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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, March 11, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

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Paris-Nice stage seven team reports

Of course we have to start with stage winner Simon Yates' Mitchelton-Scott team report:

Cycling's World Championships

British climber Simon Yates had a phenomenal ride on the Queen stage of Paris-Nice today, taking a solo stage victory and moving into the overall race lead with just one stage remaining.

The 25-year-old attacked inside the final four kilometres on a first category climb and took with him Jon Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida). With less than one kilometre to go, Yates attacked again away from Izagirre to claim his first ever summit finish victory and now leads the race by 11seconds.

The parcours of the 175kilometre Queen stage was challenging enough with three second-category climbs and two first-category climbs, and the weather added to the difficulty. With cold temperatures and rain at the start in Nice, the day didn’t get any easier for the riders, with fog and snow lining the road along the final 16kilometre ascent up to the finish line in Valdeblore la Colmiane.

Like yesterday stage, Mitchelton-SCOTT took control of the race after a breakaway of eight riders, which formed in the early stages, hovered around two minutes ahead for the majority of the race. Australian champion Alex Edmondson contributed to a lot of the early work, controlling the distance to the leaders before Matteo Trentin and Chris Juul-Jensen took over on the penultimate climb and helped bring the breakaway’s advantage down to one minute with 30kilometres to go.

Once the final riders of the breakaway had been caught, the front group continue to shrink before Roman Kreuziger lifted the pace with five kilometres remaining, which allowed Yates to launch his attack and ride away from the depleted front group.

With his head down battling solo in an attempt to win the stage, Yates was able to distance his rivals, crossing the line eight seconds ahead of second place Dylan Teuns (BMC) and Izagirre which proved to be enough to give him the yellow jersey.

Simon Yates

Simon Yates has a good day in France.

Simon Yates - Stage winner and race leader: “It was a really great job by the boys today, we were always in perfect position and I never wasted any energy throughout the day which I think is what really helped me in the final there. Of course, it’s my first victory on a real summit finish so I’m really happy. Obviously really tired now but we need to defend tomorrow.”

“I don’t think anybody likes these conditions but I don’t mind racing in the rain. For sure it’s very waring on the body and adds an extra element to the race but with the boys there, they looked after me perfectly and I never wasted any energy throughout the day and that really gave me an extra bit in the final."

“The plan was to be in good position from the start because it was a very difficult Paris-Nice stage - never a straight bit of road, twisting and turning on really difficult terrain and you save so much energy at the front. Normally I don’t like to sit at the front, I prefer to sit back and relax a bit but today is one of those days that you really need to be there. Once we got to the climb we just had to see how we were feeling."

“It’s going to be difficult to defend tomorrow, it’s still close, I didn’t have much of a gap at the finish there so we will see how it goes. It’s the last stage. The last couple of years it kicked off early and I expect the same again tomorrow. I like that stage, we’ll have to see about the weather, but we’ll see.”

And Dylan Teuns' BMC team sent me this update:

10 March, 2018, Valdeblore La Colmiane (FRA): Dylan Teuns may be known for his prowess on short, steep climbs but on the queen stage of Paris-Nice, Teuns showed he is capable of climbing with the best on any climb with an impressive attack on the summit finish to claim second place and move into fifth overall.

Teuns started the day in 11th place on the General Classification, one minute behind then race leader Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana Pro Team) and with five categorized climbs on the menu, the final 16km category 1 climb set the stage for a showdown.

The battle for the breakaway played out in the first 10km, of the 175km stage, and Alessandro De Marchi and Nicolas Roche found themselves in an eight-rider group.

With De Marchi within three minutes of Sanchez at the start of the day, and the knowledge that the final climb was important for the General Classification, the peloton kept the group's advantage around two-minutes until 50km to go.

From there, the pace in the peloton picked up when the group split and several contenders were caught out behind which saw the breakaway's advantage reduce to one minute with 40km remaining.

On the descent and run into the Valdeblore La Colmiane, De Marchi suffered a nasty crash when he flew over the guard rail and into the ravine below. Fortunately, De Marchi was able to climb back onto the road and after suffering superficial injuries, he was able to continue racing after a bike change.

