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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, January 25, 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

I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger. - Harriet Tubman

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Vuelta a San Juan stage three team reports

Stage winner Ryan Mullen's Trek-Segafredo team posted this report:

Irish road and time trial champion Ryan Mullen blasted around the flat, non-technical stage three time trial at the Vuelta a San Juan Tuesday to take home his first international victory and with it the first team victory for the 2018 season.

"I am super happy, and everyone here is super happy; it's nice to get the ball rolling and get a first win of the year in my first race," said Mullen. "I have always been the guy who has been second, third fifth, so yeah, it's my first international win."

The flat and windy course suited a power rider like Mullen, but in the first individual test against the clock of a new season, even Mullen had trouble pacing himself for the 14.4-kilometer race of truth.

"The course was very well suited to me, maybe I would have preferred it a little bit longer, but it was pretty close to being perfect for me. But I misjudged the pacing a little bit; I went out a little bit too hard and then the last four kilometers it was a pretty hard headwind, and I kind of came off the pace a little bit there.

"I really suffered in the heat as well for the last four or five minutes, so it was more a case of just hanging on and keeping a little bit of rhythm and not lose too much time. Luckily I held on!"

Mullen may have felt like he was losing time, but he made up most of his advantage in the second half of the race. At the first intermediate split, midway through, he was down eight seconds but crossed the line in 17 minutes and 43 seconds to set the fastest time by nearly a half-minute.

"I didn't come here to come second, but it's January, and normally in the season I can gauge how I will do, but this was my first TT, so I wasn't sure how my body would handle in the heat and that sort of stuff," admitted Mullen. "I was watching my power meter and thinking this sucks, I feel like shit. But everyone's power was down in the heat."

With all riders using road bikes and no time trial machines, Mullen felt he was not at an advantage, even with arguably the fastest tested road bike in the Madone.

"Obviously, our bike is incredibly fast, probably faster than my previous TT bike on its own," Mullen smiled. "I know that we have some of the best equipment in the whole race and that was definitely a big motivation for me. We have the best bike; we have great wheels, the only thing missing was the extensions. Last year guys rode them, and we assumed it was the same, and we only found out two days ago we cannot even use it.

"The problem for me is I am actually a big guy, I have a big frame, and in the TT position, I am lucky that I am able to get very small for someone my size and hold a really good position. That's one of the factors that makes me good at time trials; I am able to bend my body into a shape it's not supposed to go. But on the road bike I have nothing to pull on like with the extensions; normally I would pull on the bars quite a lot."

"It's the first for me having to do a TT on my road bike, and I made a few modifications like a couple extra rolls of bar tape where I was resting my arms, and I folded my hoods in so I could hold onto something and have leverage. I struggled a little bit to hold the power I normally hold [on a TT bike] but it worked out really good - in the end, I think everyone was in the same boat."

As an early starter, Mullen spent most of the race in the hot seat and was later joined by teammate Greg Daniel, who also had a fantastic race.  Daniel finished in a time of 18 minutes and 13 seconds, 30 seconds slower than Mullen, and held onto second place until the final few riders finally bumped him to fourth. Daniel missed the podium by less than a second.

Rounding out the top three Filippo Ganna (UAE-Team Emirates) in second – who also claimed the race lead – and Rafał Majka in third (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Mullen concluded:

"I kinda had it in my head that I needed to be around 52km/h average and it was leaning towards that in the final, so I knew it was a quick ride. But I also knew that Ganna is probably in good shape as he is going to the World Track Championships in 2-3 weeks, and he was fourth yesterday in a hard finale - I was nervous about him that he would have some serious horsepower. At the first check, he was 8 seconds ahead, and I was in the hot seat thinking, 'Here we go again - I've been here for two hours, and now I am going to kicked off with the last guy. Story of my life.'"

Except for this time.

This time the story had a happy ending.

Here's the Bora-hansgrohe report:

A relatively short time trial in the province of San Juan set the riders against the clock. R. Mullen put in a dominant display, riding to victory with a time of 17:43. The best BORA-hansgrohe rider, Rafał Majka, finished the course in 3rd place with a time of 18:13, 30 seconds behind the winner.

