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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, January 20, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still. - Henry David Thoreau

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Tour Down Under stage four reports

We'll start with the report from stage winner Peter Sagan's Bora hansgrohe team:

Stifling heat and a tough climb just a few kilometres from the end of the stage meant that most wouldn’t think a sprinter would be in with a chance of taking the win today at the Tour Down Under. The normal rules go out of the window though when the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan is in the race. After spending the day riding hard in forty-five degree heat, the Slovak rider crested the climb of the day only to go on the attack. In a reduced bunch sprint, there was no doubting who the strongest rider would be, taking his and the BORA-hansgrohe team’s first UCI WorldTour win of 2018, as well as the race leader’s ochre jersey. Jay McCarthy’s strong sprint finish moves him into a podium spot with two stages of the race to go.

The Stage
It was an altogether more hilly affair on today’s stage. After the previous three stages had given the advantage to the sprinters, today’s route was one that the fast men would struggle with, featuring an undulating profile and the climb of the day taking place shortly before the end of the 128.2km stage. Like yesterday, the race organisers had concerns about the impact of the heat on riders, and brought the start of the race forward by an hour – a wise decision on what would be the most challenging day of the Tour Down Under so far. Today would see the GC race come to life and might even see some changes at the top of the leaderboard.

The Team Tactics
After three stages contested by the sprinters, the climbers and GC riders would have a chance to make an impact on the race. Sitting in fourth in the GC and just a second behind a podium position, BORA-hansgrohe’s Jay McCarthy would have his eye on taking some time from his rivals, while the team would be aiming to help the Australian rider to take time bonuses and protect his position going into the final two days. However, in spite of the more difficult terrain, a downhill section after the climb of the day would give some of the stronger all-rounders a chance at the win if they managed to stay in contact – something nobody could put past Peter Sagan.

The Race
The start of the day saw two riders go off from the drop of the flag, making the most of the cooler weather at the earlier start to pull together a huge advantage. Putting more than nine minutes between themselves and the peloton, the escapees were looking confident, compelling the bunch to work harder to reduce the gap. As expected though, the terrain and heat were a massive drain on the escape, and one of the two dropped off just as BORA-hansgrohe took control at the front of the peloton. With 17km to go, at the foot of the day’s categorised climb, it was all back together just as things became really heated.

Stringing out the peloton, the 5% climb would have felt many times more difficult in the oppressive forty-five degree heat, but BORA-hansgrohe stayed in contact and joined the attacks from the summit, with UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan putting pressure on the bunch, making the most of the downhill run to the finish. A reduced bunch fought it out, but there was never any doubt who was going to take the win with the rainbow stripes of Peter Sagan in the mix, the Slovak rider taking both his and BORA-hansgrohe’s first UCI WorldTour win of 2018.

01       P.Sagan           3h21’07”
02       D.Impey           + 0:00
03       L.L.Sanchez    + 0:00
04       D.Ulissi            + 0:00
05       J.McCarthy      + 0:00

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan wins stage 4. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"It certainly was one of the hottest days I have ever raced. It was really tough but I felt in good shape. I managed to stay with the leading group on the climb, about 25 riders, and then made the right attack in the right moment. I'm, obviously, happy with my first stage victory at the Tour Down Under and the ochre jersey but I'm also very happy with the performance and result of Jay McCarthy. He's now third overall and tomorrow we will work for him and his GC chances. It is an important race for him, in his home country and our plan here is for him to get the best result in the GC." – Peter Sagan

"It was an extremely hard day! I think it must have been one of the hardest days I have seen in cycling so far! The heat was painful. The team did a fantastic job and Peter topped it off with a great win. We were chasing it for a couple of days and today we finally got it. I'm really happy with the team spirit and, of course, Peter's performance today was incredible." – Patxi Vila 

Second-place Daryl Impey's Mitchelton-Scott team had this to say about the stage:

South African Daryl Impey has finished a narrow second place to world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in a reduced bunch sprint on stage four of the Tour Down Under today.

After a second place on stage two behind teammate Caleb Ewan, collective bonus seconds have Impey in second place overall, two seconds behind Sagan, with the decisive Willunga stage up tomorrow.