Roche maintained his position at the front of the race inside 20km to go and was joined by Tony Gallopin (AG2R La Mondiale) and Amael Moinard (Fortuneo) but the trio's advantage at the base of the climb was just 35 seconds and the peloton was gaining ground quickly.

The reduced group of favorites, featuring Teuns, swept Gallopin up with 14km to go and from there a stalemate ensued for the next 9km during which time a number of contenders were dropped by the solid pace, including Sanchez.

With 4km to go, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) attacked and established a 15-second gap with Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) over the chase group which included Teuns.

As the pace became difficult for more riders, Teuns launched his own attack 2km before the finish line and with a quick glance over his shoulder to see that no one could match his speed, Teuns surged clear in pursuit of Yates and Izagirre.

Another attack from Yates proved to be the winning move while behind, Teuns was closing in on Izagirre and managed to overtake him just before the line to claim second place.

Teuns' attack sees him sit fifth overall with one stage remaining, a short but tough 110km battle in the mountains around Nice.

Paris-Nice stage 7 profile

Paris-Nice stage seven profile

Dylan Teuns: "I'm good on short and steep climbs but when a long climb gets really steep, and switches between steep and flat, it's not as good for me. So, these long but steady climbs like today are much better for me. The pace that was made was really good. I was in the first half of the group until this little flat section and I was pretty confident about my legs and how I was going. Mitchelton-SCOTT started to put a harder pace after the flat part and I was still ok. I knew that something would happen  in the last 4km but I thought it was maybe too far from the finish line for me to do something. In the end maybe I should have followed Simon Yates because it was a good moment."

"First I attacked and didn't make a big gap. Tim Wellens, Gorka Izagirre, and Sergio Henao were chasing behind and they were quite close so I thought that maybe it wasn't a good move. They are three strong riders so if they came back to me it would have been difficult. I slowed down a bit and attacked a second time and saw that I had a gap so I just went without looking behind me again."

"Normally tomorrow's stage suits me. It's a shorter stage, but a hard stage. I don't know what to expect but it's all up and down tomorrow so it will be a hard race from the beginning."

Alessandro De Marchi: "I was following Nicolas Roche on the descent and we went into a corner fast and I got a bit scared and braked. I tried to stop but I was going too fast and just went flying over the barrier. I lay there for about 20 seconds and knew that nothing was broken so I was able to get up. I'm lucky that I just have some abrasions on my leg and shoulder. It's disappointing because I was feeling really good and was about to attack from the breakaway. My problem today was that I didn't have any fear in the descents and this is a dangerous thing."

Fabio Baldato, Sports Director: "We knew that Dylan was good and motivated but it was still something new from him. I'm really happy. Dylan just told me that if he had followed Yates maybe he would have been able to stay with him. We knew he could be good on climbs of five or six kilometres but today with the hard stage we had, the long climb and with the rain, he was really good. The team was racing around him and we had two riders in the breakaway which was important for the morale and the motivation. Tomorrow is another difficult day. It will be rainy and technical. We need to stay around Dylan as he is fifth in GC now, and it would be nice to keep this position."

And Bora-hansgrohe sent me this report:

With an astonishing team performance, BORA – hansgrohe did everything right today, to bring Patrick Konrad and Felix Großschartner in a perfect position into the final climb. When S. Yates made the decisive move, Patrick did fight for a podium spot in the chasing group. In the end he finished in a superior 6th place, while Felix Großschartner crossed the line in 13th position. Both are sitting now in a confident GC position ahead of tomorrow’s final stage.

The Stage:
At today’s stage 7, a real mountain top finish awaited the peloton. The 175 kilometers from Nice to Vadeblore La Colmiane again covered 5 categorized climbs, with the last one being a 20-kilometer-long mountain finish at 1500m above sea level. But also the last downhill was one to watch again.

The Team Tactics:
It was clear that today would be the day for real climbers. With a long uphill finish, there was a chance to gain some time on the punchy guys who were still up there in the GC. Several teams proved yesterday their ambitions, so for the young BORA – hansgrohe boys Patrick and Felix, it was about hanging on to the best as long as possible. There was no need for the team to drive the race, especially with another cruel stage waiting tomorrow, where still some energy will be needed. So again, all other BORA – hansgrohe guys had to support Felix and Patrick as long as possible, then in the final it was up to their legs. But it was also expected that there may happen some action again on the last downhill, especially on wet roads and it was key for BORA – hansgrohe to have some riders there to support the two leaders.

