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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

TDF volume 1

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Mark Cavendish has Epstein-Barr

Here's the news release from Cavendish's Dimension Data team:

Following medical examination we can confirm that Mark Cavendish will miss the upcoming immediate race schedule due to the presence of Epstein-Barr virus.

[Note: Epstein-Barr is better known as infectious mononucleosis, mono or glandular fever.]

The medical results have indicated too that Cavendish will also have been unknowingly training and racing with EBV over recent months, and as a result of these findings he has been advised to rest in order to fully recover ahead of a return to training.

Mark Cavendish

Mark Cavendish winning stage 3 of the 2018 Dubai Tour earlier this year.

Cavendish said, “This season I’ve not felt physically myself and despite showing good numbers on the bike I have felt that there’s been something not right.

Given this and on the back of these medical results, I’m glad to now finally have some clarity as to why I haven’t been able to perform at my optimum level during this time.

"Having received expert medical advice as a result of the findings I’ve been advised to take a period of total rest in order to fully recover.

"I’m now looking forward to taking the time necessary in order to get back to 100% fitness before then returning to racing again at peak physical condition.

"I’d like to thank everyone for the incredible support I’ve received and I look forward to seeing you all out on the road again soon.”

As and when there is a further update on Mark’s return to racing we will provide an update.

Vuelta a España stage four team reports

We posted the organizer's report with the stage results.

Here's the report from stage winner Ben King's Dimension Data team:

Benjamin King stormed to victory for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka on stage 4 of La Vuelta a Espana. The American was able to outsprint Nikita Stalnov (Astana Pro Team) and Pierre Rolland (EF Education First) after spending all day in the breakaway.

Today’s stage of La Vuelta was 161,4km, running from Vélez-Málaga to the summit finish atop Alfacar, Sierra de la Alfaguara. An early attack saw King make the break of the day with eight other riders. The first climb of the day was a category one climb up Alto de la Cabra Montés and the break was allowed to extend their lead to over 9 minutes.

King was the best placed on GC of all the riders in the break and therefore was the virtual leader of the race for the majority of the stage. With 20km to go, it became apparent that the break would decide the stage as they had kept their 9-minute lead in tact up to that point.

With 15km to go, King countered an acceleration that was made for the intermediate sprint point and went into the lead with Stalnov and Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal). The trio started the final 12km climb with a 30″ lead over their chasers. Wallays soon lost contact as the road ramped upwards with King pushing the pace early on in the climb.

Rolland broke from the chasing group in a bid to catch King and Stalnov and came within sight of the leading duo, inside of 1km to go. King had raced a smart final climb though, and measured his effort well to still have more than enough left in the tank to launch his sprint with 200m to go, and take an incredible grand tour stage victory.

Ben king

Ben King wins Vuelta stage four. Sirotti photo

Ben King- Rider
I’m still in shock. It’s a dream come true. It’s been my goal for the last couple of years to win a grand tour stage. But even just to be here and have the opportunity to go in the breakaway today is an honour,  for the faith that the team put in me. We have been working really well together as a team and I’ve also been working really hard for this at home, so it’s really affirming that it all worked out like this.

I didn’t think that the break had a chance to stay away, until 40km to go, and even then, there were really strong riders in the break with me. I just did not know how to expect to stack up with those guys. I just put myself in the right position to have the best chance possible and I hit them early at the bottom of the climb and then time-trialed to the top. I was able to out-kick Stalnov at the finish.

It’s no secret it has been a difficult season for the team this year but the atmosphere on the team is great. We believe in what we are doing and the potential of the team. We are motivated everyday by what the team is doing for Qhubeka, raising awareness and so to get a victory like this, I know that winning races contributes to more bikes being donated to Qhubeka so it’s an honour to be racing for such a noble cause and certainly extra motivation for us.

Here's the report from GC leader Michal Kwiatkowski's Team Sky:

Michal Kwiatkowski put in a battling performance to retain the leader’s jersey at the Vuelta a Espana on a gruelling summit finish on stage four which was won by Ben King (Dimension Data) from the breakaway.

Kwiatkowski finished with the majority of the other GC contenders, but saw his overall lead cut as Emmanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) were able to steal a march on the group and move up to second and third respectively.

