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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, July 30, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

There is frequently more to be learned from the unexpected questions of a child than the discourses of men. - John Locke

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Tour de France Stage 21 reports

We posted the organizer's stage 21 report with the stage results.

Here's the report from stage winner Alexander Kristoff's UAE-Team Emirates:

It was a scintillating end to the Tour de France for UAE Team Emirates as Alexander Kristoff took home the iconic final stage win. The reigning European Champion, who picked up a stage win at the Abu Dhabi Tour earlier this year, saw off stiff competition in the sprint finish on the Champs-Élysées to take home what is one of the most coveted Grand Tour stages.

Kristoff narrowly missed out on a stage victory at this year’s Tour, but there was no doubting the Norwegian today. He found himself in the perfect position in the build up to the sprint, and as his fellow specialists battled it out, Kristoff came off the wheel of Frenchman Arnaud Demare to showcase his power and thrust his wheel over the finish line in front of a packed crowd.

The famous yellow jersey, awarded to the winner of the General Classification (GC), was taken home by Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) – the Brit finished +09:05” ahead of Martin in the GC standings.

Commenting on his stage victory, Alexander Kristoff said: “I’ve dreamt about this victory for many years. I’ve been close before but I’ve never managed to beat the faster guys like Greipel, Kittel and Cavendish. But today they were not here- they are out after the mountains. So today I was the fastest and I am super happy. It’s a dream come true.”

Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff gets the final stage. Sirotti photo

Discussing his thrilling bunch sprint performance, Kristoff continued: “I was a bit far back after the roundabout, but I was with Ferrari who led me to the front. Then I saw that Trek were giving a really good lead out and I managed to get on their wheel. I got a good start and was able to pass John (Degenkolb), but it was still far out and I had to push. Thankfully nobody managed to come close to me in the last 20m and I knew I would win. I am just so happy I was able to do it.”

It was also a historic day for UAE Team Emirates Dan Martin picked up the award for the most combative rider of the Tour, after several inspirational attacking performances across key mountain stages.

After finishing his first Tour for UAE Team Emirates, Dan Martin said: “This is an amazing moment. What a magical place to be, with the Arc du Triumph in the background and the Champs Elysees in front of us. It’s all just starting to sink in now. It’s always special finishing the Tour, but even more so today. I have really enjoying this year’s race and I’m a bit gutted it’s over. So now I am just looking forward to next year even more.”

Commenting on his ambitions, Martin continued: “I’m not sure if I jinxed myself before this edition by saying that my ambition was to get through without crashing and having bad luck because it happened again. That said, I race the way I race and I still think a podium is possible I just need to piece that perfect performance together. It isn’t all about bad luck, it’s about being in the right place at the right time and I think you make your own good luck a lot of the time. You learn every year you ride the Tour and I’ll take those lessons to next year because I want to end up standing on that podium on merit.”

Here's the report from 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas' Team Sky:

Geraint Thomas wrote another page of British cycling history after sealing an incredible overall victory at the Tour de France. The 32 year old became only the third Brit and first ever Welshman to win the yellow jersey, with an eventual winning margin of one minute and 51 seconds after three weeks of hard racing.

Rolling into Paris alongside his teammates, Thomas’ victory represents the sixth success in seven years for Team Sky at the world’s biggest bike race.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas crosses the line of the final stage safely, making him the winner of the 2018 Tour de France

Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome was able to join Thomas on the podium after securing third place with a gutsy ride on Saturday’s time trial. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) finished second and joined the duo on the fan-lined Champs-Elysees.

After thanking his teammates on the podium, he added: "I got into cycling because of this race. I remember running home from school to watch the Tour de France and the dream was always just to be a part of it. That came through 11 years ago back in 2007. Now I'm here, stood in the yellow jersey. It's incredible and it's a dream come true.

"To everyone back home, kids and the Maindy Flyers, just dream big. If people tell you it can't be done, if you believe in yourself and work hard just keep going. You're going to have knocks and downs. But keep believing, anything is possible and with hard work everything pays off in the end. Thanks for all the support!"

Thomas powered into yellow after victory on stage 10, and 24 hours later took another dream result with a memorable win atop the famed Alpe d’Huez. Thomas held the jersey for a further nine days with a series of assured performances, supported every step of the way by his team.