The Stage:
During the third stage, the riders had to complete an individual time trial of 14.4 km in length, with an intermediate checkpoint at 7.2 km. The relatively short and flat course did not necessarily present any particular difficulties or challenges, but it was expected to lead to changes in the general classification.

The Team Tactics:
Today’s time trial was a significant day for the general classification. The results of the stage would no doubt shake things up in the GC, and so it was crucial for the team to put in a solid performance here, in order to be in a good position for the upcoming stages.

The Race:
The first riders out on the course set times over the 20-minute mark. R. Mullen, who led the standings for most of the day, set a time of 17:43 after putting in a particularly strong performance in the second half of the time trial. For quite some time, he held over a minute’s lead over any of the riders behind him, yet this quite substantial advantage was predictably whittled down as the day progressed.

The first BORA-hansgrohe rider to roll out of the start house was Andreas Schillinger, who finished with a time of 19:37. Michael Kolar was the next BORA-hansgrohe rider to commence the time trial, and completed the 14.4 km long course in 19:22. He was followed by Matteo Pelucchi and Pawel Poljanski, the latter of whom started in the second half of the field, and crossed the finish line in 18:44.

Next to ride for the team was Pascal Ackermann, and Rafał Majka, who was the last BORA-hansgrohe rider to take on the relatively short time trial, and the 12th last rider in the field to enter the course. By the intermediate checkpoint, Majka logged a time of 8:20, ahead of the leader, R. Mullen, who clocked in at 8:35, and the fastest rider at the intermediate check, R. Cavagna, at 8:33. By the end of the stage, he registered a time of 18:13, 30 seconds behind R. Mullen, to claim third place on the stage.

Filippo Ganna

New San Juan Vuelta GC leader Filippo Ganna

01   R. Mullen         17’43”
02   F. Ganna          +0:25
03   R. Majka          +0:30
04   G. Daniel         +0:30
05   O. Sevilla         +0:36

From the Finish Line:
"It is a pleasant surprise to do well in my first race in January, and to get a good result in the end. I have a good position in the general classification now, and have some time up my sleeve. But there are of course still many more stages to come, including some long and difficult climbs, so the GC can still change around a lot in the coming days. We will definitely try to do our best, control the race, and put up a strong fight.” – Rafał Majka

“Rafał put in a strong and solid ride in the time trial. Finishing third on the stage is a good result for him and the team. Everything worked well and went according to plan today. He had a good position throughout the ride, and had good cadence, so we are very happy with his performance. His result today means that we are in a good position in the general classification, and we can only hope to consolidate today’s result in the climbs that are yet to come this week. Hopefully he will continue to have good legs and we can put on a strong fight for the general classification.” – Enrico Poitschke 

Lotto-Soudal is headed to Mallorca for 4 days of racing

Here's the team's update:

The four-day Challenge Mallorca is scheduled from Thursday till Sunday. The event consists of four individual races, so-called Trofeos.

Bart Leysen, sports director Lotto Soudal: “Traditionally the Challenge Mallorca starts and ends with a race for sprinters and in between there are two climbing races. We have a team for both types of races and we’d love to claim a victory this week. Campenaerts, De Buyst, Vanendert and Wellens will all ride three Trofeos. The others will only race twice.”

“Jasper De Buyst is our sprinter. Last season he set some nice results and we hope he can continue on the same path in 2018. Moreno Hofland will be his lead-out. Tim Wellens is our leader for the climbing races. He is surrounded by teammates who can climb well too, such as Sander Armée and Jelle Vanendert. They can all support each other.”

“In December and January we held a training camp on Mallorca. Despite the fact that it rained the first days of our second training camp, all riders were able to complete their training schedule. This year the trainings were less intense, because we don’t want the riders to be in top shape too early. They only need to peak by the time of Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Spring Classics. But that doesn’t mean they won’t already be racing well of course. We have faith that we can play along for victory at Challenge Mallorca.”

