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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, July 20, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it. - Leonardo da Vinci

Cycling's World Championships

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Tour de France Stage 12 Withdrawls

URAN RIGOBERTO EF Education First-Drapac DNS

Tour de France stage 12 reports

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

Stage winner and GC leader Geraint Thomas' Team Sky posted this report:

Geraint Thomas claimed victory atop Alpe d’Huez to extend his Tour de France race lead in style after 12 stages.

The Welshman finished off an incredible performance from Team Sky to become the first British winner on the famous mountain at the Tour, extending his yellow jersey advantage to one minute and 39 seconds in the process.

Thomas and teammate Chris Froome combined superbly in the final kilometres to attack and cover moves as they were joined by Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Mikel Landa (Movistar) for the final run-in.

Thomas jumped on a late move from Landa and drove to the line, edging out the victory by two seconds, with Froome crossing the line a further two seconds further back in fourth.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas wins stage 12. Sirotti photo.

Team Sky put everything into the 175.5km test, with Egan Bernal playing a starring role as he took up the pace setting on the final climb, shutting down dangerous moves from Landa, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida), before pegging the gap to Bardet.

The stage win had looked in the balance, with the team working hard to haul back a long-range solo attack from Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), with the Dutchman holding a six-minute advantage following the Col de la Croix de Fer.
After crossing the line Thomas attempted to put his success into words after conquering the 21 hairpin turns.

“I can’t believe it - I’m speechless,” he said. “I don’t know what to say – not a chance in hell did I think I would win today. It was unbelievable - can we go to Paris now?!

“Maybe I can keep this yellow jersey for the next few days, but this race is so hard, and you never know how the body is going to react. I’m still riding for Froomey – he’s the man, probably the best ever, a legend of this sport. I’m just going to enjoy this whilst I can.”

Froome lauded praise on teammate Thomas, and explained how the two are working together tactically at the sharp end of the race. He told "He's ridden the race of his life so far at this Tour. It's been faultless and he fully deserves to be in yellow, having won two stages and the most iconic stage of the race Alpe d'Huez. It's a massive, massive feather in his cap.

"I think it's a dream position for us to be in - first and second on GC. It allows us to play both our cards like we did today. Yesterday G went up the road and left other riders scrambling to try and chase. Today I went up the road and G sat on Dumoulin which worked out really well in the final. It meant G had a good punch at the finish. It's just a dream scenario for us right now.

"I definitely feel as if I'm building into this race. I'm really happy with how I'm feeling since we've hit the mountains. It was always a bit of an unknown after the Giro but I'm really happy with the first sensations and looking forward to the Pyrenees next week."

Bernal put in a superb performance on the fan-lined climb and after the stage he confirmed: "We did a good effort on the last climb and it was a great feeling for me. It was a great experience to work for the team. "I’m in one of the best teams in the world. I knew I had to control things. I like to work for this team and I’m proud of myself. (Sport Director) Nico (Portal) was speaking to me and told me I needed to keep the gap, which I felt I did well."

Movistar set out to attack the stage early, with Alejandro Valverde forming part of a 30-rider group up the road. Gianni Moscon and Wout Poels combined on the front, before Luke Rowe paced the peloton up Lacets de Montvernier.

Jonathan Castroviejo held on gamely over the Croix de Fer before pacing the descent and taking key time out of Kruijswijk on the valley road. Then it was over to Michal Kwiatkowski on Alpe d’Huez, before Bernal put in a storming ride.

EF Education First-Drapac sent me this sad note about Rigoberto Uran's withdrawal:

Rigoberto Uran has withdrawn from the 2018 Tour de France ahead of the start of stage 12 on Tuesday. The Colombian crashed heavily on Sunday’s Roubaix stage, resulting in pain his left leg and arm and compromising his ability to pedal.

EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale harbored hope for a rest day recovery, but the effects of the crash lingered. “Today I have to share some bad news,” said Uran. “I didn’t recover after the crash. Yesterday in the first real climb, all day, there was pain in my body.”

