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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, July 3, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book? - David Attenborough

Current Racing

Latest completed racing:

Tour de France Stage Two team reports

We'll start with stage winner Marcel Kittel's Team Quick-Step Floors:

Quick-Step Floors' fantastic work throughout the nervous stage 2 was rewarded with a spectacular victory in Liège.

Marcel Kittel made history on Sunday, by becoming the first rider to win a Tour de France stage on a disc brake-equipped bike after coming from behind in the final kilometer of stage two and storming past all his rivals on the way to his tenth career victory at the Grande Boucle.

The pressure of the first road stage and the pouring rain which accompanied the peloton as they left Düsseldorf made for a very hectic day on the bike, despite the predominantly flat parcours which pointed to a bunch gallop in Liège, the most visited foreign city in the race's history, which was welcoming the Tour de France for the 11th time, nearly seven decades after the first stop here.

Four riders made it into the breakaway – Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie), Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac) and Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro) – and despite having a maximum advantage of only three minutes, it was no easy task for the bunch to reel them in, mainly due to a crash which occurred in the final 30 kilometers and disrupted the chase.

Julien Vermote, who took the front of the pack soon after the flag was dropped, moved again to the head of the pack and his fantastic and selfless effort saw the gap of Offredo and Phinney drop rapidly. In the closing kilometers, the entire Quick-Step Floors was amassed to the front and reabsorbed the duo just before the flamme rouge arch, but the frantic chase of the peloton meant the bunch sprint was a disorganized one, without any team controlling the affair.

Fabio Sabatini and Matteo Trentin guided Marcel Kittel through the final kilometer, and the 29-year-old patiently bided his time before his huge acceleration and sheer power carried him to victory in a pulsating sprint, ahead of Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).

"It was a great experience to ride through Düsseldorf and Germany, the fans were outstanding and I'm proud to see these huge crowds supporting us. It's a memory I will never forget", an emotional Marcel said after the stage at the end of which he moved into the green jersey, as well as to the overall podium.

Marcel Kittel

Marcel Kittel is the day's fastest rider

The Quick-Step Floors rider, who has ten wins to his name this season, went on to explain how things unfolded in the last kilometer of the 203.5km stage: "Matteo and Fabio brought me there with 500 meters to go and from that point I jumped from wheel to wheel; it was an advantage to come relatively late, as I knew that having headwind will make things difficult, so that's why I waited before opening my sprint. I want to thank the guys, they showed once again a great mentality and an incredible team spirit!"

Not only that he racked up his tenth career victory in the Tour de France, but Marcel Kittel also made history by sprinting to the win on a disc brake bike, the beautiful Specialized Venge: "I wasn't thinking about this record before the stage, but I must admit it makes me proud to be the first rider who wins a stage here in these conditions. I sincerely believe the disc brakes are a major improvement and give you better control, especially on rainy days as today."

And then move on to the news from GC leader Geraint Thomas' Team Sky:

Geraint Thomas retained the yellow jersey after a dramatic second day at the Tour de France. Thomas and Chris Froome, as well as several other Team Sky riders, all hit the deck in a large crash 30 kilometres from the finish in Liege.

Froome had to take a spare bike but was paced back to the peloton by Christian Knees and Michal Kwiatkowski ahead of a sprint finish, won by Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors).

After that earlier scare the team stayed up front in the closing stages as the race left Germany and headed into Belgium. Vasil Kiryienka led the charge from 10km out, setting a fierce tempo to keep Froome and Thomas out of further trouble.

Speaking afterwards, Froome confirmed he didn’t suffer any serious injuries. He said: “I have no injuries thankfully - I’ve just lost a little bit of skin on my backside. That’s the nature of the race. We knew it was slippery conditions and every time you put the race numbers on there’s a big risk something could happen.

“Someone slid just a few wheels ahead of me and at those speeds you just can’t avoid it. A few of us went down but thankfully everyone is okay and we got to the finish alright without losing any time to our rivals. That’s the main thing.”