The Race:
On the first climb of the day, after just 10 kilometers, a group of 8 riders went up the road. It was a strong group the peloton couldn’t afford to let go too far, and Astana once again took responsibility in the bunch, but also Michelton-Scott started to work soon, which indicated they prepared a move like yesterday. On the second and third KOM of the day, the gap between leaders and peloton was around 2:30 minutes. In the first tricky downhill afterwards, the peloton did split as expected, but BORA – hansgrohe was well represented in the first part and Schwarzmann and Poljanski were still with Patrick and Felix. On the penultimate climb, the second part of the bunch could close their gap again after a hard effort from Sky. But also the last downhill was challenging again, and this time the leading group did split on the decent. On the last 15k, the fight between the big names started when Michelton-Scott raised the pace. The break was already over, when also the Yellow Jersey lost contact. Then, S. Yates attacked from the front group, and Felix Großschartner pulled in a highly reduced chasing group. With only 3k to go, everyone was riding on his own after an exhausting queen stage. It looked like Patrick may even fight for a podium spot, but on the last 500m he couldn’t follow Teuns and Wellens anymore. Still, with his 6th place today, Konrad finished off a stellar team performance. Felix finished just outside the top ten in 13th position, and both moved up the GC again today. Only 39 seconds down on the new race leader and today’s stage winner S. Yates, Konrad is now in 7th place, while Großschartner moved to 12th place at 2:13 overall.

“Maybe this kind of weather with snow suits us Austrian guys better than others. But seriously, this was a really challenging day. Our team did a great job to keep me and Felix in the right spot before the first critical downhill. We were four guys in the front group then, and this saved us crucial energy. My legs were good again and I knew we can do something today. In the end it was a pure fight man against man. I could resist first when Teuns went, but on the last 500m I was really on the limit. There is still one hard day to go, so we need to stay focused. But with today’s performance we can be really happy.” – Patrick Konrad

“Today’s stage suited my style better again. I knew that yesterday’s performance was not my level here, but that’s racing. Thanks to all our guys for their incredible job. In the end, when Yates attacked, I felt I had to pull for Koni (Konrad), because everybody looked pretty dead already. I think we did more or less the maximum today. But know it’s already about tomorrow. It will be crucial to recover well for that last hard day.” – Felix Großschartner

“Chapeau! There is not a lot more to say. Everybody did a stellar job today and the spirit in this team is really great, therefore this results are possible. It’s incredible how both, Patrick and Felix, did ride with the best in today’s final.” – Jens Zemke, Sports Director 

Lotto-Soudal sent me this news about both Paris-Nice & Tirreno-Adriatico:

Both Tim Wellens and Thomas De Gendt could step on the podium after the seventh stage of Paris-Nice to put on a leader’s jersey. De Gendt conquered the KOM jersey, while Tim Wellens leads the points classification.

Immediately after the start in Nice, the road went uphill towards the top of the first of five climbs in this stage of 175 kilometres with finish in Valdeblore. Thomas De Gendt attacked and was joined by seven others. De Gendt was first to cross the top of the first climb and the next three climbs. That way he took the lead in the mountains classification with a total of 60 points. Thomas and the other escapees got caught before the 16.3 kilometres long climb towards the finish.

Then it was up to the GC riders. About forty kilometres from the finish the peloton had split and Tim Wellens needed to chase. On the last climb he was riding attentively at the front again. Simon Yates attacked with four kilometres to go and was joined by Ion Izagirre. Yates won the stage, ahead of Dylan Teuns who had caught Izagirre at the end. Wellens claimed the fifth place at thirteen seconds. Stage winner Yates took over the leader’s jersey from Luis León Sánchez, who got dropped on the last climb. Tim Wellens gained one place on GC and is now fourth at thirteen seconds. The Lotto Soudal rider will wear the green jersey tomorrow as leader in the points classification, he has one point advantage over Julian Alaphilippe.

