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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, July 16, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I'm so old, I don't buy green bananas any more. - Lou Holtz

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Tour de France stage nine news

We posted the organizer's report with the stage results.

We have to start with BMC's updates. They kept the yellow jersey and lost Richie Porte in an early crash.

Here's the first report BMC sent me:

Paris–Roubaix: The Inside Story

15 July, 2018, Roubaix (FRA): BMC Racing Team experienced mixed fortunes on Tour de France stage 9 today with Greg Van Avermaet sprinting to second to keep the yellow jersey at the finish line while Richie Porte was caught up in a crash during the opening kilometers and was forced to abandon the race.

It was a devastating start to the highly anticipated stage from Arras to Roubaix for BMC Racing Team with Porte involved in a crash, after less than 10km of the 156.5km course, that forced him to stop racing. A medical update will be provided when more information is available.

At KM 47.5 the race reached the start of the first of 15 cobbled sectors, totaling 21.7km, and a ten-rider breakaway had been able to open up a 3'20" advantage over the peloton. Over the next 40km, the main bunch stuck together behind the nine remaining leaders with Greg Van Avermaet and his teammates keeping a watchful eye on the front of the race.

The action started to heat up after an increase in pace with 65km to go saw the peloton explode with small groups spread out across the road however, everything started to come back together around 5km later. Van Avermaet, Damiano Caruso, and Stefan Küng were sitting in the first part of the peloton, two minutes behind the breakaway, as Tejay van Garderen worked with Michael Schär to make it back into the bunch.

Unfortunately, van Garderen crashed just a few kilometers later and although he was able to get back on his bike quickly, he lost contact with the rest of the field.

Just Damien Gaudin (Team Direct Énergie) and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (Team Dimension Data) remained in front with 35km, and five cobbled sectors, to go with Van Avermaet and Caruso working at the front of the first chasing group.

With the last remaining rider caught, Van Avermaet was able to take maximum bonus seconds at the sprint with 18km to go before attacking on the penultimate cobbled sector alongside Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) and John Degenkolb (Trek - Segafredo). The leading trio was able to quickly capitalize on the advantage they opened up on the cobbles and at the 10km to go mark, the gap to the first chasing group had risen to almost one minute.

Greg van avermaet

Greg van Avermaet late in the race with John Degenkolb on his wheel. Sirotti photo

From there, their advantage remained steady with the chasers struggling to close the gap heading into the closing kilometers of the day and eventually, at the flamme rouge, the gap still stood at 40 seconds. With the finish line in sight, the games began with the three riders trying to anticipate the move of their rivals before a final sprint saw Van Avermaet digging deep to take second behind Degenkolb and extend his overall race lead to 43 seconds going into tomorrow's rest day.

Quotes From the Finish Line:

Greg Van Avermaet:
"After the crash, I just had to switch to trying to do my own race. It's a bike race and it goes on so, I tried to do my best for the whole team and keep the jersey. The closer we got to the finish, the more I started believing and this result is a big disappointment for me. Maybe the race wasn't long enough for me really. I have a good sprint after six hours and today it was only 3 hours 30 minutes. I tried to do my own sprint instead of waiting for him [Degenkolb] but next time, I will try again and try to beat him. I was really aiming for that win in yellow and it didn't happen but that's how it goes. Overall, I kept the jersey and made a great race out of the stage and this is also something. I was really happy with my shape and it's been special to wear the yellow jersey."

"Losing Richie was a big disappointment for the whole team because we were here to bring him to Paris. You have some bad luck one year and you normally come back and then everything goes well. But for this to happen two year's in a row is sad for Richie. He was well-prepared and in good shape in Switzerland so we really believed in him. I wish him all the best in his recovery and hopefully, he is back soon. Now, we will try to make the most out of the second and third week. It will be a little bit more relaxed but we will try to do as good as possible."

Sports Director, Fabio Baldato:
"I only know that Richie was taken to hospital by ambulance and it looked like it was his collarbone or his shoulder that was injured. It was really painful as he went down hard on his shoulder. We waited almost more five minutes and then the decision was made to take him to the hospital."

"We left two guys waiting behind, Michael Schär and Simon Gerrans, and they were able to come back at which point we said let's go for the stage win with Greg."

"We're obviously really disappointed today and frustrated about all the hard work we have put in until now. There was even no time to fight today because after 7km, Richie was involved in that crash. Of course, the bunch was really nervous and it happened just passing through a village. He crashed with all the team around him so we cannot say that he wasn't there. Once again, we will try to keep looking forward to the end of the Tour and try to take some stages if it's possible as the GC and podium is gone."

