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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, July 21, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble. - Blaise Pascal

Current Racing

Latest completed racing:

Tour de France stage 18 team reports

Of course we have to start with stage winner Warren Barguil's Team Sunweb report:

Story of the Tour de France Volume 2

Warren Barguil (FRA) has made it four for Team Sunweb at the Tour de France today, as he soloed to the stage 18 victory atop the Izoard.

After Team Sunweb delivered Barguil to the bottom of the Col de l'Izoard in prime position, the Frenchman was able to ride alongside the group of favourites before launching a powerful attack. Arguably the hardest climb of this year's Tour de France, Barguil was not phased and made the finale his own. Pacing his climb to perfection he flew past the breakaway remnants and soon made contact with the front of the race. With the finish line in sight Barguil continued in his quest to the line on his Giant TCR Advanced SL to take his second stage victory at the Tour de France, Team Sunweb's fourth.

"This is really fantastic, I can't believe it," said Barguil after the finish. "It's really a dream to take another win. I wanted to take some extra time in the GC so I just rode my own climb and paced myself to the top. I managed to close to the leader and then when I still had the legs left, I continued to the line. It's brilliant for us to have four stage victories now, it's unbelievable."

Warren Barguil

Warren Barguil wins in style.

"The focus today was for Warren to try to move up a place in the general classification and then potentially go for the stage victory," explained Team Sunweb's Tour de France coach Aike Visbeek (NED). "Warren was feeling good and the team positioned him well before the climb. He timed his attack perfectly, just before the other GC contenders would follow him which meant he had more time to take an advantage. We are extremely proud. This is some really tactical, smart riding and it's great to build on our earlier successes in the race. We're looking forward to continuing this momentum into Paris."

Second-place Darwin Atapuma's UAE team sent me this:

UAE Team Emirates’ Darwin Atapuma produced one of the most inspiring rides of the Tour to date, as the Columbian finished second on stage 18, earning the red bib for his efforts as the most aggressive rider.

With less than 2km to go on today’s Hors Category (HC) finish in Col d’Izoard, it looked as though Atapuma was going to win the race. But the UAE Team Emirates rider succumbed to late pressure from eventual winner, Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb).

There was also a top 10 finish for UAE Team Emirates’ General Classification contender, Louis Meintjes, who finished seventh, 37 seconds behind Barguil. Chris Froome (Team Sky) holds on to the Yellow Jersey, with Meintjes still sitting second in the hunt for the White Jersey behind Simon Yates (ORICA-Scott).

Commenting on his the team’s performance, Louis Meintjes said: “It was a really good day for the team with five in the break-away and we got second place which is good.” 

Darwin Atapuma

Atapuma sprints for the line

Commenting on his second place finish, Darwin Atapuma said; “Today we prepared the stage very well and I think we did a great job. It is a shame we did not take the win, but to get second place, it really means a lot to me. It is almost like a victory.”

Barring the ritual of recent years, stage 19 heads out of the mountains and towards the Provence region. At 222.5km, this stage is Le Tour’s longest passing from Embrun to Salon-en-Provence. This stage may not cause much of a change within the General Classification standings, as the riders prepare themselves for the following days’ time trial.

Race leader Chris Froome's Team Sky had this to say about the stage:

Chris Froome strengthened his grip on the yellow jersey with a superb climbing display on the Tour de France’s final summit finish atop the Col d’Izoard.

Froome went on the attack inside the final kilometres on the hors categorie climb and finished fourth, having combined with Mikel Landa to devastating effect. The Spaniard attacked from the GC group as the climb increased in severity and Froome was able to bridge across to his team-mate with 2km to go.

Only Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) were able to follow Froome’s attack and the quartet battled hard inside the final kilometre on stage 18.

Up ahead Warren Barguil (Sunweb) just stayed away from the day’s break by a mere 20 seconds to take his second win of the race and Darwin Atapuma (UAE Team Emirates) dug in for second. That left four bonus seconds up for grabs and Bardet just prevailed ahead of Froome after a gruelling sprint to the line.

Chris Froome

Froome is getting closer to his Fourth Tour win

That leaves Froome 23 seconds out in front, with Bardet second, and Uran at 29 seconds after finishing a slightly distant fifth. After a huge amount of work in the closing kilometre Landa rolled home sixth on the day to move up to fourth overall, now 19 seconds ahead of Fabio Aru (Astana), 1:36” back on Froome.