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas gets another day in yellow.

Thomas also confirmed that he emerged unscathed from the melee after a memorable first day in the yellow jersey. He said: “It was great. It was a really special feeling, to walk off the bus in it [yellow jersey] and start the stage. The weather wasn’t great, but the morale from having the jersey made that a lot easier.

“We were all in a decent position, top 10, top 15, coming into a roundabout and a couple of guys crashed. When it’s like that you’ve got nowhere to go really but we were all OK, all back up pretty quickly.

“I take every day as a bonus. Obviously without three pure bunch sprints it gives me a chance to keep the jersey a little longer. Tomorrow is another day and like we saw today with the crash, anything can happen. I’ll take nothing for granted and we’ll keep doing our job for Froomey. Hopefully that will keep me in yellow as well.”

There were no further incidents on Liege’s wet roads and the 203km stage unfolded as expected, despite the best efforts of the breakaway duo, Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac) and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), who were only swept up as the race hit the flamme rouge.

Then the sprinters did battle for the first time, with Kittel emerging victorious ahead of Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal).

That win moved Kittel up to third overall due to a 10-second time bonus. The German is now just six seconds behind Thomas. The bunch finish also ensured that Team Sky retained their impressive early lead in the team classification, 37 seconds ahead of Quick-Step Floors.

Lotto-Soudal sent me this report:

The Tour de France visited Belgium today. The second stage was a sprint stage of 203.5 kilometres between Düsseldorf and Liège. Marcel Kittel was the fastest, André Greipel finished third.

It rained a lot during the day, but that didn’t keep Thomas De Gendt from doing his job: pulling at the front of the peloton for many kilometres, in pursuit of a front group of four. Immediately after the start Thomas Boudat, Yoann Offredo, Taylor Phinney and Laurent Pichon had escaped the pack. The peloton let them go, but didn’t grant them more than three and a half minutes advantage. As the race continued, more sprint teams put a guy at the front.

With about twenty kilometres to go the leaders had half a minute advantage left. After he had claimed the second KOM point of the day on the second fourth category climb, Taylor Phinney went solo. Yoann Offredo rejoined him. The duo was only caught just before entering the final kilometre. Marcel Kittel sprinted to victory, ahead of French champion Arnaud Démare and André Greipel.

Andre Greipel

André Greipel (on right, in red) was third in stage two.

André Greipel: “The stage started perfectly for us. There was a front group of four with a small lead. Thomas De Gendt immediately started pulling in the peloton and got help from Julien Vermote of Quick-Step. Soon, other teams followed. We didn’t have to do all the work. At the end we had to do a major effort, as Offredo and Phinney still had energy left.”

“As a team we could line up, we were well positioned. There was a headwind in the last kilometre and the last 200 metres were slightly uphill. No rider had a teammate ahead of him anymore. Peter Sagan was in the lead too early and held back, and so everyone did. Start the sprint with 250 metres to go was still too soon, so I had to wait. Kittel was very strong and deserved the win. It is very promising that I was in the mix for the stage win.”

Tony Gallopin finished the stage today after he hurt his ankle in yesterday’s time trial. He said, “It hurt when I had to accelerate or ride uphill. I am glad I reached the finish. I will try to survive and take it day by day. This situation is far from perfect, but I don’t want to give up.”

Taylor Phinney is the KOM. Here's his Team Cannondale-Drapac's report:

Thirty-eight months ago Taylor Phinney had a crash that nearly ended his career. He had been slated to start his first Tour de France that July, five weeks after his accident. Instead he spent July of 2014 recovering from injury.

The long-awaited Tour start came three years later than planned. Phinney opened the three-week Grand Tour with 12th place in the stage one individual time trial. The result put him in a position to chase polka dots on stage two.

Phinney seized the opportunity, snagging the stage two’s only two available mountain points. He pulled on the first red-and-white-spotted jersey at the 104th edition of the Tour de France in Liége on Sunday.