A little later this came from BMC:

Richie Porte was forced to abandon the Tour de France after a devastating crash early into stage 9 which left him with a fractured right clavicle [collarbone], BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Max Testa confirmed.

"Richie has been discharged by the hospital and the diagnosis is that he has a non-displaced right clavicle fracture. He will need to rest for a week before he considers starting to ride on the home trainer. From what we know at this point, it looks like a straightforward injury and one that is quite common in cycling. We are expecting him to be back on the bike training in probably three to four weeks and potentially racing in six to eight weeks. We will continue to monitor Richie's recovery and adjust the plan accordingly," Dr. Testa explained.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte and Jens Keukeleire after the crash. ASO/Pauline Ballet photo

Porte is understandably disappointed about being forced to abandon the Tour de France. "Obviously I'm devastated. For the second year in a row I am ending the Tour de France like this. I was on the ground before I knew it and straight away felt pain in my right shoulder. I want to say a big thank you to my teammates for their incredible work over the first nine days. We had a great first week and I'm so disappointed that I won't be continuing to Paris. I hope to recover as fast as possible and get back to racing," Porte said.

Here's the news from stage winner John Degenkolb's Trek-Segafredo team:

When John Degenkolb thrust his arms in the air after crossing the line and taking the victory in stage nine at the Tour de France Sunday, it was not the biggest win of his career, but perhaps the most important.

It has been three years of struggle to reach the top again after a life-threatening and nearly career-ending accident, and Degenkolb took an emotional victory after a thrilling stage nine that included 15 cobblestone sectors of his familiar terrain.

“Pure happiness,” answered Degenkolb when asked what was going through his mind when he had won. “I was chasing this victory for so long, and it’s really hard to describe. It was a really hard fight the whole day. It’s also a victory of the team. We really had a plan to stay out for the trouble all the time and it really worked out really well. It’s unbelievable.”

John Degenkolb

The stage is Degenkolb's. Sirotti photo.

A well-prepared Trek-Segafredo avoided misfortune that so often has plagued the team in the past and rode the stage to perfection.

In the closing kilometers, the team had Jasper Stuyven, John Degenkolb, Toms Skujins and Bauke Mollema in the vastly reduced peloton.

While other GC contenders fought off crashes and punctures, some losing crucial time, Bauke Mollema avoided any drastic incident, thanks to a well-laid plan and dedicated teammates. When Bauke did puncture, Michael Gogl was there to hand him his bike, and Mollema was back in the peloton in a flash.

If there’s a man of the match in cycling, it would most likely go to Toms Skujins, who had the job to watch over Mollema all day leaving Jasper Stuyven and John Degenkolb able to go for the win.

With Mollema safe in the leading peloton in the closing kilometers, Stuyven was the first to mark an attack of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). Later it was Stuyven who laid down his own attack into sector four, softening up the competition, and when Van Avermaet went again in sector two, John Degenkolb was ready.

Three riders emerged in the lead after the penultimate cobblestone sector: the yellow jersey, Degenkolb and Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors).

The trio gained time quickly, and soon it was apparent that they would be fighting out the stage win. On paper, Degenkolb was the quickest. But we all know that hardly matters out on the road – Degenkolb had plenty of “almosts” in the last two years and plenty of demons to rid.

Could he do it?

Degenkolb assumed the lead in the last kilometer, which is never a good idea for most, but he knew what everyone watching did not: “I was focusing on the race, trying to stay calm. I felt good and then [in the sprint] you don’t have to think,” he said afterward.

Leading out the sprint, it was no contest: Degenkolb easily. In the last few years, he had never stopped believing. Today he showed why.

The accident, then injuries, sickness, and last year a family friend perishing, only motivated Degenkolb more. On Sunday he accomplished the most significant win of his career.

“This is a very big victory, since a very long time,” continued an emotional Degenkolb.  “I have been through a lot of things in the past, and it was such a hard time. I want to dedicate this victory to one of my best friends who passed away last winter. This was really something for him because I said no, I am not done. I have to make at least one really big victory him, he was like my second Father.

“It’s so great now to be on the highest level again. There’s no way to make it more dramatic, more fantastic, than winning a stage like today. It can’t get better than this.”

Here's what third-place Yves Lampaert's Quick-Step team had to say:

Utter chaos, utter madness, crashes, punctures, furious chases, attacks and counterattacks, stage 9 had everything to go down as one of the most memorable stages in the modern history of the Tour de France, and Quick-Step Floors were one of the main protagonists with the likes of Belgian Champion Yves Lampaert, Fernando Gaviria, Philippe Gilbert and Liège–Bastogne–Liège victor Bob Jungels.

