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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, June 12, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

I think I have something tonight that's not quite correct for evening wear. Blue suede shoes. - Elvis Presley

Current racing:

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Critérium du Dauphiné final team reports

Here's what final winner Jakob Fuglsang's Astana team had to say:

Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle

Superb race by the Astana Pro Team guys at the Critérium du Dauphiné with Jakob Fuglsang, at his top performance of the career, who conquered the stage and the general classification.

Fabio Aru attacked at 50 km to go on the Col de Colombier together with Alejandro Valverde, then retaken from the top riders, then again at the front in the last few km and 5th on the finish line and 5th, only 5 seconds back the third, in final GC.

It has been a super performance by the Astana Pro Team with every rider excellent in his role: Alexey Lutsenko, Michael Valgren, Nikita Stalnov, Sergei Chernestkii, Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev and Luis Leon Sanchez (until the tooth obliged him to give up).

Here are the words of the winner of the Critérium du Dauphiné 2017, Jakob Fuglsang: “It has been incredible, since the start everyone attacked the Yellow Jersey – commented Fuglsang – we tried to do the same tactic of the BMC… the Porte remained alone and there was a big confusion at the front until Fabio attacked and at the point the other teams has to work to close the gap.”

“I took a big advantage from this situation and when in the final Martin attacked, I had the legs to follow him and I did – continued the Dane – honestly I couldn’t believe that all of this was happening: I’m super super happy this is just great!”.

Jakob Fuglsang

Jakob Fuglsang timed everything perfectly.

Even Fabio Aru did a great performance today, even if he missed the final podium for 5 seconds only: “Yes for sure a 3rd place would have been better than a 5th but, to be honest, I came to this Dauphiné with many doubts because the season had not been lucky with the flu at Tirreno and the injury at the knee… today, I attacked with Valverde on the Colombiere and I said to myself ‘Let’s try how is the condition’!”

“On the final climb a kept the front and ended 5th but above all, I’m super happy for Jakob victory because he deserved it and the entire Team deserve this great result” concluded Aru.

Runner-up Richie Porte's BMC team sent me this:

11 June, 2017, Plateau de Solaison (FRA): Richie Porte had a target on his back when he lined up for the final 115km stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné in the yellow jersey and was put to the test as soon as the flag dropped at KM 0.

With four tough climbs on the menu, including the final hors categorie Plateau de Solaison summit finish, Porte's rivals attacked him on the ascent of the Col del des Saisies and from there it was a battle for Porte to hold onto his race lead.

Strong attacks from the General Classification contenders isolated Porte from his teammates and forced Porte to respond to every attack. Various moves went and were pulled back by Porte's group until the race came back together after the first two climbs, when a 22-rider group was formed.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte's last moments in yellow.

In the final 40km Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) attacked and the duo went clear to establish a lead of more than 1'30". Eventually, the leading duo was being chased by a seven-rider group, and behind Porte formed the third group on the ascent of Col de la Colombiere.

The first two groups joined together and behind, Porte was chasing at just over one minute back. Jakob Fulgsang (Astana Pro Team) and Dan Martin (Quickstep-Floors) attacked again and lead the race up the final Plateau de Solaison climb.

Behind, Porte was gaining time and slowly started to catch the riders in front, dropping everyone he passed as he fought to hold onto his yellow jersey.

Fulgsang dropped Martin and went clear to take the stage win. Porte was chasing the 1'15" advantage that he started the day with over Fulgsang and finished exactly 1'15" back on the stage in seventh place.

The ten second time bonus Fulgsang scored in the stage win meant he edged Porte off the top step of the podium, and Porte was forced to settle for second place. Although disappointed to lose the yellow jersey on the final day, Porte takes confidence from his third UCI WorldTour stage race podium of the season and an incredible display of form across the eight days of racing.

