligthart, who did a great effort to maintain the lead, was already dropped at that moment. The chasers tried to bridge the gap to Wellens, but he gave a strong impression. In the meantime a few attempts were made in the GC group. Tim Wellens wasn’t threatened anymore and the young Belgian won the stage in an impressive way. It’s the second victory in a row for Lotto Soudal in this Giro. At the end, Tom Dumoulin put pressure on his competitors and therefore he extends his lead on GC.

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens wins Giro stage 6

Tim Wellens: “Yesterday, the team delivered a great performance to lead André Greipel to the victory. That’s why we said before this stage that several riders could take it easy today. I suggested that I would join a break if the circumstances would allow that. Three riders had gone clear from the peloton and in the descent two riders stayed in front. Together with Pim Ligthart and with the approval of Tom Dumoulin I decided to bridge the gap to the two leaders; Laurent Didier joined us. We were able to close that gap quickly. There wasn’t immediately a reaction in the peloton and the front group worked well together so our lead increased. Pim really did a great job today and he totally sacrificed himself to enlarge the gap.”

“Lampre-Merida and Orica-GreenEdge pulled at the front of the peloton for a while, but yet we were able to start the final climb with a comfortable lead. I didn’t know for sure whether I had the best legs in the front group or not, but I did know that the difference had to be made on the steepest part of the climb, which was situated in the beginning. I accelerated at fifteen kilometres from the finish after Didier tried to get away. After that, the most important thing was to maintain the pace. There were a few attempts in the peloton but they were unable to close the gap. In that way I managed to stay ahead.”

“This victory is fantastic of course. Our goal in this Giro was to obtain a stage win. Yesterday our efforts paid off in an impressive way with André. It would be amazing if I were able to win a stage myself and to do that in such way, is just incredible. I don’t win a lot of races, but I think that my victories can count. Tomorrow, we will again try to go for the sprint with André. We’ll see if there will be any opportunities for me during the coming two weeks."

Tinkoff sent me this update:

Tinkoff’s leader at the Giro d’Italia, Rafal Majka, put in a strong ride today, showing he’s in good form and ready to challenge for the podium in Italy. On the race’s first mountain stage, the profile was up and down all the way, with no flat spots on which to recover. On the uphill finish on the second category Roccaraso climb, the Polish rider attacked late on in a bit to take time from his rivals, finishing ninth on the stage and moving up to 12th in the GC.

The first mountain stage brought a higher level of suffering to the Giro d’Italia today. The 157km stage crossed two second category climbs – the Bocca della Selva and the Roccaraso.  While not the most fearsome climbs the Giro will face this year, the contrast with the flat or undulating profiles of the previous stages was stark, with the peaks dominating the parcours.

From the start of the stage, the attacks came thick and fast, and while it took a few attempts for a break to form, these early attacks fractured the peloton, making it harder for the group to stall the escapees. After 20km, a small group escaped up the road, forming the break of the day, quickly building a gap of six minutes over the peloton.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka at last year's Vuelta

As rain clouds formed overhead and conditions, for a time, became damp and slippery, the peloton allowed the break to go. Several teams took it in turns to control the pace. With 74km remaining, the breakaway was down to two riders, and their gap was falling. This slowing at the front enabled a chasing group to form, bridging to the two at the front and forming a group of five. With this small group having caught the break, the five worked together to increase their lead on the peloton. Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, was more concerned with what was to come later. “The concentration for us today was on the last part of the race. We missed the move that went across to the original break, but the guys rallied around Rafal well and set him up for the last climb.”

The aim was to stay relaxed, and to wait until the final climb, which meant staying safe until then, as Hoffman explained. “Early on, the first climb was steady. The break was up the road, so that was quite controlled, but over the top of the climb it was wet and quite dangerous and Movistar went full gas over the top and down the descent, which split the bunch, but again Rafal was there. Everything came back together after the downhill so there was no real stress.”

With 20km remaining, the final climb of the day loomed on the horizon, and the sprinters, who had been so visible in the earlier stages of the race, began to be dropped by the peloton.  As the peloton ascended the Roccaraso, splits began to form, with more riders being distanced, and others attacking off the front to try and close the gap on the escapees. With 6km to the finish, there were four small groups ahead of the peloton, with an overall advantage of almost five minutes.

It was at that point that the peloton started to up the pace, knowing that the riders up the road had the potential to impact on the GC standings. A fast and hectic finish ensued, with attacks from the peloton to try and bridge the gap to reduce time losses and create gaps on rivals. As the solo stage winner crossed the line, the race was still very much on behind, and a late attack from Rafal saw him put some time into his rivals, and earnt him a top ten finish, taking ninth, which also saw him move up in the GC, into 12th position.