Froome began the race as team leader but wore the biggest smile after Thomas was all but confirmed as race winner following the time trial. Froome raced hard in the mountains, helping Thomas to close out yellow. Egan Bernal proved a complete revelation in his first Grand Tour. At 21 the Colombian was a tower of strength on the climbs, signalling the brightest of futures. In his first year with the team, Jonathan Castroviejo was an immense all-round presence, as once again was Michal Kwiatkowski. The pair routinely emptied the tank on the climbs and on the flat.

Wout Poels continued his run of being involved in the team’s Grand Tour success, putting in huge shifts in the mountains. For Luke Rowe to even make the start line was an incredible feat after a serious leg break last season. The team’s road captain was immense and got to ride into the French capital alongside fellow Welshman Thomas. After two weeks of hard work the team supported and accepted the race organisers decision to exclude Gianni Moscon from the race.
After stepping off the podium Froome was full of praise for Thomas.

He said: "It's amazing and quite emotional standing on the podium with G, being such a good mate. We've been teammates for 10 years, so to stand on that podium with him on the top step of the Tour de France - it's amazing to see how far he's come and I'm incredibly proud of him.

"I've had a good run now with three Grand Tour victories in the last three I've done, and to be on the podium here again. It's been tough work and I'm really glad to be able to take a break now. My wife Michelle is expecting a baby any day now and I'm really looking forward to spending some time with the family now."

Fellow Welshman Luke Rowe admitted it was an emotional moment seeing Thomas on the podium. He added: "I'm immensely proud. I've known him a long time. We've grown up together from riding around on the streets on BMX's, to now be stood here looking up to the Champs-Elysees, looking up to the podium and the Arc de Triomphe and knowing G's going to be on the top step - it's just amazing. I'm proud for G and a proud Welshman.

"You look back and he never really looked under pressure massively. He always looked like he had it under control. But you can't win the Tour de France easily. It's a massive battle and a massive fight. I think every rider has their day and every rider is on their limit at certain times. He certainly was, just like the rest of the peloton, but he was the strongest and deserves to be stood on the top step."

Lotto-Soudal's Marc Sergeant delivers a harsh assessment of his team's Tour performance.

Lotto-Soudal sent me this:

On the last day of the Tour de France 2018 sports manager Marc Sergeant looks back on a Tour that didn’t become what he had hoped it would.

Marc Sergeant: “Our Tour was no success. It was a fiasco. There is no other way than admitting it. On the one hand there are the five riders who abandoned the race, and every rider has his own story of course. But on the other hand there’s the fact that we were rarely in the running for a stage win. Thomas De Gendt in the stage to Mende and Jelle Vanendert to Bagnères-de-Luchon did a good attempt, but that wasn’t enough to compete for a top result. That is painful.”

“I am surprised, yes. The first part of the season was good, the Tour preparation too. I am still confident that we had the best possible line-up for the Tour. We had a balanced team, with riders who had a free role of whom everyone thought they could be successful. It’s of course nothing else than bad luck that Tiesj Benoot and Jens Keukeleire had to quit the race before the first rest day and that was a huge loss. And in a Tour that was hard for non-climbers we lost André Greipel and Marcel Sieberg a few days later.

Andre Greipel

André Greipel at the teams presentation ceremony.

“We owe an answer to our Captains of Cycling and need to get back on track as soon as possible. There are still a lot of beautiful races to come, in which I think that we will be able to set results. But there is only one Tour.”

Tom Dumoulin's Team Sunweb sent me this report on his second-place GC finish:

Team Sunweb's Tom Dumoulin (NED) has crossed the finish line in Paris to secure 2nd in the general classification at the Tour de France, the first podium finish for the team at La Grand Boucle. The team's first attempt going for the GC at the Tour, and the first GC-venture at two consecutive Grand Tours, Dumoulin finishes the race in a total time of 83 hours, 19 minutes and four seconds, one minute and 51 seconds down on the race winner.

Seven out of the team’s eight riders finished the race, with Team Sunweb’s two debutants Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN) and Chad Haga (USA) both completing their first Tour de France. Theuns also crossed the finish line on the Champs Elysées after a crash saw him abandon two years ago.