Richie Porte: "I think I showed in the end that I'm going well and I'm on track for July. It's bitterly disappointing to lose it by such a small margin but credit to Jakob Fulgsang. I think I was up against it from KM0 as it seems there were a few guys who preferred to see me lose the race and they lose their podium as well. I don't know what you can really learn from a stage like that. I guess that's racing but bring on July."

"I found myself in a position with no teammates, isolated. I could have done with a couple more teammates up there today. It was me against everyone there for a little bit. You don't forget that for July. It was a solid race. I'm happy for Jakob, he's a great rider."

"I can definitely take confidence out of the race in general. I know my form is there and of course it would have been nice to finish it off today, but it's definitely good signs for the Tour de France."

Fabio Baldato, Sports Director: "I think it was clear that Richie was the strongest rider on the climbs at this race. Sometimes you need to have it all come together and today it didn't. The team has been good all week but today we missed one guy to stay with Richie on the climbs. It was a pity because we had five guys at 20 seconds for a lot of the race and they couldn't quite make it back to Richie."

"The other GC guys wanted to make the race hard to isolate Richie and make it hard for us to come back. They did that well. Finally, Richie was alone. He was riding intelligently to follow second on GC but we saw that there were riders who didn't want to see us win. It was a good race from Fulgsang and Astana, they took advantage of this. I'm really sorry for Richie because I think he deserved to win. But, we take a lot of good things out of this week and we're excited for the Tour de France in July."

Team Sky didn't go down without a fight. Here's their report:

Chris Froome claimed fourth place at the Criterium du Dauphine as Team Sky put in an attacking effort on the final day. A valiant performance saw Froome go all out to win a fourth Dauphine title, and in the end fall short of the podium by a single second.

With an overnight deficit of one minute and two seconds to leader Richie Porte, Froome opted to go on the offensive early into the short but mountainous 115-kilometre test.

Hard accelerations on three of the day’s four climbs put the yellow and blue jersey under intense pressure, isolating Porte without his BMC Racing team-mates. With support from Michal Kwiatkowski and David Lopez up the road after a rapid start, Froome’s attacks helped ensure the peloton was vastly reduced following the Col des Saisies and Col des Aravis climbs.

However Froome saved his biggest surge for the Col de la Colombiere, dropping Porte over the top of the first-category mountain. Continuing onto the descent, Froome pushed hard to claw back a number of dangerous rivals who had also gone clear.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome (with Rafael Valls) gave it all he had.

Kwiatkowski put in a huge shift to help shut down a significant and dangerous gap to Fabio Aru (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) ahead of the final Plateau de Solaison.

With Porte completely alone Froome was briefly the virtual leader on the road. Yet Porte dug deep and clawed back over a minute on the final slopes, butt his attention quickly turned elsewhere as Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) put in a huge attack with 6.5km to go.

The move saw the Dane and Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) go clear, but it was Fuglsang who won the stage, taking 1:15 out of Porte, his exact deficit at the start of the day. Bonus seconds elevated Fuglsang onto the top step by just 10 seconds over Porte, while Martin was able to eke out third from Froome by just a second, 1:32 back.

"Everyone knew it was going to be a really aggressive day of racing," said Froome, who crossed the line eighth on the day. For us we weren’t here to try and protect second place – we wanted to race for the win today. So we put all our cards on the table and I think that’s exactly what we did as a team. Even though it didn’t pay off in the end I think we’ve got to be happy with that. I came here looking for a hard week of racing and that’s exactly what I got. I only had 19 days of racing before the Dauphine so I’m really light on racing. Hopefully this will move me on now as well in terms of preparations for July.

"At one point I was close to being in the virtual yellow jersey. But I think I’d done so much work earlier on to try and set up that situation that when I got to the final climb I didn’t have much left unfortunately. But if I’d just been here to defend second place I would have been more conservative. I would have waited for the last climb and just followed Jakob and Aru. That wasn’t the plan today.

"If I look at where I was a few weeks ago at the Tour of Romandie I seemed to be a long way off the pace. Here I feel as if I’ve got better and better over the week and at least I’m heading in the right direction. I feel as if I’m on track for July."

