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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, May 14, 2016

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

You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six. - Yogi Berra

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Giro d'Italia stage 7 video

Giro d'Italia stage 7 team reports

Lotto-Soudal is having a great Giro. Here's their news:

Cycling's 50 Triumphs and Tragedies

Friday the thirteenth brought a lot of luck to Lotto Soudal as the Belgian cycling team obtained a third stage win in a row in the Giro d’Italia today. André Greipel was the fastest in the seventh stage. He won in a stunning way against Giacomo Nizzolo and Sacha Modolo. It’s the second victory for the Gorilla in this Grand Tour. Greipel is also the new leader in the points classification because of this win.

The speed was very high right from the beginning of the stage. Three riders managed to get away but after the first climb they were already caught by the first part of the peloton, which had been split in three groups. Tim Wellens obtained four points on the summit of that climb and therefore he’s the new leader in the KOM classification. The break of the day was eventually formed, six riders stayed in front for a long time. In the meantime, the three groups in the peloton rejoined and the race eased up. Stefan Küng, the only escapee left, was caught at seven kilometres from the finish as the peloton prepared itself for a mass sprint. The whole team positioned Greipel very well at the front of the peloton and the German won the sprint in a very nice way. It’s the third consecutive victory for Lotto Soudal in this Giro, an incredible performance of the entire team.

Tim Wellens and Andre Greipel

Tim Wellens and André Greipel showing off their classification leaders' jerseys

André Greipel: “After several kilometres, I thought that we would ride with a Grupetto to the finish. The peloton split in three on the first climb and it seemed that the first group had gone clear. But the race eased up as the six escapees got away from that first peloton so the groups came back together. After that, Jelle Vanendert and Pim Ligthart did a great job to control the gap together with the riders of FDJ. There were a few very good riders present in the front group, including Küng. Then, it would depend on how we would survive the final climb. The pace was very high during the final kilometres before the summit, but we had to make sure that the gap wasn’t too big after that climb as the final 40 kilometres of the stage went slightly downhill. Tim Wellens made a great effort by closing the gap to the escapees. After that, Adam, Lars, Sean and Jürgen positioned me really well. It was a tricky finale which contained some dangerous roads; therefore it was extremely important to be at the front of the peloton. I really gave my all in the sprint and that resulted in another victory for the team.”

“It’s the third stage win for the team and the second victory for me in this Giro. In my opinion, that's a rather unique result. It’s true that not everything went according to plan during the first stages in the Netherlands, but we’ve showed that things can change quickly. It’s just fantastic to watch a team that does everything for each other, although most of the riders don’t race together that much. We must be very proud on the performances of the past few days. We also obtained the red points jersey and the blue KOM jersey, which is a nice surplus. Now we will try to maintain this level of racing, but first we are going to enjoy the victories. After that, we’ll see how the race evolves.”

Tim Wellens: “Yesterday, I said that the mountains jersey wasn’t a goal beforehand and that’s still the case. But on the first climb of the day, I saw the riders of Nippo-Vini Fantini pulling at the front of the peloton to position Damiano Cunego as he was the leader in that classification. I was only one point behind so I sprinted for the remaining points on that climb, as I knew that I could get that blue jersey. That wasn’t planned, but I only had to do one effort and then I would be able to wear that jersey for at least one day, so I thought that it was a good idea. I’d rather win a second stage then winning the KOM classification though. We’ll see what will happen during the next few days.”

Bart Leysen: “I never won three consecutive stages as a sports director, certainly not in a Grand Tour. I already said before the start of this Giro that it’s probably the strongest Giro-selection I have ever travelled with. The first days didn’t go according to plan, we couldn’t be satisfied with the results before our departure to Italy. Nevertheless, we didn’t doubt about the abilities of our riders. Besides, only three stages were covered and there were still eighteen stages to go. The past few days, every rider gave his all and then you see how things can change in the professional sport. We won three stages now, which gives an enormous boost to our confidence. I hope that our riders use this positive ‘flow’, we want to show ourselves during the following stages although that isn’t necessary anymore as we already won three stages. Another advantage is that all our riders will have an opportunity to do something in the next few stages, without exception. That’s something you can’t do in every Grand Tour.”

But Etixx-Quick Step had some terrible luck. Here's the team's telling of the tale:

A puncture which occurred with five kilometers to go spelled the end of Marcel Kittel's ambitions in Foligno.

