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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 24, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life. -  Frances E. Willard

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Elite Women World Championships team reports

New Elite Women's World Champion Chantal Blaak's Team Boels-Dolmans posted this race report:

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When Chantal Blaak toed the line of the 2017 Road World Championships, she had a very clear team role to play. While Blaak would be an obvious team leader on most national teams, on a stacked Dutch squad, she was prepared to play a supporting role to the likes of Olympic road champion Anna van der Breggen, three-time road champion Marianne Vos and newly crowned individual time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten.

When Blaak crashed heavily in the second half of the race, she chased back on thinking about how she needed to get back to the bunch to lend her remaining efforts into her teammates.

When Blaak lit up an already-animated final with an attack at 23 kilometres still to race, she drew out Audrey Cordon (France) and Hannah Barnes (Great Britian). The move was a good one, Blaak explained, because she could help her teammates on the final time up Salmon Hill, the circuit’s decisive climb.

When the leading trio was joined by a group that included Van der Breggen and Van Vleuten, giving the Dutch team three out of seven riders in the lead, Blaak was ready to play the attacking game for her teammates. Van Vleuten launched first. Blaak countered with an acceleration she thought would set-up Van der Breggen or Van Vleuten for the win.

Instead the attack turned into the race-winning move.

For eight kilometres, Blaak was a lone figure powering towards the finish line in Bergen. She hit the 500 metre mark and sneaked a quick peek behind her shoulder.

No one was there.

The grimace turned first to a smile and then the impossible look of disbelief. Blaak raised her arms across the finish line, put her face in her hands just across it. The new road world champion delivered a Boels-Dolmans Cycling three-peat.

Chantal Blaak

Chantal Blaak is now champion of the world.

“I can’t believe it,” Blaak said. “Really everything happened in this race. I crashed, and I was in a lot of pain in that moment. I thought my race was over, but maybe I could come back, and we’d see what I could do. It wasn’t the plan that I should win the race. I wanted to make it the best possible race for the team.

“I was already super happy to have the national champ jersey this year, and now I have the rainbows,” Blaak added. “It’s a dream.”

In Blaak’s wake, a reduced bunch swept up the chase group. Katrin Garfoot (Australia) won the messy bunch kick for second place while Dideriksen, the defending champion, rounded out the podium. Boels-Dolmans ended the day with four riders in the top ten in Blaak, Dideriksen, Christine Majerus (sixth) and Van der Breggen (eighth).

Here's the race as seen by second-place Katrin Garfoot's Team Sunweb:

This year's Dutch champion Chantal Blaak took victory in front of Australian Katrin Garfoot, the bronze medalist at the individual time trial. The bronze medal was secured by last year's world champion Amalie Didriksen.

"I can not believe it when I crashed, I had to wait a while and I thought the ride was over. It was not the plan that I should win, but that I would work best for the team. I was so happy to be national champion and now I have the rainbow shirt, “ said Blaak.

There was a happy Norwegian 7th place for Susanne Andersen, the best result so far in this year's World Championship for Norway. "I had never thought so before," said Andersen after the ride. With a slightly better position, she could have come even higher up. ”I could be even tougher and been even further ahead of the last turn, but it became a little chaotic when we caught the others on the run," she continued.

That the Norwegian women had plans to mark themselves in the rides already appeared on the first round when Andersen lay in front and towed the rest of the field. In front of the bridge, Swede Sara Penton moved and she led 37 seconds on the main field after 19.1 kilometers. The Swedes held their time gap and after passing 38.2 kilometers, Penton led 18 seconds to Melissa Lowther from the UK who had come out of the main bunch. The big main field passed 56 seconds behind the leading Swedish rider.

Just after the Puddefjord bridge, there was a Swedish-British duo in front, before Lowther drove away from Penton towards the Laksebakken. In front of the Fløibanen, the Netherlands set its first bump and the field was together at 57.3 kilometers.

Up the Salmon Hill in lap 4 it was quiet before the storm, but down to the center the speed was set again, and Alice Barnes and Blaak appeared. Then Andersen pushed and she got a few meters. By passing halfway after 76.4 kilometers, Andersen had 10 seconds ahead of the field and for a short while she rode with  Ellen van Dijk. But this attempt was quickly brought back.

There were new attacks after 70 kilometers when Dutch Amy Pieters, Briton Hannah Barnes and Australian Rachel Neylan went together. The trio had only 10 seconds on the field over the top for the fifth time, but a big effort in the front of the field increased this. Involved in the field were three Italians with Elena Cecchini, Elisa Longo Borghini and Elisa Balsamo. But also world champion Blaak hit the asphalt. Worst affected was Megan Guarnier who could not finish the race.

Passing 95.5 kilometers the trio led with 35 seconds on the reduced main bunch. There was shock all over the Laksebakken and on the descent, the Netherlands and Australia were on the attack. A quartet was formed with Hannah Barnes, Australian Gracie Elvin and Dutch riders Amy Pieters and Lucinda Brand. The Danes took responsibility and drove in the quartet, upon passing 114.6 kilometers the field was together with 71 remaining riders.

