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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, September 7, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. - Voltaire

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Vuelta a España stage 17 team reports

Here's what stage winner Stefan Denifl's Aqua Blue Sport team posted about the day's racing:

Stefan Denifl has taken his biggest career win as he took victory on stage 17 of La Vuelta. The stage was a climber’s day over 180 kilometres of rolling roads that finished on top of the super steep Alto de Los Machucos climb in the northern reaches of Spain.

Denifl started the day in the breakaway and rode strongly towards the last climb. He took the maximum climbing points on the Puertos de Alisas. At the bottom of the last ascent he then accelerated as the riders at the front hit the early steep sections.

Behind Alberto Contador set off in pursuit of Denifl but he kept the lead all the way to the top losing just a few seconds. The gap fell to 23 seconds with a kilometre to go he capitalised on the relief of a downhill section.

Denifl crossed the line and through his hands in the air for a historic victory. After the finish he said:" It all began 17 racing days ago and we all have been working towards today. It has been a long journey. We have many guys and it is their first grand tour for them. I was hoping somehow to help them a little bit and let them know how hard it was going to be. I have been getting better day by day and already on the rest day on Monday I started to feel pretty good. My goal was to be on a level on the last week of the Vuelta where I can win a stage. It just happened today it is just amazing."

Stefan described the process of getting away and the work of seizing the victory: "When the break went Conor Dunne helped me a bit to move up. I was there with three guys and the peloton didn’t leave us go. We had to really push hard for a long time to get clear. The peloton then sat up about 20 kilometres in and that was a point where we were really not sure what we should do because we were only three guys in the front with a head wind. Good thing was two more riders came. We got a good time gap and soon Astana started chasing and some other teams. But I knew I had good legs and I really didn’t care what was happening behind. The last climb was a little like Kitzbuheler Horn. I was just about pacing yourself and believing in yourself and it worked out.

Stefan Denifl

Stefan Denifl wins Vuelta stage seventeen

“I didn’t know what was happening, I did not know Contador was coming for me. My radio was not working on the climb. It was amazing on that climb, there was so much people and I tried to enjoy it. You cannot enjoy it but I tried to get the energy of the people to get me going. Then like two kilometres to go I was looking back and I could see someone coming and I said to myself ‘Stefan you have to put everything together in yourself to do this’. I fought to the last kilometre because I knew that I had a bit of downhill and you know it worked out."

He dedicated his win to his young son:"I do not know too much about him as I have been on the road and I only saw him for one week. He is Xavier and he is four weeks old and he is a good boy. He has no idea I won a Vuelta stage but maybe in a few years he will be proud of what his Dad did."

Rick Delaney said: “To be honest, this has been a very emotional day. Not in our wildest dreams did I think that we could have won a stage in our first Grand Tour. Just to be here, participating and to do what we did today. The conditions that we did it in, the last seven kilometres, it was like going up a wall. To see our name and Alberto Contador and Chris Froome chasing us and not catching us. I mean it was just surreal. I think it shows you the self-belief here in this team. Let’s call it like it is, we don’t have the best riders in the world and the guys have raw talent. I don’t know what it is on this team but staff, riders everybody just seems to work. We get 150 per cent when we should only get 100 per cent."

Alberto Contador was second. Here's what his Trek-Segafredo team had to say:

If he had the legs and the moment was right, everyone knew it was coming.  And when Jarlinson Pantano jumped out of the bunch in the early part of the brutally steep Los Machucos finish climb, it's usually a dead giveaway something is up his sleeve. And yet, when Alberto Contador made his move with six kilometers remaining of stage 17, no one answered.

Contador dug deep; his teeth gritted in his typical 'never-say-die' grimace.  He pushed the pace hard, then harder. The gap stretched to an incredible 50 seconds over race leader Chris Froome (Sky) and his posse of teammates. Finally, other rivals reacted, leaping around Team Sky to try and limit the damage.

One by one Contador picked off the riders ahead. First Miguel Lopez (Astana), who had attacked moments earlier in pursuit of Pantano, and then the scattered remnants of the breakaway. With three kilometers to go, only one rider remained out front: Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport), the sole survivor of the day's six-man escape group.

"I wanted to turn the pedals, and finally my legs responded today," said Contador. "It was important to put my foot down, and the bike responded. I knew that Miguel Ángel Lopez would attack and I wanted to follow him if he moved. He opened a small gap, and I gave chase. On his wheel, I felt was that I was comfortable, and I saw he was slowing on the ramps, so I didn't think twice about pushing on. I went ahead, and today I had enough left to keep going."

Although Contador ate into the 90-second lead held by Denifl, he ran out of real-estate to catch the Austrian, who went on to take the biggest win of his career. Twenty-eight seconds later Contador crossed the line in second, and the clock began to tick.

When the times were tallied, the cost to the rivals sitting ahead of Contador on the General Classification should have them concerned: Contador edged almost a minute closer to the podium and now sits 1 minute and 21 seconds from the third step held by Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo).

A,berto Contador

Alberto Contador is finding his legs at this Giro

Contador continued: "Today I had good legs; it was one of my best days of the race. The weather is how I like it, and that is always a factor. It was a shame not to be able to win the stage for my team and my fans, but there are three hard days ahead so let's see what I can do.

"The podium is both near and far. Given the time differences at the start of the day, I've gained a lot of time, but the podium is still near and far," pointed out Contador, carefully treading the middle ground.

With two more summit finishes in the next four days, including the monstrous l'Angliru on Saturday, Contador may be playing it coy, but his rivals certainly must be feeling his pressure from behind.