Speaking having stepped off the podium, Froome said: “Of course it would have been nice to take a little bit of time today, but I’m pretty happy with that and I took two seconds on Rigoberto Uran who I think will be my biggest rival in the time trial. I’m pretty happy, the team was fantastic in the final and it's great having the numbers there to control things and having that card to play with Mikel Landa.

"I tried to give it a little dig behind, I thought I had a gap, but Rigoberto Uran brought it back. Uran and Bardet have both ridden a very good race so far, Romain Bardet taking the bonus seconds today, he can be pretty happy with that.”

But Froome doesn’t plan on resting on his laurels with three days to go: “I think it’s all still to race for in the final time trial to Marseille,” he continued. “It’s still close, it’s still everything to race for. If everything goes well I would fancy my chances in the time trial against the other guys but anything could happen still. It’s still very close.”

A huge 54-man break had gone up the road from the gun and once the race had settled down, their gap extended out to around eight minutes at one stage. But AG2R La Mondiale came to the fore on the first category Col de Vars and started to close the gap, which had halved by the time the race hit the Col d’Izoard.

Michal Kwiatkowski then took over as the first cracks began to appear in the GC group, with Aru the first major casualty. The Pole drove the pace for well over a kilometre before Landa’s decisive attack. Kwiatkowski has earned countless plaudits across the race for his superb work in support of the team but speaking after the stage he was quick to point the spotlight onto the whole team.

He said: “Everybody is looking at me saying I’ve done a hell of a job, but I get a lot of support from all the guys. Luke Rowe, Christian Knees, they’re really working hard in the beginning of the stage, supporting with the bottles, and we all support each other. At the end Chris and Mikel, they’re finishing so well every stage, so we’re happy to ride so well for such leaders. The team spirit is just amazing. It’s so great to be in such a team.”

TV pictures showed ‘Kwiato’ coming to a complete stop once he’d completed his effort, exemplifying how hard he’d worked. “When you can’t help anymore, there’s no point continuing,” he explained. “There’s another long day tomorrow, 222km. That will be a long day in the saddle, so it’s better to be ready for the next day, and that’s what I’m doing every day: thinking about tomorrow.

“I wasn’t cramping, just empty. On the Izoard it’s very difficult - even at 200 watts, you’re going so slow. I think it was better to stay on the side and not to make any stupid crash in front of the commissaire car! I did my job. I just stopped for five seconds!”

Orica-Scott sent me this race report:

2017 Paris-Nice stage winner Simon Yates has navigated the final mountains test at the Tour de France, finishing ninth on the 18th stage to Cole du Izoard today.

Yates lost touch with the yellow jersey group as attacks began to fire in the final five kilometres, but held his nerve and rode tempo to limit his time loss to 39seconds to race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) and 22seconds to white jersey contender Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates). Ahead, Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) won his second stage from an early attack on the final climb.

The 24-year-old ORICA-SCOTT rider’s performance continued his consistency on the more challenging terrain to see him maintain seventh place overall and the lead in the best young rider competition with three stages remaining.

“I had better legs today than yesterday and I didn’t lose much time so I think it was a good day,” Yates said. “I tried to do my own ride and my own rhythm and tackle the climb like this. I gave it everything so I have to be happy.”

“I was a little bit off that top group of riders on the final climb, I think it has been that way this whole Tour, but I am still happy with where I am at and how I have been riding.”

Yates holds a two-minute six-second lead to Meinjtes with two road stages and the penultimate time trial still to come. “You can never think you have won something until the job is complete,” Yates said when asked if he had the white jersey sewn up. “We still have some hard stages to go, including the time trial, so you can never be sure until we get to Paris."

“I’m in a good position. We need to be careful but I feel more confident now we have got through today.”

How it happened:

With today’s climbs presenting themselves late in the stage, the parcours welcomed a breakaway opportunity and 50 riders took up that challenge. ORICA-SCOTT was represented amongst the large group by Daryl Impey who had a second consecutive strong performance in the mountains.

By the climbs, their advantage had reached a maximum of eight minutes but the group began to fracture as the road headed upwards. Barguil was allowed to attack with Alberto Contador (Trek Segafredo) early on the final climb whilst behind, all eyes were on the general classification group as Sky controlled the tempo before an initial push by AG2R La Mondiale.

The pressure dramatically reduced the advantage to the surviving breakaway riders ahead as Daniel Martin (Quickstep Floors) also joined Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) in trying to attack Froome.

