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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, August 24, 2017

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Wisdom is oftentimes nearer when we stoop than when we soar. - William Wordsworth

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Vuelta a España stage five team reports

We posted the organizer's stage five report here.

Stage winner Alexey Lutsenko's Astana team posted this report:

It has been an incredible day in Spain for the Astana Pro Team at La Vuelta.

The fifth stage of the 2017 edition has been won by the Kazakh talent, Alexey Lutsenko, who entered in the breakaway at the beginning of the stage, attacked with other two riders at 30 km to go and then distanced the last one who survived at his rhythm when the last climb to the finish line was starting, at 3 km to go.

“I’m super super happy!” said Lutsenko after the finish. “I pushed so hard on the pedals the entire day – continued the Kazakh –and in the final I gave everything I had on the final climb… I prepared very cautiously this Vuelta, after my bad fall at the Tour de France I wanted to demonstrate what I can really do.”

“The final climb was not long but I’m not a climber so I wanted to start it all alone at the front and for this reason I attacked immediately before the climb – explained Lutsenko – it has been a very great day!”.

For Lutsenko this is the first stage victory in a grand tour.

Alexey Lutsenko

Alexey Lutsenko wins Vuelta stage five

From behind the breakaway there was some fight among the GC contenders and in this ‘explosive’ final our captain for the GC, Fabio Aru, was able to contain the gap from the Leader at 11 seconds only, finishing 20th on the finish line.

In the GC Aru kept the 7th position at 49 seconds from the British, Christopher Froome.

Tomorrow, sixth stage of La Vuelta 2017, from Vila-Real to Sagunt, 204.4 km and 2600 meters of positive drop: there will be several difficult climb (not long but steep) but normally the GC contenders should not fight for the stage victory.

Here's what Dimension Data had to say about the day's racing:

Alexey Lutsenko (Team Astana) won stage 5 of the Vuelta a Espana while our young Eritrean, Merhawi Kudus put in an incredible ride to place 2nd on the stage. Marc Soler (Movistar) rounded out the podium in 3rd while Chris Froome (Team Sky) retained the overall lead.

Stage 5 of the Vuelta a Espana was an incredibly difficult 175km from Benicassim to Alcossebre. The riders had to contend with 5 categorised climbs on another scorcher of day, where the centigrade averaged in the mid to high 30’s. From the start, there was a number of attacks and Merhawi Kudus found the right move for Team Dimension Data and made the all-important break of the day.

Kudus was joined by 16 other riders to form a strong group, one which Team Sky kept close tabs on initially as the gap was held between 2 and 3 minutes for most the day. Kudus and his breakaway mates pushed on and eventually the gap grew. The decisive moment in the stage came just as the penultimate climb of the day was completed with 50km to go. Marco Haller (Katusha) attacked the break as the descent started and Lutesenko and Matej Mohric (UAE Emirates) bridged across on the downhill.

Kudus’ chasing group was not working well together and the gap started to grow to the leaders. Eventually they began attacking one another, trying to get rid of the passengers. 4 riders went clear on the long valley road that led to the final climb of the day, Kudus included. Mohric dropped from the leading group and was soon caught by the Kudus chase group.

Merhawi Kusdus

Merhawi Kudus on his way to second place.

With 11km to go, Kudus and Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale) rode away from their chasing counterparts, in hot pursuit of Haller and Lutsenko. At this stage the peloton was well out of contention at over 6 minutes back.

Our slight Eritrean climber and Gougeard started the final 3km climb 40 seconds behind the leading duo and almost immediately, Lutesenko dropped Haller and Kudus dropped Gougeard as the road pointed upwards. Kudus flew into 2nd place on the road but Lutsenko was riding well to keep his advantage. In the end, the climb was not long enough for Kudus to claw back Lutsenko, but a courageous ride nonetheless from our 23-year-old Eritrean saw him finish 2nd on the stage.

In not so positive news our Algerian champion, Youcef Reguigui, also fell ill today and was not able to complete the stage.

Merhawi Kudus – Rider: "It was quite hard to be in the breakaway today, spending over 4 hours in the wind and then having to finish on a very steep climb like that. There was a headwind most of the day but luckily, we were a lot of guys in the break so we could keep the gap over the peloton. On the 2nd last climb the attacking started, it wasn’t very steep so it didn’t suit me but I just followed as best I could. Having to chase those 2 guys on a flat road before the last steep climb was really difficult. I am very happy with 2nd position though, I am motivated to take another opportunity now."

Cannondale-Drapac is having a good Vuelta with Davide Villella in polka-dots. Here's their update:

Davide Villella successfully defended his lead in the Vuelta a España King of the Mountain classification on Wednesday. The Italian was part of a 17-rider breakaway that formed before the first of five categorized climbs on stage five and picked up maximum points on all but one climb.

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) soloed to victory after attacking out of the breakaway. Villella was the last of the riders from the original escape to reach the summit finish in 12th place.

“I focused most of my energy on the mountain points,” said Villella. “Perhaps because of that I was not as brilliant in the final as I wanted and hoped.”

Davide Villella

Davide Villella scooping up more mountains points.

The effort to scoop up mountain points was effort well-spent. Villella started the stage with 12 points in the King of the Mountain classification, a two-point advantage over Alexandre Geniez (AG2R La Mondiale) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal). By stage end, he had claimed an additional 18 points and opened up his lead to 19 points over Caja Rural’s Lluís Mas. It’s numerically impossible for Villella to lose the jersey on stage six.

Wednesday’s stage included three category two climbs and two category three climbs. Villella was among the nine early escapees by the time the race hit the Alto del Desierto de las Palmas at 16 kilometers. The group swelled to include 17 riders before the top, where Villella pocketed five points.

