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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, April 14, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats. - Albert Schweitzer

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Riders sign in for Paris-Roubaix

Here's the organizer's Saturday (the 13th) evening update:

175 riders from 25 teams saluted the crowds in Compiègne on Saturday, on the eve of the 117th edition of the Hell of the North. Former winners such as Peter Sagan (2018), Greg Van Avermaet (2018) and John Degenkolb (2015) eye a new victory in the iconic velodrome of Roubaix, but outsiders like Alexander Kristoff feel ready for the challenge.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan & Bora-hansgrohe at the sign-in ceremony. Photo: Veloimages

Things can change very fast in the North. Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) and Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) won the last two editions of Paris-Roubaix as outright favourites. But the former World champion and the Olympic champion haven’t been able to score this year in the classics and rivals challenge their dominance. Still, “I’ve have a good race in Flanders (10th) and I’m very motivated to do well and have a good result in Roubaix”, Greg Van Avermaet said on Saturday. “In Flanders, it was tight racing and it was hard to create differences. Roubaix is a different race, very hard, and with wind I hope there will be opportunities to split the peloton. Many riders can win, we could see an outsider, but I think the biggest favorites are Van Aert, Stybar and Sagan.” The Slovak national champion appeared relaxed in Compiègne : “I’m used to being the reigning champion on many races, that doesn’t change much. I’m not worried about my condition. Every year is different, sometimes you’re in a very good shape and you don’t win. It’s such a special race, everything can happen. Three timesI came here feeling very strong and still I didn’t win because something happened. I’ll just try to enjoy myself.”

With a very open race, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) was among the most sought after favorites on the eve of Paris-Roubaix. “I hope to be up there, fighting for the win”, the Norwegian said. “Actually, I’ve never had a really strong Paris-Roubaix. I’ve been 9th (2013) or 10th (2015). I hope to improve that and to fight for the win, that would be a dream.” Coming off his victory in Gent-Wevelgem and a podium finish on the Tour of Flanders, Kristoff hopes for a favourable scenario: “For me, the bigger the group, the better. For sure, nobody wants to have me with them in the finale but I don’t think they’ll focus on me. There are many strong guys who can make an impact in the finale. I can have a good sprint but there are so many cobble sections before that, we’ll have to see how it goes.”

“It’s never easy to plan things ahead of Roubaix, but I think I’m ready”, John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) says ahead of a very special race for him. The German champion won the Hell of the North in 2015 and dominated the 2018 Tour de France stage finishing in Roubaix, a victory many interpreted as his resurrection after years of misfortunes. “It was a very important victory”, Degenkolb reflected on Saturday. “I worked so hard for that result and it gave me a lot of confidence. It helps to stay calm and to focus on the important things. It’s always hard to predict Roubaix, anything can happen. You have to be up there and to save energy but you can’t be scared to invest energy in the right moments. Many times the right moves go from far away. Between 50 and 30 km to go, it’s crucial to be up there, around where Sagan attacked last year and up to the Carrefour de l’Arbre.”

Final team reports from the Tour of the Basque Country

We posted the report from stage six winner Adam Yates' Mitchelton-Scott team with the race results.

GC winner Ion Izagirre's Team Astana posted this report:

It was a day of glory for Ion Izagirre and the entire Astana Pro Team today in Eibar at the final stage of the 2019 Itzulia Basque Country. A brave double attack of Ion Izagirre and Jakob Fuglsang with 67 km to the finish, finally, brought a beautiful and well-deserved victory to the leader of Astana Pro Team!

Ion Izagirre

Ion Izagirre enjoys his win.

- I am so happy! It is a very special victory for me! After so many podiums, finally, I won this race. It is very special because it is my home race and all my family and friends were here at the finish to support me! So, I could share with them this great success! – said Ion Izagirre right after the finish.

After yesterday’s queen stage to Arrate, today Astana Pro Team was super motivated to try its best to change the situation in the general classification.

The 6th stage has started in Eibar with a number of attacks and, finally, a big group of 18 riders went away, getting an advantage of 1 minute. But, later, the Astana riders came in front of the main group, increasing the pace dramatically. Two short but quite steep climbs Kalbario and Elkorrieta were done very fast, so soon the breakaway was caught back. And right in that moment it was Jakob Fuglsang who launched a powerful attack, followed by Ion Izagirre and later by Adam Yates, Dan Martin and Tadej Pogačar. Finally, this group was able to go away, creating a good gap over 1 minute.

The leading group worked hard to stay in front of the race, Jakob Fuglsang did absolutely fantastic job, pulling super strong and helping Ion Izagirre to hold the advantage. With 3 km to go Adam Yates attacked from the leading group, taking the stage victory, while 1 second later Dan Martin finished second, Jakob Fuglsang did third and Ion Izagirre became fourth. This result brought Ion Izagirre the final victory in the general classification of the Itzulia Basque Country.