After the stage Sport Director Nicolas Portal took through the tactics and assessed the performance as a whole. He explained: "We knew a short stage like this is always fast, and if you want to isolate Richie the best way is to put the pressure on his team. From the first climb some of the GC guys started to attack. We knew that once one started we needed to be there too, so Froomey and Kwiato attacked. Then it became very complicated for Richie.

"Once he had no team-mates and we had two guys with Froomey we tried to pull a bit and make the race hard. He worked hard and Fuglsang obviously had the legs too. Froomey was missing a bit in the last five kilometres but it was the plan to attack along with the other GC contenders."

On the race as a whole, Portal pronounced himself happy with the performance, and a valuable week for Froome as he builds towards July. "It's a different Dauphine from the last number of years," he added. "We came here to try to win, and we saw Richie was super strong, and now we can see Fuglsang was clearly very strong too. I think these two riders were slightly better than us but the team rode fantastic every day. Froomey is on the way up, step by step to the Tour. For sure he's going to progress. He finished the race really well here, making some hard attacks and some long pulls. Obviously it didn't work out with the victory, but we've done a really good job here.

"We're all looking forward to the Tour and there's more to come."

Here's Lotto-Soudal's Dauphiné wrap-up:

The last day of the Critérium du Dauphiné was nail-biting. In the short stage of 115 kilometres, containing four climbs, yellow jersey Richie Porte was challenged from start to finish. Lotto Soudal riders Tiesj Benoot, Tony Gallopin and Rafael Valls all animated the stage as well.

Like yesterday, it took some time before a group of riders escaped the peloton. After thirteen kilometres 24 riders, including Tony Gallopin, got in front. On the Col des Saisies the front group split and after a few kilometres Tony Gallopin was leading solo. In the yellow jersey group the pace remained high because of attacks from Fabio Aru, Chris Froome and Alejandro Valverde. Eventually Tony Gallopin was caught by the yellow jersey group at 49 kilometres from the finish. Tiesj Benoot and Rafael Valls were part of it.

Then Fabio Aru and Alejandro Valverde attacked. Benoot and Valls joined the chase. Benoot got distanced just before the top of the Col de la Colombière and was caught by Porte. The Lotto Soudal rider kept up a good pace and finished fourteenth on Plateau de Solaison, at less than five minutes of the stage winner. Benoot is twelfth overall and the third best young rider on GC.

After Benoot had been reeled in, Froome made the jump to the chase group that included Valls. In the first kilometre of the final climb, with ten kilometres to go, the group closed the gap on Aru and Valverde. Three kilometres further Jakob Fuglsang attacked. He was accompanied by Dan Martin for a while, but then he rode solo towards the finish. Apart from a second stage win Fuglsang also took the overall win. Valls arrived as ninth at the finish, 1’41” down on Fuglsang. The Spaniard is tenth overall.

Rafael Valls: “This was a very hard stage. There were attacks all the time and from the top riders. On the climbs the pace never dropped. On the Col de la Colombière I decided to attack to take some lead before the last climb. In the descent we rode very fast and afterwards Michal Kwiatkowski set a very high pace to let Froome take as much advantage on Porte as possible. The last fifty kilometres were hell.”

“I was on my limit during the final climb. No doubt many other riders felt the same. I knew the end was near and I wanted to get the best out of it. I kept giving all I got until the finish. I am very pleased with this top ten place on GC. This is very important to me after I haven’t been performing on my best level for a long period due to injuries and illness. To achieve this result among all those Tour riders feels great. With the team we came here to win a stage and to aim for a top ten in the overall classification. Thomas de Gendt won the first stage and wore the yellow jersey for five days, I am tenth on GC and Tiesj Benoot twelfth. This is a very good result for our team.”

