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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, March 23, 2018

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. - Charles Dickens

Today's racing:

Latest completed racing:

Volta a Catalunya stage four report from Bora-hansgrohe

The team sent me this update:

The fourth stage was dominated by many attacks and a fast pace right from the beginning. But it all changed as the race came into the final climb of the day, where Team Movistar showed a strong teamwork, despite snow next to the road and just a few degrees above zero. In the end, A. Valverde took his second stage win at this year´s Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. Unfortunately, BORA – hansgrohe was caught on the back foot in today´s difficult weather conditions and played no role in the stage finale.

The Stage
The fourth stage covered 170km and an elevation of more than 4.700m. The stage took the riders from Llanars up to the summit finish La Molina, it was the first mountain finish in this year´s Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. Before the peloton climbed up to the finish line, they had to pass two intermediate sprints and two climbs (Cat.1). The final climb up to La Molina was 11,6km long ascent with an average of 4,3%. 

The Team Tactics
The German Team knew today´s finish from last year´s edition, therefore the plan was to be in a good position for the final climb, especially with the two young climbers Gregor Mühlberger and Davide Formolo.

The Race
After many kilometres of constant attacking by the peloton a four-rider breakaway went up the road. But after the second climb of the day, E. Chaves launched an attack and was able to distance himself with a gap of more than one minute over the main bunch. The race changed as it came to the final climb of the day. Team Movistar took control over the race and it was all back together. With temperatures of 3 degrees and snow next to the road the race headed into the last climb of the day. BORA – hansgrohe riders Pawel Poljanksi and Davide Formolo were with the other GC contenders in the first group. With 10km remaining a group of four riders, with Valverde and Quintana, attacked and pulled away.  

The other riders of the Spanish team stayed in the chasing group and prevented every attack. At this moment BORA – hansgrohe was back in the reduced bunch and played no role for today´s top ten result. The first summit finish ended with another stage win for A. Valverde. He took the win ahead of E.A. Bernal (Team Sky).

Alejandro Valverde

Alejandro Valverde wins Catalonia stage four.

From the Finish Line
“It wasn’t our best day today. Our plan was to support our two GC contenders as best as possible. All guys worked good today, Cece and Pawel did a good job and stayed with Davide until the last climb. But both of our GC riders hadn’t the best day, therefore we finished outside of the top twenty. Of course we wanted to achieve more but we will analyse what happened today and tomorrow will be another day and another chance. ” – Christian Pömer, sports director

Team Sky reports on its stage win at Coppi-Bartali:

Team Sky won the team time trial at Coppi e Bartali to move Chris Lawless up to third overall. On a day which featured two stages, 1a and 1b, Lawless was the highest-placed Team Sky rider on stage 1a, with Pascal Eenkhorn (Lotto-Soudal the breakaway winner in the morning.

Lawless was fourth overall heading into the TTT on stage 1b which Team Sky won comfortably by 10 seconds from CCC Sprandi Polkowice who were second and Mitchelton-Scott who finished with the same time difference in third.  

The Team Sky six featured three riders who recorded their first wins as a pro, with Lawless, Leonardo Basso and Pavel Sivakov all enjoying maiden professional victories.

Lawless was happy with the overall team performance, but was critical of his own display in the morning stage and is looking towards stage three for another sprint opportunity.

Team Sky

Team Sky on its stage-winning ride.

He told “It was a good circuit for a break and they managed to stay away and we knew we needed to save our legs for the afternoon as the team time trial would be tough. I actually felt I didn’t get the most out of myself [in the bunch sprint on stage 1a] but I’m more helpful for stage three and hopefully I will go better in the sprint.”

He added: “We’ve got a strong team, with Diego [Rosa] and Pavel [Sivakov] going really well in the team time trial so we’re confident of closing the gap.”

Jolien D’hoore takes her first victory for Mitchelton-SCOTT in the inaugural women’s Driedaagse de Panne

The team sent me this news:

Belgium champion Jolien D'hoore took her first ever victory for Mitchelton-SCOTT in the inaugural edition of the women’s Driedaagse de Panne.

Today's sprint victory is the team’s first WorldTour and European victory of the season, kick starting the busy classics period in Belgium.

Julien d'Hoore

Jolien D'hoore wins in De Panne.

Elvin animates the race
After a busy start to the 151kilometre race, with many crashes and splits in the bunch, Gracie Elvin made it into the day’s main breakaway as 15riders escaped from the peloton within the first 20kilometres.

With a group comprising of many different teams they were quickly able to open up a two minute advantage over the bunch.

