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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

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Lotto-Soudal previews 107th edition of Scheldeprijs

The team sent me this:

Lotto Soudal will be one of the ten WorldTour teams at the start of the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday 10 April. The Europe Tour race will start in Terneuzen for the second consecutive year, after which the peloton heads to the Zeeland region, where the wind can play its role and may split the bunch into echelons. After around 170 kilometres of racing, the riders will reach Schoten, where two local laps of 16.7 kilometres remain. The 1.7 kilometres long cobbled section of the Broekstraat may inspire some riders to attack, but for many years, the Scheldeprijs has been decided in a sprint. Will the fast guys battle once again for the victory or does Lotto Soudal have other plans in mind? Sports director Frederik Willems explains.

Frederik Willems: “I reckon that chances for a pure bunch sprint are slightly lower with the weather conditions that are being forecasted for Wednesday. Should the race still end with a bunch kick, I rather expect a group of forty to fifty riders sprinting for the win. As it stands now, the wind should blow in the right direction to create echelons, so it will be all hands on deck from the gun. The trip through Zeeland – where wide roads are alternated with narrow passages – is also twenty kilometres longer compared to last year. It will be important to prepare for the crucial points and to factor in the different wind directions. Of course, we have to await the actual weather conditions on Wednesday, but we definitely need to be attentive from the start and try to take the initiative ourselves.”

Adam Blythe

Adam Blythe will be riding for Lotto-Soudal at the Scheldeprijs. Sirotti photo

“A small group of around twenty riders battling for the victory would be a good scenario for Lotto Soudal. With amongst others Nikolas Maes, Lawrence Naesen and Enzo Wouters, we have some cards to play. A small front group in which various Lotto Soudal riders are present would be a nice situation. But for that to happen, the echelons need to be formed in the first place. The cobbled section inside the two local laps is an important point. You can’t win the race there but when riding along the canal afterwards, there will be a side-tailwind, which can cause the bunch to split. That way, you could miss out on the sprint. Riders like Ackermann, Jakobsen and Kittel are the main favourites and will have to carry the weight of the race.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Adam Blythe, Stan Dewulf, Frederik Frison, Nikolas Maes, Lawrence Naesen, Brian van Goethem and Enzo Wouters.

Sports directors: Frederik Willems and Herman Frison.

Tour of the Basque Country stage two team reports

We posted the report of stage two winner Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step team with the results.

Second-place Bjorg Lambrecht's Lotto-Soudal squad sent me this report:

Bjorg Lambrecht finished second in stage two of the Itzulia Basque Country. The stage from Zumarraga to Gorraiz featured various gravel roads and steep hills. Towards the end, Jelle Vanendert guided his young teammate to the front of a reduced peloton. Lambrecht seemed to be the strongest in the uphill sprint, but eventually he only had to let Alaphilippe pass and finished runner-up. The Lotto Soudal rider tells about how he experienced this stage.

Bjorg Lambrecht: “I think riding on these gravel roads was more pleasant at the front than at the back of the bunch. I actually enjoyed doing it, because I like technical courses like these. After the first long section, the peloton split, but afterwards my teammates were able to return. The team worked really hard today to keep me at the front. In the sprint I wanted to surprise the others and when I attacked, I immediately had a gap. I never looked behind, but I knew that Alaphilippe was still there. He passed me and I could not stay in his wheel. Nevertheless, I just kept sprinting until the finish line with all the strength I had."

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe wins stage two.

“All in all, I am satisfied with this second place. This is the first time that I have achieved a podium spot in a WorldTour race, so I am proud of that. This morning, I did not think it would be possible, but now it is on my palmares. Tomorrow's stage is a bit similar, but less steep in the end. I will give my all again and I will see how it unfolds. I hope to have the same feeling I had today for the rest of the week. If I can go to the Walloon Classics in this shape, I will be able to help Tim Wellens and Jelle Vanendert really well. I trained hard to be good in this period. In Catalonia, I had some problems with my back, which obstructed me from going to the fullest. Meanwhile, things are getting better, so let's hope those problems are gone now.”