Hoffman was pleased with Rafal and the team’s performance, racing until the very end of the stage. “He missed the moment when Dumoulin attacked, which is a shame as I think he had the legs today, but then in the final he tried and showed that he's riding well. There was a tough head wind at the finish, which slowed him up, but it was a nice move. It was good to see that the boys hung in there for a long time today which is good for the coming stages - they've got good legs and this will be important on the tough stages to come.”

Stage 7 sees the race follow a more gentle profile. The 211km route covers two categorised climbs, the hardest, a second category, early on in the stage, before crossing a fourth category a little over 40km from the finish. A long descent to the finish in Foligno means this is another stage that will suit the sprinters, with plenty of time to regroup before the finish. Hoffman was clear that the objective would be to stay safe, unless an opportunity presented itself. “Tomorrow should be more for the sprinters so other teams should take up the responsibility, and for us it will be another day to stay out of trouble and look after Rafal. If there's a good opportunity for a breakaway, we will see, but we don't want to needlessly waste energy.”

I got this from LottoNL-Jumbo:

Everything is still going according to plan for Steven Kruijswijk after the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia, the first with a mountain top finish. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s leader finished 11th and maintained his fifth position in the general classification. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) won the stage.

“Everything went as planned for Steven Kruijswijk,” Sports Director Addy Engels said. “You’re never sure about your level before the first mountain stage, but we’re looking strong. It’s good to see that Primoz Roglic, after recovering from his crash for two days, was again at his level. He stayed with Steven until the final four kilometres. If he’s able to hold that, he will be very useful for Steven in this Giro. That relaxes Steven, and that’s important.”

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk

Kruijswijk already said after the fourth stage that he profited from the confidence of his team-mates. “Today, the team brought him to the right position,” Engels continued. “We planned to be in front on the descent to the final climb and we succeeded. Our men sacrificed for Steven in that part and Primoz supported him afterwards.”

“The way the team is riding together is great,” Kruijswijk added. “All the guys are very strong and I never have to deliver too much. That makes it a lot easier for me. I have to do it by myself in the final part of the race and I feel good about the way I did so today. The only thing that I can blame myself for is that I wasn’t attentive enough when Tom Dumoulin (Giant - Alpecin) attacked. It wasn’t as steep at the end of the climb so I didn’t want to spend too much power on that part of the climb. I was expecting Astana to bridge towards the group with Dumoulin, as well. The damage isn’t too big anyway, so I’m satisfied about today.”

Friday’s stage seems to be another chance for the sprinters. “There is a fourth categorised climb with 40 kilometres to go, but it goes across a very broad road,” Engels explained. “It won’t be too difficult to control the race so it should end up in a bunch sprint.”

And here's the Etixx-Quick Step Giro stage six news:

Bob Jungels arrived with the main bunch on stage 6 and remained in the top 10 of the general classification for the sixth day in a row.

First summit finish of the 99th Giro d'Italia came on Thursday, at Roccaraso, which was returning to the race after a 29-year hiatus. The stage, which included one more categorized climb before the arrival, welcomed the riders with rain, fog and low temperatures, and was animated in its opening half by three riders Alessandro Bisolti (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Alexandr Kolobnev (Gazprom-RusVelo) and Eugert Zhupa (Willier-Southeast) – who took six minutes before hitting the first ramps of the day. On the climb and the descent, Movistar came to the fore and led the way for the peloton, which reduced the handicap to under a minute before eventually easing up the pace.

As soon as this happened, Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo), Pim Ligthart and Tim Wellens (both from Lotto-Soudal) took off and needed just a couple of kilometers to bridge to the break, which then extended its lead to more than eight minutes with around 40 kilometers left. At that moment it became clear that the escape will play for the win, and hostilities began soon on the 17-km long Roccaraso, as Didier launched an explosive attack on the 7% gradients. The Luxembourg rider faded in the next kilometer, and was caught and distanced by Tim Wellens, who then soloed to the win.

From the peloton, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Kanstantsin Siuton (Dimension Data) made their move and put 40 seconds between them and the chasers, but in the last two kilometers some reacted and began firing their attacks. As a result, in a matter of no time, Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) bridged across and rode a steady pace to increase the gap. In the end, Fuglsang and Zakarin were the ones to round out the podium, 1:19 behind the winner, while the peloton followed a handful of seconds later.

That group also included Bob Jungels, the Luxembourg champion who is riding the Giro d'Italia for the first time in his career and has been in the GC top 10 since the opening day, which scheduled a short invididual time trial. Although he lost some time on the challenging ramps of Roccaraso, Bob showed that he can stay with the best on a mountain top finish and extended his lead in the best young riders classification, which means that he will go into Friday's stage (Sulmona – Foligno, 211 kilometers) with a margin of 1:16 over second placed Davide Formolo (Cannondale).