A sharp acceleration from LottoNL-Jumbo had split the peloton on the final climb as the race favourites chased down King and  Nikita Stalnov (Astana) who started the ascent with a lead of nine minutes.

That margin would have seen King take the race lead, but a steady increase in pace up the Puerto de Alfacar saw the gap quickly drop.

Simon Yates was the first rider from the group to attack and Kwiatkowski remained unmoved, and paced his climb to limit the losses to the British rider along with the other competitors.

It was only when second-placed Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) moved up that the Polish national champion responded, sprinting uphill to the line to maintain his grip on the red jersey as David de la Cruz finished in the same group to move up to 17th overall.

After the stage, "Kwiato" was pleased to have held onto his lead and believes it is up to his rivals to attack, saying: "I’m happy to stay in the jersey after another GC checkpoint stage. The stage might have looked easy until the bottom of the last climb, considering that breakaway had 10 minutes, but at the end of the day it's always a challenge to race in 35 degree centigrade.

Michal kwiatkowski

Michal Kwiatkowski finishes the fourth stage. Sirotti photo

“As we expected fireworks came on the last climb from LottoNL-Jumbo setting a high pace. I think we did ok staying in red for another day.

“I’m not the biggest GC contender here to win La Vuelta so it's up to [Nairo] Quintana, [George] Bennett, Valverde, Yates and others to use this stage to gain time. I’m happy about my performance on the last climb and I'm looking forward for another challenging stage.”

GC second-place Emanuel Buchmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

On the Vuelta’s first summit finish, there was bound to be a shake up in the GC standings, with riders who hadn’t yet had a chance to show their form being given the opportunity to make their mark. While much of the attention was on the day’s break, who came to the final climb still with a large advantage over the peloton, the real move of the day came from Emanuel Buchmann, who silently escaped the reduced bunch on the final climb to take ninth on the stage. His strong finish saw him jump five places in the GC to move into second – just seven seconds behind the race leader.

Emanuel Buchmann

Emanuel Buchmann earlier this year finishing a stage at the Dauphine. Sirotti photo

The Stage
Two first category climbs towered over the profile for today’s 161.4km stage. A flat 50km to open the day would give riders a chance to warm up, but there would be no chance of the rest of the stage being anything but vicious. The first climb of the day, the Alta de la Cabra Montés, summiting at 66km, was both long and tough, with an average gradient of 5.9% over 15.7km. The steepest section, at 8.75%, came just after the flattest section, and the difference in gradient would both hurt the riders’ rhythms, but coming on the lower slopes would put them into the red for the rest of the climb. From then on, the course was undulating – all up and downhill with no real sections to rest before the ascent to the summit finish. The Puerto de Alfacar was another first category climb that again would prevent riders finding their rhythm. Slightly shorter than the day’s first, this climb saw the gradient shift from 6% one moment to 11% the next, and on the upper slopes from 8% to 3% in just a kilometre. Only those who made it up this 12.4km brute unscathed would be in a position to fight it out for the stage win.

The Team Tactics
On a mountainous race like the Vuelta, the first summit finish would give the riders who had their eye on the GC a chance to take some time, while others would be looking for a stage win. Having performed well in the earlier stages and currently sitting at 7th in the overall standings, Emanuel Buchmann would be stretching his climbing legs today and look to stay in contention when the going got tough in the finale. The team would be working to support the German rider and to make sure he was kept safe and ready to react on the summit finish.

The Race
There was no let up in the Andalusian sun today, and on a cloudless day, the peloton would be tackling its most difficult climbs yet. Unperturbed by the severity of the terrain, a group of nine went on the attack, making the most of the flatter section that opened the stage. The peloton was happy to let them go, well aware that expending energy on trying to pull them back would be energy they wouldn’t have on the day’s climbs. The gap started small, but as the day went on, this grew to the point that with 50km remaining and only the final climb to go, the gap was out to nine minutes. Back in the bunch, the pace was more relaxed, with the BORA-hansgrohe riders concentrating more on supporting each other through this tough stage than reeling in the break. Even after his sprint for third place on yesterday’s stage, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was working to carry water to his teammates when the temperatures increased.