Here's the report from third-place Michal Kwiatkowski's Team Sky:

Michal Kwiatkowski remained firmly in the mix at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco with another strong third place on day two.

The Polish national champion picked up his second podium placing in as many days on the uphill sprint into Gorraiz. The result ensured Kwiatkowski retains third overall in the Basque Country, holding station 10 seconds behind the race leader.

A relatively short test, the stage was anything but straightforward, with five sterrato gravel sectors and a host of punchy climbs splitting up the bunch. Team Sky rode well to protect their leaders, with both Kwiato and Geraint Thomas well positioned on the tricky sectors.

Diego Rosa, Jonathan Castroviejo and David de la Cruz all helped string out the race at the front of the bunch, contributing to a hard day out.

At the finish it was Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) who timed his burst to claim victory, with Bjorn Lambrecht (Lotto Soudal) holding on for second ahead of Kwiatkowski following his early acceleration.

The yellow jersey of Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) was also in the mix, with the German retaining his race lead. Thomas also finished in the bunch to remain in the GC picture, 42 seconds back in 12th overall.

What’s Next?
Featuring a similar finish to day two, Wednesday’s test is the longest stage of the race and should again play into the hands of the punchy sprinters. Expect the general classification contenders to mark each other once again ahead of the hills.

And GC leader Max Schachmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

Max Schachmann remains the overall leader at the Tour of the Basque Country after taking sixth place on today’s stage.

Max Schachmann

Max Schachmann after winning stage one.

Today saw the riders take on a stage of just under 150 km at the Tour of the Basque Country. The peloton had to take on two category 3 climbs relatively early in proceedings, followed by approximately 40 km of hilly terrain, until reaching the finish town of Gorraiz, where a short but tough climb awaited. This year, the race organisers included five sectors of gravel road in the last 55 km, which, particularly in rainy conditions, would make the race difficult.

After the start gun sounded, it didn’t take long for four riders to escape and form the breakaway of the day, however, their advantage never stretched beyond 2:45 minutes. Right from the beginning of the stage, BORA – hansgrohe was at the head of the field and controlled the tempo, and the breakaway was caught with 50km remaining. On the gravel sectors, the field split into three groups. BORA – hansgrohe rode in the first group of about 50 riders, and Max Schachmann, the wearer of the yellow leader’s jersey, was able to collect valuable bonus seconds at the last intermediate sprint. Jay led the group on the ascent towards the 600m-long final climb, and Max tried to counter an attack from B. Lambrecht, however, he was not able to keep up with Alaphilippe, who came from behind, and the German ended up taking out sixth place on the stage. Teammate Patrick Konrad took out seventh position just behind him.

On tomorrows’ stage, Max will continue to wear the leader’s jersey, and lies 10 seconds ahead of the next best-placed rider in the general classification. With Patrick sitting in sixth overall and Emanuel Buchmann in tenth, Max has two teammates who are also currently in the top ten overall.  

From the Finish Line:
“Congratulations to Alaphilippe. Today I didn’t really have a big chance. In the end, you needed to have enough left in the tank, and of course also the right timing. Particularly on a final climb like this, it all came down to the legs. Tomorrow we have a long stage ahead of us, and it will be a different type of race. I am sure, that it will be a challenging stage, but we will continue to do our best.”
- Max Schachmann

“It was a hard stage today, particularly the sectors of gravel road. They were tricky, but we were prepared for them, and rode the whole day at the front, to defend our lead in the general classification. The peloton split in the end into many groups, but four of our riders were able to get themselves into the front group. Max also took bonus seconds and with his sixth place, and Patrick’s seventh place, we can be very satisfied. The guys all did a great job today.”
- Jens Zemke, Sports Director 

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