He then added: "I think things can still happen in this race. In the end, it's a Vuelta in which you give everything in every stage, and you have to prepared for anything to happen. Tomorrow, I will encounter one of the climbs that have marked my history as a rider. It's always special to be there. Let's see what happens tomorrow."

"I'll ride with my head, my heart, and my legs," he smiled.

But, of course. It's the same way he has always ridden.

Chris Froome remains in the lead. His Team Sky sent me this update:

Team Sky's Chris Froome maintained his lead at the Vuelta a Espana after a dramatic stage saw some of his rivals claw back time they had lost in Tuesday’s time trial.

Froome finished 14th on the stage, which was won by Aqua Blue Sport's Stefan Denifl. He is now 1 minute 16 seconds ahead of Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, with the race set up for an aggressive final few days of racing before it reaches the finish in Madrid on Sunday.

Froome said: “It’s never nice to lose time like that but at the same time I’m still really happy with the positon that we’re in. I think we always knew today was going to be a really tough final and it certainly was, especially with the weather conditions as well.

"With three days of racing to go the team is still in a great position. I’m feeling good and looking forward to the next few days. This was a typical Vuelta summit finish. It’s the nature of the race and it’s the same for everyone of course. I don’t think anyone really enjoys gradients over 25 percent but that’s just how it is. I still feel good and I’m confident with the guys around me that we can get the job done.

"I think I paid a little bit for yesterday’s effort but at the same time I’m pretty sure I’ll bounce back after today."

Chris Froome

It looks like Froome still has a pretty good grip on the leader's red jersey.

Looking ahead to Saturday's summit finish on the Angliru, Froome said: "I’m not really concerned (about the Angliru). Of course it’s a really tough stage, and probably the toughest climb of this year’s Vuelta. There’s still a big battle for the GC but we’ll take it one stage at a time.”

At the Tour of Britain, Team Sky's Italian sprinter Elia Viviani regained the overall race lead after finishing second on the Stage 4 finish into Newark. Fernando Gaviria of Quickstep Floors took the win.

After the stage, Viviani said: “For sure it’s good to have the leader’s jersey back on the shoulders. I’m disappointed but the good point is that for around a month I’ve never been outside the top three when I’ve contested the sprint. That’s good for the morale and good for the team because they’ve worked really hard here with only six guys to control the race every day. They’ve done a great job.

“The goal is more stage wins and 10 wins in a season is the goal I’ve set myself for the last couple of years. I’m really close now and we have three more chances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I hope one of these three will be a good one!"

Lennard Kämna abandons Vuelta

Team Sunweb sent me this report:

Team Sunweb's young German Lennard Kämna is forced to abandon the Vuelta a España after its 16th stage due to discomfort in his right knee.

The youngest rider in the 2017 Vuelta peloton, 20-year-old Kämna has played an important support role for Team Sunweb's general classification ambitions and took a strong 8th place in the stage 16 time trial but discomfort in his knee forces him to end his Grand Tour debut early, in order to focus on his recovery for the upcoming worlds team time trial.

Team Sunweb's Physician Mannes Naeff (NED) explained: "Lennard has started to experience some pain in his right knee and if he continues with these symptoms there is a likelihood that these problems will worsen. After yesterday's time trial he experienced some irritation in the knee so the best decision is for Lennard to take some rest for a fast recovery and to avoid possible long-term symptoms, which could impact on his goals for the remainder of the season and beyond."

Kämna said: "It's really disappointing to have to end my first Grand Tour early. It's been a great experience so far where I feel that I have learnt a lot. I'm already looking forward to lining up on the start line at my next Grand Tour with the team."

Team Sunweb coach Marc Reef (NED) said: "It's unfortunate that we have to withdraw Lennard from the race. He's a young guy and so far he has had a great Grand Tour debut, where he has made the next step in his development. We want to avoid the knee injury getting worse and don't want to force it with the upcoming worlds team time trial."

Brent Bookwalter forced to abandon Tour of Britain after crash on stage four

Team BMC sent me this bad news:

6 September, 2017, Newark-on-Trent (GBR): Brent Bookwalter has been forced to abandon the OVO Energy Tour of Britain after crashing into a parked car on stage 4 which left him with multiple contusions, BMC Racing Team doctor, Dr. Scott Major confirmed.

"It looked like Brent hit the edge of the car coming out of the corner and then flew forward, and was lying near the passenger side door. He didn't go into the windshield, but he did hit his head and has a mild to moderate concussion, which is the biggest concern and we will continue to monitor him now he is out of the hospital. He also has some small lacerations, including one on his shoulder which required stitches, as well as some road rash and a deep thigh contusion. He underwent X-rays at the hospital, and everything came back negative so there are no fractures and all his injuries appear superficial at the moment. In terms of his recovery, I think it will be good for him to back on the bike in the next four to six days to spin the legs but he will definitely need a couple of days rest," Dr. Major explained.

Bookwalter is disappointed to crash out of the race but is thankful that his injuries will not require too much time off the bike.

"I don't remember the crash entirely which does make it a little scary. I remember, at the last moment, hitting the car and then I was on the ground. I instinctively tried to get back up but my head was pounding, and I was feeling a bit fuzzy. Since being taken to the hospital, I have slowly been getting back to myself, but I am definitely feeling sore. As disappointed as I am to crash out of the race, I can be thankful that I had a big round of X-rays and there are no fractures, and I won't have a prolonged period of recovery. I am definitely in some pain but thankful that it wasn't as bad as it maybe could have been," Bookwalter added.

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