Taylor Phinney

Phinney gets the dotted jersey

“This was the plan this morning,” said Phinney. “To go out and get the KOM jersey. To have a plan work out on the first day of the race is great for the team. It impacts the general flow of things when we start off on a good note. This is my first year with the team, and I’m happy to be the guy that can remix the ignition as R. Kelley would say.”

The second stage of the Tour de France began in Düsseldorf, Germany and covered 203-kilometers en route to its finish in Liège, Belgium. The route featured two categorized climbs – both category four – at kilometer six and kilometer 183.

“We analyzed the stage, and the way the points were going to work today,” said sport director Tom Southam. “We knew if Taylor won the first climb, even if he didn’t win the second, because he was so high on GC, he would automatically get the jersey. We knew if he went in the break and the break went quickly, even if he was caught before the last climb, there would be a good chance he would still have it, an even better chance if he could make it further and get over the second climb."

Phinney toed the start line 20 minutes before the neutral start was given to ensure he could positon himself at the front of the peloton. “When he did that, we knew he took the plan seriously,” said Southam. “He applied himself and really got his head into what we had designed for the day, which is as much as you can ask from a rider really.”

When the flag dropped, Phinney pounced. His attack inspired the creation of a four-rider escape that included Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Gobert), Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) and Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro). The quartet had a minute over the peloton when it reached the first climb. Phinney sprinted up the Côte de Grafenberg to claim the single point available to the first rider over the top.

“We got out there on the road today and we were running in the breakaway, and it felt like a dream,” said Phinney. “You’re racing a bike race but there are so many people out there. And you’re like – what is this? This is unreal. This is the Tour de France.”

The peloton kept Phinney and his breakmates on a short leash. Their maximum advantage of 3:30 came early. “The peloton never really gave us more than three minutes,” said Phinney. “I think they were a little afraid of what might happen at the end. I had no reason to think we would make it as far as we did.”

Phinney began to shoulder more than his share of the workload as rain fell more heavily in the second half of the race. A mass crash as the peloton hit traffic islands on a curve played into the escape’s hand. The gap, which had fallen below a minute, began to slowly stretch back out again. Phinney and company would contest the second climb ahead of the peloton.

“Sprinting up these little climbs to try to get the polka dot jersey, I was just flashing back to all these times that I’ve seen people wearing this jersey,” said Phinney. “I never ever thought I’d wear this jersey. Climbing isn’t exactly my specialty, but I’ll take advantage of any opportunities I have.”

Pichot opened up the mountain sprint. Phinney piped him at the line. “I had to fight really hard to win that second KOM,” Phinney noted. “Knowing I was going to potentially pull on this jersey was just blowing my mind. I was really focused, really wanted to make it happen. And as it all unfolded, it just kept getting more ridiculous.”

Pichot and Boudat fell off the pace set by Phinney and Offredo following the second categorized climb. Twenty kilometres remained, and Phinney bombed down the descent with Offredo on his wheel. With 10 kilometres remaining, the pair were 47 seconds ahead of the peloton.”

“I thought they would catch us before the second climb,” said Phinney. “They didn’t, and then there were just the two of us, cruising. I didn’t start believing until like 10 kilometers to go. Of course once you start believing, you get your heart broken.”

The peloton caught Phinney and Offredo at the flamme rouge. The stage ended in a bunch sprint won by Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors). Phinney crossed the line alongside Offredo.

“Yohan is a guy that I’ve raced with for a while,” said Phinney. “We’ve always been friendly with each other. When we crossed the line, I grabbed him and said: “Dude, we’re friends for life now.’ It’s his first Tour, too. We went through something special together today.”

Phinney is the first American to wear the polka dot jersey since Tejay van Garderen led the KOM classification in the 2011 Tour. “It feels pretty sweet,” said Phinney. “I was not expecting this at all. I’m a little curious about if we brought some polka dot shorts with us for tomorrow. With that said, if it rains and I’m wearing white polka dot shorts, that might not be great.”

