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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, February 15, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month. - Dostoevsky

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Team reports on Tour of Oman stage two

We'll start with winner Nathan Haas' Katusha Alpecin:

Cycling's World Championships

Team Katusha-Alpecin’s Nathan Haas (28) took the victory at the end of a demanding stage two of the 2018 Tour of Oman. The Australian rider outsprinted a select group of riders at the finish in Al Bustan in front of  Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) who finished second and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) in third. Thanks to the time bonuses, Haas now moves into the overall lead ahead of Van Avermaet (4 seconds) and Lutsenko (6 seconds).

On the last climb of Al Jissah, the final survivor of an early break of four riders was caught. The climbs had whittled down the peloton to 16 riders and Haas sprinted into the overall lead.

"Today my team Katusha-Alpecin was just amazing. It was the first time in a long time that I just had to sit and not to think. They guided me to where I got to do my thing, said Nathan Haas. Last year I was already fifth in this stage when we finished at the top. Today there was a different kind of speed. I decided to lock onto the wheels and just forget about the next part, which was the sprint. So there were two finish lines: the top and then down the hill. I did some research to watch the race. I’ve realized I’m not one of the phenomenons of cycling, so I have to be a little bit smarter or to be just more prepared. I knew I actually had to come a little bit from the back in the sprint. I’ve put a little bit of Fabian Cancellara’s earlier work (2015) into what I did today."

Nathan Haas

Nathan Haas wins stage two.

The 2018 Tour of Oman continues on Thursday with stage three, from German University of Technology to Wadi Dayqah Dam covering 179.5 kilometres – the longest 2018 stage. On Friday the race finishes on Green Mountain. The race concludes on Sunday.

I think I am climbing a bit better than I was last year. I am a little bit lighter and my bike is awesome. I’m gonna fight till the end, whether or not I can hold the red jersey or maybe even get on the podium. This is cycling. You can do pretty special things when you are in front, concluded Nathan Haas.

And here's BMC's update:

The second stage of the Tour of Oman came down to an explosive finale with Greg Van Avermaet securing second in the uphill sprint for the line following a strong performance in the closing kilometers of the race.

Despite an initial battle to form the day’s breakaway, it took just 8km, of the 167.5km course, for a group of four riders to go clear at the front of the race and begin to build up an advantage over the rest of the field, which, 20km later, began to hover at around the three-minute mark.

With two of the day’s four categorized climbs complete, the pace began to pick up with the early leaders being pulled back to two minutes on the approach to the steep slopes of the Al Hamriyah climb with 25km to go as BMC Racing Team began to set a fierce tempo at the front of a reduced peloton.

As the road began to rise for the final time, the main bunch, which was now made up of only 50 riders, sat just a handful of seconds behind the three remaining leaders and with the catch made before the summit of the Al Jissah climb, the stage was set for an explosive finale.

Following the work of his BMC Racing Team teammates earlier in the stage, Van Avermaet looked strong as he responded to an attack with 4km to go which drew out a select group of 15 riders that would go on to battle for the stage win.

In the end, it was Nathan Haas (Team Katusha-Alpecin) who went on to take the day's honors in the uphill drag race to the line with Van Avermaet just missing out to take second ahead of Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team).

From the Finish Line:

Greg Van Avermaet: “It was a nice finish for me. The whole team tried to put me in a good position, and everybody did their best. I think I went a little bit too early to finish it off. I am happy with the result overall, I am used to getting second or third here and for me, it is a good example of form, and we will try to do our best again tomorrow. This kind of climb is a good test. It is a short effort, and you get to see what kind of Classics guys can get over it together with the climbers. So for me, it was also some good training.”

Bora-hansgrohe reports on the first stage of the Volta ao Algarve:

Today saw the first stage of the Volta ao Algarve, a stage which was earmarked for the sprinters. For most of the day, a 5-man breakaway group led in front of the peloton but, as expected, the stage came down to a bunch sprint in the town of Lagos, in which D. Groenewegen emerged victorious. The highest-placed BORA-hansgrohe rider was Matteo Pelucchi, who finished in a solid eighth place.

The Stage
The first stage of the 44th edition of the race presented the riders with a 192.6 km long route from Albufeira to Lagos. The course featured two smaller ascents, a fourth category climb and a third category climb, in the first half of the race, as well as two intermediate sprints. Just prior to the final couple of kilometres, the road kicked up slightly before the downhill run-in to the flat final kilometre, making for an ideal finish for the fast men of the peloton.

The Team Tactics
Today was widely expected to be a day for the sprinters. As was also the case last year, this edition of the Volta ao Algarve has yet again attracted a strong field of fast men. It was therefore to be expected that several teams would work hard to not let the opportunity presented by the opening stage go to waste, and would strictly control the conclusion of today’s stage down to the wire to put their fast men into the best position in the finishing straight. It was therefore crucial to focus on setting up the sprint train in the right position at the right time during the final to secure a good result.

The Race
Almost right from the drop of the flag, a small group of riders managed to escape from the peloton and establish the breakaway of the day. The break consisted of five riders, one from a Spanish team, and the other four from local Portuguese outfits. Gradually building up their lead, they reached a maximum advantage of approximately 3:30 minutes after 44 km. Yet with several quality sprinters in attendance at this year’s race, the teams of the fast men were keen to chase down the break, and began to whittle down the advantage of the escapees following the first intermediate sprint. With 27 km left, two riders attacked from the breakaway, yet they were caught by the chasing peloton with 15 km remaining. Despite a subsequent flurry of attacks from the front of the peloton in the remaining kilometres, the race came down to a bunch sprint, with D. Groenewegen taking victory on the line ahead of A. Démare, and Matteo Pelucchi finishing in a solid eighth position.

