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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 10, 2017

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

We give advice by the bucket, but take it by the grain. - Tom Stoppard

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Vuelta a España stage 20 team reports

Alberto Contador won the big stage. Here's the report from his Trek-Segafredo team:

It's the stuff of legends.

Cycling's 50 Triumphs and Tragedies

In the ultimate mountain stage of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana, with rain making for a treacherous race, Alberto Contador, as he has done hundreds of times in his career, attacked.

After following teammate Jarlinson Pantano's acceleration on the slick and dangerous descent ahead of the 12-kilometer climb that ended stage 20, Contador set off at the bottom and by the top of the iconic ascent had added one final, glorious stamp to his amazing passport of palmarès.

Contador's celebration will be his last, and certainly, it will be one of his most meaningful.  It has been a roller coaster ride in his final season, never achieving what he hoped for, but only legends can rise to the occasion in the last opportunity, and Contador did just that with a fantastic and historic win atop the Angliru.

Contador said: "The truth is it has been a very, very special day. I think it’s very difficult to say good bye in a better way than this, in this place, in this event. In the end, it's a full stop at the end of a career in which I have done everything I wanted. I think it's been a beautiful Vuelta even though I am not on the podium. But perhaps if I had been in contention for the overall podium I would have ridden in a different way, more conservative, and instead I have ridden the race I have ridden - I look at the photos, and almost every day there are pictures of me alone because I have been on the attack."

Contador fell short of the final podium by 20 seconds, but it mattered little – he finished his career on top, and he did it in the only way he knows how. It was a thrilling show of panache as he fought his way up the Angliru in front of thousands of home country fans, and when he pointed his famous gesture for the final time as he crossed the line, it gave goosebumps to even the most stoic.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador wins Vuelta stage twenty

"I knew it was going to be a very special day, the road full of people and everyone watching the stage, and I set the goal for myself of winning on the Angliru," continued Contador. "This morning I wanted to win, and when I crossed the line, I thought to myself: goal completed."

"In the end, we couldn't take the podium, but this is not what's important," added Contador.  "What's important is to take the victory of the stage and finish with this result for the rest of my life."

All this was made possible by the warriors surrounding Contador.  His teammates pulled in the first half of the short 117.5-kilometer stage to keep an 18-man breakaway in check, keeping them at roughly one minute.

When the climbing started his trusted lieutenant, Pantano, went to work. Pantano not only paced Contador up the ascents but also led him safely down the other side, crucial on the final slick descent where numerous crashes occurred. It was here that the pair created a gap on the rivals, which opened the door for his last attack.

"I spoke with teammates ahead yesterday and said that tomorrow could be one day for the history.  They gave 100% to control the first part of the race. All the riders helped me, and especially Pantano for the descent of the Cordal. We started the Angliru with some seconds to the rivals, and then I knew it was my time and I needed to give the maximum until the top and try to win," explained Contador.

"Today's attack was different because it was an attack on the descent. It's unusual in the history of cycling for this on a dangerous descent, but Jarlinson attacked, and I went with him," he added.

That gap was all they needed. Pantano threw everything he had left into the first part of the Angliru, emptying himself to a standstill, and Contador finished his work, paying back his team with a victory, and giving the fans a farewell to remember.

"I have been able to enjoy the affection of all the people who say thank you to me. It's been a remarkable month, unforgettable," ended Contador. "I think in the future it'll be remembered that in my last day of competition, I finished it with a win." 

Chris Froome about wrapped up his 2017 Vuelta win. Here's the report his Team Sky sent me:

Team Sky’s Chris Froome is set for an historic victory in the 2017 Vuelta a Espana.

Froome maintained his overall lead by finishing third on Saturday’s Stage 20, which was won by Alberto Contador in his final race. The action-packed stage saw a battle through tough weather conditions up to the finish on L’Angliru, regarded as one of the toughest climbs in the sport.

The 32-year-old leads Vincenzo Nibali by 2 minutes 15 seconds and is now set to complete a Tour de France / Vuelta a Espana ‘double’. His historic achievement will be sealed on Sunday when the peloton completes the largely ceremonial final stage into Madrid.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome just after finishing stage twenty

Froome will become only the third rider ever to win the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana in the same year after Jacques Anquetil (1963) and Bernard Hinault (1978). Froome will become the first rider ever to achieve the ‘double’ since the Vuelta moved in the calendar to become the last of each year’s three Grand Tours in 1995.