Phinney’s parents, Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter, dubbed ‘American cycling royalty’ by The New York Times, were on hand in Liège to see their son climb onto the podium.

“It’s been nice to have the parents around,” said Phinney. “They are so incredibly excited, which is nice to see. I have good parents.”

Following podium, Phinney hit the mixed zone, the NBC studio and the Eurosport studio where he fielded questions about his plans to defend the jersey. “Man everyone wants to know how long,” Phinney said to NBC. “Just live in the moment man. This was a wild day. I’m still trying to figure out what happened.”

Team BMC sent me this TDF update:

2 July, 2017, Liège (BEL): The first road stage of the Tour de France was marred by a crash in the final 30km which brought down multiple race favourites before a regrouping saw Marcel Kittel (Quickstep-Floors) take the win.

The peloton travelled from Germany to Belgium on stage 2 of the Tour de France, where they faced cold and rain for the majority of the stage.

As soon as the peloton reached KM 0 in Dusseldorf, four riders attacked and quickly formed the breakaway of the day. Back in the peloton, Porte's BMC Racing Team teammates kept him safely tucked away at the front of the bunch. The sprinters' teams, eyeing the first sprint opportunity of the race, kept the breakaway's advantage to within three minutes and as they approached 50km to go, the gap was less than two minutes.

As heavy rain continued to fall, the breakaway tried to maintain their position but with 38km remaining, the advantage fell to under one minute.

A huge crash with 30km to go brought down half the peloton, including Porte, Stefan Küng and Michael Schär. Porte was able to get up quickly and resume racing while behind, Caruso was forced to chase back and Schär was left waiting for a new bike.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte heads to the start of stage two.

The peloton slowed down in the nervous aftermath of the crash to allow riders to chase back, and in doing so enabled the breakaway to maintain their advantage. With 10km to go, it was just Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team) and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) who were left in front.

The duo forged on but were ultimately caught with 2km to go to set the stage for the first bunch sprint of the race won by Kittel. Porte crossed the line safely as did Küng, who maintains second overall and his Best Young Rider jersey.

BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Max Testa will monitor the riders involved in the crash and an update will be provided if necessary.

Richie Porte: "I came out of the crash ok but there were a few guys that went down a lot harder. It was a stressful day. It was the first real stage of the Tour and then you get the rain, then it dries up, and then starts raining again. It was a nice one to come through and it's nice to get the first crash out of the way and get on with it. Hopefully my knee is ok, I have a little bit of a bang on that, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

Stefan Küng: "I think it was more of a grey jersey by the end of the stage rather than a white jersey. It was the first real road stage of my Tour de France career so it was quite special. There were a lot of people on the side of the road which was amazing. It was also pretty hectic. With all of the people and the rain, it was difficult for everyone. So, everyone wanted to be up there. We tried to get through as safe as possible. The crash happened but this is something that happens and it was good that no one was too hurt. If we had keep going like that without the crash, it would have been a perfect day for us."

Fabio Baldato, Sports Director: "We know that the first stages of the Tour de France are always nervous. Today, we also had the rain which made things difficult. We got through it. Of course, you always need to be attentive and anything can happen. You saw the crash. It was at a roundabout and with the rain everybody wanted to stay at the front. We made it to the finish without a lot of trouble. We will look tonight but I hope there is nothing serious."

Here's what Ag2r-La Mondiale had to say about stage two:

Tour de France stage 2: Romain Bardet and Axel Domont crash: “We were racing at the front of the peloton.I was in a good position. There was a bit of a chicane in the road, and everyone slammed on the brakes, so I was carried along by the riders in front of me. It’s never good to crash, but this was okay.I hope I will have a good night’s sleep. I was able to get back up on my bike very quickly, and the whole team surrounded me, so I lost no time. It could have been much worse, and so our morale is excellent still.Sometimes you are not able to get up after a crash, and I am thinking particularly of my good friend Mika Chérel when I say that. I hope that Axel Domont, who was more injured in the crash than I was, will not suffer the effects too much tomorrow.”