“The most important thing is the rider’s health,” said head sport director Charly Wegelius. “Rigo hasn’t recovered from his crash on the cobbled stage, and his position on the bike is compromised and could create further issues down the line,” Wegelius said. “We along with Rigo felt it best to pull out of the Tour this morning so he can recover and look toward the remainder of the season.

“Ultimately this decision comes down to the rider,” Wegelius added. “If a rider wants to continue the race, we look to ways to do that safely. If a rider feels it best to pull out, we do not push them to continue.”

Rigoberton Uran

Rigoberto Uran (left) at the teams presentation ceremony before the Tour's start. Sirotti photo

Prior to Uran’s crash, EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale had enjoyed a strong first week in the Tour. Highlights included reaching the finish on the right side of several splits in the bunch throughout the opening week, exceeding expectations in the team time trial and a quick reaction to a mass pile-up in the closing kilometers of stage four. Uran had worked his way up to sixth overall ahead of stage nine before tumbling out of general classification contention following the crash.

“It’s difficult for me and also for my team,” said Uran. “We prepared for this Tour, all season we were focused on the Tour. Sometimes this happens, and this time, I think it’s the best decision for me to recover and to recover well.”

Uran’s exit signals a shift in tactics for #PinkArgyle. The team’s Tour squad had been built around Uran, who finished second in the 2017 Tour de France. The riders chosen to support Uran’s quest to win the Tour will now target stages in the 10 remaining stages. It’s a familiar approach for the American-registered squad.

“We’ll miss Rigo of course – he’s a great leader and a wonderful presence to have on the bus and with the staff,” said team CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “We look forward to getting him back healthy for the rest of the season. The guys that remain are fighters, and we have some chances coming up in the mountains. For us, another Tour begins today.”

While we're on the subject of abandons, here's Lotto-Soudal's release about André Greipel:

Unfortunately André Greipel has abandoned the Tour de France this afternoon during the mountain stage to Alpe d’Huez. Already during the first kilometres of the Col de la Madeleine, the first climb of the day, André Greipel let go of the peloton and followed his own pace. The former German champion had teammates Jasper De Buyst and Marcel Sieberg by his side. On the Col de la Croix de Fer Greipel quit the race, together with Marcel Sieberg. It’s the first time in eight participations that Greipel, who has won eleven Tour stages, abandons the Tour. After Tiesj Benoot and Jens Keukeleire were forced to abandon the Tour earlier due to crashes, there are now four Lotto Soudal riders left in the race.

Andre Greipel

And here's André Greipel before the Tour's start. Sirotti photo

André Greipel: “The past three days weren’t easy and too hard for me. I knew that this would be another tough day in the saddle. I could only hope the peloton would ride up the first climb rather slowly, but that wasn’t the case. Soon, I felt this would be the end of the Tour for me. Others might choose to hold on to the team car, but if I can’t arrive at the finish on my own, I rather go home. I’m not sad; I’m a realist and a fair sportsman.”

And here's the short release from Bahrain-Merida telling about Vincenzo Nibali's leaving the Tour:

Bahrain-Merida Pro Cycling Team captain Vincenzo Nibali is forced to withdraw from the Tour de France after the crash that happened with about 4km to go on the Alpe d’Huez.

Vincenzo Nibali

Vincenzo Nibali on his ascent of Alpe d'Huez. Sirotti photo

The clinical examinations have shown the vertebral body fracture of the tenth thoracic vertebra and therefore it is impossibile for Nibali to continue the competition. Tomorrow in the morning, Vincenzo Nibali will return to Italy where, in the next days, he will undergo a new clinical evaluation.

Tejay van Garderen's BMC team sent me this:

19 July, 2018, Alpe d'Huez (FRA): The Tour de France continued the legend of the Alpe d'Huez on stage 12 today with the toughest of the three mountain stages in the Alps featuring one category two and three hors catégorie climbs, including the finale on the iconic 21 switchbacks.

