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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, July 5, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Nature is the art of God. - Dante

Current Racing

Latest completed racing:

Tour de France stage four reports

We'll start with the statement from Tour de France organizer ASO:

Peter Sagan is excluded from the Tour de France - Having caused a serious crash towards the end of stage 4, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) has been excluded from the Tour de France by the commissaires panel. “We decided to disqualify Peter Sagan from the 2017 Tour de France because he endangered seriously several other riders including Mark Cavendish in the final meters of the sprint which happened in Vittel”, president commissaire Philippe Mariën stated. “We apply article 12.104 of the UCI regulations which allow us to disqualify a rider.”

Here are the posts from Mark Cavendish's Dimension Data team:

The first:

Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka did a great job setting up Mark Cavendish for the final sprint on stage 4 of Tour de France. Unfortunately, a late crash meant Cavendish ended the day at the hospital instead of fighting for the stage win.

On paper, the 207.5 km from Mondorf-les-Bains to Vittel looked almost certain to end in a bunch sprint. Therefore, it was no surprise that most riders wanted to stay in the peloton when the flag dropped at the official start. In fact, only one rider, Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Wanty – Groupe Gobert), dared to attack and the peloton was more than happy to let him get a huge gap of over 13 minutes.

As the stage progressed the gap started to come down quickly and with 100 km to go, only six minutes separated the pack from the lonely rider at the front. The distance continued to shorten towards the intermediate sprint and the following KOM sprint and with 15 km left, it was all back together again.

The Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka riders were all committed to put Cavendish in the best-possible position for the expected bunch sprint. The team went to the front of the peloton on the final kilometers to make sure the Manxman was within striking distance. Unfortunately, Cavendish never got a chance to fight for the win as he collided with Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) on the last few hundred meters and crashed into the barriers. Sagan later got disqualified from the race, while Cavendish headed to the hospital for further examinations. An update on his condition will be released when more information is available. Arnaud Démare (FDJ) took the stage win.

Edvald Boasson Hagen did well to finish in 11th place on the stage and moved up to fourth place in the general classification. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) still leads overall.

And later the team posted this bad news:

Mark Cavendish has been forced to withdraw for this year’s Tour de France after fracturing his shoulder blade in the late crash on stage 4.

What looked to be a strong comeback to racing for Cavendish, is now over before it really began. Medical examinations at the hospital in Nancy, France, has confirmed that the Manxman has fractured his right shoulder blade after colliding with Peter Sagan and crashing against the barriers in the final sprint in Vittel.

Adrian Rotunno – Team doctor: “Mark suffered a fracture to the right scapula. Fortunately, no surgery is required at this stage, and most importantly there is no nerve damage. He’s been withdrawn from the race for obvious medical reasons, and we’ll continue monitoring him over the coming days“.

The crash

The fateful crash

Mark Cavendish: “I’m obviously massively disappointed to get this news about the fracture. The team was incredible today. They executed to perfection what we wanted to do this morning. I feel I was in a good position to win and to lose that and even having to leave the Tour, a race I’ve built my whole career around, is really sad. I wish the best of luck to my teammates for the rest of the race. Now, I’m looking forward to watching the race on TV, seeing the team fly the flag high for South Africa and raise awareness for Qhubeka”.

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team posted this response to the UCI's actions:

The UCI World Champion Peter Sagan was disqualified today, according to article 12.1.040/ 10.2.2. (irregular sprint) in the result/communiqué. The team disagrees with the decision and protested it officially.

Peter Sagan rejected to have caused, or in any way intended to cause the crash of Mark Cavendish on the final 200m of the stage. Peter stayed on his line in the sprint and could not see Cavendish on the right side.

The team applied for a redress of Peter Sagan's result in stage 4.

“In the sprint I didn’t know that Mark Cavendish was behind me. He was coming from the right side, and I was trying to go on Kristoff’s wheel. Mark was coming really fast from the back and I just didn’t have time to react and to go left. He came into me and he went into the fence. When I was told after the finish that Mark had crashed, I went straight away to find out how he was doing. We are friends and colleagues in the peloton and crashes like that are never nice. I hope Mark recovers soon.” – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion

BMC sent me this stage four report:

4 July, 2017, Vittel (FRA): A hectic bunch sprint on stage 4, marred with multiple crashes in the final kilometer, played out after a calm day of racing as the peloton gears up for the first mountain finish on stage 5.

Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Wanty- Groupe Gobert) attacked after KM 0 and found himself solo in front, leading the peloton to sit up and let the gap go out to more than eleven minutes.

Van Keirsbulck

Guillaume van Keirsbulck rode nearly the entire stage by himself.

Despite just one rider being in front and a relaxed approach from the bunch, a steady pace was set throughout the 207.5km stage until the chase started inside the final 100km. Van Keirsbulck was eventually brought back with 17km remaining and the sprinters' teams assumed their position at the front of the bunch.

As the battle for position started, Richie Porte remained protected and well-positioned by his BMC Racing Team teammates ahead of the first General Classification showdown on stage 5.

Inside the final 500 meters, as the sprinters were trying to hold their line, a large crash occurred at the front of the bunch taking down yellow jersey-wearer Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).

In the final push for the line another crash happened and out of the chaos Arnaud Demare (FDJ) took the win.

Fortunately, all of BMC Racing Team's riders stayed upright to finish safely in the bunch.

Richie Porte: "It wasn't so hard but it was pretty stressful there in the final. There were a couple of big crashes. Thank god for the three kilometer rule. I'm super motivated for tomorrow. All of the guys in the team are motivated for tomorrow as well. I think we just have to see how the race goes but I expect it to be absolutely full gas. It's the first big test of the Tour de France in 2017."

Fabio Baldato: "The priority was to arrive safely so the guys were working to keep Richie Porte in position going into the final 3km and they did a good thing to stay a little bit behind. I didn't see what happened with the crash but it looked like it was pretty bad what happened in the front. We hope to have a good result tomorrow. Richie is good, the team is good around him. We'll go for it."

Here's the stage four update Lotto-Soudal sent me:

The fourth stage in the Tour de France was another long stage; the riders faced 207.5 kilometres between Mondorf-les-Bains and Vittel. Guillaume Van Keirsbulck attacked as soon as the flag went down. No other rider was interested to be in the front group and this made that he was the only one in the breakaway today, with a maximum advantage of 13’30”. However, the sprint teams had their minds set on a bunch sprint and they gradually increased the pace in the peloton. Van Keirsbulck was reeled in by the peloton at sixteen kilometres from the finish, after a solo ride of 191 kilometres.

The pace in the peloton increased in the final five kilometres, heading to the bunch sprint. However, the sprint was disrupted after two crashes in the final kilometres. Lotto Soudal’s sprint train was not involved and Jürgen Roelandts could lead André Greipel to the finish line. Greipel hesitated slightly before starting his sprint and Arnaud Démare could sprint to victory, ahead of Alexander Kristoff and Peter Sagan. After the stage, Peter Sagan was disqualified because of the manoeuvre he made in the second crash. André Greipel finished in third place because of this, while Jürgen Roelandts and Tiesj Benoot finished the stage in sixth and ninth place. Tim Wellens moves up to eighth in GC, 32 seconds behind Geraint Thomas.

Andre Greipel

A serious-looking André Greipel heads to the the stage four start line.

André Greipel: “Before the stage, it was our goal to be at the front of the peloton on the uphill slope between kilometres four and three from the finish line. We succeeded and at two and half kilometres from the end, we were still with four riders behind the sprint train of Dimension Data. It was another strong performance by Tiesj Benoot and Marcel Sieberg also bridged a small gap. Jürgen Roelandts did the perfect lead-out in the final kilometre, but I hesitated a second too long to start my sprint. I might have lost the stage victory at that moment, but Démare was also very strong today. I am happy with the solid performance of the team in the finale and this gives enough confidence for the next sprint stages.”

“Immediately after the finish, I was very angry about the crash of Cavendish, after the manoeuvre by Sagan. I think that sprinters should have respect for each other, which does not mean that I think Sagan meant to cause a crash today. However, the manoeuvres that you make in a sprint should remain accountable. According to me, this was not the case today, nor during yesterday’s intermediate sprint, the jury should act against such behaviour.”

Katusha-Alpecin had this to report about TDF stage four:

Through a crash-marred final, Team KATUSHA ALEPCIN’S Alexander Kristoff fought his way to the front to take third place in a sprint in Vittel, a position later upgraded to second after a jury decision based on contact among other riders in the sprint. It was a strong effort from Kristoff and good work from his team riders to put Alex in position to give his all. Stage 4 began in Mondorf-les-Bains at 207.5km.