Brave Break:
The hot weather again deterred the enthusiasm of much of the peloton as two riders - Zak Dempster and Alex Porter - from UniSA found themselves alone in front. The duo rode out to over nine-minutes advantage as they entered the final 100km of the stage to Uraidla.

It was Mitchelton-SCOTT who controlled once again, with the bulk of the early work done by new recruit Jack Bauer before Australian champion Alex Edmondson took over, joined by Bora-Hansgrohe. Dempster surged ahead of his teammate in front but the peloton gradually worked to reel him in. The gap was down to five minutes with 50km to go and the race back together with 19km remaining.

New course, unpredictable finish:
With the Norton Summit finale predicted by many to be decisive in the overall standings, tensions were high as riders jostled for position heading onto the climb. The heat may have prevented any full-blown attacks but a hard tempo set by BMC Racing whittled the bunch to around 30 riders by the summit.

Whilst a number of small attacks attempted to break the small group in the run in to the finish, it was eventually a reduced bunch kick with Sagan coming off Impey’s wheel to pip him on the line.  

Tour Down Under

Coming up the hill Impey and Sagan were really close. And that's how they finished, really close.

Daryl Impey – 2nd place:
“It’s a pity not to get the win today but I lost to the world champion. It was actually a lot easier than I thought up the climb, I knew it would be a bit of cat and mouse in the final but I just needed to get there.”

“I knew with Sagan there the only way to beat him was to surprise him.  I thought I did that but he still came back around me. I am still happy with the result. We still have a chance with the GC, but Willunga is a whole different ball game. It’s a totally different climb, tomorrow is a lot steeper and after a super-hot day today everybody bounces back differently.

“If I have the same legs as I had today then anything is possible.”

Jack Bauer:
“It was the plan for me to be up the front today and so the lion’s share of the work and keep the break in check. When you have the jersey it’s always important to show a presence at the front and not to necessarily to take control of the race but if no one else does, then that’s kind of our job.

“We might not have had the out-and-out favourite but we had a clear contender and hats off to Impey he had a mammoth ride.”

Here's the Down Under report from UAE-Team Emirates:

Two riders from UAE Team Emirates figured prominently in the classification for the 4th stage of the Tour Down Under, Norwood-Uraidla (128.2 km): Diego Ulissi closed out the race just shy of the podium in 4th place, while Rui Costa classified in 8th place. Sagan won the stage ahead of Impey and Sanchez after a final sprint of 35 riders.

The race took place in weather conditions featuring freakishly high temperatures. The crucial moment came during the short but challenging climb on Norton Summit, coming off the other side with 8 km to go down to the finish line. The ascent selected a group of 35 riders who then launched into a fast descent towards Uraidla.

Diego Ulissi now ranks 5th in the general classification, 14″ behind Sagan. Rui Costa is 7th, with the same distance as his team mate. Diego had this to say about his race. “Today, everyone’s main enemy was the heat; I think it levelled the playing field. During the downhill off Norton Summit I felt good and I managed to manoeuvre my way into the primary positions after making it over the top. In the sprint for the stage victory, the downhill arrival favoured stronger riders; this is why I think it would have been hard for me to do much better today.”

Ferrari suffered from the intense heat, so he was unable to complete the stage.

Supreme Court agrees to hear online sale tax case

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News sent me this update on an important aspect of bicycle retail:

WASHINGTON (BRAIN) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear arguments in South Dakota v. Wayfair, a case about whether states can require out-of-state online retailers to collect their sales taxes.

The National Sporting Goods Association and the National Retail Federation — along with the attorneys general from 35 states and the District of Columbia — had supported South Dakota's efforts to overturn a key ruling that exempts online retailers from collecting state sales taxes.

The trade groups and AGs filed Friends of the Court briefs last year asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear South Dakota's case.

“This is an encouraging step toward fairness in how sales taxes are collected by all retailers, whether or not they have a physical store,” NSGA president and CEO Matt Carlson said in a statement Friday. “That said, there is still an opportunity for a legislative solution.”

The NSGA supports H.R. 2193, the Remote Transactions Parity Act and S. 976, the Marketplace Fairness Act, which the trade group said would level the playing field by permitting all states that have a sales tax to require out-of-state internet sellers to collect state sales tax.

You can read the entire story here.

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