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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, January 27, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H. L. Mencken

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Challenge Illes Balears team reports

Here's the update Lotto-Soudal sent me:

It was only his second race day and Tim Wellens already claimed his first victory of the season! For the second year in a row he was the best at the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, one of the four races of the Challenge Mallorca.

The Trofeo was 140 kilometres long and contained six official climbs, starting with Coll de Sóller immediately after the start. Sondre Holst Enger, who sprinted to the second place yesterday, rode solo in front for a long time. On the Coll de sa Batalla, with top at about forty kilometres from the finish, the situation changed. Tim Wellens got in a front group with Brambilla, Moscon, Mühlberger and Valverde.

Tim Wellens: “Our team started up the battle. We were all strong and made sure it was a hard day in the saddle. Valverde attacked uphill when Jasper De Buyst and Rémy Mertz were setting the pace. I responded to his attack and got in a front group of five. We were going really hard the first ten minutes and soon we had a few minutes advantage. It was clear that one of us would win the race.”

“Moscon and I put pressure on Valverde during the descent of Puig Major. He lost contact and had to make an effort to join us again. Valverde, who had better legs uphill, tried to drop us on the last climb, but didn’t succeed in his attempt. In the descent Moscon and I created a gap again. A sprint between the two of us would determine the winner. We knew you had to be first to enter the last corner at 200 metres from the finish. It was a fair sprint, man against man.”

“It’s great to win so soon. Yesterday we already had a great result with Jasper finishing third. Tomorrow is my last day. The course is less tough than today and it could be that a group of about twenty riders sprints for victory. But if it’s bad weather, positioning will be crucial.”

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens takes the win.

Jelle Vanendert abandoned early in the race after a crash, but luckily he only has some abrasions.

Tiesj Benoot finished fifth in the queen stage of the Argentine stage race Vuelta a San Juan. With two stages left to go, he is sixth on GC.

And here's the Illes Balears report from Alejandro Valverde's Team Movistar:

In only his second day of racing in 2018 and after nearly seven months without putting a backnumber on, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) confirmed to be fully recovered from his TDF injury. The Spanish superstar contested the win at Friday’s Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, the hardest stage in the Challenge Mallorca -140km with no less than six categorized climbs-, ending up 3rd over the line after a display of courage and will to succeed.

Following some good Movistar teamwork to keep the race under control into the opening three ascents -a work much frustrated by a series of crashes, fortunately without any consequence, by Carretero, Amador, Rojas and Rosón on the wet descents-, Valverde went on the attack at the Cat-2 Coll de Sa Batalla, more than 40 kilometers from the finish. Only four riders were able to keep his pace, with Gregor Mühlberger (BOH), Gianluca Brambilla (TFS) and the two men he would fight for victory against: Gianni Moscon (SKY) and Tim Wellens (LTS), the Belgian jumping off the group several times, most notably on the descents.

It was on the short downhill of the Coll d’En Bleda (Cat-3), the last climb of the day, when Wellens, who had already opened a gap of more than ten seconds on Valverde at the descent of Puig Major (Cat-2) without being able to leave him behind, created an unsurmountable advantage together with Moscon and took the win. Valverde, in turn, claimed his first podium finish of the 2018 season and the maiden top-3 result for the Movistar Team, which will continue to enjoy the quality of one of their best riders ever.

REACTION, Alejandro Valverde:

“Today’s result and feelings have been good, really great I’d say. I felt really strong today. The training had gone well, but today’s race was the real test to check if my knee was recovered. It was the best place to give it a good try: a cold race, under the rain, on dangerous roads… It all went really smooth, the best I could dream of. Especially on the climbs. I really felt strong on the uphill parts. On the descents, though, it was more difficult for me. I was a bit worried and didn’t want to take any risks, because the roads were on a very dangerous state. To see my team-mates falling down really made me see that staying on the bike was already a victory today. I knew that the breakaway would split in the finale if they took more risks than I wanted, and that’s how it happened. Hats off to Wellens and Moscon, a well deserved first and second, but for me, taking 3rd is like a victory. Keeping the pace of those guys uphill after everything that happened is something to be really happy about. I knew I was doing well, but not so much.”