It was only after the first categorized ascent of stage 7 (Sulmona – Foligno, 211 kilometers) that a breakaway snaped the elastic and built a maximum lead of nearly four minutes, following what has been another fast and furious start at the Giro d'Italia. Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF), Stefan Denifl (IAM Cycling), Axel Domont (AG2R), Ilia Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida), Stefan Kung (BMC) and Daniel Martinez (Willier-Southeast) were the men who went up the road, staying together until the top of Valico della Somma. There, Kung attacked and pushed for a gap of one minute, which helped him stay at the front until the last seven kilometers of the stage.

Marcel Kittel

Marcel Kittel winning Giro stage three

After being distanced on the final climb of the day, Marcel Kittel didn't give up and began a frantic chase together with four teammates, in order to return to the peloton led by Cannondale, who was setting a scorching pace. A 30-second gap was scratched off on the descent and the former wearer of the maglia rosa returned to the bunch for the expected bunch finish in Foligno. Unfortunately, Marcel punctured with around 5 kilometers to go and had to change his bike, which meant it was game over for him at that point, as the bunch was riding at more than 55 km/h.

The race for the stage victory started inside the final three kilometers, when it became very crowded at the head of the peloton. Lotto-Soudal set the pace, but FDJ and Orica-GreenEdge made their way and swept past the Belgian side. First to open his sprint was Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge), who then couldn't keep the momentum and didn't even get on the podium at the finish, as Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) came fast from behind, and finished in the top 3, with the German taking the win.

In Kittel's absence, Matteo Trentin was the Etixx – Quick-Step rider to take up the responsability in the closing meters, and the 26-year-old Italian made his way through the bunch on the tricky and technical finish, sprinting to sixth. In the same time as the winner came also Bob Jungels – fourth in the overall classification – who gets to wear the white jersey for at least one more day.

"The stage wasn't easy. We had a very difficult start, more than an hour at full gas and with some bad weather in between. Our plan was to wait and see what will happen on the last climb. We stayed together, worked as a team and really believed in the win, and all these things make up for the positive side of today", said Marcel Kittel in Foligno. "We chased hard and just as the descent was coming to an end, we were already back in the peloton. The final was super fast and I was excellent positioned, with Fabio and Matteo on my side. Unfortunately, the puncture came and the race was over. It's a pity that we were so unlucky, but I still want to congratulate Andre for taking the victory. As I said earlier this week: this is cycling, with great and sometimes not so great moments. After all, today was Friday 13th", Marcel concluded with a smile on his face.

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's stage seven report:

Enrico Battaglin had his chance to sprint in today’s Giro d’Italia stage seven to Foligno and finished fifth. With Moreno Hofland not feeling well, Team LottoNL-Jumbo supported its Italian rider. André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), however, could not be stopped from seizing his second victory.

The stage began with a fight for the mountain classification points. “The pace was high immediately, but we were expecting that, actually,” Sports Director Jan Boven said. “The peloton broke into six groups and Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk were in the first group. After fifty kilometres, everything was back together, already.”

Team LottoNL-Jumbo prepared for the bunch sprint, but with a changed hierarchy because Hofland said he was not feeling strong with 60 kilometres remaining.

“We decided to change tracks,” Boven continued. “Enrico Battaglin is able to deliver a good bunch sprint, as well. Jos van Emden reacted on that and brought him to a good position with 1.5 kilometres to go. Enrico had to finish it off by himself afterwards.”

“It was my first time competing in a bunch sprint in this Giro, but it went well,” Battaglin added. “I’m satisfied with the result, but it was a strange sprint with many turns. I think that it was in my advantage, that many of the sprinters had to do it by themselves because of that. I tried to get into the wheel of one of the top sprinters and finished fifth in the end. I’m happy with that result.”

Saturday’s stage is going to be an interesting one with the partly unpaved climb to the Alpe di Poti in the final part of the race. “Steven and I went there at the end of January to recon this stage,” Boven said. “We know what we can expect. You have to be very focussed these days. The final 25 kilometres are tough and it’s going to be a beautiful stage to watch on television.”

Tinkoff sent me this stage seven review:

After a hard day on the first mountain stage, today’s profile would have been a welcome sight for riders. While the 211km stage started with a second category climb, the remainder of the route was relatively flat, with a lot of the course running gently downhill. Yesterday’s uphill finish gave way today to a flat run to the end of the stage, meaning this would be one for the sprinters.

While the stage was marked as one that would likely finish as a bunch sprint, this didn’t stop an early breakaway going for glory. Jay McCarthy joined an early attack with two others, but the pace in the peloton was already very fast, with riders dropping off the back even at this early stage of the race. Despite building a lead of up to a minute, Jay and his group were soon reeled back in before the top of the Svolte di Popoli climb.

