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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, April 4, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Every strike brings me closer to the next home run. - Babe Ruth

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Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) stage two team reports

We have posted stage two winner Julian Alaphilippe's Team Quick-Step report on the race results page.

And second-place Primoz Roglic's LottoNL-Jumbo team had this to say about stage two:

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Primoz Roglic has competed for the stage win in the second stage of Vuelta al Pais Vasco. Just like yesterday, the Slovenian finished in second place behind Julien Alaphilippe. The general classification remained unchanged; Roglic firmly remains in second place.

For the favourites, the stage really started in the last kilometres, with the ascent of the San Pelaio. Roglic reacted a few times to attacks from the back of the group. After he successfully countered them, he himself decided to attack. He was accompanied by three men, after which only Alaphilippe proved to be faster at the finish. This strengthened Roglic's second place in the general classification.

Sports director Grischa Niermann saw that his team had a good day. "Compliments to the team to control the course so well. As a result, we made sure that Primoz was still fresh at the end and that he could attack. It’s a pity that he wasn’t rewarded with a win, but we now know that his shape is very good.”

According to the sports director, Roglic can put today’s second place in perspective. “A stage win is nice, but in the end it's all about the general classification.”

Here's the report from fourth-place Mikel Landa's Movistar team:

Mikel Landa (Movistar Team) recovered from a really difficult day in the opening stage of the 2018 Vuelta al País Vasco 2018 and showed on Tuesday’s stage two that he’s got many things to show in this year’s Itzulia. The Basque climber responded well to all moves from Quick Step and GC leader Julian Alaphilippe at the steep climb of San Pelaio (Cat-2), end of a very demanding 166km stage two starting in Zarautz, to take a fine 4th place in Bermeo after crazy speeds all stage long.

Following a very violent start to the stage, with an opening 60 kilometers with no breakaway and even a bunch split into two due to strong coastal winds, the race favourites saved all their energy for the final ascent, at which both Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana -well supported by their team-mates with some good leadout to the foot of San Pelaio- had to face the two strong accelerations from QST, launching Enric Mas first before Alaphilippe’s strong, decisive counter.

The Frenchman opened a gap which only three other riders could close: Primoz Roglic (TLJ), Gorka Izagirre (TBM) and Landa, whose group ammassed a 15″ advantage they would keep all the way to the finish line. The move allows Mikel stepping up onto 4th overall, 43″ behind Alaphilippe, with Quintana now just behind the top-ten (11th, +58″). Wednesday will offer a bit of a break to all contenders as sprinters go for their only chance in the Itzulia, the end of the 184km stage three to Villanueva de Valdegovía containing no significant ascents.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe wins stage two.

REACTION / Mikel Landa: “Today’s feeling is quite more optimistic than yesterday’s. I knew I was coming to this race in good form, and what happened on Monday was simply the result of a bad day – there’s nothing else we must elaborate from that. I’m happy with this result and these legs, and even though we know that we will lose time on Thursday’s time trial, there will still be two demanding stages remaining, where we’ll give our maximum, play our two cards and seek for the goal we came for, or at least finish this race with a good result. They should be nervous ones, routes where we could get people into the breaks and find some alliances with other teams to improve our position overall. Alaphilippe? Well, we know him well, he usually excels on such short, explosive uphill finishes, and the race so far has been all about keeping both him and Roglic close. Let’s see how things stand after the TT and what can we do.”

And fifth-place Patrick Konrad's Bora-hansgrohe sqaud sent this report:

The second stage of the Itzulia race saw many attacks and a late breakaway. As the group was caught, J. Alaphilippe launched a late attack and took another stage win. BORA – hansgrohe climbers Patrick Konrad and Emanuel Buchmann were in the chasing group some seconds behind, Patrick increased the pace on the last metres and crossed the line in fifth place.

The Stage
The second day of the Izulia Basque Country race was another challenging day for the peloton. The stage took the riders from Zarautz to Bermeo over 166,7 hilly kilometres with four categorised climbs and two intermediate sprints. The final climb was about 3,5 kilometres with an average of 9%, after that last ascent a fast descent to the tricky finish awaited the riders.

