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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, January 22, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. - Helen Keller

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Final Tour Down Under reports

We'll start with the report winner Daryl Impey's Mitchelton-Scott team sent me:

33-year-old all-rounder Daryl Impey has secured the overall title at the 2018 Tour Down Under following the final stage today, becoming the first South African in history to win the Australian WorldTour race.

Starting the final day on equal time with Richie Porte (BMC Racing), the lead only determined by countback, the Mitchelton-SCOTT rider needed to finish safely in the bunch to formally claim the biggest win of his career.

A second place to Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan on today’s final stage gave Mitchelton-SCOTT a podium place on all six stages of the 2018 Tour Down Under. Ewan finished with a stage win, two second places and a third place, whilst Impey himself also wrapped up three second-place finishes on his way to overall victory.

People’s Choice Classic – 2nd (Ewan)
Stage 1 – 2nd (Ewan)
Stage 2 – 1st (Ewan)
Stage 3 – 3rd (Ewan)
Stage 4 – 2nd (Impey)
Stage 5 – 2nd (Impey)
Stage 6 – 2nd (Ewan)
Overall – 1st (Impey)

Not over until it’s over: Locked on equal time with yesterday’s stage winner Richie Porte, the win was not for celebrating until the final line was crossed. Backing his personal and the team’s sprinting abilities, the main concern was a mishap in the closing stages of today’s circuit race that could reverse the countback advantage. But, thankfully the 90km final hurdle concluded without worry and the champagne could be popped for the team’s fourth victory at the race.

Grabbing an opportunity with both hands: When you look back at the successes of Mitchelton-SCOTT over the past six seasons, Impey features as an invaluable teammate in many of them – across all terrains.

Daryl Impey

Daryl Impey savors his victory. Sirotti photo

A changing of the guard in the Australian outfit has opened up the door to more personal success for Impey in 2018, and the South African has grabbed it with two hands in his debut race for the season – today’s Tour Down Under victory the biggest of his career.

The double for Mitchelton-SCOTT: Impey’s exploits this week give Mitchelton-SCOTT the double in Adelaide following Amanda Spratt’s title defence in the Women’s Tour Down Under last week.

Daryl Impey – 2018 Tour Down Under champion:
“It is a relief, you can never say it is done until it’s done. We had things under control especially with the experienced guys like Mat Hayman, Damien Howson did some awesome work on the front this week so I was in good hands.”

“Wearing the yellow jersey at the Tour de France was a magical moment but this is very close to that. I worked really hard for this one and especially knowing how important it is to the team and the sponsors. It was a high-pressure race for us, everyone expects a lot so to top it off with a win is very special.”

“It is a step up in my career, you get these little stepping stones and you reach bigger mile stones and I’ve proved to myself now, as I’ve always had a little bit of self-doubt.”

“I’ve ridden for guys who have been in this situation and it is a lot easier riding for someone else, so to come in and take the pressure for a change and have a go I am very happy to have been able to do that. It’s one of the most special races of the season so I will like to come back next year and wear the number one, you don’t get too many opportunities to do that.”

Matt White – Sport Director:
“Daryl is an impressive rider who has helped for six years, from the sprint to the mountains and team time trials, you name it and Daryl has done it in support of other guys. He has had some great wins but this is his biggest win of his career and everyone in this organisation is very proud of him.”

“He was the best bike rider here this week because he was the most consistent across the six-days so he thoroughly deserves this win. I think a few different things helped us along this week for example the extreme temperatures which suit Daryl and I think this is actually the best we’ve ever seen him. If we put those together with great team work across the board, the worst we have finished on any stage is third, every single stage we have been very competitive.”

“It has been very satisfying on a few fronts, the composure the guys showed in the sprints, mountains stages, it’s been impressive. The core group has worked together for a long time but there’s some new guys, like Jack Bauer who is new to the group and also Cameron Meyer who hasn’t been on the team for three years. The team has clicked very well so it’s exciting times going back over to Europe.”

