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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, May 21, 2016

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

Fairies, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on top of the disheveled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.  - William Butler Yeats, from "The Land of Heart's Desire"

Doesn't every cyclist feel like he's dancing upon the mountains like a flame when he's having a good day?

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Giro d'Italia stage 13 video, May 20

Giro d'Italia stage 13 team reports

We'll start with race leader Andrey Amador's Movistar team update:

Flying through the TT course in Apeldoorn, supporting Valverde into the 'sterrato' of Alpe di Poti, suffering under the rain in the Chianti hills, making a prodigious descent of the Pian del Falco... and today, in the prelude to the big Dolomites mountains of the weekend, Andrey Amador became the first rider ever from Costa Rica to wear the Maglia Rosa. Perseverance has been the key to the biggest success of Andrey so far. Full constance and commitment have brought the Movistar Team to the top of the Giro d'Italia, thanks to the rider they relied on when they signed them seven years ago.

Stage thirteen of the 2016 'Corsa Rosa' will not only be remembered by Andrey's overall lead, but also thanks to a fantastic performance from the Blues, which got three of their members into an early, massive breakaway (25 members) through the climb of Montemaggiore (Cat-1): José Joaquín Rojas, Jasha Sütterlin and Carlos Betancur. Into the group containing race leader Bob Jungels (EQS), José Herrada suffocated any further moves, while Alejandro Valverde and Andrey Amador tested the legs of both the pink jersey and the astana team. Both the Blues and Vincenzo Nibali's squad put Jungels' consistency into jeopardy until the Luxembourg rider cracked in the last climb, Valle (Cat-2). Ahead, Visconti –who took energies from nowhere to keep fighting, after a serious crash against Cunego (NIP) in Montemaggiore- fought to keep chasing Mikel Nieve (SKY) until the very end, finishing in 2nd place.

Back at the favourites' group, and with Amador virtually in pink, Nibali pipped Valverde over the line to take the last four seconds' bonus and overtaking the Spanish road race champion (now 4th, behind Andrey and Jungels) before the Dolomites. The Queen stage of the Giro d'Italia  -210km on Saturday, with six big climbs in the second part of the route from Alpago to Corvara- will see the Movistar Team wearing pink, with two men fighting for overall glory and a reinforced lead in the teams' classification.

Andrey Amador

New maglia rosa Andrey Amador

Andrey Amador: "It's a dream. And I wasn't even expecting to take pink on this stage, after I had attacked many times to seek for it during the week. I might not keep it for as a long as I'd have liked, but that's why we have Alejandro in the team: he's a super strong rider and we will support him with everything we've got, as it was our plan. We knew today's was going to be an important stage, the first real approach into the mountains. We were sort of expecting attacks when it came to the GC fight, yet we wanted to get into the break to stay calm, and both Visco, José Joaquín and Jasha fulfilled that task in the best possible way. Alejandro proved to be impressively strong on the climbs; I kept my own pace and always stayed with the main field, but into the final climb of Valle, I just lacked a bit of energy, a couple of kilometers before the summit, when I lost contact. Still, and knowing myself well, I knew I could bridge back into the descent to wear this jersey.

"I'm so happy to have got to this point. I'm not a pure climber by any means; that's why I consider this as a tremendous feat, which I'm really proud of. The most important thing for the team is keeping all chances intact with Alejandro for the overall. Tomorrow's stage will be one of the hardest in this Giro, the real key to the race together with Sunday's mountain TT. For the time being, we must remain thinking day-by-day, enjoy the moment and wear this pink jersey with pride; it's something massive for my career. Costa Rica is a small country, yet with a big heart. When there's only one 'tico' supporting me in a race, it feels as if they were hundred. This jersey is a tribute to all of them. They've always supporting me, no matter if results were good or bad, and I just hope this serves as a boost of confidence for all the youngsters in our country: we're talented enough to be up here with the top guys in Europe."

Here's Tinkoff's Giro news:

Four imposing climbs dominated the profile of today’s mountain stage. The first two would tire riders, while the final two would be a deciding factor in the race for the GC. After 170km riding with the GC contenders and with strong support from his teammates, Rafal Majka contested a sprint among his rivals, taking fifth position after a long and tough day in the mountains. Rafal ends the day holding sixth position in the GC standings, with eight stages still left to race.

While the Giro has had mountain stages earlier in this year’s race, today saw the most challenging so far. The 170km route took in four categorised climbs, with two first category and two second category to cross during the course of the day. The parcours was perfect for attacks, with the second set of climbs a potential launch pad for a breakaway before the fast and technical run in to the finish.

From the start, the pace was relentless. The conditions were perfect for a day in the mountains and this showed in the way the early stages of the race were tackled by the riders. In spite of early attacks, the peloton was fiercely pulling these breaks in as soon as they’d started. After nearly forty-five minutes of racing however, a break went – and it was a big one. More than thirty riders – including Manuele Boaro – made their way off the front, and due to the sheer numbers involved, were able to work together to draw out an advantage on the peloton. Moments later, another attack came from the front of the break, and a solo rider went away, with 113km still to go to the finish, but having gained what looked to be a decent advantage, was caught by the breakaway group around 25km later.

