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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, August 28, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

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Jens Debusschere abandons Vuelta after stage nine crash

Lotto-Soudal sent me this bad news:

Stage 9 of La Vuelta took place between Orihuela and Cumbre del Sol. The last stage before the rest day featured two steep climbs in the second half of the course. Just like in 2015, the finish was located at the top of the Alto de Puig Llorença, a first category climb with a peak of 21%. After a few attempts, ten riders finally managed to establish the breakaway. They worked well together but the group’s advantage never went over three minutes. Ludvigsson and Soler went clear on the first ascent and the duo pushed hard in the last forty kilometres to stay up front, but the peloton closed the gap at the bottom of the second ascent of Alto de Puig Llorença. Bardet and Carapaz tried to break away on the steepest parts, but they were reeled in because of the high tempo from Team Sky. Chris Froome attacked 600 metres before the summit and took his first stage win of the season. The Britton sits now thirty-six seconds ahead of Esteban Chaves in the general classification. Sander Armée finished in thirty-fourth place, 1’54’’ after Chris Froome.

Jens Debusschere crashed in the first half of the stage and had to abandon the race. He was taken to hospital where tests showed he has no fractures. A deep wound on his left knee needed to be stitched. Jens also bruised his knee, shoulder, elbow and hip.

Jens Debusschere

Jens Debusschere winning the 2016 Dwars door Vlaanderen

Jens Debusschere: “I don’t exactly know how it happened, probably I hit something that lay on the road. Yves Lampaert, who was riding just in front of me, could just avoid it, but for me it was too late. I was thrown over the little wall that split the road. In the opposite direction traffic was still riding, so I was lucky. I got on my bike, but only for a few metres. I immediately felt that I couldn’t continue because of my injured knee. It is painful to leave La Vuelta this way.”

Lotto Soudal also participated in the Bretagne Classic Ouest-France today. The course of the former GP de Plouay suited the Classics riders as well as the sprinters. Five riders immediately formed the day’s breakaway. They stayed up front for almost 200 kilometres but the race exploded in the finale when several groups attacked from the peloton. Eight riders still held on to a thirty-second lead with less than ten kilometres to go. Alberto Bettiol attacked on the Côte de Timarec but a bunch sprint was unavoidable today. Elia Viviani was the fastest of the reduced peloton, ahead of Alexander Kristoff and Sonny Colbrelli. Tony Gallopin crossed the line in thirty-ninth position, as first Lotto Soudal rider. 

Vuelta a España stage nine team reports

We posted the organizer's stage report here.

Chris Froome turned in a superb ride. His Team Sky posted this:

Chris Froome claimed a rousing victory on stage nine at the Vuelta a Espana to further extend his overall race lead.

The Team Sky rider made no mistake on the tough finishing ramp of the Alto de Puig Llorenca, accelerating twice to distance all of his rivals and take a popular stage win in the red jersey.

Two years earlier Froome was pipped to the post on the same finish in Cumbre del Sol, but made no mistake in 2017 as he fought off a late challenge from nearest rival Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), and winning the stage by four seconds.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome is enjoying superb form.

With time bonuses applied Froome pushed his red jersey advantage out to 36 seconds as the Vuelta arrives at its opening rest day. With no other rivals able to hold his wheel on the first-category finish, Froome put yet more time into his other GC competitors, with Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing) now over a minute back in third.

Once again Froome was set up for success perfectly by his Team Sky team-mates on the 174km run up the coast. Hitting the front at various points throughout the day to keep Froome safe, as the race hit the final climb Diego Rosa, Gianni Moscon and Mikel Nieve were all there in support of the race leader.

Nieve put in an impressive turn to keep the pace high, providing a perfect launchpad for Froome’s winning move. In addition to holding red, and the white combined jersey, victory also propelled Froome into the green points jersey.

After the stage Froome was quick to pay tribute, explaining: “That was just incredible today the way it panned out, and the way my team-mates rode in the final to set it up as well – it’s just fantastic. It’s such a good feeling to get to the end of this first block with the red jersey and also a decent gap on the rest of the GC rivals.

“(This finish two years ago) was still in my mind this morning. We watched the scenes from two years ago over and over on the bus this morning just to calculate the climb and know when the right moment to push was. Again the legs felt great today and it just feels good to be in this position.