From the finish, Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, gave an insight into how the stage unfolded. “From the gun after 11km we had a second category climb and Jay was there in a small break, but behind the bunch went full gas, which caught them and also split the peloton. The front group was down to about 50 riders but Rafal was here with three or four teammates so we were in a good situation. It was also good to see Jay try to take his chances.”

The front split wasn't in a mood to hang around as it continued to press on at the front of the race before eventually another break went clear – this time a group of six. This was to be the day’s breakaway, building an advantage of 2’30” after 90km of racing. The gap remained slim as the run in to the fourth category Valico della Somma gave the sprinters a chance to rejoin the peloton, having been left behind on the earlier climb. Hoffman was pleased with how the team worked together to regroup and stay together when the peloton began to split. “After the descent a break went and everything came back together, but it was good to see the boys stayed together and when it split we had numbers there.”

On the descent of the stage’s last climb, one of the breakaway, with just under 30km left to race, attacked to go clear, shortly before the remainder of the break was swallowed up by the chasing peloton. While a brave effort, the break was pulled in 7.5km before the finish, and the sprinters’ teams began jostling for position at the front of the peloton. While the aim wasn’t to contest the sprint, Tinkoff jerseys were there at the front, ensuring Rafal Majka was delivered to the finish safely. The Tinkoff leader was the first home in 30th position, along with Pawel Poljanski and Ivan Rovny, in 31st and 38th respectively, with the same time as the bunch.

Hoffman was happy with the day’s outcome after a fast-paced end to the stage. “The final climb was quite steady and not a lot happened there - the pace was high but it didn't cause any problems and after that the roads were wide on the run to the finish. They stayed at the front and out of trouble then towards the final they spent some energy to keep Rafal at the front. All in all I'm happy with how the stage went.”

The team’s leader, Rafal Majka, was pleased too with how the race panned out. “It was a long and tough stage where we had to be focused at all times. Still, the squad did a great job in bringing me safely in the main group. It was important to stay safe and avoid losing time to the main GC contenders. I'd like to thank them for their efforts not only today but throughout the first seven stages of the Giro. I feel in good shape but we still have a long way until the finish in Turin.”

Tomorrow sees the Giro take on another flat stage for the majority before a sting in the tail. While the riders will have a fairly easy start to the 186km route, the second category Alpe di Poti has the potential to tear the stage apart, falling 20km from the finish and with a fast run in afterwards, while the gravel sector will create a challenge for riders in staying upright. A sharp 11% climb in the last kilometre may still catch riders out, creating an opportunity for a shake-up of the GC standings. As Hoffman explained from the finish, the stage is not without its challenges. “We've got a serious climb in the finale with some gravel roads. We will see if we try to put somebody in the break tomorrow - I believe it will be another GC test tomorrow. The gravel roads will be very tough if the weather isn't good but I believe Rafal is more than ready as is the rest of the team.”

And finally, here's Team Dimension Data's Giro stage seven update:

Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) won the 7th stage of the Giro d’Italia after beating Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Segafredo) and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) in the mass sprint finish in Foligno. Once again, Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) had no problem in retaining the overall race lead.

For Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka the stage was all about supporting Kristian Sbaragli during today’s 211km stage. 6 riders went up the road, forming the break of the day. They were not allowed much leeway at all and the sprinters teams were not going to let an opportunity pass them by with not all that many sprint stages remaining.

Kristian Sbaragli

Kristian Sbaragli winning 2015 Vuelta stage 10

The only point of concern for the pure sprinters was the category 4 climb that would summit with 40km to go. It was here that our African Team tried to play one of its cards by putting the team on the front in order to put some of the big name sprinters into difficulty, with Sbaragli not having a problem to get over such climbs. The plan almost worked as Kittel was distanced but with there being a tailwind on the climb, the difference was not all that significant and the race came back together.

The riders up front in the break were also, as expected, reeled in by the charging peloton and a sprint finale would decide the stage. Sbaragli went into the last kilometer in a pretty good position, being 7th wheel. As the road veered to the right, Greipel pulled away to take a strong win. Sbaragli who was 6th with 50m to go, didn’t have much space in front of him to move up while the riders who flanked him were able to just nudge ahead. Our Italian ended the stage in 11th place, while you could throw a blanket over position 4 thru 16. Kanstantsin Siutsou was able to gain a place on the general classification and moved up to 9th overall, when he placed himself on the right side of a small split that happened in the final kilometer.

Kristian Sbaragli – Rider: "It was quite a long stage and we tried to make the final climb as hard as we could. It was bit too easy, the climb. Everybody was able to come back before the finish. I had quite a good position but it’s possible that I was a little too far back in the final corner and the finish was right after the corner. I wasn’t able to sprint for a top result, so I am a bit disappointed but we look forward to the next stages."

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