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens a little earlier this year at the Ruta del Sol.

Tim Wellens: “I felt very good today. On the Côte de Villars-sur-Var I went to the team car to change my wet gloves for a pair of dry ones. I hesitated a bit too long and I was riding at the back of the bunch when the peloton split on the descent. We chased with the entire team. I closed the last gap of fifteen seconds uphill. That might have been my main effort of the day.”

“On the last climb I was near my limit, but I could follow the pace. When Yates attacked, I decided to wait because I feared I wouldn’t be able to follow anymore after 500 metres. I kept a steady pace and when Teuns attacked I tried to stay as close as possible. In the end I got fifth and I didn’t lose much time. I am looking forward to the last stage with confidence. I know the area well and I won a stage here two years ago. I have tough opponents such as Yates and the Izagirre brothers, but I will give all I got to aim for the overall victory.”

Thomas De Gendt: “Before the start of the stage I didn’t have the intention to join the breakaway today, but I did want to take the KOM points on the first climb of the day after ten kilometres of racing. That way I could take over the KOM jersey. After taking the points on the climb I got in an interesting break of eight riders and I immediately cooperated with the others. I could take the maximum amount of KOM points on all climbs today, except for the last climb. I now have an advantage of 29 points. Tomorrow 48 points can be gained. It’s a rather comfortable lead, but not sufficient. We’ll see tomorrow what happens on the first two climbs. Tim Wellens is now fourth overall and we are not in the running for a podium place at Paris-Nice every year, so of course we will do everything we can to achieve that podium place with Tim. Tonight we will discuss our tactics for this last stage.”

Tiesj Benoot is the best young rider at Tirreno-Adriatico after four stages. The Lotto Soudal rider entered the top ten on GC and is now ninth overall.

The early breakaway got reeled in on the final climb towards Sarnano. The fourth stage started in Foligno and finished on top of Sassotetto, a climb of 14.2 kilometres with an average gradient of 5.8% and peaks up to 13%. It was only in the last kilometres that riders started attacking. Mikel Landa won the stage. Only six seconds later Tiesj Benoot was the sixth rider to cross the finish line. The Belgian rider is now ninth on GC at 36 seconds of Damiano Caruso who takes over the leader’s jersey from Geraint Thomas who had a mechanical on the last climb. Benoot has eight seconds advantage over Jaime Roson in the best young rider classification.

Tiesj Benoot: “I felt very good, just like the previous days. The teammates stayed with me till the bottom of the last climb. The most difficult moment was when Roglic crashed just in front of me and I was held up while Astana was pulling at the front of the bunch. Luckily I could get back in the rhythm. I joined Yates when he attacked, but unfortunately he stopped his move quite quickly. That was a pity, because I think we could have bridged to the front. Now I was the first of the chasing group to finish, as sixth.”

“Last year I already performed well on such a finish at the Dauphiné. It is great that I finished between the top riders two days in a row. I am the owner of the best young rider’s jersey now and it’s a very nice feeling to wear it at Tirreno. Tomorrow’s finish should suit me even better. And I will go full in Tuesday’s time trial as well.”

Tirreno-Adriatico stage four team eports

Here's the race report from stage winner Mikel Landa's Movistar team:

He didn’t have to wait more than nine racing days to notch up a victory in his new colours. Mikel Landa has already shown at Saturday’s stage four of the 2018 Tirreno-Adriatico the world-class abitilies that earned him a contract with the Movistar Team. The Basque climber claimed the win atop the Sassotetto ski resort, following a really long (219km) day starting in Foligno, with a display of well-measured efforts in the final slopes of the climb.

It wasn’t until the final three kilometers when Mikel, always joined into the ascent by Jaime Rosón -following protection from Bennati, Arcas, Sütterlin, Oliveira and Amador, all the way to the climb-, launched his first acceleration. Landa quickly overtook Miguel Ángel López (AST), who had jumped off the front previously and suffered a mechanical while in the lead, and got to the front easily with three other riders: Rafal Majka (BOH), Fabio Aru (UAD) and Ben Hermans (ICA). Alongside the three, as well as New Zealander George Bennett (TLJ) -the only rider bridging back after the Basque’s accelerations-, Landa went for a finishing sprint that landed him a 14th victory in the pro scene, as well as scoring the Movistar Team’s seventh success of the 2018 season.