“I saw Chaves coming in the last 300 metres and I thought it was going to happen again, like with Dumoulin two years ago. I just thought I can’t let it happen again, so I put everything I had into the last few hundred metres. I’m really happy to get the victory. After the team did such a good job on the final climb to really make a good pace. Mikel Nieve did a fantastic job, setting such a good pace for me.

“Thank you to all the team. Coming to the first rest day we couldn’t have asked to be in a better position.”

Esteban Chaves was second. Here's the report from his Orica-Scott team:

Two years after losing the red jersey on the very same climb, Colombian Esteban Chaves has put in an impressive performance to finish second atop the Cumbre del Sol on stage nine at La Vuelta today.

Riding with maturity and patience, Chaves was amongst the favourites group on the four-kilometre ascent, before he reacted to a move made by race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) in the final kilometre.

The pair entered the final 100m together before a final push from Froome saw him steal the stage by four seconds to the ORICA-SCOTT rider and five seconds to Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac).

“I thought the same,” Chaves said when a journalist suggested they thought he would take the victory over Froome. “But with 100m to go he looked around and accelerated again. (Chris) is an unbelievable rider, he showed for what reason he (has) won the Tour de France four times.

“For me, it’s a really good result actually. Two years ago, I arrived 15 or 20seconds down on this climb so it’s not really good memories. I think I am more mature, more experienced and more calm and this is the important thing.

“We keep the second place on the GC and we put time on the other guys and that’s really good. The team, like always, worked unbelievable. I’m really happy for the team, thank you really much. We’ve passed nine days and now it’s time to rest.”

How it happened:

After a battle to make the breakaway, 10 riders eventually broke clear but unlike previous stages, Cannondale-Drapac immediately took ownership at the front of the peloton to keep them in check.

Motivated for the stage, the American outfit didn’t allow the move more than three-minute’s advantage and in the final 25km, had them within a minute. Team Sky took over the tempo approaching the final climb and the last two survivors, Tobias Ludvigsson (FDJ) and Marc Soler (Movistar Team), were eventually caught with 5.8km to go.

As riders lost touch from behind, early attackers where nullified before the GC group lit up with the move of Froome. Chaves was able to respond with Woods on his wheel, reconnecting with the leader before a final surge gave Froome the stage.

And here's what Alberto Contador's Trek-Segafredo had to say about Vuelta stage 9:

Unlike stage eight, Alberto Contador could not match the fierce attack of Chris Froome (Sky) in the final meters of stage nine, yielding 12 seconds to the race leader who grabbed the stage win. Contador arrived in 6th place on the short and steep finish climb, and although he lost a few seconds to some rivals, he gained on others and moved into 13th place in the overall classification.

"It was a short final. In the end, you have days in which you perform better and days where you perform less. Today I lacked the legs to fight for the victory, but in the end, I don't think I was that bad today," said Contador.

"Cannondale had made it a tough stage all day long, by pulling hard in front of the peloton. Yes, it was a very fast and breathtaking ascent of Cumbre del Sol. Yes, I definitely expected Froome to attack. He is a very strong rider who likes to have a bigger gap on his rivals. I think that's very logical, he has quite a big gap on me, but not on his other direct competitors," he continued, then added: "Off to the rest day now."

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador late in stage nine.

The Vuelta a Espana has yet to enter the high mountains and the four-kilometer ascent that ended the 174-kilometer stage nine resulted in more or less a stalemate amongst the contenders: the bigger damages will certainly come in the long ascents in the second part of the three-week race.

While Contador found himself behind the eight-ball after he lost time in the first climbing stage due to a stomach illness, he slowly has been pulling himself back into the GC game.

After nine days, the Spanish Grand Tour enters its first rest day tomorrow,  a welcome day of respite for a very tired peloton that has faced a very fast-paced and agressively raced first part.

"If I look back on the first part of the Vuelta, I would like to say that it was very good, but I can't because the stage to Andorra was not good," explicated Contador. "On the other hand, I think it's good to stay optimistic with the eye on what's left of this Vuelta. There is still a lot that can happen, and we will see. Froome is obviously very strong, but we are not in Madrid yet."

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