With just 10km remaining, while only three riders remained on the front, the gap was a little under eight minutes and it was clear that the stage winner would come from the break. Back in the peloton, three BORA-hansgrohe riders were in the mix – Emanuel Buchmann, Rafał Majka and Davide Formolo – as the peloton started fighting amongst themselves on the final climb. The bunch splintering as the uneven gradient made keeping a rhythm impossible, but with both Rafał and Emanuel still in the mix, looking confident and fresh, it was here that Emanuel came to life, surging ahead 2km from the finish and putting distance between himself and the reduced bunch in a move that none of the bunch reacted to – or even seemed to notice, the talented German rider attacking so stealthily. Finishing alone to take ninth on the stage, Emanuel jumped to second in the GC, just seven seconds below the top spot, while Rafał climbed to GC 11th.

From the Finish Line
"My legs were good again. I knew the last climb from training – that it flattened out at the top a little. In the finale, I still had something left in the tank and thought why not trying. I think a lot of guys still have their sights on Rafa and that was my advantage. However, the Vuelta will be decided in the last week and it's then when you need to have some energy left." – Emanuel Buchmann

"My shape is good. These were my first climbs at race speed after the Tour and I am happy with my result. Our team is very strong and we now have Emu and me up there. This will give us some options. We have to see how the race unfolds, but so far all is perfect." - Rafal Majka

"The boys did a great job today. If you have the world champion coming for bottles, you know how good the spirit in this team is. The whole squad worked well before the final climb and our climbers were well placed. Davide could follow today, I think he suffered a bit more in the heat. But Emu and Rafa were really strong. We wanted to try something when we were up there in the group of favourites with more than one guy, and it worked out perfectly. Still, we need to stay focused, this was just the beginning of the GC battle." – Steffen Radochla, Sports Director

"Today we had the first mountain finish at the Vuelta and we all worked for Emanuel Buchmann. He was very strong and is now second overall, just 7" behind Kwiato. Excellent teamwork today by BORA-hansgrohe." – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion 

Annemiek Van Vleuten wins prologue at the Boels Ladies Tour

Mitchelton-Scott sent me this report:

World time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten has continued her dominating season by taking the victory in the opening prologue at the Boels Ladies Tour today in Arnhem.

Wearing her rainbow bands, the 35-year-old blasted around the short 3.3km flat course to finish with a phenomenal time of four minutes 22seconds, seven seconds ahead of her nearest rival, Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans).

The Mitchelton-SCOTT rider will take the race leader's jersey into day two, which is a hilly road stage around her home training area.

Annemiek van Vleuten

Van Vleuten last year at the Giro Rosa

Mitchelton-SCOTT sprinter and track star Jolien D'hoore set the fastest time in the early stages with a time of four minutes and 36seconds before being knocked out of the hot seat shortly after by teammate Sarah Roy, who crossed the line two seconds faster.

Mid-way through proceedings of the short event, Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb), posted a time of four minutes and 31seconds to push the Mitchelton-SCOTT riders off the top step. As many of the favourites crossed the line, nobody could quite beat Kirchmann's time as she remained as the race leader until the final three riders to start.

It was European TT champion Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb) who finally beat Kirchmann's time by one second, however that didn't last long, as van der Breggen posted a time of four minutes 29seconds.

Van Vleuten, the final rider to finish, crossed the line to take another convincing victory in the event after also winning the opening prologue in last year's race. Today's well deserved win is her eighth UCI victory of the 2018 season.

Annemiek van Vleuten
"When you pass the finish line in a prologue it always hurts like crazy and it never feels like you did a good job. I tried to go out of the saddle in the last 200metres but I felt like I could almost not pedal anymore. My legs were completely full with lactic acid so I knew that I didn't leave anything out there.

"Then they told me I won by seven seconds, so that was a big surprise. Last year I won the prologue in my home town by five seconds in five kilometres, so now to win in three kilometres with seven seconds is surprising.

"It was super cool to win here in my rainbow jersey, almost in my backyard. It is so cool to show off the rainbow stripes with a win.

"Gene Bates (sport director) told me I didn't take time in the corners but on the straight parts, so that is nice for me to know that I have some power and it gives me confidence for this tour but also going into the world championships. All the team did very well, so it is nice to see all the training we have done on the time trial bikes is paying off. We have a lot of confidence now and everybody is in good shape."

Boels Ladies Tour stage 1 prologue results:
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 4:22
2. Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) 4:29
3. Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb) 4:30

General classification after stage 1:
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 4:22
2. Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) +0:07
3. Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb) +0:08

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