Mikel Landa

Mikel Landa winning the stage. Sirotti photo

Landa now sits in 4th overall -20″ behind Damiano Caruso (BMC)- as Rosón, who momentarily concedes his white jersey as under-26 leader to Tiesj Benoot (LTS), is now in 11th place, 44″ back. The ‘Due Mari’ will be defined on Sunday’s slopes of Filottrano, a finish similar to Friday’s in the Muro di Trevi, together with Tuesday’s 10km ITT in San Benedetto del Tronto on Tuesday. The telephone squad, though, will already leave the Italian event with a good taste after the first win of a new reference for the Unzué-led team.

Mikel Landa: “The team was phenomenal all day – we’ve shown we’ve got a strong roster here. The guys protected Rosón and myself really well all day before the finishing climb. We knew there could be some riders who would go on an attack from further down the climb, but we chose to let other teams work a little bit – it was a long climb, and jumping from so far from the finish could be suicidal. Sky had the numbers at the front, and we waited for the right moment to make my move. With less than 4km to go, I decided to go after the riders who were leading – if it didn’t stick, we still had Rosón behind. The strategy was perfect in the end.

“This win confirms I’m on the right path. I knew I was in good condition, but it’s always important to make it count, and claiming a success with your new team so early in the season always helps for things to go easier and gain some confidence. It’s even more special for me to get it here, near the home of my friend Michele Scarponi. That gesture, pointing to heaven, was for him. He’s always with us and we’ll always remember him. The GC? We’ll have to keep on fighting until the end, but I prefer not to really look at it and go day-by-day”.

GC leader Damiano Caruso's BMC team sent me this update:

10 March, 2018, Sarnano-Sassotetto (ITA): A tough race on the Tirreno-Adriatico queen stage saw the riders tackling close to 4500 meters of climbing with Damiano Caruso, who started the day in fourth place on the General Classification, just eight seconds back, reclaiming the blue leader's jersey following a dramatic showdown on the slopes of the final climb.

The attacks began almost as soon as the flag dropped today with six riders going clear and opening up an advantage of 3'40" after less than 20km, of the 219km course.

The peloton was happy to allow the gap to extend out to over six minutes, but the pace began to pick up approaching the summit of the first of four categorized climbs with a little over 80km remaining.

As the foot of the final 13.2km long climb to Sarnano-Sassotetto drew closer, the bunch continued to chip away at the lead of the breakaway, however, with 20km to go, the gap was still sitting at over three minutes and so, the chase intensified.

The peloton was trailing the leaders by 1'30" when the road began to rise for the final time but, with the gradient starting to take its toll at the front of the race, a reduced bunch of around 25 riders, including Caruso, made the catch with just 7km to go.

The attacks began just a couple of kilometers later, with four riders eventually forging on ahead while Caruso continued to work hard as part of a select chase group that was never more than 20 seconds behind.

Heading towards the flamme rouge, the attacks once again began to fly off the front of the chase group and Caruso, who had looked strong all the way up the climb, was quick to follow.

Meanwhile, race leader at the start of stage 4, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), was being distanced by Caruso and the rest of the General Classification contenders after a mechanical issue.

In the end, Mikel Landa (Movistar Team) made his ultimately winning move in the closing meters of the day and was able to narrowly hold off the rest of the field to take the honors.

Behind, Caruso continued to push hard, taking advantage of the race situation, to finish inside the top fifteen and retake control of the General Classification going into stage 5 tomorrow, just one second ahead of his nearest rival.

Damiano Caruso

Damiano Caruso after stage 4. Sirotti photo

Race leader, Damiano Caruso:
"I didn't really expect to be back in the leader's jersey at the end of today but, I did feel good on the last climb so I thought that I would able to do a really good race. In the end, it was good because I took the jersey and that is a big result for me at the end of this stage. Tomorrow we have another hard stage, and we will see what happens."

"With the race going up the Muro di Filottrano three times tomorrow, it will be a really hard stage. I want to try to take opportunities with me and Greg Van Avermaet, and hopefully, the team can put me in a good position. For the moment though, I want to enjoy today, and this jersey and we will just have to see what happens tomorrow."