At the front of the race, Barguil caught and passed the remnants of the day’s breakaway and held off the fast closing yellow jersey group by 20seconds. Behind, riders split across the road in the final three kilometres, working to limit their losses on the final summit finish of the Tour de France.

BMC sent me this Stage 18 report:

20 July, 2017, Izoard (FRA): The final summit finish of the Tour de France didn't disappoint with a battle for the stage and General Classification playing out on the tough slopes of the Col d'Izoard.

After multiple breakaway attempts when the flag dropped at kilometer 0, a large group of 54 riders went up the road including Alessandro De Marchi, Amaël Moinard and Nicolas Roche.

The group gained more than 4'30" on the Team Sky-led peloton in the first 50km of racing, before seven riders attacked from the breakaway and established a 30-second advantage with just 100km remaining. Eight kilometers later, the two groups merged back together by which time their advantage over the yellow jersey group had extended to more than eight minutes.

More attacks came from the breakaway causing the group to split in half, with Roche and later Moinard, making the front selection.

On the high slopes of Col de Vars as the race entered the final 50km, four riders went clear from the breakaway and maintained their advantage on the descent and run into the Col d'Izoard. Another four riders bridged to the front with 25km to go, with a large chase group including Moinard behind, before three riders attacked again to hit the lead.

The peloton picked up the chase and brought the leading trio to within five minutes inside the final 20km before Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team) went solo on the early slopes of the Col d'Izoard. Multiple chase groups formed behind and back in the peloton, Damiano Caruso was well protected by Michael Schär.

Caruso dropped from the yellow jersey group 9km from the Izoard summit, while ahead Darwin Atapuma (UAE Team Emirates) attacked from the chase group to eventually pass Lutsenko and take over the lead with 7km of the climb remaining.

Attacks from the yellow jersey group saw Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) bridge to Atapuma and eventually take the solo win ahead of Atapuma and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) who won the sprint for third place from the General Classification favorites.

Caruso crossed the line in 27th place to retain 11th on the General Classification with three stages remaining.

Damiano Caruso: "For me, overall things went well. Everything that is coming is a plus for me. The rhythm was not so hard but I didn't have my normal level of energy. I was missing the legs so I suffered as long as I could. Three days to go so we will see."

Amaël Moinard: "It was hard. It was a big group in front and it wasn't turning well. It was really fast so it was very hard. It wasn't easy to think about the win because it wasn't very well organized in front. We would have needed five or six minutes at the base of the Col d'Izoard to have a chance. I am happy that I was in front today. I am happy with my last days of the Tour, all of the time I have been present and that's what I will remember. We were hoping to go for the win but we would have needed more time."

Lotto-Soudal sent me this report:

Just like yesterday the Tour peloton had to cover a mountain stage in the Alps. The eighteenth stage started in Briançon and finished on top of the Izoard after 179.5 kilometres. Again a very large front group was established in the beginning of the race, this time it consisted of 54 riders. Lotto Soudal was represented by four riders: Tiesj Benoot, Thomas De Gendt, Tony Gallopin and Jürgen Roelandts. After sixty kilometres seven riders jumped away from the group, but they were caught again after a short while. The peloton followed at eight minutes, but that would not be enough for one of the escapees to win the stage.

On the way to Col de Vars the front group split into two, Benoot and Roelandts were part of the first group. After Roelandts was dropped Gallopin joined the front group. Together with Atapuma, Lutsenko and Sicard he created a small gap before the top. Six riders would join them in the following kilometres. The group got smaller on the way to the Izoard and Lutsenko was alone by the foot of the climb. 6.5 kilometres from the top Atapuma joined him and left him behind not much later. In the meantime the GC riders were getting closer and closer. Polka dot jersey Warren Barguil rode to the front and took his second stage win. Tony Gallopin finished fourteenth, at 1’37”. Tiesj Benoot was 22nd at 3’23”.

Tiesj Benoot: “There were over fifty riders in the front group and that was good for me. I survived when the group was split. The Izoard was a very hard climb and I suffered. I could stay at the front for a long time, but at a certain moment I felt cramps coming up and I knew I couldn’t go over my limit anymore. I set a nice result today. I am nineteenth on GC now and that’s a proof that I coped well with the events the past three weeks. I have learned a lot and I hope to benefit from it in autumn and on the long term. I am very happy to be standing here on top of the Izoard. Tomorrow is a dangerous stage and on Sunday we will support André Greipel in the stage to the Champs-Elysées.”