Lampaert, a top 10 finisher at Paris-Roubaix, was the one who ignited the day's winning move, on the legendary Camphin-en-Pevele sector, inside the final 20 kilometers, prompting a response from John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and yellow jersey Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). While his teammates marked the accelerations of the riders who tried to shut down the trio, Lampaert pushed on together with his companions, extending their advantage to a full minute by the time they passed under the 10km-to-go arch.

While the trio kept distancing, Philippe and Bob jumped on the wheel of Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), sensing there was a real opportunity to gain some time in the general classification. The newly-formed group opened an encouraging gap over the chasers, which at the end of the day helped Jungels move up to fourth in the general classification, just behind Gilbert, whose result was made even more impressive by the fact he crashed twice and had a mechanical when it came down to crunch time and the stage got turned upside down by the numerous accelerations of GC and classics riders alike.

At the front, Yves Lampaert took a convincing third in Roubaix, one of the most iconic towns in cycling, netting Quick-Step Floors' sixth top-3 finish at the current edition of the Tour de France, a result from which the 27-year-old rider – covered in sweat, dust and salt residue – took heart especially as he was hindered by a puncture in the second part of this gruesome stage.

"The heat and the wind made for a really hard day. There was quite the fight to get into a good position ahead of every section and I think I managed well. As I still had power in the legs, I decided to attack on Camphin-en-Pevele and was followed by two strong guys. I knew I had the last chance in the sprint, but third it's still a good result. Maybe I could have attacked again before the finish, but it's difficult now to look back and say where I could have made a move. Taking everything into account, it was a solid day."

Of all the GC contenders, Bob Jungels had the highest ranking at the end of the 156.5km-long stage between Arras and Roubaix – seventh – which wasn't necessarily a surprise, considering the 25-year-old Luxembourger is a former U23 Paris-Roubaix and showed incredible legs, self-confidence and composure as he bossed the northern cobbles despite a crash in which he lost some skin.

"It was a very nervous day, as everybody wanted to be in the front. I came down on the left side of my body in a corner after slipping and ended up getting some bruises, but it doesn't look so bad. It's a pity Yves was against some fast guys in the final, but third is a nice result and we also gained some time on all the other contenders, so overall we did well and I think we can be satisfied, considering all that happened", said Bob at the end of the stage which saw Quick-Step Floors maintain the first place in the team standings for the ninth consecutive day.

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent this:

It was to be chaos on the cobblestones at the Tour de France today, and with the last five Paris-Roubaix winners in the peloton, the recreation of the Queen of the Classics was bound to be one of the most exciting days of the whole race. With experienced Classics riders mixing with GC riders who would simply want to stay safe, the day was a spectacular event filled with attacking riding and lots of crashes. Staying safe throughout, UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, took fifth spot to add to his points total. With the whole BORA-hansgrohe team riding hard to bring him back into contention after being caught up in two crashes, Rafał Majka finished with the bunch, moving from eighth to sixth in the overall standings ahead of the first – and richly-deserved – rest day.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan on the penultimate pavé sector

The Stage
Today was going to be thrilling for fans and riders alike – a miniature version of Paris-Roubaix at the Tour de France. The all-rounders and classics riders would have a chance to shine on the 156.5km parcours, while the GC riders would be fighting to make it safely through the day. The fifteen sectors of pavé – the famed cobblestones – would make the riding exceptionally difficult. Some of these sectors were used in the 2018 edition of Paris-Roubaix, while others would only feature in the Tour de France. This was the last day before the race’s first rest day, and so this could well be a day when riders would put everything on the line before making the most of tomorrow to recover.

The Team Tactics
This being a recreation of a Spring Classic, it would be almost impossible to predict the day’s outcome. While the BORA-hansgrohe team had the reigning Paris-Roubaix champion riding – the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan – the tactics had to be entirely different today. With the terrain of the second week suiting the GC riders, it was essential that Rafał Majka make it through the day safely to fight on next week, and on these exceptionally difficult roads, the Polish rider had to have the whole team’s support to make it through the day unscathed. Peter would have the freedom to ride his own race and would take any opportunities that came his way as the day progressed.