Team Sunweb conclude their Tour de France campaign after a consistent three week performance by both Dumoulin and the team. A stage win in the rainbow jersey and a solid team time trial, the team write in their history books taking 2nd at the Tour.

Tom Dumoulin

Tom Dumoulin winning the stage 20 individual time trial.

Team Sunweb coach Luke Roberts (AUS) said: Team Sunweb coach Luke Roberts (AUS) said: “The goal that we had coming here was the process of working towards a GC result and to see what we could learn from this race, without specific expectations on results. We’ve definitely done that, it was a tough race and the first nine days were really stressful for the riders and that was before we’d even got to the mountains. Given the fact that we had to miss Wilco and lost Michael so early, we can be very proud of how we dealt with the race both mentally and tactically. We made the most out of this situation and the guys did a great job, being there on the key moments. With the amount of riders not making it to Paris this year we can see how tough it really was. And with that, we can be proud that we’ve arrived into Paris in 2nd place.”

Tour de France road captain Nikias Arndt (GER) said: “We’ve all had a really nice three weeks here. We started really well, did a great TTT which gave us motivation and trust that we can go for a good GC. We were all so disappointed when we lost Michael because of illness but we kept fighting and made the most out of it. When we lost time on the Mur de Bretange stage we knew that it didn’t make us weaker, so we just kept fighting. All in all we’ve had an amazing three weeks and we’ve all really enjoyed it. We all gave 110 percent and it’s unbelievable what we’ve achieved here. The support from the whole staff was amazing; our bikes were always on point, the soigneurs looked after us really well, the coaches, everyone. Now it’s really time to celebrate together as a team.”

Dumoulin said: “Before today, the Tour de France was already a success for us and it was more than we had all hoped for. To finish second here is really special and I’m genuinely really happy with the result. If someone told me that after such a hard Giro I would be on the podium at the Tour de France, I would have immediately signed for it. We came into the race really open, of course we were going for the GC but not specifically the podium so I’m super happy with the outcome and proud of what me and the team have achieved here.”

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

On the final day of the 105th edition of the Tour de France, it was a day for looking at the incredible achievements of the BORA-hansgrohe team in this most famous of cycling races. La Grande Boucle had seen the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, take three stage wins, before fighting through the mountains – a crash making his road to Paris all the more difficult. Having suffered due to his injuries on the Roubaix stage, Rafał Majka stepped up and lit up the Pyrenees with attacking riding and strong performances. Today, all Peter had to do was finish today to take the record-equalling sixth Maillot Vert, and in the final sprint, while it was clear he still needed time to recover, he pushed hard for the line to take enough points to break his personal record in the points contest – equalling one Tour de France record while breaking one of his own.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan is assembling a closetful of Green Jerseys.

The Stage
The final stage into Paris is traditionally a procession, allowing the jersey holders the opportunity to share a glass of champagne, and for the riders who had a less successful race to commiserate and plan for next year’s edition. However, once the riders enter Paris, this spirit of camaraderie disappears in an instant – as soon as their tires hit the Champs Elysées, the racing starts for the honor of taking the win the final stage of the race. Circling the Arc de Triomphe on each of its nine laps, the pace will rise massively as they not only reach the end of the 116km stage, but also as this 3,351km race draws to a close. The final day usually ends in a bunch sprint, however it's not unknown for a late attack to take the win here, and with so many of the sprinters having left the race, there’s no guarantee what the result will be today – particularly with the huge crowds to cheer on the riders and give them the extra push for the line.

The Team Tactics
Having secured his Maillot Vert, taking the win on the Champs Elysées would be a fantastic way for the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, to end the Tour de France, but while many of the pure sprinters were no longer in the race, Peter’s injuries sustained in the mountains meant it was not certain if he would be in a position to contest the win. However, it was certain that regardless of any injuries or the fatigue of twenty-one stages, Peter was going to be up there in the closing kilometres, riding hard, and the whole BORA-hansgrohe team would be there with him.