Tony Gallopin: “It was no easy beginning for me. I was dropped a few times, but could always come back and even attacked a few times. It was even hard to hang on in the large front group. I was not riding at the front when the selection was made. On the Col de Vars I returned to the front and I felt better. I know that climb and descent, so I decided to attack before the top. There was no cooperation though. Atapuma was the best of the escapees. Winning the stage was impossible for me because the GC riders were so close and because the others were stronger. Still, I can be satisfied.”

“Since I have recovered from my ankle injury I have always done my work for the team or I joined a breakaway. I am very pleased about my condition. I hope to ride a good time trial on Saturday. It’s a distance I like and there’s a hill on the course. At the end of the Tour the freshness often counts. And of course I want to help André Greipel win a stage.”

Van Vleuten wins at La Course by Le Tour de France

Van Vleuten's Orica-Scott team sent me this race report:

Dutch national time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten has produced a spectacular performance for ORICA-SCOTT women to take victory atop the iconic Col d’Izoard at Le Course by Le Tour de France today, ensuring pole position for Saturday’s individual time trial in Marseille.

A short 67.5kilometre opening day of racing unfolded at lightening speed as the field sped through the Alpine valley towards the Izoard.

Van Vleuten’s ORICA-SCOTT teammates held position and kept her well placed at the front until the start of the climb as the selections began to form, Van Vleuten and Amanda Spratt were both part of the leading group that went clear with 14kilometres to go.

Timing her attack to perfection Van Vleuten accelerated clear inside the final five kilometres, creating an unassailable lead of 40seconds that she held all the way to the finish line.

“To finish here with a victory at the Tour de France in front of so many people is amazing,” said Van Vleuten. “You know before I wasn’t really a climber, but since the Olympics in Rio that was the first time that I felt I was climbing really well and that inspired me to focus more on my climbing and when we saw the route for today’s race I knew I wanted to go for it.”

“I have to be honest I thought that maybe I attacked a bit too early, because I was also thinking about Saturday and the time trial and I knew I needed to gain some time, but you also have to think about the legs. In the end it turned out great and proved to be the right time to go.”

The top twenty finishers from today’s stage earn the chance to compete in Saturday’s time trial and with Spratt finishing in sixth place ORICA-SCOTT are well positioned for another good result.

“It couldn’t have gone any better for us,” said sport director Gene Bates. “We knew that we had two in form riders coming out of the Giro with Spratty and Annemiek and we wanted to give them the easiest run in possible onto the climb and from there they would have the best chance to have a go.”

“We executed our tactics really well and obviously we are very pleased with the result. Annemiek is in a great place physically and also mentally, we have a great opportunity to do well on Saturday and the whole team is imbued with positivity, it’s a great place to be at the moment.

“Today has been a wonderful spectacle for women’s cycling and a very special day with all of the TV coverage and media, it has been a great experience and I’m sure Saturday will be the same.”

How it happened:

The sun started to break through the clouds on what had been a wet morning in Briancon for today’s 67.5kilometre race up to the summit of the Col d’Izoard and a nervy start ensued.

Attacks started to spring on the wide valley roads that marked the approach to the daunting Izoard and small splits occurred throughout the peloton as Team Sunweb set a fast early pace.

Rachel Neylan was part of a five-rider move trying to go clear as the road began to rise with 40kilometres to go, but the peloton refused to acquiesce and the front of the race came back together moments later.

As the Izoard started to rise in earnest with 23kilometres remaining a solo leader, Linda Villumsen (Velo-Concept) held a 40second advantage over the peloton with Boels-Dolmans controlling the chase.

Villumsen was caught inside the final ten kilometres by a heavily reduced bunch that contained Spratt and Van Vleuten for ORICA-SCOTT, the selection had been formed and duly split again as the gradient worsened.

With four kilometres remaining a series of accelerations from Van Vleuten shattered the front group as the Dutch time trial champion sped clear and created a 40second gap almost immediately.

Van Vleuten pushed on spectacularly and held her advantage all the way to the line to take a historic victory and ensure pole position for Saturday's concluding individual time trial.

La Course by Le Tour de France - Col d’Izoard results:

1. Annemiek van Vleuten (ORICA-SCOTT) 02:07:18
2. Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) 00:00:43
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) +00:01:23

How about a little Tour de France history?

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