The Race
It wasn’t long after the flag dropped that the break formed, with two small groups combining and with nearly 50km before the first section of cobblestones, the escapees took every chance to build up their lead, however, they were never able to exceed four minutes. This group of ten at the front passed through the intermediate sprint, before the BORA-hansgrohe team, led by Peter Sagan, took the remainder of the points, both adding to his total and denying his rivals in the points contest the chance to gain on him. Rallying around Rafał, the team did an exceptional job of protecting the Polish GC rider, as the cobblestone sections came closer together and became longer and more difficult.

A crash 65km out caught Rafał, but the BORA-hansgrohe riders rallied around their GC leader and brought him back to the front group in an incredible team effort. The difficulty of the stage was really hitting the break hard as they dropped in number, while attacks from the peloton after the longest sector of pavé saw Peter join a select lead group with some classics specialists among them. With 20km remaining, the break had only fifteen seconds in hand, the lead group making the catch before the push for the finish started – attack after attack came, with Peter working every time to shut them down.

With 15km remaining, three managed to make their move stick, among them the Maillot Jaune, and with Peter left in the chasing group it was going to be a fight for points for the UCI World Champion. Holding the bunch at bay to stop the GC riders taking time from Rafał and taking fifth in the sprint for the remaining places, Peter supplemented his points lead, while Rafał finished safely with the GC riders, climbing to sixth in the overall standings after an excellent performance on a difficult parcours.

From the Finish Line
"The stage today to Roubaix was like Paris-Roubaix in April but also different. It was just as harsh, tough and tricky but it was different because we also had to work for Rafał Majka's GC chances. I think we did a very good job. I was at the front in all the pavé sectors, except one, and when Rafał was caught up in two crashes and lost contact with the front group, all the guys put a great effort to bring him back each time. We can be satisfied with what we achieved." – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion

"It was a very hard and stressful day. I am happy because I had a really strong team next to me when it mattered. After both crashes, the BORA-hansgrohe guys brought me up again and thanks to them I finished in Roubaix among the GC favourites. Luckily, I am not really hurt, so everything looks good for the first mountain stages to come." – Rafał Majka

"As expected, it was a crazy day with lots of crashes. Our boys did a great job, we pulled a lot to stay in front and out of trouble, but unfortunately, we couldn’t avoid all crashes. We lost Daniel because he was caught up too long in the crash and Rafa went down the first time as well. Marcus and Bodi brought Rafa back and when he crashed again, Marcus was still with him. So, in the end, we had to sacrifice all our power to keep Rafa in the race for the GC and we couldn’t support Peter in the finale anymore. Still, we can be happy at the end of the first part of the Tour. The team did a great job every day, we took two stages, Peter is in Green, and Rafał is already 6th in the GC. I am proud of what we achieved so far in this Tour." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

And here's the report from Movistar, whose José Joaquín Rojas crashed out of the Tour in the same accident that took out Richie Porte:

An extraordinary performance from all Movistar Team riders and perfect strategy execution led to a more-than-satisfactory result for the Eusebio Unzué-led squad in the hardest stage so far in the 2018 Tour de France, over 15 ‘secteurs pavés’ and 21km of cobblestones from Arras to Roubaix (156km).

A crash for José Joaquín Rojas after 9km into the race -a serious blow to his left shoulder not containing any fractures, preliminary examination at the Doual hospital revealed- was the negative rote of a stage where the Telefónica-backed squad overcame all difficulties and always rode together. A sensational combined effort by Erviti, Amador, Bennati and Soler got Nairo Quintana back to the main bunch after some difficulty following sector 12; help Valverde stay calm at the front; and most notably, made up a deficit nearing one minute after a crash by Mikel Landa with 32km to go.

The Spaniard, with many blows and bruises all over his body, finished only 7″ behind the first echelon of favourites, which in turn crossed the line 27″ behind a trio of escapees led home by winner John Degenkolb (TFS). At the GC, a focused, brilliant Valverde over the entire first week now wits in 5th place, 1’31” behind Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and just 48″ and 41″, respectively, off the first main names: Geraint Thomas (SKY) and Bob Jungels (QST). Mikel Landa will get to the first rest day on Monday in 10th place (+1’42”), while Nairo Quintana remains 2’50” behind yellow.

Mikel Landa: “I’m happy, because we got through a very difficult situation. I was drinking some water on an asphalt stretch between cobblestone sectors and rode over a pothole or drain cover. My team-mates were impressive after my accident, and not only pushing there for me but also during the whole stage: taking care of us three, solving that problem – I can’t credit them enough for their incredile job. Let’s hope it’s just scratches, so I can get back to 100% soon. I don’t really know if I’m at 100% right now; the right shoulder hurts a bit, but I think it should be nothing serious.”