Tiesj Benoot: “I hadn’t expected to perform this well this week among all these top riders. I have surprised myself. That doesn’t mean I will change my plans. Today I travel to the Sierra Nevada where I will hold a training camp until June 21. I want to do my final preparations for the Tour over there. In the Tour I want to support André Greipel the best I can and I want to take my chance in breakaways. I won’t be aiming for a good overall result.”

“I had never ridden a stage like today. Right from the start the pace was high. Sky had noticed that the teammates of Richie Porte weren’t looking well and they wanted to isolate him. Together with Rafael Valls I got in a group with Contador, but I got distanced. I kept up my own pace and was able to stay with Porte for a long time. It was very hot today and the fact that I perform so well at these high temperatures is a good sign. In the past the heat was a weak point of mine, but now I can cope better with it. That is positive with the upcoming Tour in mind.”

LottoNL-Jumbo sent me this report:

Koen Bouwman won the mountain competition in the Critérium du Dauphiné today. The 23-year-old, winner of a stage early on, scored enough points this week for the overall win.

“This has been the greatest week of my cycling career so far," Bouwman said after the stage. “Today it wasn't possible for me to make the break. It was full-gas racing from kilometer 0."

Koen Bouwman

Koen Bouwman

"I was told that I mathematically had the win, but my sport director asked me to ride full gas from the bottom of the last climb to the top, because I was more than 18 minutes behind so it was a question of making the time cut. I'm exhausted but I'm also very happy.” Bouwman is the first Dutchman ever to win the polka dot jersey in the Dauphiné.

The attacking-style of riding from Bouwman was the key to success in the mountain competition. In four of the eight stages, Bouwman was in the breakaway of the day. With his stage win and the overall win in the mountains competition, Bouwman shows that talent development and success in the shorter WorldTour races go hand in hand. Besides Bennett and Roosen, Bouwman is the third Team LottoNL-Jumbo youngster in short time who takes his first pro win

“Keeping the mountains jersey was the best we could achieve today," Sports Director Grischa Niermann said. “It was 115 kilometres of intense racing. Froome, Aru and Valverde attacked right from the start and that made it a really nice stage to watch. Stef Clement also did well. Again he rode strongly today and he got a 16th place overall.

“It was a very good week for us, with a stage win and the mountains competition. We raced here with a very young team. With these performances, we did well as a team."

UAE Team Emirates had a good Dauphiné. Here's their report:

Louis Meintjes completed an impressive stage taking the 3rd place and moving up to 8th final general classification. Victory for Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) who took stage and leader jersey overtaking Richie Porte (BMC) and Daniel Martin (Quick-Step) in GC.

Meintjes was really strong towards the last 11.3 km that brought the riders to Plateau de Soalison where, while he was part of the strongest GC riders group, moves away with 3 km to go, dropping all the companions and chasing the leading duo Fuglsang and Martin ahead. His final attack did not give him the stage victory, however it produced a GC moves up, allowing Meintjes to overtake Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale).

Louis Meintjes

Louis Meintjes finishing stage eight

“Maybe I could attack a bit earlier but you never know. Sometimes you try earlier and after you pay for it as happened in the first mountain stage in this Dauphiné, during the Mont du Chat, where I attacked and I suffered in the final part loosing time” Louis Meintjes said “With the Tour de France as prospect, these performances make me more confident, and it means that the preparation we are doing with the team is working and we are on the right way”.

Sports director Scirea too is happy: “I’m satisfied for the performance of the whole team. It would have been great to obtain something even better, however it would have been very difficult because the race speed was very very high. Froome had a strong desire to win the Dauphiné and he and his team worked in order to race at a high pace since the start of the stage: that would have made too risky any early attack.

With the prospect of the Tour de France, we had good feedback about the high level of the team, all of our riders realized performances at their best during the Dauphiné and they’ll be at the start of the Grand Boucle in an even better form.
Maybe we were not at the top in the early stages, the reason is that our riders have not been in races for a quite long period, so they needed some days to be accustomed to the race pace.

Yesterday's performance too confirmed that the average performances level of our team is very good, since we won the team classification on the Alpe d’Huez”.

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