Immediately after passing, there was new attack from Vita Heine and Marianne Vos. And then Briton Danielle King went too. Dutch Janneke Ensing, French Elise Delzenne and Australian Amanda Spratt went after and formed a new quartet in front.

In Laksebakken, the last time, they really began to move ahead and a very high pace resulted in a group getting away. Among the group were Van der Breggen, Van Vleuten, Garfoot, Pauline Prevot Ferrand, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Elizabeth Deignan and Tatiana Guderzo. The group quickly swallowed the break, but there was minimal cooperation between the stars.

Behind, in the main bunch, there was much better cooperation and they brought back the group.

Then a new strong attempt came with Blaak, French rider Audrey Cordon Ragot and again Hannah Barnes. Sarah Roy from Australia went after them.  At 133.7 kilometers, with 19.1 kilometers to go, the trio had 11 seconds on Roy and 32 seconds on the main peloton of 45 riders.

In the Laksebakken for the last time, the trio led 42 seconds on a main field headed by the local hero Heine. In the middle of the hill Niewiadoma went too and she brought Van Viguten, van der Breggen and Garfoot with her and these four formed at the front right before the top.

With 8 kilometers left to go, Blaak went and no other rider propelled themself from the group. All attempted escapes by the others were covered by the two remaining Dutch riders.

After the longest solo breakaway for women in a World Championship, Blaak could bask in the glory of a 28-second lead ahead of what had reformed into a major main field. The bunch sprint was won by Garfoot in front of Didriksen.

Team Quick-Step Floors previews the Elite Men's World Championship road race

Our team will have riders from eleven countries at the start of the hard 276.5km-long race.

Norway, the land of fjords and trolls, of Odin and Thor, of salmon and aurora borealis, is preparing to draw the curtain over the second World Championships edition the country has hosted, after the one in 1993. A competition which kicked out a week ago, when our squad was one of the main protagonists in the testing team time trial, will conclude on Sunday with the men's elite road race, one of the most awaited events of the year.

Julian Alaphilippe (France), Jack Bauer (New Zealand), David De La Cruz (Spain), Fernando Gaviria (Colombia), Philippe Gilbert (Belgium), Bob Jungels (Luxembourg), Dan Martin (Ireland), Maximiliano Richeze (Argentina), Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic), Niki Terpstra (Netherlands), Matteo Trentin (Italy), Petr Vakoč (Czech Republic) and Julien Vermote (Belgium) – who between them have won 33 races this season – are the thirteen Quick-Step Floors riders to line out for the race.

Since the team managed by Patrick Lefevere was created back in 2003, the Quick-Step Floors riders sailed to victory on four occasions – 2005 (Tom Boonen), 2006 and 2007 (Paolo Bettini), 2014 (Michal Kwiatkowski) – a remarkable feat no other World Tour outfit has achieved in recent times. On Sunday, many of the thirteen men mentioned above will start with a fair chance of taking the win and bringing the famed rainbow jersey back in the squad after three years.

Michal Kwiatkowski

Michal Kwiatkowski wins the World Championship in 2014

The course is cut out for both attackers and sprinters, the outcome depending on the weather and the way the event will be raced, as shown by the Junior and U23 races which took place earlier this week, where aggressive racing and strong attacks from afar spoiled the sprinters' chances. At 276.5 kilometers, this will be the longest race in the history of the World Championships and everyone's expecting it to revolve around Salmon Hill, the 1500m climb averaging 6.4% which will feature on each of the race's twelve laps, last time with ten kilometers remaining.

Will Salmon Hill play a decisive role or will the winning move form much earlier in the race? We'll find out in less than 24 hours, when the name of the new world champion will emerge from the peloton on the coastal city.

Frederik Frison sticks with Lotto-Soudal through 2019

The team sent me this release:

Lotto Soudal has extended the contract with Frederik Frison until the end of 2019. 25-year-old Frison had a season full of bad luck. In May he crashed hard at Quatre Jours de Dunkerque and fractured his pelvis. He was working on his comeback when he got glandular fever. That’s why the Belgian didn’t race anymore this season. Since about two weeks he has been training again.

Frederik Frison: “When you consider the long time that I have been off the bike, the feeling on training is quite good. I now do training rides of about two hours and still take sufficient rest. I am not tired anymore. It really is a relief to be able to train again.”

“Mentally it was hard not to be able to make a comeback due to the glandular fever, but I could put things in perspective. I am already looking forward to next season. This contract extension of two years feels really good. The team knows that I always do my job and I am rewarded for that.”

“Next year I want to set a new step forward. I know I’m good at my job, but of course I can still become better as a domestique. As a rider I can become more complete and that’s something I want to work on next season. I also hope to ride a Grand Tour, that would be good for my development.”

“At Lotto Soudal we are a good team. It’s perfect to get guidance from experienced riders. Lars Bak, André Greipel and Marcel Sieberg for example have taught me a lot. I am now very motivated to prepare for 2018. At the moment I am building up my condition and soon I will start power training.”

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