Competing in the 2017 Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, Froome will have completed over 6800km / 4200 miles of racing across 42 stages through Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Andorra and Spain. After more than 160 hours of racing his combined margin of victory is expected to be just over three minutes.

Froome has previously finished 2nd on three occasions at the Vuelta a Espana, including in the 2011 edition, where he made his breakthrough as a Grand Tour rider. He will be the first British rider to win the Vuelta a Espana.

Froome said: “It’s an amazing feeling. The team has just been incredible over the last few months. It’s meant so much to me, the way they have supported us. I owe a massive thank you to all my teammates.

“I have to say that is probably the toughest Grand Tour I’ve ever ridden. There was something different happening every day. I’ve had good days and then I’ve been lying on the ground, bleeding, thinking my race might be over. It’s been a rollercoaster – absolutely relentless. It’s a relief now to finish and to be getting to Madrid.

“I think it probably is my greatest achievement, being the first person to win the Tour de France and then go on to win the Vuelta.

On today’s stage, and Alberto Contador’s victory, Froome said: “L’Angliru is such a brutal climb, so congratulations to Alberto (Contador) for finishing off the way he did. That was an amazing way to end a career. He was just too strong for us today”.

Dylan Groenewegen wins Tour of Britain stage seven.

Here's the report his LottoNL-Jumbo team sent me:

Dylan Groenewegen has won the queen stage of the Tour of Britain. The 24-year-old rider from Amsterdam defeated Caleb Ewan in the bunch sprint in Cheltenham. It meant the 23rd victory of Team LottoNL-Jumbo this season, the seventh of Groenewegen. In addition to Groenwegen's stage victory Lars Boom successfully defended his lead in the general classification.

Today's stage was extremely wet. It was raining almost all day, which did not make it easier for the riders. Groenewegen saw teammate Boom race a strong course nevertheless. "Lars is looking strong. They continued to attack him, but he countered every time."

Dylan Groenewegen

Dylan Groenewegen wins Tour of Britain stage seven.

After the last climb of the day, it was Groenewegen’s time to shine. "I became second, third and fourth earlier. Winning today feels extra beautiful. The shape is getting better", Groenewegen said.

Lars Boom saw from a distance how Groenewegen won the stage. "I even encouraged him through our communication”, he said afterwards. "It was a difficult day for me, but I have been able to defend the lead. My teammates had to work hard for it. The fact that Dylan makes all that hard work shine even more makes it a perfect day”, Boom said.

Cannondale-Drapac team is saved, new title sponsor is found

Here's the (good!) news release the team sent me:

EF Education First and #GreenArgyle fans have teamed up to #SaveArgyle. Slipstream Sports rides on in 2018 thanks to a newly inked deal with EF Education First. The family-owned global education company will become the first naming partner of the American-registered squad in 2018 and will eventually become majority owner of Slipstream Sports.

Team EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale will remain wholeheartedly committed to the gutsy, open and engaging approach for which it has become known.

“We are honored to begin working alongside Slipstream Sports, Cannondale, Drapac, and all of the wonderful partners at Slipstream Sports to keep our cyclists riding into 2018 and for years to come,” said Edward Hult, CEO North America, EF Education First. “We were inspired to step in and become the team’s title partner, and will become majority partner, after learning about the #SaveArgyle campaign and witnessing the incredible outpouring of support from fans around the world.

“We have been moved by the powerful way that cycling unites people of diverse backgrounds in a peaceful, fun, and friendly way to achieve extraordinary athletic feats,” Hult added. “It aligns perfectly with EF’s mission of opening the world through education and our commitment to bringing different cultures together.”

Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters describes EF Education First as “the perfect partner” alongside the “whole athlete” focus embraced by Drapac Group owner and chairman Michael Drapac,

“Drapac’s focus is athlete education, athletes being healthy and whole, having options in life,” said Vaughters. “That’s what these guys at EF are all about. Education is what they do. They’re about breaking down cultural barriers and teaching people how to communicate. It’s a sponsor that feels socially relevant in this day as the world becomes increasingly global and communication among cultures becomes more critical. I think it also matches the ethos of Slipstream Sports. I couldn’t ask for a better fit.