Dylan Groenewegen

Dylan Groenewegen just wins stage one.

01    D. Groenewegen    04:47:58
02    A. Démare              + 0:00
03    H. Hofstetter           + 0:00
04    T. Dupont                + 0:00
08    M. Pelucchi             + 0:00

From the Finish Line
“The team worked well together during a stage in which many of the other riders were relatively fresh and very motivated. It’s mid-February at the moment, and we will work together and make adjustments where needed, and we will only gain greater trust and confidence from this. Today, also important for us is that Felix Großschartner was involved in a crash in the last ten kilometres, but was able to make it back to the main field and not lose time, which is good news, as he is a contender for the general classification. So, all in all, our performance shows that the team is working well together, and we are looking forward to the coming stages.” – Jens Zemke, Sport Director 

Team Sky reports on Vuelta a Andalucia/Ruta del Sol:

Team Sky made a strong start on the tough opening stage of Ruta del Sol as Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) edged a bunch sprint in Granada.

Boudat took the victory in a photo finish with Sacha Modolo (EF Education First-Drapac) second after the peloton reeled in a long ranging five-man break with just over 12km to go.

Wout Poels was first across the line for Team Sky securing a top 20 finish, with Chris Froome finishing in the same time as attention turns to stage two’s challenging summit finish which could play a pivotal role in the Overall Classification.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome before the stage start.

Earlier, a breakaway of five threatened to spoil the sprinters’ fun with Silvan Dillier (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Garikoitz Bravo (Euskadi-Murias), Txomin Juaristi (Fundación Ciclista Euskadi), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) and Luis Mas (Caja Rural-RGA Seguros) building a lead which extended to over five minutes at its peak.

A combined effort from Team Sky and Astana saw the time gap dramatically reduce until only Dillier was left. He was then caught in the closing kilometres before a short-lived counter attack from Jon Ander Insausti (Euskadi-Murias) was also snuffed out to setup a bunch sprint.

Stage two’s summit finish is the same one which Froome won his Ruta del Sol title on in 2015 and while Sport Director Brett Lancaster recognises its importance, he reckons the race could go down to the final stage.

He told “I think it will shape GC. It won’t be done and dusted as we’ve got a time trial on the final stage and if Chris is in arm’s length of the lead then you can look at overall victory if it comes to the time trial given his time trialling skills.

“And with Wout in good form we’ve got a few cards to play so I’m looking forward to it.”

EF Education First–Drapac targets stage wins at Abu Dhabi Tour

The team sent me this:

EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale makes its Abu Dhabi Tour debut with a well-rounded squad focused on stage wins.

Lawson Craddock, Kim Magnusson, Taylor Phinney and Mike Woods will start their seasons in the UAE. They are joined by Dan McLay, Dani Moreno and Pierre Rolland.

“I expect the entire team to be competitive,” said sport director Tom Southam. “It’s still early season, but it’s not the 1980’s when everyone goes skiing for three months. They’ve all looked after themselves in the winter, and Mike, in particular, is a guy who is pretty quick off the mark because, frankly, he is just a machine.”

The fourth edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour runs from Wednesday February 21 – Sunday February 25. The race caps off a three-week period of Middle Eastern racing that began with the Dubai Tour followed by Tour of Oman. The Abu Dhabi Tour is the newest of the three races, the only one to boast WorldTour status. It's owned and operated by A.S.O, who run, among other races, the Tour de France.

The opening three stages of Abu Dhabi Tour are all but assured to end in a field sprint. After the sprinters take their chances, an 11-kilometer time trial will provide the first general classification test. The race ends with a mountaintop finish up Jabel Hafeet

Woods will have his chance on the steep slopes of the final stage. Phinney will focus on the penultimate stage time trial. Dan McLay will fly the #PinkArgyle flag in the sprints.

“We have a number of options for stage success, which is something I’d like to see more than a general classification result – although I certainly don’t consider the two mutually exclusive,” said Southam. “We’ll support Dan to the absolute maximum in the sprints. Even if we don’t have a full dedicated lead-out train, he can be there. That boy can find a gap alright.

“The individual time trial is new to the race, and I suspect it will have an impact on the overall,” said Southam. “We’ll let ‘Mr. Fourth Week’ loose on stage five. What’s not to be excited about given our roster?”

Weather conditions often play a role in the race action in the Persian Gulf. The now defunct Tour of Qatar was regularly decided by echelons formed on windswept roads. A sandstorm forced the cancellation of one stage of the 2017 Dubai Tour and wrecked havoc on another.

“Historically wind doesn’t appear to have played the same decisive role as it did in Qatar, but whenever you have stretches of open road and zero wind cover, it has to be a consideration,” noted Southam. “If nothing else, the threat of crosswinds can make things pretty tense. The desert heat is also a factor, but it’s not the same extreme heat we faced in Australia in January, so it should be more a case of managing a seasonal shift than actually dealing with 40 degree days one after another.”

EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 Abu Dhabi Tour:

Sport Director: Tom Southam (GBR)

Lawson Craddock (USA)
Kim Magnusson (SWE)
Dan McLay (GBR)
Dani Moreno (ESP)
Taylor Phinney (USA)
Pierre Rolland (FRA)
Mike Woods (CAN)

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