The Team Tactics
The German squad focused on their two GC contenders Patrick Konrad and Emanuel Buchmann, after their good results yesterday. The plan was to control the race at the beginning with Cesare Benedetti and Lukas Pöstlberger. For the finale, Jay McCarthy should bring the two climbers into a good position.

The Race
The pace was high right from the start with many attacks to from a breakaway, but all attempts failed. After 55km of racing there was a big split in the peloton, and the race saw two groups with one-minute gap in between. After the first categorised climb, a group of eleven riders attacked and opened a gap of more than one minute. The two parts of the peloton were back together, with BORA – hansgrohe in it. Emanuel Buchmann showed once again a strong performance and was in the front of the main bunch. The break worked smoothly together, therefore they stayed for many kilometres in front of the race, but with 10km remaining the group was caught. The race went on fire, as J. Alaphilippe attacked in the last 7km and pulled away. BORA – hansgrohe climbers Patrick Konrad and Emanuel Buchmann were some seconds behind. In the final kilometers  Patrick was only some metres behind the later stage winner J. Alaphilippe and crossed the line 15 seconds later in fifth place.

From the Finish Line
“It was a hard and chaotic stage, where you need your team to save the energy for the finale. The last two Km´s, Emanuel was at the front and tried to close the gap to the breakaway and I focused on the sprint out of the chasing group. I wanted to go for a podium result but Alaphilippe and Roglic were once again the strongest. But I want to thank my teammates for all the support, we worked really good together today.” – Patrick Konrad

“Our two GC contenders, Patrick and Emanuel, showed once again a great performance. Patrick won the sprint out of the first chasing group and showed, that he was one of the fastest climber in hat group today. Also, Emanuel was able to stay with the best climbers on the final climb. But this all happened after another great teamwork. As the peloton spilt into two groups, the team worked great together and supported Patrick the whole day. Huge compliment to the BORA – hansgrohe riders for this result today.” – Christian Pömer, sports director

Lotto-Soudal previews Scheldeprijs

Here's the update the team sent me:

Tomorrow Lotto Soudal will participate in the 106th edition of the Scheldeprijs. This Europe Tour race has a new course. The organization decided to move the start from Antwerp to Terneuzen, in the Dutch province of Zeeland. It’s only after 125 kilometres of racing that the riders will cross the Belgian border. Twenty kilometres further the peloton will arrive in Schoten, still the finish place of the Scheldeprijs. After three laps of 16.8 kilometres each, which take the riders over the cobbles of the Broekstraat (1700 metres), we’ll know the winner.

The main question is if there will be echelons in the Netherlands when the peloton rides in between the Oosterschelde and Westerschelde. Or is the traditional bunch sprint inevitable?

Marcel Kittel

Marcel Kittel just after winning the Scheldeprijs in 2016. He won in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 & 2017.

Jens Debusschere: “I expect a different race than previous years. I don’t say it won’t be a sprint in Schoten but there’s only a minor chance that a large group will sprint for victory, let alone the entire peloton. The race now starts in Terneuzen and we then ride through Zeeland for most part of the race. When I take a look at the weather forecast I expect it to be a very nervous first part of the race because of the wind. There’s a huge chance that the bunch will fall apart in several small groups. It’s difficult to predict what will happen on the local circuit, that will depend on the time gaps and compositions of the different groups.”

“There are strong sprinters at the start, especially Marcel Kittel and Dylan Groenewegen. If we want to aim for a top result with Lotto Soudal, we’ll have to make the race hard. I was satisfied with my condition and my fifth place at Ghent-Wevelgem. I had an off-day at Dwars door Vlaanderen and I had hoped to support the team longer at the Ronde but I had mechanical problems. The feeling was better on Sunday though. With riders such as Lars Bak, Nikolas Maes and Marcel Sieberg we have a lot of experience with echelons and that will come in handy tomorrow.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Lars Bak, Jens Debusschere, Moreno Hofland, Nikolas Maes, Lawrence Naesen, Marcel Sieberg and Enzo Wouters.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

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