Alejandro Valverde: “It’s been an unreal stage. A really, really hard effort, which we got through way better than expected. After so many tough moments, the team was able to also get Mikel into our group, and that makes me so happy, because they’ve shown how great they can be. We made it through, and that’s already success. My legs feel good at the moment, and our terrain to really shine starts on Tuesday.”

Nairo Quintana: “We got through a very difficult stage for us, and rode really focused, the entire team. It was a day when you needed to have very good physical condition and remain well positioned, always into alert. I had some sort of problem at the one of the early sectors and we had to go on the pursuit, but thanks to my team-mates, I could bridge back. After that, I always remained near the front, doing things well, in a very diffcult terrain for us against such talented specialists. I hope to make this gap up in the mountains, because my legs feel great at the moment.”

Women give Mitchelton-Scott their first ‘Grand Tour’ victory at the Giro-Rosa

The team sent me this report:

World time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten has made history for Mitchelton-Scott today, winning the final stage and securing the most prestigious women’s Tour on the calendar, the Giro-Rosa, for the first time in the team’s seven-year history.

Annemiek van Vleuten

Annemiek van Vleuten has won the 2018 Giro Rosa. Here she is winning the 2017 Cadel Evan's Great Ocean race.

The Australian outfit dominated the 10-day race to finish first and third overall with van Vleuten and Australian Amanda Spratt, claiming six of the ten stage victories with three different riders, as well as taking the mountain and points jerseys home.

After switching their focus to general classification last year, Mitchelton-Scott women set the Giro Rosa’s pink jersey as the number one goal for the season.

The outfit set out with joint leaders in van Vleuten and Spratt, with Spratt taking the race lead after a stage six victory. A 15km uphill time trial the following day suited van Vleuten and the jersey swapped hands between the teammates following stage seven.

Already with a handy lead before yesterday’s penultimate and Queen stage, van Vleuten extended her grip with a stunning solo victory up Monte Zoncolan. The 35-year-old backed up with a third victory today to secure the biggest win of her career and an important milestone for Mitchelton-Scott.

Belgian Jolien D’hoore began the team’s winning ways, claiming two stage wins on the third and fourth day in sprint finishes. On the sixth stage, the first general classification test, Spratt attacked and took classy solo win to move into Maglia Rosa.

Van Vleuten dominated on an uphill time trial on stage seven, the first of three stage victories before going on to win on Monte Zoncolan and today's final stage.

In addition to the team’s first and third overall and six stage victories, van Vleuten added the points' jersey to her collection along with Spratt winning the mountains' jersey.

Van Vleuten headed into the tenth and final stage with a hard-to-beat three-minute 35second lead over her nearest rival on the general classification, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla).

A breakaway of 13riders animated the early part of the day before being reeled in ahead of the final climb. Moolman-Pasio was the first to attack on the final climb, however, the Mitchelton-Scott riders followed closely with van Vleuten stamping her authority on the race, counter attacking her teammate Spratt, in a move which was too strong for anybody to follow.

Annemiek van Vleuten - 2018 Giro-Rosa winner
“This is a dream come true, not only for me, but for the whole team. We prepared so well for this race and to win six stages, the overall and three jerseys and do it in this way racing with confidence and control it’s a super story for the team.”

“Especially because before I thought that I would never win the Giro-Rosa. My first one was in 2010 and I always thought that I am not a climber, so it won’t happen, but yesterday to win on the Zoncolan and then today to win the GC, it’s very special.

“Today’s stage win wasn’t premeditated, it just happened out there on the road, I felt that it was good to attack on the climb and carry some speed into the descent. It’s no secret that attack is the best form of defence and that was me defending the jersey. I felt good on the climb and it’s special to wrap up the GC by winning the last stage.”

Amanda Spratt - Third place overall
“We came here wanting to win the Giro-Rosa as a team and Annemiek has done it and it is really thanks to the entire team. The riders, the staff, everyone has worked so hard for this, it’s giving me goosebumps to see how well we have all worked together.”

Martin Vestby - Sport director
"It has been a real team performance this week, the team has stepped up in all areas and it all came together for this Giro-Rosa. There was a lot of preparation going into the race, we did a lot of recon and a lot of work to make sure everybody was ready. I think that is why we can see this big step up and how we have been able achieve this much.

"Our leaders have been so strong and the whole team in general has been stronger than we could have expected, so everybody can be very happy and proud of what we did this week."

Giro-Rosa stage 10 results:
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) 3:24
2. Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) +0:27
3. Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) ST

Giro-Rosa overall general classification:
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) 25:50
2. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla) +4:12
3. Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) +6:30

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