Tour Down Under – Stage 6 Results:
1. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) 2:01:19
2. Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST
3. Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe) ST

Tour Down Under – FINAL General Classification:
1. Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 20:03:34
2. Richie Porte (BMC Racing) ST
3. Tom-Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data) 0:16

Second-place Richie Porte's BMC team sent me this:

21 January, 2017, Adelaide (AUS): Richie Porte stood on the Santos Tour Down Under podium for the fourth time in his career after securing second overall on the same time as race winner, Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott).

There was no change to the podium after the traditional stage six city circuit, won by Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) in a bunch sprint, with Porte missing out on becoming the first back to back champion on a count back of previous stage results which saw Impey claim the ochre jersey.

Multiple attacks early in the stage saw a two-rider breakaway go clear with more than two minutes' advantage during the 90km stage, but the sprinters' teams were too strong and brought the race back together with three, of twenty, laps to go.

The battle for the general classification played out yesterday on the queen stage which saw Porte dominate the iconic Willunga Hill climb to claim his fifth consecutive victory.

Porte's performance was backed up by solid teamwork throughout the week, including that of 2015 Santos Tour Down Under winner Rohan Dennis whose strength on Willunga Hill set the stage for Porte's victory.

Dennis finished in 30th place on the General Classification, 1'46" behind Impey, which was enough to claim the Tanya Denver trophy as the best-placed South Australian for the fourth consecutive year.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte wins stage 5. Sirotti photo

Porte and Dennis will wrap up their Australian season at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race next Sunday.

Quotes from the Finish Line

Richie Porte:
"Obviously, I would have liked to be first but with hindsight, Daryl Impey did a fantastic race. He rode smart all week, he's obviously in great form. So, to win Willunga for a fifth time in a row feels pretty good. Coming back as the defending champion, it would have been nice to win again but I think my team did all that we could to try and win the race. We down swinging yesterday. All things considered, I'm pretty happy to be second here with a stage win as well."

"I'm looking forward to getting back to Europe and really getting my season started. I'm super motivated for this year. I was last year too but I think this year, everything is looking up."

Rohan Dennis:
"My form is good and I can take confidence out of what I did on Willunga Hill yesterday and in general climbing-wise. I was also surprised how calm I felt, not stressed about position, which is usually good sign. I could sit back and it wasn't an issue when something went wrong, and if it did, I could fix it quite quickly. So, that gives me quite a bit of confidence."

"I did some really good pre-season work with my trainer Neal focusing on longer kilometers and not as much intensity. I'm recovering better and when you feel fresher, you're calmer in the peloton and not so stressed. So that's a good sign."

Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
"We came here to try to win the race like last year. Looking at the stages before we started I was afraid that a good sprinter could stay close on the two climbs and not lose too much time, and would be able to win the race. Daryl Impey was good and was second three times and got those bonus seconds and then only lost eight seconds on Willunga Hill. I'm happy for the result and I think we did everything possible. This week's result is a good sign for Richie and his confidence after the Tour de France crash. He had good form and good numbers and this is only the first race of the season. It was important to start on the right foot and have the stage victory."

"All of the riders gave their maximum, especially Rohan Dennis yesterday. He sacrificed his result to make the victory possible for Richie and the team, and that is really the thing that I bring home from this week. Simon Gerrans is a great captain this week and he is a great addition to the team. He can keep everyone focused and give the right directions in the race. Overall, I'm really happy with the team's work."

Here's what final stage winner André Greipel's Lotto-Soudal squad had to say:

André Greipel sprinted to victory in Adelaide on the last day of Tour Down Under, his second stage win of the week! The last stage of Tour Down Under was a criterium in the streets of Adelaide. The peloton had to cover twenty laps of 4.5 kilometres. There were several attempts, but only Ben O’Connor and Logan Owen succeeded in building up a small lead of two minutes. With three laps to go both riders were caught and the sprint teams could take their leader in the best possible position to the finish. After an exciting sprint André Greipel beat Caleb Ewan on the line. Peter Sagan completed the top three.

Andre Greipel

André Greipel wins stage 6.

