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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. - Thomas Merton

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Final Vuelta a España team report

An important Vuelta team report arrived too late to make yesterday's news page.

Cannondale-Drapac had a really good Vuelta. Here's the report the team sent me:

Cycling's 50 Craziest Stories

The #GreenArgyle Vuelta a España squad closed out the final three-week Grand Tour with seventh overall and the polka dot King of the Mountains jersey.

Canadian Mike Woods rode what he described as “the best race of my life to date” to contend with the sport’s top general classification riders. En route to seventh overall, 8’27 down on 2017 Vuelta winner Chris Froom, Woods recorded four top ten stage results, including third place atop Cumbre del Sol.

“I think the biggest lesson learned here is that I’m able to ride with some of the best riders in the world,” said Woods. “Prior to this race, I thought I might have the legs. I was putting out numbers that showed I was capable of having a performance like this, but I didn’t yet have it between the ears. And now I do – and a lot of that has to do with the experience I’ve gained here and the good guidance the team has provided. I really found my mojo during this race.”

Woods arrived at the Vuelta harboring ambitions to win a stage. It was only after his performance during week one and his subsequent rise to eighth overall that the team fully committed to general classification ambitions.

“Until stage ten, we never mentioned the words ‘general classification’ to Mike,” explained sport director Juanma Garate. “We didn’t call him our leader. I didn’t forget him, but I wasn’t showing that we were taking care of him because I didn’t want to put that pressure on his shoulders from the first day. It was only after the uphill final on stage nine that we started talking about the GC.

Michael Woods

Mike Woods in stage eight

Alongside general classification ambitions with Woods, Cannondale-Drapac juggled the battle for the King of the Mountain jersey. Italian Davide Villella first pulled on the blue-and-white spotted jersey following stage three. He went on to wear the jersey all the way to Madrid.

“The biggest challenge was being in the breakaways as often as possible in the first week and the third week,” said Villella. “In the second week, when there were less points that I could take, I had to focus on recovering. It was really special to pull on the jersey for the first time in Andorra three weeks ago, and it was even more special to wear it in Madrid.”

“The first Monday of the race, Villella pulled on the jersey, and he kept it from them until the end,” said Garate. “I don’t know if that’s happened many times. The overall jersey, ok, but the KOM jersey from the first real climbing day all the way until the finish? That’s a big effort.

“After the first day, when we had the points, we planned everything,” Garate noted. “The strategy was after the first day with the jersey, we tried to get in breaks the next two days – which we did. We wanted to show the other teams that we were going to fight for the jersey, and when we got so many points, more than half the bunch was already out of the competition. The gap was too big.

“Then it was time to rest for almost one week,” Garate added. “The second week didn’t have many mountains. There were uphill finishes, but we couldn’t fight for those. We wanted points from mountains that came before the finish, and the third week was the best for that. There were lots of points, so we wanted to be in the break as often as possible. Villella fought hard again in week three, and in the end, the plan worked.”

While the achievements are noteworthy in their own right, the context in which they were pursued lends a better understanding of the challenges overcome. Woods is only in his second year in the WorldTour. The 30-year-old came to the sport late following an elite running career derailed by injuries. He rode his first Grand Tour in May.


Davide Villella at the end of the Vuelta

His support team consisted of four Grand Tour debutantes in Toms Skujins, Tom Scully, Will Clarke and Brendan Canty.

“We came here with such an inexperienced team,” noted Garate “And all of them not only finished the race but contributed to the things we achieved. At the end, we had used every one of our riders completely.”

Then there was the bombshell dropped during the first weekend of the Vuelta. Eight days into the three-week long race, the Vuelta squad, like all Cannondale-Drapac riders and staff, received an email notifying them the team’s future was in doubt.

The following day, the team went out and rode the front for 160 kilometres before unleashing Woods, who climbed to third place.

“The day that stands out the most for me is stage nine,” said Woods. “Before the race, we had a long talk on the bus. We were all reeling from the bad news. We were distracted. Juanma stood up on the bus and gave a really emotional speech. He told us that he understood if we needed to seek results and focus on ourselves, individually. He gave us that option. And then he presented option two, that we work as a team and focus on our original goals.

“Every guy on that bus raised his hand for that second option,” Woods added. “Then we got off the bus and rode on the front all day. We proved that we belonged and that we weren’t going to go down without a fight. We raced like champions. I didn’t win, which would have been the perfect ending, but I had the best race of my life up until that point to come away with third.

“There was a big collective emotional release after that,” Woods noted. “We could all feel a sense of pride within the group, and we got a lot of respect from the peloton. The way we rode allowed us to move forward with our heads high and with positive momentum we could draw from throughout the race.”

Good news followed exactly two weeks later when Slipstream Sports revealed a new naming partner in EF Education First. By then seventh overall and the polka dot jersey were all but secured.

“I’m really proud of how the riders, staff and everyone managed the sad news we had two weekends ago to end up where we are on this weekend,” said Garate. “What we did here and the way we did it, despite the extra mental challenges, says a lot about who we are as a team and how we work together.”

And here's Lotto-Soudal's GP de Montreal report

The Canadian diptych came to an end yesterday evening Belgian time with the GP Montréal.