The first 30km, of the 175.5km course, were almost entirely downhill and this set the stage for a fast start with various moves trying to go clear before the peloton reached the bottom of the 25.3km long Col de la Madeleine, which has an average gradient of 6.2%, altogether albeit strung out.

Tejay van Garderen was part of a three-rider move on the early slopes of the climb but the main bunch wasn't initially happy about letting them go clear and so, they were pulled back before more attacks drew a group of around 30 riders, once again including van Garderen, out at the front of the race.

The intense early pace mixed with the gradient and length of the opening climb saw riders dropping off the back of the peloton and at the summit of the first ascent of the day, a reduced bunch was sitting 2'20" behind the now 26-rider breakaway.

After navigating the first of two fast descents as well as the Lacets de Montvernier, a 3.4km climb with an average gradient of 8.2%, the van Garderen group began climbing the Col de la Croix de Fer 30 seconds behind Pierre Rolland (EF-Education First - Drapac p/b Cannondale) who was leading solo with the peloton around four minutes back. 

What was left of the breakaway split behind Rolland in the opening kilometers of the 29km long climb with van Garderen losing contact and riding his own tempo as ten riders bridged across including Steven Kruijswijk (Team Lotto-NLJumbo), who then attacked to go over the top three minutes ahead of the first chasing group and another three minutes ahead of a select yellow jersey group.

The lone leader's advantage was sitting at 4'20" as he began the final 13.8km climb, with an average gradient of 8.1%. However, with a battle between the other General Classification contenders heating up behind him, he was eventually caught in the closing kilometers of the stage with race leader, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) going on to take the day's honors ahead of Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale).

Michael Schär and van Garderen were BMC Racing Team's first two riders across the line, finishing in a group around twenty minutes behind the stage winner.

Race Reaction from Inside the Team Car with DS Fabio Baldato:
"It was a good try from Tejay at the beginning. Just like we planned, he did his best to get into the good breakaway but unfortunately, there were really strong guys in there including some of those on GC like Valverde and Kruijswijk for the most part. He tried to anticipate these guys alongside six or seven other riders in order to see if it was possible to go away without a GC leader but it didn't happen. When we started the Croix de Fer, he rode his own tempo to save some energy as fighting with the GC riders at the front was almost impossible. Behind, the other guys were good and kept a good tempo to be safely within the time limit and that was also a priority of the day."

"We've seen both Damiano and Tejay motivated and now, the objective is to try and go for a stage. The General Classification is not really our plan anymore. We're not going to try to finish in the top ten or top 15 overall. It doesn't matter. Instead we will go for a stage win. The guys can now take a couple of days to recover and then we will see what happens and see if we can make another attack when we reach the Pyrenees."

And Rafal Majka's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

For two days, Rafał Majka had suffered from injuries sustained in crashes on the cobbled roads to Roubaix. While other riders had climbed off their bikes, the Polish rider – in true BORA-hansgrohe style – pushed on hard. Today saw some of the toughest climbs in the professional peloton, but rather than staying safe in the bunch, Rafał went on the attack – riding in a small group of three and beating the chasing bunch of GC riders to the foot of the day’s final climb.

It was a day when the whole team provided excitement, with Austrian National Champion, Lukas Pöstlberger, jumping in the early break, while Gregor Mühlberger set the roads ablaze with a masterful descent of the Col de la Madeleine, distancing the breakaway. The whole team finished safely before the cut-off, with the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, confirming another day in the Maillot Vert as many of the sprinters abandoned on this hard Tour de France route. Peter now leads the Green Jersey contest by 210 points.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka racing in stage six. Sirotti photo.