In spite of the action further up the road, the peloton was relaxed about the advantage of the breakaway. With most teams having riders up the road, there was every chance the GC contenders in the peloton would use their teammates to bridge to the break and launch an attack later in the stage. An attack from Team Sky from the front of the breakaway was looking strong however, and a solo win was increasingly likely.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka riding the stage nine time trial

In the peloton, Rafal Majka was looking calm and confident. He’d remained with his GC rivals throughout the stage, even as the Maglia Rosa and other GC contenders were dropped. Having dropped back from the break, Rafal had teammate Manuele Boaro to protect him and work with him on the climbs. As the group hit the Cima Porzus and the road hit gradients of 16% on increasingly narrow roads, Rafal looked comfortable and in control, with no signs of suffering even on the steeper sections of the route. With 17km to go, the Maglia Rosa cracked and began to be distanced by the peloton – and while there was every chance of regaining time on the descent, it looked increasingly likely that there would be a new race leader at the end of a difficult stage.

The support of the team has been a key feature in this year’s race, supplementing Rafal’s strong GC performance, as Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman observed from the finish. “Manuele dropped back after it started to heat up behind so he could help Rafal over the third climb and into the last one. It was good to have him there also to help Rafal stay calm. Rafal is definitely growing into the race - he started off quite nervous but he's more confident in himself now and he can keep progressing here after taking back more time on some in front on the GC today.”

Riding in support of Rafal as well today was Evgeny Petrov, who had crashed on stage 11. While in some pain, Evgeny rode well and he stayed in the group with Rafal for a considerable length of time, supporting his team leader.

At the front of the peloton, the GC attacks started, first from Vincenzo Nibali of Astana. In his element on the final descent, the Italian rider was unable to shake Rafal, who marked him perfectly and held his wheel on the twisting and technical roads, and as the terrain levelled out, the Tinkoff leader was still decidedly among the GC contenders. With less than 5km to go, there was just under two minutes to the solo breakaway rider, who in turn had a minute on the remainder of the break.

As the Team Sky rider crossed the finish line, all eyes turned to the chasing GC riders, who were battling for the Maglia Rosa. The pace in the GC group surged, leading to a sprint finish. Rafal crossed the line in fifth position after a strong ride.

Hoffman was pleased that the stage panned out close to the team’s strategy. “It was an exciting day today and a good one for us as everything worked out well. We wanted to get a rider in the big move early on either to go for the stage or to help Rafal later on and Manuele did this perfectly. Then behind the others were looking good with five guys still in the front split after the race exploded on the first climb.”

After the stage, Rafal was pleased with his performance, and how his teammates supported him on one of the toughest stages of the race so far. "It was a very tough stage but I think we did a very good job. I feel my form getting better each and every day and in the final climb I was really strong. The team overall and Manuele Boaro in particular did an excellent job and I would like to thank them for the effort they put in to support me."

Tomorrow's 14th stage is both long and challenging, with seven incredibly tough climbs over a 210km course. The first 95km ride steadily upwards, before climbing five categorised climbs in quick succession. With no time to rest before tackling the final two climbs, there’s a high chance of a late attack for time on the GC, before the descent into the finish in Corvara. Rafal was looking ahead, both to tomorrow’s stage, but also the week still to come before the race’s finish. “As I have been saying from the start of the Giro, it is a long race and we have to fight until the very finish in Turin. There are still a number of difficult stages ahead and we will adapt our strategy every day."

Ahead of tomorrow’s tough stage, Hoffman was looking for a repeat of today’s strategy, owing to the similarity between the two stages. “Tomorrow is going to be another hard day, with a longer climb at the start but then later on it is quite similar to today, with a first and then second category climb, with a descent to finish. We will take a similar approach to today and be ready to race from the front.”

After a tough stage, Rafal was still confident ahead of a final tough week of racing. "The podium is the goal in this Giro but we face some strong rivals. Nibali and Valverde have shown they are in very good form so far and it will certainly be an exciting battle all the way through."

LottoNL-Jumbo sent me this Giro news:

Steven Kruijswijk maintained his fifth place overall in the Giro d’Italia’s 13th stage today to Cividale del Friuli. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s leader relied on his team-mates through most of the stage and then fought with the other classification stars, closing seventh in the behind stage winner Mikel Nieve (Team Sky). Andrey Amador (Movistar) took over the pink jersey lead.

“The team did a great job,” Sports Director Addy Engels said. “We made the breakaway with Maarten Tjallingii and Enrico Battaglin, but it was too hard for Maarten to stay there. We survived the first climb with five riders, so Steven Kruijswijk was covered by four of his team-mates.”

Those team-mates delivered Kruijswijk to the foot of the penultimate climb, mainly supported by Primoz Roglic. Twan Castelijns gave him food and drinks on top of the second climb. “The team gave Steven everything he needed today,” Engels continued. “And when it was his turn, he showed his superb level.”

Steven kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk

“I was always in the right place,” Kruijswijk explained. “My team-mates helped me well when they could. Enrico Battaglin came back from the breakaway just at the right time. He was able to recover one moment and reacted strongly to an attack by Vincenzo Nibali afterwards. On a moment like that, you notice how important it is to have someone around you. In the final part of the stage, I was riding at my limit, but I think the others were, too.

“Nibali gives it all in his attempts to break away, but he doesn’t get the space he’s hoping for. That’s a sign. The six or seven of us are very close to each other when it goes uphill.”

The only setback was that Team LottoNL-Jumbo sprinter Moreno Hofland abandoned. “He was just having a bad day and wasn’t able to find a group of riders to get along with on the first climb of the day,” Engels said. “He quit his fight in the feeding zone and got in the car.”

On Saturday, the riders face six climbs during the queen stage of the Giro d’Italia. “It’s going to be a very tough stage,” Engels added. “We’re familiar with this area, all those climbs are heavy. Steven is still in a great position and the differences between the top riders are only getting smaller. That means that the main competitors are very close to each other.”

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