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens wins the third race in the 2017 Challange Malllorca

Tim Wellens, who won two Trofeos last year, kicks off his season again at Challenge Mallorca. He will race on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Before Tim starts the new cycling year, he looks back on the off-season. With a stage win and overall victory at Tour of Guangxi he could fully enjoy his time off.

Tim Wellens: “You are only as good as your last race, so that’s a good sign (laughs). Of course it’s all the better when you are able to finish your season that way. I had years in which I didn’t perform so well anymore at the end of the season and that’s less fun. This winter I was very relaxed. That last victory gave me mental rest.”

“I didn’t do anything for two weeks. In that period I went on a holiday to Dubai with my girlfriend. After those two weeks I started running, swimming, mountain biking and going to the fitness. I didn’t follow a schedule yet, but I just did sports when I wanted to. About three weeks later I started to use training schedules.”

“The training camps went really well. It was a huge advantage that we stayed at the Rafa Nadal Sports Centre. It’s the perfect location for sportsmen. We trained less intensively than previous years, so I will be in top shape later than usual. Nonetheless, I should be able to set good results as I’m always good at the start of the season. It would be nice to win in Mallorca, but there’s no pressure.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Victor Campenaerts, Jasper De Buyst, Frederik Frison, Moreno Hofland, Tomasz Marczyński, Rémy Mertz, Maxime Monfort, Lawrence Naesen, James Shaw, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Bart Leysen and Frederik Willems.

Quick-Step's Michael Morkov discusses the upcoming racing season

This came from Team Quick Step Floors:

Hello, everyone! How are things?

I'm writing from Australia, a place to which I'm not necessarily new. Although it was a while back, I competed here a few times in the 2000s as a track cyclist. It's been nice to return here for the Tour Down Under with my new team, Quick-Step Floors. This time, my experience definitely lived up to my expectations. I find the people here to be so open-minded and the whole atmosphere on and off the bike is very easy going.

I've taken part in many races around the world, but this event is somehow different. The people in Adelaide and Geelong really love their cycling and get very fired up when the race passes through their streets and the small country towns. I have to say that the Tour Down Under in particular had a real festival feeling to it. And of course, this motivates the riders that extra bit more, which I think shows in our results, that included a great win of Elia on stage 3 and Dries' top 5 in the overall standings.

Michael Morkov

Michael Morkov has had a long, successful career. Here he is after the first stage of the 2012 Tour de France

I guess the only drawback to coming here at the start of the season is the weather, especially when the mercury rises above body temperature. When you have to race in above 40-degree heat, you really start to suffer like never before on the bike. But having participated in the race on numerous occasions, the team was always well-prepared and took the necessary precautions. We kept well-hydrated before, during and after the race, which sped up the recovery period after the long and hard days in the saddle.

While you can't deny that, despite the scorching summer weather, South Australia is a beautiful part of the world, I wasn't brought all the way out here just to enjoy the sights and scenery, but rather to fulfill a particular role, that is to assist Elia as part of the lead-out for his sprint. I've been performing this role for a number of years and I really enjoy bunch sprints. It really gets your adrenaline going, and when your sprinter can pull off the win, it really is a great feeling. After our first win here in Australia, I'm really looking forward to continuing to work with Elia, and also Fernando, in the forthcoming races.

Although I am new to the team this season, my transition was surprisingly very smooth. I already knew some of the riders and staff, which really helped me settle in quite easily. Initially I was a bit apprehensive, but the atmosphere at Quick – Step Floors is really welcoming. The team is like a family and I'm glad I made the transfer. I'm feeling really good about what's to come for me over the next years with this team.

While I've been over here, I've had some time to think about my goals for this year. As a support to Elia and Fernando, my aim is to help them win races. So I need to be prepared for the competition when I race with them, and be able to deliver them successfully to the finish line. At the end of the day, it's all about teamwork; a win for them is also a win for me, particularly in this team.

However, this year, I also have a special goal, namely to win a race for myself. I'm thinking that I might have a chance to accomplish this at one of the smaller races. The other event I am looking forward to is, of course, racing the Giro d'Italia and supporting my teammates in this fantastic adventure around Italy. So I have a lot of goals to work towards this year, but also a lot to hope for in the 2018 season.

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