The Stage
The third day in the big mountains and the peloton was greeted today with a profile that featured three Hors Catégorie climbs. This 175.5km stage was going to be absolutely brutal. The HC climbs were some of the most famous and iconic not just of the Tour de France, but of the sport of cycling. The Col de la Madeleine was the first of the day – 25.3km at 6.2%, before the second category Lacets de Montvernier. While this second climb was short, at 3.4km, the average gradient was a huge 8.2%. As the day moved on, the longest climb of the stage, the Col de la Croix de Fer, would be tackled – and the idea of ascending a 29km climb with an average gradient of 5.6% after 91km of racing would instantly send shivers of dread through the peloton. Saving the best for last, there was just the twenty-one hairpin bends of Alpe d’Huez to contend with – one of the hardest climbs in the world, shrouded in Tour de France history. The lower slopes were the hardest, with gradients of more than 10%, but this didn’t mean the rest of the day would be easy – the gradient for the rest of the 13.8km climb would barely drop below 8% - and this is without the likely fight for the GC and stage win playing out on its roads ahead of the summit finish.

The Team Tactics
The day was packed with hard climbs over a long parcours, so it was difficult to know how it would unfold. Riders who appeared strong on the first climb of the day could struggle later on, and vice versa. Today the aim would be to keep an eye on how the day unfolded, not trying to stay in contact if other teams were trying to go too hard early on. With the intermediate sprint coming after the first HC climb, it was unlikely Peter Sagan would go for the points – the aim for the UCI World Champion would simply be to hold on and finish within the time cut.

The Race
Even with such an intimidating stage ahead of them, the riders put the pedal to the metal from the moment the flag was dropped. While there was no escape as such, the peloton was stretched out along the road and the break formed organically on the climb of the Col de la Madeleine, as a small group, which included Gregor Mühlberger and Austrian National Champion, Lukas Pöstlberger, with Rafał Majka making the jump from the chasers shortly after. Making their way over the top of the Madeleine, Gregor gave the escapees a masterclass in descending, going out ahead on the winding route down to the next climb before rejoining the chasers as they made their way up the beautifully winding route of the Lacets de Montvernier.

As the riders hit the longest climb of both the day and the whole race, a solo rider was at the head of the race, but in the second group on the road, Rafał led a small group of three as they passed through the ski town of Saint-Sorlin-d’Arves ahead of the long descent towards the finale. At the foot of Alpe d’Huez, the Yellow Jersey group had caught Rafał’s group of three, and there were four minutes separating the bunch from the solo leader. On a climb where several GC favourites dropped off from the effort, and having ridden in a small group much of the day, Rafał took the final ascent to the finish gently, but it was clear that the Polish rider had managed to hold his own in a brave ride where he crossed some of the biggest and hardest mountains in the Tour de France in front of the chasing bunch. While the whole team finished safely, with many of the sprinters abandoning the race, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan was staying focused on the long road to Paris still ahead of him.

From the Finish Line
"The third mountain stage in this Tour de France today and for me it was more about surviving the three brutal climbs. I said that before, the Tour de France finishes on the Champs-Elysées in Paris and until then we will have to give our best every day and take our chances when we can. The hot weather and the fast pace of the race make it quite hard." – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion

"I needed to try something today, for myself but also for my team. My legs are still not good, I am far away from my best form, but I already felt a little bit better than the last couple of days. I need to recover now, taking advantage of the next flat stages, in order to be ready for the Pyrenees." – Rafał Majka

"Today was one of the hardest mountain stages of the Tour I have ever seen. It wasn't just a tough parcours, the race itself unfolded like a war. In addition, at the back, the battle to finish inside the time cut was hard, everybody suffered a lot. We can be proud we still have all 8 guys in the race. Rafa, Lukas and Gregor did a good job today, the two Austrians delivered Rafa in a very good position, and in addition Rafa was already a lot better today. He dropped a lot of guys today who dropped him yesterday and that is a good sign. But, we thought it would have been hard to get to the finish today, so we didn’t risk everything. We are on a good track now, and we‘ll also get some more chances in the mountains." – Patxi Vila, Sports Director 

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