Late solo leaders
The breakaway group continued to hover just 30seconds ahead of the peloton for the majority of the day battling with wind and rain.

As the finish line came closer, Mieke Kroger (Team Virtu) attacked away from the breakaway group and Elvin decided to take her chances also with a counter attack, as it looked more and more like breakaway would soon be caught.

The former Australian champion worked hard to chase down the solo leader with just seven kilometres remaining. Unable to make up the distance, Elvin continued to push on ahead of the regrouped peloton, only to be swallowed up with one and a half kilometres remaining.

Final hectic sprint
With wind, rain and narrow roads, it was a typical tough Belgian race with two techincal, challenging finishing laps. Tram lines in the final kilometres saw riders crash and jostled for position, making it a chaotic final sprint.

With Elvin ahead, Mitchelton-SCOTT were able to sit back a little and prepare D’hoore to take her chance if it all came back together.

Once the solo leader Kroger was caught, the Belgian 'bullet' battled hard, neck and neck with Chloe Hosking (Ale-Cipollini) and was finally able to take a home victory and an important one for the team.

Jolien D’hoore - 1st Place
"It was a very nervous race. I was not sure if we were going to catch the front riders so I just focused on the sprint, even if it was for the seventh or eighth place, that didn’t matter. When we were sprinting I didn’t know if it was for the first place or not.”

"There was a lot of wind today and that occasionally caused splits. It is the first time that we can start here in this race, so it was a new course for everyone and in the end no team really took matters into their own hands. That made it very chaotic, especially the last corner.”

"I already knew that my condition was very good, but I had little luck in the past races. So today and for Sunday (Gent-Wevelgem) I would like to continue this."

Driedaagse de Panne results:

1. Jolien D’hoore (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 3:52:23
2. Chloe Hosking (Ale-Cipollini) ST
3. Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) ST

Teams headed to E3 Harelbeke

Lotto-Soudal sent me this preview:

The fifth WorldTour one-day event of the season, the E3 Harelbeke, takes place tomorrow. Last year, Greg Van Avermaet took the win after an exciting finale while Lotto Soudal was left empty-handed. The 206.5 kilometre course has hardly changed compared to last year, with a quiet first part of the race followed by a succession of no less than 12 climbs between the Knokteberg (km 117) and the Tiegemberg (km187). The peloton will go through the Flemish Ardennes on several occasions, with among others the Paterberg, the Oude Kwaremont and the Karnemelkbeekstraat on the menu. These are the climbs on which the stronger riders will most certainly make their move. The slight tailwind in the second part of the race will probably stimulate the attackers on their way to the highest step of the podium in Harelbeke.

After Tiesj Benoot’s win in the Strade Bianche, Lotto Soudal can confidently look forward to the rest of the Spring Classics. Jens Keukeleire had a bad day last Wednesday between Bruges and De Panne; he will therefore take some rest and will be replaced by Frederik Frison.

Tiesj Benoot

Tiesj Bennot wins the 2018 Strade Bianche

Tiesj Benoot: "It's a nice feeling to be able to start in the E3 Harelbeke after my victory in the Strade Bianche. I’m already very satisfied with my spring, but that does not mean that I’m less motivated for the upcoming races. I’ve noticed that my confidence has grown, both in myself and in my teammates. They now know that I have a chance to go for the victory, which is something that I hadn’t be able to do in the past."

"I am also very pleased that we have sticked to the program that we had established before the start of the season. The successful altitude training camp and the victory in the Strade Bianche have shown that this was the right choice, and that's why we must keep working this way. There are not that many riders who race the Classics season from the Omloop to Liège, so we have to make choices. "

"E3 Harelbeke is a very tough race, with a rapid succession of short hills. During my three last participations I always ended up in the group behind the group that fought for the victory. I do not want to sign in advance for a top ten, but looking at all the big guns at the start, a podium spot would be very nice. I won’t become a « serial winner » with the profile I have, but I think I should be able to play a significant role in many one-day events. My victory in the Strade Bianche gives me an advantage: other riders haven’t won yet this season. I can take a tactical risk and follow other people’s moves, but I should mainly try to ride my own race and not focus on someone else."

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Frederik Frison, Moreno Hofland, Nikolas Maes, Lawrence Naesen and Marcel Sieberg.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems

And EF Education First-Drapac sent this update:

Cobbles season continues on Friday as Flanders Classic week opens with E3 Harelbeke. The race sees the peloton barrel into a block of racing up the hellingen of Belgium and over the pavé of northern France.

The EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale team sends a hearty roster to the northern classics of Belgium, with the aim of supporting Sep Vanmarcke and responding to the turmoil of the cobbles. Vanmarcke has already proven his mettle this season with a strong ride for third place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Sep Vanmarcke

Sep Vanmarcke in the 2016 Paris-Roubaix

Joining Vanmarcke at E3 are Matti Breschel, Mitch Docker, Sebastian Langeveld, Taylor Phinney, Tom Scully, and Tom Van Asbroeck. Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem sees a slight change, as Sacha Modolo and Dan McLay replace Docker and Van Asbroeck.

“E3 is a hard and honest race,” said Vanmarcke. “The many hills on a short period make it very hard. The distance from those sections until the finish is still 30-40km, so it’s not easy for attacking on the hills and staying in front. That’s where it gets interesting for sprinters as well. If they can survive, they still have a chance to come back.

“It’s one week before the Tour of Flanders, so you have to be strong in E3,” Vanmarcke added. “The opening weekend was good. Everybody did his job. There is always space for improving, but also, the condition of everybody should be on its best by now, so that should give the extra we need.”

Vanmarcke recently raced Tirreno-Adriatico. He’s spent the last week at home in Anzegem, a few kilometers from the Tour of Flanders course.

“I had a week of recovery and specific training,” said Vanmarcke. “I should be on a good level again.”

For fans, there is no doubt the upcoming races are some of the most special of the season. That translates to the riders, too.

“These races are the most beautiful and interesting races of the year for me,” Vanmarcke said. “Hard, honest, history, drama, and of course — cobbles, which suit me very well. I already have a lot of experience, so I know how to go into the races. For sure, I’m always very excited, but I’m not nervous anymore. Years ago, I sure was. Now it’s just some good tension and focus.”

The races offer another chance for the updated classics squad to ride together ahead of the upcoming monuments and for directors to see how the team is riding together.

“In my opinion we did well at Omloop. But of course, you can always do better if you didn’t win. However, the step from how we performed to get a victory isn’t that big anymore,” sport director Andreas Klier said. “Therefore we will start with the same motivation into the northern classic campaign as we did at Omloop and Kuurne. Obviously, Sep is in good shape and we will see how those races develop. We shouldn’t forget that we have Sacha as a backup, and therefore we are not forced to make an early decision. Let’s see what influence the races, the circuit and the weather will have on tactics.”

Tom Scully enters his second cobbled campaign with the team. In one short year, he’s gone from a new rider to one of Vanmarcke’s trusted cobblestone lieutenants.

“I’m looking at it much the same as last year: eyes wide open and writing the important bits down. I don’t have to look far to find a truckload of experience around me that I can tap into, so I find this is a settling environment,” Scully said. “Already at opening weekend, I’m remembering key moments in the parcours and how our leaders want to be positioned and when. My role is to be there for our leaders, to support them as deep into the race as possible. It feels pretty powerful, looking around the bus, pinning race the numbers on with this classics team. You know the guys beside you and the whole organization behind us riders has worked so hard. Each one of us have a job to do during the race and each of those jobs is crucial for the success of the team. That’s motivating stuff.”

EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 E3 Harelbeke:

Sport Directors: Andreas Klier (DEU), Ken Vanmarcke (BEL)

Matti Breschel (DEN)
Mitch Docker (AUS)
Sebastian Langeveld (NLD)
Taylor Phinney (USA)
Tom Scully (NZL)
Tom Van Asbroeck (BEL)
Sep Vanmarcke (BEL)

EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 Gent-Wevelgem

Sport Directors: Andreas Klier (DEU), Ken Vanmarcke (BEL)

Matti Breschel (DEN)
Dan McLay (GBR)
Sacha Modolo (ITA)
Sebastian Langeveld (BLD)
Taylor Phinney (USA)
Tom Scully (NZL)
Sep Vanmarcke (BEL)

Injury update: Adam Yates

Yates' Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this news:

Scans following Adam Yates' heavy crash in the final kilometer of stage three at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya have revealed the 25-year-old has sustained a fractured pelvis.

After preliminary scans yesterday evening, Yates had a subsequent consultation with an Orthopedic Specialist today in Girona which confirmed the fracture was stable.

Given the nature of the injury Mitchelton-SCOTT head doctor Robbart van Linschoten remains optomistic.

"Adam has a fracture of his pelvis as a result of his crash but the fracture is stable and won't require surgery," Dr. van Linschoten said. "He will take 10 days of complete rest before we conduct another x-ray to confirm the healing process. At this point, pending results and pain levels, Adam can begin to ride again on the home trainer."

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