The Race
The road to Paris gave riders an opportunity to contemplate the thousands of kilometres in their legs, taking the day at a sedate pace to allow photographers and the television crews to get a shot of the jersey holders – including the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, who would be taking the Maillot Vert for a record-equalling sixth time. The Slovak rider had taken all three of BORA-hansgrohe’s stage victories, but it was the team’s efforts throughout the race that had brought him into position to challenge for these wins. The team had worked unfailingly, not only to go for the wins, but also to provide support throughout the race – whether it was to go in the break in support of Rafał Majka in the mountains, or to keep Peter safe and to pace him on the climbs when the other sprinters were eliminated by the time cuts.

Hitting Paris, it was again BORA-hansgrohe who took charge on the front of the peloton, ramping up the pace to almost 60km/h and making the final kilometres pass by in a flash. The entire team was riding for Peter, and even with the threat of rain, there was nothing that would dampen their spirits. Hovering behind the sprint trains, Peter was ten riders back as Daniel Oss closed down an attack on the front, but it was clear he still needed time to recover. As the pure sprinters contested, the points he took on the line from finishing in eighth saw him breaking his personal record in the Green Jersey contest – ending with an impressive 477 points.

From the Finish Line
"I'm so happy to wear the Maillot Vert on the Champs-Elysées for the sixth time. It's such a great feeling, especially after the four very difficult days that followed my crash. It was tough but here I am! I'd like to thank all the BORA-hansgrohe riders, staff and sponsors for their help in making this a reality. Thank you!" – Peter Sagan

"We had ambitious goals, one stage win, the green jersey and a top five in the GC. In the end, we took three stage wins and the green jersey, so we succeeded in most of them. The GC didn’t work out as planned, but you can't plan everything to perfection in sports, you always have some mishaps. Rafał crashed twice in Roubaix, something that affected him too much. But he came back strong in the final week. Peter showed incredible fighting spirit to bring home the green jersey after his crash, and the entire team sacrificed themselves for the whole three weeks. We have an amazing spirit in our team, I am really proud of every single team member. I want to thank them for their hard work, and I also want to thank BORA, hansgrohe, Specialized and all other sponsors for their support. I think that in this season and this Tour, we were able to give a lot back to them." – Ralph Denk 

BMC sent me this stage review:

29 July, 2018, Paris (FRA): The 2018 Tour de France wrapped up with the traditional ride into Paris, culminating with eight laps of the iconic Champs-Élysées which came down to a sprint won by Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates).

After losing team leader Richie Porte to a crash on stage 9 of the race and Patrick Bevin to illness on stage 14, BMC Racing Team's remaining six riders crossed the line in Paris to add another Tour de France participation to their respective cycling careers.

BMC Racing Team finished this year's edition of the race with a stage win courtesy of an impressive team time trial performance on stage 3 which subsequently saw Greg Van Avermaet move into the yellow jersey.

Solid teamwork, as well as an impressive ride in the breakaway from Van Avermaet on stage 10, saw the Belgian rider hold onto the yellow jersey for eight days before conceding it to Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) on the first summit finish of the race. Damiano Caruso was BMC Racing Team's best-placed rider on the General Classification, finishing 20th behind Thomas.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet spent eight days in yellow. That's eight more than the great Raymond Poulidor.

After crossing the finish line in Paris, here's what they had to say about the past three weeks of racing.

Damiano Caruso:
"I think at the end of three weeks, I can say that my experience was positive. I had three chances to play my own cards and while I missed the victory, it was a good Tour de France for me. I think the best moment of this race for me was the team time trial. It was a really special day."

Simon Gerrans:
"As in all edition's of the Tour de France, it's been a rollercoaster. There are obviously certain high points that we can looked back on namely the stage 3 team time trial victory and Greg's stint in the yellow jersey. Then, we also have had some low points with losing Richie just before the halfway point. That was a huge blow but all in all, I think we can look back pretty fondly on this Tour."

Stefan Küng:
"I've come out of the Tour de France a bit better than last year in general. It's obviously always a really hard race and I'm happy to be here in Paris. We had a nice success with a stage win in the team time trial and the yellow jersey for eight days with Greg, so that was good. Then we obviously lost Richie but I think we can be happy with this amazing experience."

Michael Schär:
"It was a great Tour de France for all of us. It was sad to lose Richie and Paddy and it's a pity that we don't all arrive in Paris together. But, we had a good Tour. We had a great team time trial and showed what we can do as a group. For me, I enjoyed my day in the breakaway and trying something on the flat stage. It was good and winning the Most Combative Rider on that stage and going on the podium was something cool too."