“There were many teams there and I said to the guys it would be better to take control at the end so we could have some help before the end when it would be man-against-man. I think our team did a good job, especially Marco Haller at the end – he was fantastic for me. I missed Rick at the end, maybe with him in front I could have come a little bit closer but I think Démare would have beat me anyway. I’m happy with today. This sprint was way better than my last one and shows improvement. I hope to get better in the next days. For sure this course was a challenge and very technical. I heard the crash behind me. I hope everyone is OK. Everyone is always fighting for position in a sprint like this and it’s always dangerous for crashes," said Alexander Kristoff.

Earning top honors for the day was Frenchman Arnaud Démare of FDJ with a time of (4:53:54, 42.361 km/h). Second place originally went to world champion Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe), who managed to stay upright in the sprint while Mark Cavendish fell beside him as he bashed into the barrier, but a review of the stage later removed Sagan from his position and Alexander Kristoff took over second place.

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) still wears the maillot jaune after taking the opening time trial, and is the only rider to wear yellow so far in the 104th Tour de France.

Wednesday is primed to be a general classification day. It’s a short climb but power is required to make a difference on this day and look for the category 1 La Planche des Belles Filles to make difference in this year’s Tour. At 160.5km, the stage starts in Vittel.

Orica-Scott's Giro Rosa (Women's Giro d'Italia) stage 5 report:

Dutch time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten displayed great strength and determination to win today’s challenging individual time trial on stage five of the Giro Rosa and move up to third place overall.

The 34-year-old put yesterday’s disappointment of losing time on the general classification behind her and courageously bounced back to dominate the tough, hilly time trial stage.

The ORICA-SCOTT rider completed the 12.7kilometre distance with a blistering time of 25minutes and 29seconds, 41seconds ahead of her nearest rival Anna van Der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans).

“We had a really good preparation for this time trial, that was really good for my confidence going into the stage,” Van Vleuten said. "Of course you also need good legs but I have been feeling really good throughout this Giro and I showed that again today.”

“I was super disappointed yesterday but I managed to stay focused and I knew today was a chance to take some time back. The time gap on GC is still a lot but today gives me more confidence. We will look at things day by day, I learnt the lesson the hard way yesterday not to switch off on flat stages so tomorrow I will be really focused.

“I have a great team here, it was very special yesterday with all the team working and going for this plan, so now we can go for it again.”

Confident that Van Vleuten had a good chance of winning the stage, ORICA-SCOTT took time last week to recon the route and test out equipment which proved to be a vital advantage in coming away with the victory today.

“We spent a whole day on the course, trialling different equipment, we used road bikes, time trial bikes, disks and we found that there was enough flat and fast sections of the course that it would still be beneficial to use a time trial bike which Van Vleuten did,” explained sport director Gene Bates.

“I think that is what really helped us today along with knowing the course really well and how steep the climb actually was. There isn’t another really hard day to keep taking lots of time back so I think it will be really difficult but we still have five stages and as we saw yesterday anything can happen at any moment so we will continue to give it our best shot.”

How it happened: After three hard road stages, stage five was a warm welcome for the time trial riders with a tough 12.7kilometre individual race against the clock. Despite the road book profile, the course was very challenging with two main climbs and one of them reaching a 30 percent gradient.

The early time to beat was set by Miriam Bjornsrund with 29minutes and five seconds, but as each rider completed the distance the fastest time continued to change.

One of the final riders to start, Amanda Spratt, set the new fastest time of 27minutes and 17seconds to move into the hot seat, however, it was her teammate who knocked her off the top spot and she eventually finished in fourth place.

Van Vleuten waited with the fastest time as the final three riders crossed the line, but with none able to dip under the 26minute mark, the Dutch rider claimed the stage win with a sizeable margin and therefore gained valuable seconds back on the overall classification.

Van Vleuten now sits in third place overall with Spratt in fifth place with five more stages remaining.

Giro Rosa stage 5 result:

1. Annemiek van Vleuten (ORICA-SCOTT) 25:29
2. Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) 26:10
3. Elisa Longo-Borghini (Wiggle-High5) 26:44

General classification after stage 5:

1. Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) 9:02
2. Elisa Longo-Borghini (Wiggle-High5) +1:00
3. Annemiek van Vleuten (ORICA-SCOTT) +1:36

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