André Greipel: “It’s fantastic to end Tour Down under with two stage wins. Ewan, Sagan and Viviani had won one stage, just like me, and I was really eager to beat them again. And so I did! This feels great.”

“It was a hectic stage today, but as a team we stayed very calm and concentrated. The first half of the stage we didn’t come to the front. Afterwards Thomas De Gendt did most of the work and as a team we came to the front on the right moment. Caleb Ewan was fast as a cannon ball and it wasn’t easy to pass him by, but I managed to do so on the line.”

“The past taught me that the Tour Down Under and stage wins here always are the start of a good season. I hope it will be the case too this time. I am going home with a very good feeling after two beautiful weeks in Australia. Now I will take rest for a few days, before building up to my next goals.”

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent this report:

Having taken a stage win on what had been the toughest sprint of the race on stage 4, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, starting the day in the green jersey of points leader, would be looking to take the victory on the race’s final stage. In spite of a strong ride, where the BORA-hansgrohe team worked hard to drop him in position, a hectic bunch sprint saw Peter finishing in third on the line. The points taken in the finale saw Peter crowned as the winner of the points contest for the first time, while Jay McCarthy finished the race having put in a brave ride in the GC contest.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan finished the race with the points leader's jersey. Sirotti photo

The Stage:
Just 90km remained of the Tour Down Under, and it was back to the streets of Adelaide for the closing criterium-style stage. Featuring a more challenging circuit than the People’s Choice Classic that opened the race, the final stage saw twists and turns and short, sharp climbs on a 4.5km route ridden twenty times. Time bonuses would be available on two intermediate sprints, which meant there was still everything to race for, not to mention the glory of taking the victory on the last day of the race, with the flat finale tailor-made for a bunch sprint.

The Team Tactics:
The GC race looked to have already been decided, but with a bunch sprint predicted for the final day of the race, it was a chance for the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, to confirm his position in the race’s points contest, starting the day as the green jersey holder. Holding an advantage of nine points over the second placed rider, the Slovak rider would be looking to consolidate his hold on the jersey, while also setting his sights on taking some additional glory with his second win of the race.

The Race:
While the finish meant a bunch sprint was likely, this didn’t stop the breakaways from trying to change the stage’s outcome. Attempts were made, but it wasn’t until past the halfway point that an attack finally stuck, going out on lap ten of twenty, the two escapees making up for the later start by gradually increasing their lead. However, in spite of the best efforts of the break, building an advantage of more than two minutes, by lap eighteen it was all back together, and the preparations began in the peloton for the sprint finish. With two laps still to go, the pace was fast and the racing frenetic, and as the kilometres passed by, it was BORA-hansgrohe’s turn to take control at the front, leading Peter Sagan to the finale. With the sprint starting early, Peter found himself boxed in, taking third position on the line. While he was unable to take his second stage win of the race, he was able to cement his position as the winner of the points contest.

From the Finish Line:
"Last stage at the Tour Down Under and another very hot day. As expected, everything was decided in the bunch sprint. We followed our plan, the guys protected me throughout the race and set me well for the finale. It was a good sprint but not enough to win the stage. It was a good Tour Down Under for me, I scored my first stage victory in this race and I took my first green jersey. I feel that the team as well had a very good week, thanks to the dedication, excellent teamwork and team spirit that exists. It's a good start to the year. Last but not least, thanks to all the people that helped organise this very good race." – Peter Sagan

"I think that we can be satisfied we what we achieved in the Tour Down Under and I consider the start of the 2018 season to be a positive one. Peter pulled on the green jersey, he won a stage and the People's Choice Classic, while yesterday we gave it our all for the victory at the queen stage. The entire squad put on a strong effort in every stage. Today, we had the fast-paced circuit through the streets of Adelaide and again the guys worked very well to position Peter with a perfect leadout in the final lap. Peter finished third, which was another good result. As I said, overall, it was a good week for BORA-hansgrohe." – Patxi Vila

Here's what EF Education First-Drapac had to say about the racing:

Logan Owen (EF Education First-Drapac) climbed onto his first WorldTour podium as his first WorldTour race came to a close in Adelaide on Sunday. The neo-pro raced aggressively off the front of the peloton on stage six of the Santos Tour Down Under to earn the Most Competitive prize.