Greg Van Avermaet:
"The goal was to win the team time trial and that's what we did. Getting yellow was a nice gift from this and to keep it was long as possible was great. Overall, it was a nice Tour de France. I had some nice results but of course, coming second in Roubaix was a bit disappointing but I'm happy with how the race went. It was a really nice experience."

Tejay van Garderen:
"This Tour de France had its up and downs. Winning the team time trial was certainly the highlight and it put Greg in yellow. We had some aggressive showings but it would have been nice to get another stage win and obviously losing Richie was a big blow to the team. But, I think we can look back on the last three weeks and be happy with what we did."

Sports Director, Fabio Baldato:
"We can take a lot of good memories home from this Tour de France specifically the team time trial victory, having the yellow jersey for eight days and a good team spirit. We have had fun over the last three weeks and we have enjoyed working with each other. Of course, we can't forget that we unfortunately lost our leader, Richie. I think he was ready to be on the podium just like the team was and that's the only thing that I am disappointed about during this Tour."

"After that though, we had a good direction and a good morale and we tried to be in a lot of breakaways and to go for another stage win. It didn't happen but overall, I think we have had a great three weeks." 

Lawson Craddock raises $195K for velodrome en route to Paris as Tour's Lanterne Rouge

Lawson Craddock's EF-Education First team sent me this report:

EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale’s Lawson Craddock became the first American to earn the unlikely honor of “Lanterne Rouge” when he crossed the Tour de France finish line in Paris on Sunday. The title, an informal one, is awarded to the rider that finishes in last place on the general classification.

The Texan has occupied the final spot on the leader’s board for the duration of the race. He crashed on the opening stage when he hit a water bottle and bounced off the road. Craddock climbed back on the back and finished the stage.

“It’s been an incredibly testing three weeks,” said Craddock. “I’ve pushed myself well beyond my limits. There were many times during the race that I wasn’t sure if I could make it, but the encouragement and generosity the whole world has shown me motivated me every step of the way. To reach the finish line in Paris has been incredibly emotional.”

Craddock went straight from the stage one finish line in Fontenay-le-Comte to the Tour’s mobile x-ray truck. Diagnosis? Stitches required for a laceration above the left eye and a broken scapula.

He broke down in tears when the media questioned him following x-rays.

When Craddock expressed a desire to stay in the race, the team rallied around him to help make it happen. He required chiropractic sessions three times a day, regular consultation with the team’s medical staff, and assistance from team directors and his teammates en route to the finish line.

While the team’s efforts largely addressed Craddock’s body, the Texan knew he needed something to hold onto to address the mental challenges. Lying in bed the night after his crash, he landed onto what he came to describe “a way to turn a negative in a positive.” He would donate $100 to Alkek Velodrome for every stage he finished. Craddock grew up racing on the Houston track that was hard-hit by Hurricane Harvey.

He sent out a tweet announcing his intentions and challenged others to match his donation. He went to sleep shortly after sharing his plans and woke to hundreds of responses – a choir of “how do we donate, too?”

Craddock set up a GoFundMe in response. At the time of publication, he has raised $195,000 for his home velodrome.

“Without the fundraiser, I probably would have gone home a couple of weeks ago,” said Craddock. “Especially in the days immediately after the crash and in the recovery process, I drew a lot of motivation from the campaign. It’s going to change the future of the track.”

Craddock’s story of strength, courage and positivity resonated around the globe. Fans used #CraddockWatch on Twitter to trade notes on Craddock’s location throughout any given stage. Media requests poured in. Craddock regularly featured in VeloNews, CyclingNews, CyclingTips, Bicycling, and SBS, but his story reached far further than the cycling world. He gave interviews to ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Wall Street Journal, NPR and CBS Evening News.

“It was a very selfless thing Lawson did – to stay in the race and to raise money for the velodrome he grew up racing on,” said #PinkArgyle CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “Across the board, the team was also very selfless in supporting him on a day-to-day basis to get him through the race. From the first day, when he broke the scapula, from Pierre Rolland opening up gels for him to feed him at the very back to the incredible work our chiro did.

“In the end, it was down to Lawson’s grit and his determination. He did that with a lot of panache and a lot of honor.”

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