“This partnership would not have come off without the fan support,” Vaughters added. “That ground swell showed a level of engagement that enticed potential sponsors to step forward. The world we live in is all about engagement. It’s not about pure numbers. It’s about ‘are you really reaching your audience?’ and our crowdfunding proved that our fans are engaged — engaged all the way into their wallets. That’s incredibly special and humbling. That demonstrated to the world that this team is an entity that people love and support. We could not have gotten this deal had our fans not mobilized the way they did.”

With EF Education First becoming majority owners of Slipstream Sports, that deal extends beyond traditional sponsorship and naming rights and secures the team’s future for years to come.

“I’m incredibly happy and also exhausted,” said Vaughters. “These last two weeks, I’ve put in more hours working than I ever have and fewer hours sleeping – that’s telephone calls, meetings, flying here and there. I’ve been holed up in a hotel all week in New York. I’m exhausted but I’m also so happy and so proud.

“I’m proud of how the organization held it together through all this – the riders, staff, sponsors, fans,” Vaughters added. “Every single minute I’ve worked on this was so worthwhile.”

Rigoberto Uran

Rigoberto Uran was second in this year's Tour de France


Q: How did the connection with EF Education First come about?

I reached out to Philip and Edward Hult, who along with their father Bertil, privately own EF, several times in the last few years. Based on what I knew about EF, I thought they would be a great fit alongside our other sponsors – and I’m happy that the more I learn about EF and the people behind this organization, the better and better the fit seems.

When EF learned about the #SaveArgyle campaign from a colleague, they decided to dig a little deeper. They weren’t very familiar with the world of professional cycling, but all the details they unearthed impressed them. They discovered clear overlap between our story and mission and their own, and things have unfolded from there.

Q: What are the terms of the deal with EF Education First?

Because this deal extends beyond traditional sponsorship, the terms of the deal are fluid. For now, I can say that we’ve agreed to terms for the next several years and that both Slipstream Sports and EF see this as a long-term partnership.

Q: Slipstream Sports has always been a low-budget squad. Will this change?

That’s the idea over the long-term. Next year, our operating budget will be similar to what it has been for the last several years. 

Q: You released riders and staff from contracts two weeks ago and then recently said all 2018 contracts will be honored. Did you lose anyone in those two weeks?

We didn’t lose any more riders than most teams lose in a normal transfer season. While I’m not in a position to comment on the full make-up of our squad for 2018, I’m excited to share plenty of contract news in the coming weeks.

Q: Is Rigoberto Uran staying with the team?

Yes. His three-year deal stands – as does his goal to win the Tour while in argyle.

Q: You said that the fans saved argyle. Is that really true?

Absolutely. The ways our fans mobilized was a major attraction to EF. I cannot thank our fans enough for helping us secure this deal.

Q: What will happen with the crowdfund donations?

Given the feedback we’ve received from our backers, we will be using this money in 2018. We’re exploring several different options as to where these funds can best be used to bolster our efforts next season, as well as funding post-career rider education, and we look forward to communicating this with everyone when decisions have been finalized. 

Q: Is the Indiegogo campaign still open for business – and if so, why?

Yes, our crowdfunding campaign is still online and active. While our needs have changed with EF coming aboard, this campaign offers #GreenArgle fans the opportunity to support this team. If you want in, we want you. Get involved here:

Q: Will I still get my #SaveArgyle mug?

Yes, yes. You will still get your #SaveArgye mug – and we’re delivering more than the promised perks, so stay tuned for that news!

Q: When’s our donors’ meeting?

We’re still working on that – but it’s definitely happening. All of us here at Slipstream Sports are very much looking forward to meeting all of you who backed the #SaveArgyle movement when we needed you most.

About Slipstream Sports

Cannondale-Drapac is an American-registered WorldTour cycling team competing at the highest level of the sport. In the 2017 season, Cannondale-Drapac competed with the youngest roster, lowest budget and one of the most diverse squads in the WorldTour.

The team is managed by Slipstream Sports, the brainchild of Jonathan Vaughters and Doug Ellis, who founded the company in 2005 on the belief there was a better way to run a cycling team. First and foremost, the team has always been unwavering in its commitment to anti-doping, and was the first professional cycling team to institute its own internal testing protocols.

The team's notable achievements include: stage wins at every Grand Tour, Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, the overall classifications at the Giro d'Italia, Criterium du Dauphiné, Tour of Missouri, Tour of Utah, the USA Pro Challenge, Tour of Alberta and at three monuments: Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia. In 2017, Cannondale-Drapac finished second overall at the Tour de France with Colombian star Rigoberto Uran.

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