Matteo Dal-Cin and Ben Perry managed to go clear fairly quickly after the start, but the work of Cannondale at the front of the peloton made it impossible for them to build a large gap. The duo was already reeled in with 85 kilometres to go. The winning move only happened in the penultimate 12.1 kilometres lap of the race, which counted seventeen in total. A sixteen riders group instigated by Jan Bakelants broke away, but it was then reduced to six after Bauke Mollema accelerated. Tony Gallopin managed to make the cut and rode the last lap in the front group. The Frenchman launched a late attack and tried to solo to victory, but he could unfortunately not stay away, and he was caught only three hundred metres from the finish line. Diego Ulissi proved to be the strongest yesterday. Jesús Herrada and Tom-Jelte Slagter finished respectively second and third. Gallopin crossed the line in sixth place.

Diego Ulissi

Diego Ulissi wins in Montreal

Tony Gallopin: “I jumped on Jan Bakelants’s wheel when he attacked in the penultimate lap, and the winning break was formed. Bauke Mollema then accelerated on an uphill section and our group was consequently down to six riders. I was determined to go for the win, so I decided to play all-or-nothing. I saw an opportunity around two kilometres from the line and I attacked. I never looked back, I just went full gas. It unfortunately didn’t go my way. The legs felt great, that’s a good sign for the World Championships. I hope my condition can still improve a bit in the two short weeks we have before going to Norway.”

BMC headed to GP de Wallonie

The team sent me this update:

11 September 2017, Santa Rosa, California (USA): BMC Racing Team returns to Belgium this week with a strong and motivated team set to line up at Grand Prix de Wallonie on Wednesday (13 September), the first in a series of three one-day races.

Sports Director Valerio Piva thinks BMC Racing Team is taking a competitive mix of youth and experience to Belgium. 

"Although it is not one of the biggest Classics, Grand Prix de Wallonie is a famous race, and it has a traditional uphill finish in Namur. As always, we will need to race aggressively, and everyone will have the opportunity to try and jump in the right moves. We have a good group of riders with the experience of Martin Elmiger, who will be our road captain, and younger riders like Nathan Van Hooydonck and Patrick Müller. I think Ben Hermans will come out of the OVO Energy Tour of Britain in good shape and alongside Dylan Teuns, this is a good finish for him, and we will look to protect these riders. We know Dylan is motivated and that he can perform well on a parcours like this, so we will see how he recovers after being in Canada. Plus we also have Loïc Vliegen coming out of the Vuelta a España, and we will see what his condition is like, but if you can finish the Vuelta, you are already in good shape," Piva said.

Dylan Teuns

Dylan Teuns wins this year's Arctic Race of Norway stage one.

Teuns is looking forward to returning to the start line in Belgium. "It's always nice to race on home soil, and this is a parcours that suits me well. Grand Prix de Wallonie is another typical Ardennes race, and I have already shown that I can perform well in this region over the 2017 season. I am going into the race after the two Canadian one-day races, so I hope that I recover well. I really enjoy this style of racing, and I am motivated to try and go for a good result with the team," Teuns explained.

Grand Prix de Wallonie (13 September)

Rider Roster: Martin Elmiger (SUI), Floris Gerts (NED), Ben Hermans (BEL), Patrick Müller (SUI), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BEL), Loïc Vliegen (BEL)

Sports Director: Valerio Piva (ITA)

Team Sunweb's plans for the World Championship's time trial

The team sent me this preview:

Both Team Sunweb's men and women programs head to Bergen this week for the UCI World Championships. First on the agenda is the team time trial on Sunday, 17th and both programs line-up with strong teams for the race. The course for both the men and women is the same, a 42.5 kilometre route from Ravnanger to central Bergen. After a flat section to give riders chance to settle into a rhythm, riders are tasked technical section, a climb followed by another flat section, a second climb and a cobbled section towards the finish.

Team Sunweb's Coach Adriaan Helmantel (NED) said: "This is a challenging course with various ups and downs and we line-up with a strong and motivated team from both our men's and women's programs. Our scientific expert Teun van Erp made extensive analysis of the course based on a recon from earlier this year to determine the optimum rider order and pacing plan for Bergen.

"Our men's program have just come out of a great Vuelta and some good racing in Canada so are in top shape. Sam and Lennard both had to abandon the Vuelta and are fully recovered again and back on track for Bergen. Tom and Wilco have shown really strong TT's across the year with Tom winning the Giro's time trial and Wilco finishing 2nd in the Vuelta's TT. To round off the team we have Søren and Michael who are more explosive riders with the characteristics needed for a course of this nature. Our scientific expert Teun van Erp, has prepared extensive analysis of the course to ensure that

"We believe that our women's team are in contention to take a medal in Bergen, but it will be a fierce battle. We have spent some time training to perfect our technique over the past few months and have a final block coming up this week to further fine-tune. Each rider is a strong time trialist in their own right. We have the European ITT champion with Ellen and a powerhouse with Lucinda. Alongside these two we have the fast-women Leah and Coryn with Sabrina who is good on the climbs and Floortje who is strong against the clock. After a strong result in the Giro Rosa's TTT the team are motivated to take a strong result this weekend."

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