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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, May 10, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings. - Victor Hugo

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Giro d'Italia stage five team reports

We posted the organizer's as well as stage winner Enrico Battaglin's LottoNL-Jumbo team reports with the stage results.

Here's the update from GC leader Rohan Dennis's Team BMC:

09 May, 2018, Santa Ninfa (ITA): Rohan Dennis made it safely through stage four of the Giro d'Italia with the front group to successfully defend his race lead and retain the Maglia Rosa for the final stage in Sicily.

Four riders went clear as soon as the flag dropped at kilometer 0 and with none of the riders posing a threat on the General Classification, the BMC Racing Team-led peloton was happy to let the quartet gain a solid advantage.

With 100km to go, the breakaway's advantage was hovering around 3'45" but the peloton was in no hurry to catch the quartet, instead waiting until the final 60km of racing before starting to chase and bringing them within two minutes as they approached the final 40km.

With the 153km stage providing a good opportunity for a stage win for many teams, a determined chase was forged however, the catch wasn't made until 3km to go on the approach to the punchy uphill finish.

Dennis spent the day protected by his teammates at the front of the bunch and was positioned well in the final when the reduced bunch was strung out along the road. After a final kick the road flattened for the last 200m and it was Enrico Battaglin (LottoNL-Jumbo) who had the fastest legs to take the stage win.

Dennis crossed the line in the first half of the 40-rider group to maintain his one-second lead on the General Classification, before the final stage in Sicily on Thursday featuring the Etna summit finish.

Rohan Dennis

Rohan Dennis will race up Mt. Etna in pink.

Rohan Dennis:
"It was a nice day on the bike and it was actually quite an easy day in comparison to yesterday. I didn't expect that with the cross-headwind and headwind for most of the day.  There was a little bit of stress now and then but we got to sit back a little bit because other teams wanted to fight for the stage so it was a good day in the end."

"In the last 2km, everyone was stressing about that little climb just before the finish and they were fighting for position as if the top of that was the finish. I just rode my way through the peloton a bit and stayed calm and moved up after the climb. I was putting myself in the right position without wasting too much energy, especially in the last 500m. But, it wasn't going to work and I wasn't going to win the stage so I saved energy and sat on the wheels for the final. I felt pretty good and I saw a lot of faces being pulled in the peloton which is a good sign I think."

"I am taking it day by day. I know it sounds a little bit monotonous and boring but that's how I am taking this Grand Tour. Tomorrow is another day when I will fight for pink and the day after is out of my mind at the moment. Etna will be hard. It's a long climb. I've been going alright on these smaller climbs but a long one that goes up to altitude is a completely different ball game. It's not going to be easy but it's going to be about working together as a team and trying to control what we can control rather than biting into everyone else's games and not doing what is best for me."

"I would love to keep the jersey tomorrow. That's a big goal of mine. Etna will really show me where I'm at against some of these big GC guys and hopefully, it's positive. That would give me some confidence going into the second and third week."

Second-place Giovanni Visconti's Bahrain-Merida team posted this report:

Santa Ninfa (Valle del Belice), May 9th – Thrilling final for Team BAHRAIN MERIDA today at the Giro d’Italia. The Happy ending is the second place of Giovanni Visconti, who tried to anticipate the rivals with 450 meters to go, but was outsprinted by Enrico Battaglin (LottoNL-Jumbo), who wins stage 5 from Agrigento to Santa Ninfa, 153km.

A really great performance for the Sicilian rider, who did an extraordinary work today, both in taking this result and both in helping the team captain Domenico Pozzovivo.

Enrico Battaglin

Giovanni Visconti (head down, on left) was second.

“This result is good for morale and for the team, but I can’t be totally happy” explains Visconti “A home victory would have been like a dream. But I see the glass as half full, because I did not expect to have such legs and I helped Domenico to get back to the peloton too. An effort that then you pay at the finish”.

In fact, there were moments of panic when our captain Pozzovivo was forced to stop due to a big crash that involved the back of the peloton with 14km to go. But the big effort of his teammates helped him to be at the front of the reduced group in the final, even for trying to attack on the steep climb before the final flat road to Santa Ninfa finish where he is 9th and above all he retains his 7th place in the overall standing, with the same gap (+28”) down the maglia rosa Rohan Dennis.