Sports Director, Maximilian Sciandri:
"We have been building up day by day with Damiano Caruso, and as we saw with Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) today, anything can happen. But for us, everything is unfolding well and Damiano is in a good position. Tomorrow we will be on the defensive and with Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) just one second behind, it's a bit dangerous. So, we will see what happens tomorrow."

"Last year at the Tour de Suisse, I think Damiano did an incredible job. He is constantly maturing as a rider, and I have definitely pushed him a little bit here, but he has really taken it in the best of ways."

Former GC leader Geraint Thomas' Team Sky had this to say about his misfortune in stage seven:

Geraint Thomas relinquished the overall lead at Tirreno-Adriatico after he suffered an untimely issue with his bike in the closing kilometres that saw him lose 40 seconds to eventual stage four victor Mikel Landa (Movistar).

Thomas lost his grip on the Maglia Azzurra, but Michal Kwiatkowski finished in the first group behind Landa and moves up to second overall just one second shy of new leader Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing).

The Welshman dropped his chain just as a small group of GC contenders were reducing the gap to Landa, Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy) who had formed a leading quartet after breaking away from the elite bunch separately.

After being issued with a replacement bike, Thomas used Chris Froome to help him get back into contention, reducing his losses on what could have had serious consequences for his overall classification hopes.

Earlier, Team Sky had led the peloton to catch a long range break that led until the final climb, with excellent work from Jonathan Castroviejo, Gianni Moscon and Salvatore Puccio helping to reel in the escapees who led by more than six minutes at one point.  

Once the break had been caught, Astana led the peloton briefly on the opening kilometres of the Sarnano Sassotetto ascent with a fierce pace to setup a solo push for glory from Miguel Angel Lopez, who was eventually caught and  dropped by the chasing quartet, with Landa coming out on top.

The result leaves Thomas fifth overall, 26 seconds behind Caruso with three stages of the ‘Race of the Two Seas’ remaining, including a final stage individual time trial.

Gerant Thomas

Geraint Thomas heads to the start of stage three.

It was a bittersweet moment for 'Kwiato' as he was disappointed the team was unable to pull off the pre-race plan to perfection, but was happy with his own form heading into a key part of the campaign for him. He told “I was happy with my form, but actually it’s bad luck with G and I had to hang on because of my place in the GC. I knew Chris [Froome] was behind and he could help him It was a really good performance of the team, especially from Salva [Puccio], Jonathan [Castroviejo] and it was a difficult stage to control.

“You’re riding for 250km, you’re spending a lot of energy and it didn’t go as we wanted, but we’re ready for what’s coming next.”

And despite the disappointment of losing the overall lead, Thomas was upbeat about his and the team's chances of success with three stages remaining. Thomas added: “I felt so comfortable and the boys rode really well, we were well in control and as I was shifting into the big ring the chain slipped off and got jammed and it was stuck in the frame which meant I had to get a spare bike.

“But anything can happen, I just need some good luck at some point.”

Tom Dumoulin crashes out of Tirreno-Adriatico

Here's the team's press release with the bad news:

Team Sunweb's Tom Dumoulin (NED) has abandoned Tirreno Adriatico on it's fourth stage due to injuries sustained from a crash on a descent. News of the Dutchman's abandon comes just one day after sickness caused Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN) to step off the bike, and a crash forced Simon Geschke (GER) out with a fractured left clavicle.

Team Sunweb doctor Chris Jansen (NED) explained: "Tom has sustained multiple bruises and abrasions to his chest, hand, arm and leg. With no fractures, hospital treatment is not needed but Tom will need to take a few days off the bike before he can resume training."

After the crash, Dumoulin said: "I'm really disappointed to be out of the race after the crash today. I need to accept it, at least there are no fractures. I hope after some days of rest to resume training again and shift my focus to my next goals."

Team Sunweb coach Marc Reef (NED) added: "It's a shame to see one of our team leaders out of the race, especially with Simon and Søren's abandon yesterday. Our focus will now fully shift to Wilco who's strong and currently sits 9th overall. With only three riders in support we will need to make a smart plan day by day."

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