“I was meant to go for the sprint and help Mitch [Docker] and Scud [Tom Scully] in the finish,” said Owen. “Will [Clarke] was meant to be in the break. He went for it a few times in the beginning and made a really big effort, but the start was really hard and really fast today. When I saw him going backwards, I took the opportunity to follow wheels.”

Five laps into the 90-kilometer, 20-lap circuit race, Owen found himself up the road with Truls Korsaeth (Astana). Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo) bridged across on lap six. The trio gained a maximum advantage of 1:56 as Lotto-Soudal and Mitchelton-SCOTT controlled the peloton.

“When I ended up off the front, I was like: ‘I guess I’m going to roll with it.’ and after that, I rode as hard as I could,” said Owen. “But only a few laps into the move, Astana stopped riding and then Trek stopped riding. That’s when I decided I was going to go at it alone. I had already dug a deep enough hole where I couldn’t have helped the team in the finish, so my only chance to do something at that point was to go for the win.”

The 22-year-old’s solo move was short-lived. Ben O’Connor (Dimension Data) bridged across to Owen on lap nine. “He came flying up to me,” noted Owen. “I sat on him for awhile. It didn’t benefit me to help him get bonus time, and he was going crazy hard anyway. I thought I could catch a ride for a bit and hopefully make a bid for the finish. I started rolling again when Ben got his sprint points and bonus seconds.”

With four laps remaining and the gap between the bunch and the breakaway beginning to tumble, Owen attacked O’Connor. The American’s efforts afforded him another two laps out front. The peloton shut down the solo bid for glory just beyond the 18th passage of the finish line.

“I threw an attack there at the end to really give it my all,” said Owen. “I always knew it was going to be a long shot.”

The pace was too high in the peloton for any counter-attacks. Several teams jostled for control during the last lap. Team Sunweb and Quick-Step appeared the most organized, but it was Lotto-Soudal who delivered. André Griepel sprinted to his second 2018 Santos Tour Down Under stage win, a record-extending 18th career victory in Australia’s only WorldTour race.

Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-SCOTT) finished on bunch time to become the first South African to win the Santos Tour Down Under overall. Brendan Canty, EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannodale’s best-placed general classification rider, closed out the week in 22nd place at 29-seconds.

“This was a great week,” said Owen. “It feels like a continuation of what I’ve already been doing with Axeon, my under-23 team. We were serious when we needed to be and had fun when we could. All in all, it was a solid start and a really awesome time. I think this is going to be a great year.”

And finally, here's the report UAE-Team Emirates sent me:

Even after the last stage in the Tour Down Under (Adelaide–Adelaide, 90 km) Diego Ulissi had no problem clinching 4th place in the general classification, 20” from the winner, Impey.

Greipel won the conclusive stage in the final sprint, with Consonni placing 7th; the young sprinter from UAE Team Emirates will also return from Australia with a 4th and 5th place earned in the sprints.

Diego Ulissi

Diego Ulissi at the teams presentation ceremony. Sirotti photo

Although Ulissi achieved a better place in this race in 2014 (3rd position), with the good result he obtained in this year’s general classification he has confirmed his ability to remain competitive during the entire season. In October he captured the Tour of Turkey and in the Tour Down Under, the first event in 2018, he was able to get off to a good start by remaining at a high level.

Ulissi, the first Italian in the overall standings, had this to say: “I’m satisfied with how I was able to perform during the entire week. The 4th place in the classification is a sign that I worked well over the winter and that my legs are already reactive. In the Tour Down Under, if you aren’t quick on your feet, it’s really hard to get good results. It was nice to work in perfect harmony with the entire team. We performed well in all the stages and we hope that this will be the start of a season that will bring memorable cycling moments to our fans and our sponsors.

"Now I can get back to concentrating on training, so I can be at my best for the next competitive event, the Abu Dhabi Tour“.

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