Tomorrow Mount Etna awaits the Giro d’Italia with the first summit finish of this edition.

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this race report:

The fifth stage of the 101st Giro d'Italia ended in a reduced bunch sprint, as the breakaway of the day was caught with 5km to go and the race lit up. In a hectic finale, E. Battaglin took the stage win ahead of G. Visconti, while BORA – hansgrohe rider Patrick Konrad sprinted to 10th position.

The Stage
Today's stage took the riders from Agrigento to Santa Ninfa, Valle del Belice, over 153km. It was another undulating stage with three categorised climbs (fourth category) and two intermediate sprints. Shortly before the finale, the route took a short uphill stretch, with ramps peaking at 12%, the last kilometre descended slightly at first but ran gently uphill to the finish line in Santa Ninfa.

The Team Tactics
This demanding stage was again suited for BORA – hansgrohe GC contenders Davide Formolo and Patrick Konrad. The team would set Austrian Patrick Konrad for a good stage result, while his teammate Davide Formolo would keep his focus on the GC, trying to limit any time losses. Christoph Pfingsten, Cesare Benedetti and Andreas Schillinger would work in the first part of the stage in order to control the race and support the squad while Felix Großschartner would provide the best support possible for Patrick in the final stretch.

The Race
Today's breakaway formed in the first 10km of the stage and contained four riders, BORA – hansgrohe had settled into the bunch as the escapees rode out to a four-minute advantage. As the peloton came back together with 5km to go, the race lit up. A crash saw a number of riders losing contact to the first group but BORA – hansgrohe riders Großschartner and Konrad were able to stay at the front. Felix Großschartner brought Patrick Konrad into a good position for the fast finale in Santa Ninfa. The reduced bunch headed into the last corner, with Patrick Konrad in it. In a hectic finale E. Battaglin (LottoNL-Jumbo), took the win ahead of G. Visconti. Best BORA – hansgrohe rider, Patrick Konrad, finished today's fifth stage in 10th place, same time as the winner.

From the Finish Line
“I wanted to go for a good stage result today, in the finale I was in the reduced bunch and finished in 10th place. Now, I concentrate on tomorrow's stage, the Etna-Stage will be a really tough one, last year I didnt have a good day in this stage, therefore I hope tomorrow will be a good day for me.” – Patrick Konrad

“We wanted to support our CG contenders as best as possible today. And tried to bring them into a good position and tried to limit any time losses. Patrick had chances to go for a good stage result, he finished in a solid 10th place, of course he deserved a better place after all the efforts but I think we can be satisfied. He is still in the Top-Ten overall and even Davide is in a good position in the GC, therefore we are starting confident into tomorrow's hard Etna-Stage.” – Christian Pömer 

Four Days of Dunkirk stage two team reports

We posted the report from stage winner André Greipel's Lotto-Soudal with the results.

Second-place Timothy Dupont's Wanty-Groupe Gobert squad posted this report:

On Wednesday Timothy Dupont came very close to a first 2018 victory in the second stage of Four Days of Dunkirk (2.HC, 08-13/05). A breakaway of two riders rode all day in front between Le Quesnoy and Soissons, but was reeled in at 12 kilometers from the finish. On the Côte de Pasly (10km from the finish) there were no big splits, and for the second day in a row the peloton headed for a bunch sprint. Wanty-Groupe Gobert showed up in the final as a block for sprinter Timothy Dupont, 5th on Tuesday. Dupont delivered a huge sprint in the streets of Soissons. Dupont finished an impressive second, only André Greipel was faster at the finish.

Andre Greipel

André Greipel wins ahead of Timothy Dupont.

Timothy Dupont:
"Of course I was disappointed right after the finish. I was so close to a first season victory. But if you see between which big names I deliver this sprint, I have to be very satisfied. I came close to someone like Greipel, that is certainly not bad. With also Coquard, Bouhanni and Sarreau present there are a lot of strong sprinters here."

"I have a very strong team behind me, providing a perfect lead-out from 3 kilometers to 600 meters from the finish line. Then I chose Coquard's wheel, but suddenly Greipel positioned himself between us. Greipel started his sprint on the left.  I thought for a moment that he would be locked in and went on the right side. In the end I passed Coquard but could not catch Greipel anymore. "

"Tomorrow an uphill sprint is waiting. Such a stage finish definitely suits me. I did not suffer so much for nothing on those cols of Tour de Romandie two weeks ago. When we compare the Dunkirk climbs with Switzerland, then there are only flat mountains here. I knew that I needed Romandie in order to arrive here and in the upcoming weeks in splendid form."

EF Education First-Drapac's Tour of California roster announced

The team sent me this:

A dynamic EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale squad will take the start of Amgen Tour of California in Long Beach on Sunday, May 13. The team, made up largely of Americans, is capable of animating every stage of the sole WordTour race in the United States.

Lawson Craddock, Alex Howes, Logan Owen, and Taylor Phinney return to racing on home soil. The American contingent will be joined by Australian Simon Clarke, Colombian Dani Martinez, and Briton Dan McLay. Clarke is making his return to racing following his recovery from three broken vertebrae sustained in a crash at Milano-Sanremo. Collectively, the #PinkArgyle ATOC squad is an explosive group looking at sprint stages and mountain stages alike.

Simon Calrke

Simon Clarke will be back racing at the Tour of California.

“California is a race we’ve had success in the last couple years. It’s got a nice feeling about it for this team,” said sport director Tom Southam. “It’s a home race for an American team. The riders themselves are always a little more motivated for it. When you’re working with a group that wants to go the extra bit, it makes it more interesting.”

The race begins on Sunday in Long Beach and ends the following Saturday in Sacramento. The parcours offers a few sprint stages, two mountain days, and a long time trial that promises to shape the general classification. On those flatter days, the team will look to McLay, who will be up against some of the world’s fastest sprinters.

“It’s been a bit of a gap since my last race and I’ve been training away so I’m ready to get racing,” McLay said. “I’m especially excited for California, as it will be my first race in the States and there will be plenty of racing opportunities for me and also plenty of opportunities to experience California and the US. It’s a competitive field — I think more or less every sprinter who isn’t at the Giro. It obviously won’t be easy but it’s always better to win against the big boys!”

On the stages that point upward, the team will look toward Martinez and Craddock.

“California has always felt like a home race to me. I did it for the first time in 2012 with what is now Hagens Berman Axeon and have returned every year since then,” Craddock said. “We’ve got a well-balanced team for this year’s race. Dan will have a lot of support in the sprints and can be a deciding factor in the fastest finishes. We’ve also got a great crew to race aggressively and look for opportunities to animate the race. As far as the GC is concerned, a guy like Dani Martinez has shown that he is one of the top climbers in the peloton. I’m looking forward to ripping up Gibraltar with him and then giving it a good go in the TT.”

For riders from the U.S., especially those who spend most of the season racing far from home, the Amgen Tour of California provides a special boost.

“Racing back in the States is always something I’m highly motivated for. I’m also excited to redeem myself after last year’s poor showing,” Craddock said. “After such a difficult 2017, I’m having more fun now than I ever have. I’m really looking forward to taking advantages of the opportunities that present themselves over the course of the week. This year’s route will reward aggressive racing, and I’m looking forward to contributing to that.”

Owen is also happy to be in front of home fans. “It’s going to be great racing in front of the fans on home soil,” he said. “We don’t get the opportunity to race in front some of our biggest fans in America often, so it’s really special when the opportunity presents itself.”

That also cuts both ways with many teams harboring big ambitions for the race. “People want to win here,” Southam said. “There’s a lot of U.S. sponsors in this sport, and there’s a lot of people with a lot of reasons to win here — no one is going to make it easy.”

EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 Amgen Tour of California

Sport Directors: Tom Southam (GBR), Ken Vanmarcke (BEL)


Simon Clarke (AUS)
Lawson Craddock (USA)
Alex Howes (USA)
Dani Martinez (COL)
Dan McLay (GBR)
Logan Owen (USA)
Taylor Phinney (USA)

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