- We have a very strong team here and we knew we have to try something today to fight for the overall victory. We knew that this was possible to do. We had a great tactic for the stage and all team did am amazing job to provide me and Jakob the best moment for attack. Later, in the break Jakob was absolutely great and I want to thank him for today. Indeed, it is a team’s success, we rode really well as a team during this week and, finally, we’ve got this win! – added Ion Izagirre.

The group of the yellow jersey Emanuel Buchmann arrived 1 minute 24 seconds behind the stage winner. But, firstly, because Buchmann missed the right corner inside the final kilometer, he was timed with another result, which brought Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang on the third place in the final general classification. Jakob took part in the podium ceremony, but later, the jury of the race decided to review the results, giving Buchmann some seconds back, thus, moving him on the 3rd position in the overall standings.

- Honestly, it was a very strange decision of the jury. Of course, I am disappointed with it. I think, this is not normal, when you do all the podium ceremony and, finally, remain fourth. I did not know, what happened there behind me, but all this situation looks so wrong and ridiculous. Anyway, I am happy for Ion Izagirre and his victory. It was our goal today and, in general, at this race. Today we were very motivated and we did all we planned. In the break I just gave my best, I pulled in front as much as I could and I never thought about my personal result and my position in the general classification. It was all or nothing for Ion and I am proud I was part of this great win! – said Jakob Fuglsang, finally, fourth in the overall.

After all changes and jury decisions, the final podium of the Itzulia Basque Country looks like this: Ion Izagirre is the winner, Dan Martin is the runner-up (+0.29) and Emanuel Buchmann is third (+0.31).

For Astana Pro Team this success is 22nd victory in the season. Also, this is 9th overall win of the team.

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this:

The final stage of the Tour of the Basque Country made for some explosive racing over 188 km of hilly terrain around Eibar. The parcours contained six categorised climbs, including two first category ascents. As expected, there were several attacks from the beginning, and eventually an 18-man group was able to distance itself from the main field. The peloton, however, rode at a very high tempo, and the breakaway was caught again relatively quickly.

When a group of favourites attacked, Emu Buchmann attempted to follow them. Max Schachmann and Patrick Konrad were able to make it to their teammate from the third group, and together they took chase after the leading group of favourites. Although the three BORA – hansgrohe riders gave it their all, they were, however, unable to close the gap to the leading group, which sat at around a fairly constant 1:50. On the brutal climb to Izua, Max and Patrick ran into some difficulties, and Emu was left to pursue the leading quintet for some time without help. On the descent, however, Max and Patrick were able to bridge the gap to their teammate, but had to fall back once again a few kilometres later. Emu tried to increase the tempo, and he was able to reduce the gap to the leaders slightly, however ultimately he was never able to bridge the gap.

Shortly before the finish line, he was part of a group that was sent the wrong way by the race organisers, and as a result, he lost time. At that point, he would have sat in fourth place in the general classification. However, after the race organisers reviewed the result, Emu was awarded third place. Teammate Max Schachmann, who won three stages of the Tour of the Basque Country, also secured the green points jersey at the end of the race.

Adam Yates

Stage winner Adam Yates

From the finish line:
“We wanted to defend the yellow jersey today. We let a dangerous group go, and Astana tried to attack, and they were able to do that. Fuglsang rode super strong and I was not able to keep up anymore. Max and Patrick helped me then, but the gap stayed at around 1:40 minutes. It was good enough for a podium place, but unfortunately we lost the yellow jersey.”
- Emanuel Buchmann

“What we achieved this week was amazing, even if we could not finish it off. We took four stage wins in a very high-profile field, and wearing the leader’s jersey from the opening until the finish was not usual for us. The whole team really gave everything to defend the jersey, and we ended up with a podium position overall. But there’s no time to celebrate, because the Ardennes classics are waiting for us.”
- Jens Zemke, Sports Director 

Dan Martin's UAE-Team Emirates sent me this report:

It was a great show in the last stage of the Itzulia Basque Country (Eibar-Eibar), with Daniel Martin and Tadej Pogacar among the main actors. The Irishman took second place in the stage and climbed up to second place in the overall standings, while Pogacar ended his day fifth and took sixth place in the general classification. Also, he won the young rider classification.

The decisive moment for the fate of the entire Basque race was kilometre 52, when Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) attacked with the help of team-mate Ion Izagirre, the UAE Team Emirates duo and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). A head-to-head match started between the quintet and the group of pursuers, headed by race leader Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe): the battle went in favour of the escapees, as Yates won the stage and Martin just behind at one second. Izagirre captured the final overall, displacing Buchmann and topping Martin by 29". The UAE Team Emirates’ performance earned it the top spot in the team standings.

Martin said, “We were very strong throughout the stage, it was a very nice day for the team. We all found ourselves racing with great motivation, everyone had important goals and so we pushed hard to the finish line. I would have liked to have won the stage, but Yates took a small advantage on the last climb. I knew I would have won if I managed to come back to him, but it was a bittersweet ending. I did, however, take second place and second overall, and that means something.”

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