Mas provided the strongest challenge to Villella on each of the categorized climbs but proved no match for the King of the Mountain. “It was easier than expected to get into the breakaway even if it was tough at first, but the peloton left enough room for a large escape,” said Villella. “All the climbs have been tough, and the heat has played a large role in energy levels.”

The break fractured on the descent following the Alto de la Serratella, the fourth climb, with 50 kilometers still to race. By then, Villella had not only secured his spot atop the KOM classification for another stage but extended his stint in the the blue-and-white-spotted jersey through Thursday’s stage six as well.

Behind Villella, action began to heat up in the peloton with Sky setting a fierce tempo until race leader Chris Froome (Sky) delivered two brutal blows that saw all but Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Esteban Chaves (ORICA-SCOTT) and Cannondale-Drapac’s own Mike Woods come unglued. The four put 10-seconds into the likes of Adam Yates (ORICA-SCOTT), Fabio Aru (Astana), Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and 20-seconds into Simon Yates (ORICA-SCOTT) and Warren Barguil (Sunweb).

The effort afforded Woods his first foray into the Vuelta’s general classification top ten. The Canadian will start stage six in tenth overall, 1:13 down on Froome.

“Everything is going as planned,” said sport director Juanma Garate. “I’m so proud of the attitude of this team.”

The Vuelta a España continues with a 204-kilometer stage between Vila-Real and Sagunt. The route includes five categorized climbs – four category three and one category two – with a maximum of 13 points available.

“I have 30 points now and the second one has 11 points,” said Villella. “I think tomorrow I will concentrate on restoring my energy and recovering.”

And here's the report from race leader Chris Froome's Team Sky:

Chris Froome held firm to extend his Vuelta a Espana race lead following a tough uphill finish on stage five.

Team Sky’s leader looked comfortable despite the steep ramp up to Alcossebre, accelerating to split apart the front of the race, and eventually finishing with an elite front group.

A good day for Froome saw him extend his red jersey advantage out to 10 seconds, while also putting time into a number of key rivals. Froome crossed the line alongside Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Rusty Woods (Cannondale-Drapac). Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) finished a few seconds further back, but that was enough to elevate him up into second overall.

Team Sky controlled the pace throughout the 157.7-kilometre test and its five categorised climbs, with Ian Stannard and Christian Knees tapping out a tempo up front. With a big breakaway up the road the decision was made to ease off the pace, with the 17 riders presenting no danger to Froome’s lead.

Diego Rosa and then Gianni Moscon strung out the bunch heading onto the Ermita Sta Lucia, with Moscon ripping apart the lead pack before Froome launched his move. Up ahead the breakaway had begun to attack one another prior to the final third-category ramp, with Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) pushing clear to take the win on the day.

After the stage Froome admitted he was happy with how the day had played out, after taking time from a number of key rivals on a relatively short final climb. He said: “I think if you had said at the beginning of the stage this would be the situation at the finish, I would have definitely have signed to agree to that. The guys did a fantastic job riding on the front for all the stage and I’ve got them to thank for an amazing stage today.

Chris Froome

Another day in red for Chris Froome

“Looking at the time gaps now, GC is definitely taking a bit more shape and if you think there’s just a 3km climb to the finish I can definitely be happy with that and the job that my teammates did to set that up. I’m really glad to have come through from the Tour in the shape that I hoped to be in for the start of the Vuelta.”

However Froome, who also holds the combined jersey, insists he still has many rivals in the battle for the lead, with the GC picture now starting to become clearer. “Esteban Chaves seems to be one of the strongest climbers in this year’s Vuelta as well as obviously Alberto Contador who did a good ride today, Tejay van Garderen is still in the mix and Nicolas Roche is still up there so BMC have got a couple of options to play with.

“I’m surprised to see Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Are lose some time today and Romain Bardet, but it’s a long race and today was just a 3km climb so I imagine it will be a different race once we get into the high mountains.”

Finally Froome reserved praise for young teammate Gianni Moscon, who was instrumental in the final kilometres. “Anyone watching the race will see for themselves how strong Gianni has been both times the race has finished [on a climb]. In Andorra the mountainous finish and today again 1km from the top just doing a massive pull and ripping the race to pieces.

“And for his first grand Tour we can certainly tip our hats to Gianni he’s done a fantastic ride.”

Grondahl Jansen second in Druivenkoers Overijse

Here's the report from LottoNL-Jumbo. Note: This is not a race we cover.

Amund Grondahl Jansen has become second in the Druivenkoers Overijse. After a race of 196,4 kilometres, Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s 23-year-old neopro was only beaten by the Belgian Jérôme Baugnies. Victor Campenaerts was the second rider of Team LottoNL-Jumbo in the top ten. He became ninth.

Grondahl Jansen felt well and attacked during the race. “You'd beter race in front than ride in the back of the pack during such a race”, he explained his tactics afterwards. “There wasn’t much organization in the peloton. A bunch sprint wasn’t certain at all.”

The Norwegian got caught by the peloton and the other escapees couldn’t stay ahead either. The race ended with a bunch sprint. “I was well positioned behind Xandro Meurisse. I knew I would be able to pass him in a fast sprint. Unfortunately, I got a bit interrupted, so the victory was no longer possible.”

Grondahl Jansen had mixed feelings about the race. “Of course, this is a good result. It is my first top three result as a pro. Yet I’m a bit disappointed. I was so close to the victory. Despite that, I can’t complain. Ever since the Norwegian championship I have been in good shape and that gives me confidence.”

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