AXEL DOMONT : "THE FINAL VERDICT WILL COME WHEN I GET ON THE BIKE AGAIN" The x-ray did not detect any fractures. But I had difficulty pushing the pedals at the end of the stage. After my shower and the first aid I have received, I already feel a little better.The final verdict will come tomorrow when I get on the bike again. Before the crash, I didn’t think it would happen.I wanted to take a straighter short cut and not have to take the corner, but that didn’t work.I was on Romain’s wheel, and he was in the process of falling and taking me with him. About a dozen of us fell, all hitting our knees and things on the traffic island.”

THE NEWS:The results of the medical check-up for Domont and Bardet.

Having crashed in a mass pile up about 30 kilometers from the finish, Axel Domont suffered a bruised right knee around the patella along with road rash and a deep cut on the right elbow in addition to a very bruised thigh. He had x-rays taken after the finish to make certain there were no broken bone, and will be able to start the third stage. Romain Bardet hit the deck in the same crash, and suffered a bruising of the hip and right knee with superficial cuts as well as a bruising in the dorsal area of his back, according to Dr. Eric Bouvat, the head doctor for the AG2R LA MONDIALE cycling team.


From July 10th to 15th, François Bidard, Clément Chevrier, Samuel Dumoulin, Julien Duval, Alexandre Geniez, Alexis Gougeard and Quentin Jaurégui will meet in the Auris-en-Oisans ski town for a training camp. Our riders will be able to accumulate lots of kilometers and climbing in the Massif de l'Oisans region, which is a sponsor of the AG2R LA MONDIALE team.

Giro Rosa (Women's Giro d'Italia) stage 3 news

The organizer sent me this update:

Faster than a F1 car (she has shortly lived near the Silverstone Circuit) the Canyon SRAM rider Hanna Barnes has won the Stage 3 of Giro Rosa 2017 (San Fior - San Vendemiano, 100 kms) beating the Finnish Lotta Lepistö (Cervelo Bigla) and Kirsten Wild (Cylance Pro Cycling).

This has been an eventful stage: the Colombian Sanabria Sanchez (Servetto Giusta Alurecycling) did a solo breakaway just before the first passage on the finish line of San Vendemiano, resisting until the beginning of Cà del Poggio cathegorized climb.), won by Annemiek Van Vleuten.  The Dutch of Orica - Scott, who took the win yesterday, tried an attack with seven fighters for the GC but the peloton took them from behind. Elena Cecchini wants a solo win, she could be in the front for more than 10 kilometers but the teams of the sprinters did a "brutal" acceleration with the goal of a bunch sprint. Also Clemilda Fernandes (Servetto Giusta Alurecycling) and Iraida Garcia Ocasio (S.C. Michela Fanini) tried an attack, the bunch is faster and the sprint is here: Chloe Hosking seems the strongest but Hannah Barnes is the first on the finish line.

It is the first victory for the born in Kent (England) rider. Nothing changed in the GC, as Anna Van der Breggen keeps the Maglia Rosa on her shoulders, Annemiek Van Vleuten is second and Elisa Longo Borghini.

Tomorrow is the stage 4, with start and finish in Occhiobello (Rovigo).


1. HANNAH BARNES 2Hr 27' 49''
2. LOTTA LEPISTÖ              st
3. KIRSTEN WILD               st


1. ANNA VAN DER BREGGEN   5Hr 54' 21''
2. ANNEMIEK VAN VLEUTEN            +18''
3. ELISA LONGO BORGHINI             +26''


PINK Jersey COLNAGO: Anna Van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans)
CYCLAMINE Jersey SELLE SMP: Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott)
GREEN Jersey PURPLE by GLOBAL STOCK: Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott)
WHITE Jersey COLNAGO: Floortje Mackaij (Team Sunweb)
BLUE Jersey GSG: Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5)

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