– Trofeo Lloseta – Andratx lineup (Saturday 27th January): Alejandro Valverde, Jorge Arcas, Carlos Barbero, Daniele Bennati, Héctor Carretero, Imanol Erviti, Jaime Rosón.

Team Quick-Step Floors reports on the Vuelta a San Juan stage five:

Last climb of Vuelta a San Juan stage 5 turned into a battle of attrition and led to some big gaps in the general classification.

Rémi Cavagna put in a strong ride, leaving everything on the road on Alto del Colorado, the only mountain top finish of this year's Vuelta a San Juan, which despite not having any ferociously steep gradients, averaging only 4.4% over 18.8 kilometers, blew the race apart and reshuffled the general classification.

The ascent wasn't the only hurdle of the day for the riders, also the strong crosswinds acting as an important selector, just as the big battle for the stage win was beginning to unfold. At the base of the climb, as a fantastic and hardworking Max Richeze was leading the chase behind the last survivor of the original breakaway, the main group was numbering around thirty riders, but soon only a handful were left at the front, due to the gusting winds which fractured the bunch.

Home rider Gonzalo Najar (Sindicado Empleados Publicos de San Juan) attacked from afar and went all the way to the line, taking the win and moving to first place in the standings, ahead of Oscar Sevilla (Medellin-Inter) and Filippo Ganna (UEA-Team Emirates).

Gonzolar Najar

Gonzalo Najar wins the San Juan Vuelta's fifth stage.

Rémi Cavagna fought hard to limit the damages and paced himself admirably, despite not making the cut when the group splintered, and concluded the stage just a few minutes in arrears; still, his efforts paid dividends at the end of this demanding day, as the 22-year-old French rider of Quick-Step Floors continues to sit in the top 10 of the general classification.

"The stage was easy in the first part, but really hard in the last 20 kilometer. Jhonatan and I tried to stay in the front, but when several guys got dropped in the wind a gap opened and from that point one it was nearly impossible to come back", said an energy-drained Rémi at the top of Alto del Colorado. "I tried to return, but it was more and more difficult to do that, and I came close of going into the red in the last 200 meters. I'm a bit disappointed, because I had hoped for more today, but I'll shrug off the feeling and focus on the two remaining stages, in which we'll have the chance to get some nice results."

Laurens De Plus and Petr Vakoc injured in South Africa

Here's the update from their Quick-Step team:

The two Quick-Step Floors riders are in hospital after being hit by a speeding truck while out training.

Quick-Step Floors would like to inform that Laurens De Plus and Petr Vakoc are both in hospital, following an incident that took place on Thursday afternoon, in South Africa, during their daily training ride. The two, together with Bob Jungels, were on the road, when a truck came from behind and hit them, the collision sending them on the tarmac.

The riders – both conscious – were immediately attended by team trainer Koen Pelgrim and soon they were transported to the Mediclinic Nelspruit, where Laurens was diagnosed with multiple abrasions and a minor pulmonary and kidney contusion, as consequence of the crash; the Belgian will be kept under observation, but should be released from the hospital in a few days. Petr was less fortunate, after the scans revealed several fractured vertebrae, which require surgery that will be performed later today.

Peter Vakoc

Peter Vakoc in 2016, winning the Brabantse Pijl

Bob Jungels described what happened: "The three of us were out training, when suddenly I heard a loud noise and then in the following second I saw Laurens and Petr on the ground. I did not see the truck coming from behind, but it must have hit them with the left front mirror or even the front left part. I ran to them and could see they were injured, so I did not dare to move them. A lady who was on the side of the road came and helped us, calling the ambulance, while our trainer Koen and I talked with them. It was really tough to see them like that and I hope they will get over this difficult moment soon. I wish them a fast recovery."

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