Bob Jungels

Bob Jungels at the start of Giro stage 5

One of the eight riders to join Etixx – Quick-Step in the winter, the 23-year-old victory opened his account in the blue and black kit of the team with a stage victory at the Tour of Oman, followed shortly by a GC podium in Tirreno-Adriatico; now, the Giro is a new step in Bob's career, with the performances he got underlining once again the potential and versatility that were there for everyone to see since he was competing in the amateur races.

"It's been a really hard day. I was quite ok with the rain in the beginning, only thing that I found awkward was the super strong rhythm the bunch had on the first ascent. Then, because of the rain and the fog, it became very dangerous on the downhill, but I overcame also that hurdle. In the last 20 kilometers, we hit the climb at a very fast pace and I felt that I wasn't having my best day, the cold being the reason behind this. The result I got is a pretty good one and I am satisfied with it. I gained some time on the other riders in the white jersey rankings and also kept my place in the top 5 of the general classification. Now the next goal is to do a good time trial on Saturday", said Bob, who's riding only his third Grand Tour.

Lotto-Soudal for Tour de Picardie

Here's the team's news release:

From Friday 13 May 2016 till Sunday 15 May the 70th edition of the Tour de Picardie will take place. The peloton will cover three stages through the northwest of France. All stages have a rather flat profile and therefore this stage race, which is part of the Europe Tour, will give a few opportunities to the sprinters.

The first stage starts in Chaumont-en-Vexin. After that the riders need to cover about 180 kilometres which includes two hills. At the end two local laps of twenty kilometres are scheduled. This stage will most likely offer a first opportunity to the sprinters. Stage two has a similar profile, although three climbs need to be surmounted. Again, the riders need to cover two local laps before they reach the finish line. A tough hill is situated in the finale and the outcome of the stage depends on how the sprinters will deal with this obstacle. The third and final stage takes the riders from Saint-Quentin to Guise. Three hills are situated on the course, of which the final one is at about fifteen kilometres from the finish. Yet again, a local lap needs to be covered.

Lotto Soudal participates with a Classics line-up in this stage race. Jens Debusschere will ride his first race after his crash in Ghent-Wevelgem. But also Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst and Marcel Sieberg will come back in competition after a rest period. Sports director Marc Wauters gives a preview.

Marc Wauters: “It’s the first time that I’m doing the Tour de Picardie as a sports director. This race is traditionally a sprint fest and also this year I expect such outcome, especially when the weather is nice. But the weather forecast for the coming weekend is not so good. A real bunch sprint can be avoided when there’s a lot of wind on the course. It will depend on the direction of the wind of course, but maybe there will be a chance to form echelons. Our team is very good at riding in echelons, it already proved that in the Tour of Turkey. If the wind is absent, the stages will most likely end with a mass sprint finish. The strength of this team is that it’s able to perform well in both situations. We have some strong riders like Frederik Frison, Tiesj Benoot and Jelle Wallays who can ride aggressively, but we can also wait for a sprint with Jens Debusschere, Kris Boeckmans or Jasper De Buyst. The tactic will be decided during the race.”

“In my opinion, we go with a very strong team to France. A few riders are coming back in competition after a long rest period, it will depend on how the legs will be in the race. We have three leaders for the sprint. All of them are very good riders and they’re able to get nice results. Kris really dominated this race last year by winning two stages and obtaining the overall victory. It would be great if he’s able to win a stage this year, but we can’t expect too much. We’ll decide during the race who’ll participate in the sprint. The rider who has the best feeling will have the chance to sprint. The other riders are professional enough to know how to deal with that and they’ll need to help the leader. The most important thing is that the team takes the victory.”

“We have also Marcel Sieberg in our team, he’s someone who has a great amount of experience. He will be our team captain and he’ll also help when a decision needs to be made. Marcel is a true leader and he knows what to do in what situation. We aren’t always able to handle quickly from the team car so it’s very useful to have someone like him in the team. At certain moments, Marcel can take the lead and motivate the team. I think that Cofidis will be the main competitor with their sprinter Nacer Bouhanni. They’ll certainly try to go for a stage win, but this can also be an advantage, as we will have an ally if an attack needs to be neutralized. I’m sure that our team will be able to show something during these three days.”

Roster Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Kris Boeckmans, Stig Broeckx, Jasper De Buyst, Jens Debusschere, Frederik Frison, Marcel Sieberg and Jelle Wallays.

Sports directors: Marc Wauters and Kurt Van de Wouwer.

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary