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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 8, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late. - Benjamin Franklin

Paris–Roubaix: The Inside Story

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Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) Team reports

We posted second-place Kasper Asgreen's Deceuninck-Quick Step team report with the results.

Third-place Alexander Kristoff's UAE-Team Emirates sent me this:

Alexander Kristoff, winner seven days ago in Gent-Wevelgem, also finds a place on the podium in the Tour of Flanders, crossing the finish line in Oudenaarde in 3rd position.

Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff (right) stands on the podium with second-place Kasper Asgreen (left) and winner Alberto Bettiol

The Norwegian of UAE Team Emirates, already the 2015 Flanders winner, showed his qualities, experience energy conservation and interpretation of the race. In the chase group of 15, with all the big favourites, he sprinted to the front for third.

Alberto Bettiol (Ef Education First), who made an attack in the third and last passage on the Oude Kwaremont (-18 km), won and Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step), anticipate the main group in view of the last kilometre. Bettiol won with an advantage of 14 “on Asgreen and 17” on Kristoff (photo Bettini, Kristoff and the winner).

Bystrøm and Gaviria rode in the leading group up until the final 20km (38th for the Norwegian, 78th for the Colombian). Jasper Philipsen crashed mid-race but managed to continue but could not finish.

Kristoff: “It could seem that the race was very tactical but, as far as I’m concerned, it was a race that was always run on the limit. I came to the foot of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg for the last time with very tired legs and I was a bit surprised to see that I was able to stay with the main group, there I realised that they were all very tired. The situation worked better than I could have imagined and I tried to take advantage of it.

"The result makes me happy, I have a good shape, I have high morale after these races, I can count on a team that is racing well and I hope that these conditions will recur in a week in Paris-Roubaix“.

Kristoff’s third is the third podium finish taken by UAE Team Emirates in a Belgian WorldTour race this 2019. It adds to the success by him in Ghent-Wevelgem and 2nd place by Fernando Gaviria in the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne. Also Jasper Philipsen finished third in the Danilith Nokere Koerse (category 1.HC).

Tiesj Benoot's Lotto-Soudal team sent me this report:

Tiesj Benoot finished ninth in an exciting 103rd edition of the Tour of Flanders today. The Italian Alberto Bettiol attacked on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, persisted in his effort and soloed to his first pro victory.

The race really kicked off on the Muur van Geraardsbergen when a big group - containing multiple pre-race favorites - escaped. Tiesj Benoot was the only Lotto Soudal rider to be part of this dangerous move and for a moment, the race seemed to be decided. The peloton, led by the Lotto Soudal team, eventually returned on the first slopes of the Kanarieberg. Afterwards, Tim Wellens attacked various times but did not manage to open up a significant gap.

On the many hills and cobbled sections, the amount of riders battling for the victory was further reduced, but the race was eventually decided when the riders hit the Oude Kwaremont for the third and final time. Alberto Bettiol launched a fierce attack and immediately created a ten-second gap, which the Italian further extended on the Paterberg. The chasing group contained no less than seventeen riders, also including Tiesj Benoot and Jens Keukeleire. As there was a lack of cooperation, Bettiol held on to his advantage and soloed to the victory in Oudenaarde. Tiesj Benoot sprinted to ninth place and Jens Keukeleire finished twelfth after a strong race.

Alberto Bettiol

Alberto Bettiol on his late, successful, race-winning attack.

Tiesj Benoot: “I felt good but not great today. As a team, we did really well. Tim Wellens tried to open the race various times. Maybe he was a bit too eager to do so, but that could only benefit Jens Keukeleire and myself. A big group escaped after the Muur, but as I was the only Lotto Soudal rider at the front, the team did everything to close that gap before the Kanarieberg, which also succeeded.”

“Bettiol had already proven to be in good shape as he got second behind Victor Campenaerts in the time trial of Tirreno-Adriatico. The Italian was the strongest on the Oude Kwaremont and still rode solo atop the Paterberg. The tailwind to Oudenaarde was also to his advantage. We did not take it slow in the chasing group, but it was difficult to cooperate. That way, Bettiol could hold on to his advantage. I tried to attack but Langeveld immediately jumped on my wheel. A lot of riders are on a high level, which makes it difficult to create some gaps. But if you solo away like him, it may seem like a surprise, but he certainly deserves it.”

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent this:

270km of Belgian brutality awaited the riders at the 103rd Tour of Flanders. The seventeen tough climbs included the legendary Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, and Koppenberg, ridden multiple times. The climbs in isolation wouldn’t trouble the riders, but closely packed together they would be hellish. The roads from Antwerp to Oudenaarde also took in five cobblestone sections to make the racing even tougher. This is a race like no other, where the action starts from the drop of the flag, and frequent narrow sections and tight turns make it difficult for even the most committed peloton to chase down attacks and breakaways.

Knowing the advantage an early attack can bring, a group of four built up a significant lead which topped out at more than eight minutes. However, this didn’t last as the peloton made the most of the better road surfaces to bring them back under control, Juraj Sagan riding hard and Maciej Bodnar using his time trial skills to reduce the gap. With 100km to go, the BORA-hansgrohe riders set a furious pace on the front, splitting the peloton and creating a smaller group of around thirty riders on the front, quickly lapping up the break before a group of four, Lukas Pöstlberger among them, instantly recognisable in his Austrian National Champion’s stripes, went off up the road. The relentless attacking from the second group on the road saw them brought back in, but Lukas, Peter Sagan and Daniel Oss were still in contention.

Peter Sagan and Alejandro Valverde

Alejandro Valverde and Peter Sagan on the Koppenberg

As the kilometres progressed, the peloton more closely resembled a long line of riders as opposed to anything more organised, and for many, still with 50km to go, their race was over, but the Slovak National Champion was still in amongst the contenders while others were being spat out the back. Tackling the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg combination for the final time it was just the favourites left and while a solo attack went out with 18km to go, it was clear this group wanted a reduced bunch sprint.

The finish was getting closer, and with each rider knowing any energy expended here was energy they wouldn't have for the sprint, Peter took to the front to try and bring things back, only to find he didn't have the legs to counter this attack. With the Flamme Rouge behind them, it was too late for the chasers – the solo rider took the win – and with the rest fighting amongst themselves for the remaining places, the Slovak rider taking eleventh after more than six hours in the saddle.

From the Finish Line:
"It was a hard and exciting Tour of Flanders and it is always a pleasure racing here as the amazing crowds create an incredible atmosphere. I'd like to thank my teammates for their work today. They all gave 100% of themselves to control the race, protect me, keep me clear of trouble and help me save as much energy as I could. I was able to be in the front when it was needed in the final kilometres but I didn't have the legs to counter the attack of Bettiol and challenge in the reduced sprint."– Peter Sagan

"The team did a good job in the race, from start until the second time over the Oude-Kwaremont. Peter was able to save a lot of energy and was always well protected. He also rode in a pretty smart way today, saving his power. When they climbed the Oude-Kwaremont for the final time he wasn't placed in the perfect spot but it was already visible he didn't have his best day. Still, he was in the leading group in the finale, with all the favourites, and that was the most important as it all came down to a sprint for second place, since Bettiol was extremely strong and victory was out of reach. Unfortunately, he was blocked on the right side and found himself boxed in, so he wasn't able to have a shot at a podium result."– Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

Mitchelton-Scott reports on the Women's Tour of Flanders

The team sent me this report:

Former Tour of Flanders winner Annemiek van Vleuten was forced to settle for second place at the ‘Ronde’ after being edged out in a three-up sprint for the victory. The 36-year-old made it into the winning move over the Oude Kwaremont and helped put more distance into a chasing group over the Paterberg, but it wasn’t to be in the final sprint to the line.

Annemiek van Vleuten

Annmiek van Vleuten in the 2017 Giro Rosa.

It was a fast and hectic opening to the race with several crashes claiming some big-name riders, while seven escapees went up the road to form the early breakaway. The peloton looked happy to let the attackers go, with a steady pace being set until the race hit the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the gap to the break dropped significantly.

The seven riders were eventually reeled back in on the Kanarieberg and the attacks soon followed. However, nothing was sticking with Australian Sarah Roy staying attentive and marking the moves at the head of the reduced bunch as the race passed over the Taaienberg.

The race burst into life on the long drag of the Oude Kwaremont with attacks incoming and the bunch being whittled down further. Van Vleuten was alert to the dangers and made it over the summit with a small group of four riders, including European champion Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu Cycling).

The Paterberg soon followed and the lead group containing Van Vleuten was reduced to just three, while the gap back to the chasers grew to over 30-seconds. With the gap holding, the podium places looked set to be contested between the leading three as the chase behind faltered.

With Bastianelli the favourite in a sprint finish Van Vleuten tried an attack inside the final three kilometres, but the move was quickly shutdown. As the trio passed underneath the flame rouge Van Vleuten was left to open up the sprint and despite a valiant effort to hold off Bastainelli, the Italian came around for the win.

Annemiek van Vleuten:
“Last year I was super happy with third place, now I’m disappointed with second because I know I’m slightly better than last year. I’m disappointed in the end with the race because it wasn’t hard, there were too many teams that had a sprinter and would like to have a conservative race. So how the race developed I was really disappointed.”

“But I think for myself, I did everything I could, I went all out on the Paterberg. I know that if I come to the finish line with Bastianelli, out of 100 times she will beat me 99. So I had to try something, it maybe looked a bit silly to go that early, but I was hoping I could maybe surprise her.”

Martin Vestby (Sports Director):
“As a team we rode really well today, but we had expected a little bit more of an aggressive fight for position and that the race would split a bit more. In the end a big group came to the bottom of the Kwaremont and even though it split over the climb, we had hoped that it would have split more before then.”

“That would have been better for us and better for Annemiek’s strengths, but the girls rode really well, they followed the plan and in the end it’s been a good day.”

Tour of Flanders Results:
1. Marta Bstianelli (Team Virtu Cycling) 4:16:50
2. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) ST
3. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla Pro Cycling) ST

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