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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, February 21, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Simplicity is the most difficult thing to secure in this world; it is the last limit of experience and the last effort of genius. - George Sand

Current Racing:

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Tour of Oman stage five report from Team Astana

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from winner Alexey Lutsenko's Team Astana:

Alexey Lutsenko completed his hat-trick at the Tour of Oman after winning atop of Green Mountain today. Lutsenko overtook Fabian Grellier, part of the early breakaway, just a few hundred meters before today’s summit finish. With one hilly stage to go, the red jersey is now even more firmly on the shoulders of Alexey Lutsenko, who is set to win the Tour of Oman for the second consecutive time, the third win of the race in the history of Astana Pro Team (Vincenzo Nibali, 2016). The Kazakh champion won the ninth race for the team in 2019, making it the most successful team of the season so far.

Alexy Lutsenko

Alexey Lutsenko turned in another astonishing performance.

- First of all, I want to dedicate this victory to my wife, who had a miscarriage of our twins last December. With these three wins, I want to honor them all three. My wife and I went through a very difficult time together, it was very hard. The team supported me all the time in this period, and I’m happy I can reward them as well for this support.

It was a perfect race for us, as everything went exactly how we planned. The team protected me very well until the second part of the climb and then it was up to me to follow my most important rivals. My main goal was to keep the red jersey, but when I saw the last man from the breakaway just in front of me, I gave it my all and took the victory. It was an important and emotional victory for me and the team, and now we focus on tomorrow to secure the overall win, - said Alexey Lutsenko.

- Alexey Lutsenko and the team performed really well today, I just heard he did the climb in new record time. Of course, he had some backwind, but it shows his strength. It’s good to see him developing like this, we’re sure he’ll be ready for the most important goals of his season. For him personally, this is also a great victory, as he went through a difficult time. We gave him all the support and space he needed, because in the first place we are humans and a close team, in the second place we’re a professional cycling team. We’re close to a third overall win here in Oman, so tomorrow we’ll need to be focused again and make sure that Alexey doesn’t get in troubles during the day, - said sports director Dmitriy Fofonov.

The Queen Stage took off from Samayil, to finish after 152 kilometers atop of Al Jabal Al Akhdar (Green Mountain). A breakaway of six riders was created right from the start, creating a gap of a maximum of 6 minutes. One man of this group would lead the race until the final hundred meters, Fabian Grellier. Behind this break, the Astana Pro Team took control in the peloton to protect Alexey Lutsenko. During the decisive climb of the Green Mountain, other teams took over to make the race hard. Alexey Lutsenko was able to follow and a few kilometers before the finish he attacked together with Jesus Herrada and Domenico Pozzovivo.

In the final kilometer, Alexey Lutsenko attacked to overtake Fabian Grellier in the final hundred meters, to win his third stage in this edition of the Tour of Oman. The Kazakh champion is now leading the race with an advantage of 44” seconds on Domenico Pozzovivo and 47” on Jesus Herrada.

Tomorrow is the final stage of the 2019 Tour of Oman, starting in Al Mouj Muscat to finish in Matrah Corniche after 135.5 kilometers. A hilly stage, but normally a stage for the sprinters.

Lotto-Soudal reports on first stage of Vuelta a Andalucia/Ruta del Sol

The team sent me this:

Lotto Soudal rider Tim Wellens took his second victory of the season today during the opening stage of the Ruta del Sol. On the steep slopes of the final climb in Alcalá de los Gazules - where Wellens also won last year -  the defending Ruta del Sol champion again proved to be the strongest. The 27-year-old Belgian soloed to an impressive victory; Jakob Fuglsang and Ion Izagirre completed the podium. Wellens will also start in the yellow leader’s jersey in Sevilla tomorrow.

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens takes the first stage.

After a fast opening phase of the race, seven riders managed to escape. However, the peloton - with Lotto Soudal attentive on the first rows - did not grant the escapees much advantage. Together with Team Astana and Mitchelton-Scott, it was Lotto Soudal who took the initiative and kept the advantage of the seven riders in check.

At twenty kilometres from the line, various teams opened up the throttle in an attempt to eliminate some of the pre-race favourites. Eventually, a reduced peloton reached the foot of the final climb in Alcalá de los Gazules where the battle broke loose. On the steep cobbled hill towards the city centre, Wellens first responded to various attacks but then decided to say goodbye to his rivals, on his way to a truly brilliant display of power that resulted in a solo victory. After stage wins in 2017 and 2018 it is now the third stage victory for Wellens in the Ruta del Sol.

Tim Wellens: “The team played a really important role in today’s victory. Due to the strong wind, the peloton was strung out all day but as a team, we managed to stay on the front rows of the peloton. Last year learnt us that we had to start the final kilometre in pole position, which the team also did. In the run-up to the final climb, some teams attempted to form echelons but we had been briefed very well, so there was no reason to panic.”

“Once on the final climb, I was not sure if I had to attack or wait. The situation last year - when I was at the front with only one other rider - was a lot easier. After I responded to Izagirre’s attack, I gave my all until the line. I could really turn the experience of last year in my favor. It was difficult to sprint out of the saddle on the cobbles but sprinting while seated suits me really well. That is for sure an advantage on a finish like today.”

“Of course, I want to keep the leader’s jersey until Sunday. The time trial - which should suit me fine - will be of crucial importance. In my opinion, Izagirre will be the man to keep an eye on because he proved in Paris-Nice last year and during the Tour of Valencia this year to have good time trial abilities. But I also worked on my time trial skills and I look forward to seeing the result of that. The queen stage - which finishes in Granada - is scheduled on Saturday but the time trial will be even more decisive for the general classification.”

In Portugal, the Volta ao Algarve started with a sprint stage. Due to a massive crash in the deep finale, a heavily reduced bunch battled for the victory. The Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen was the fastest, Lotto Soudal rider Jasper De Buyst sprinted to a fifth place.

Bora-hansgrohe reports on Volta ao Algarve stage one

The team sent me this:

Today, the 45th edition of the Volta ao Algarve started with its longest stage. Nearly 200 undulating kilometers from Portimão to Lagos awaited the peloton. From the drop of the flag, five riders attacked and opened up a three-minute gap, but the peloton controlled the gap from the beginning, holding the breakaway on a short leash. Also BORA – hansgrohe was quite active in the bunch, working for their German Champion Pascal Ackermann. With 22k to go, the last two guys at the front were caught and all was set up for a bunch sprint. When the peloton approached the finale, the sprinter teams started their lead-outs and also BORA - hansgrohe organized their train for Pascal Ackermann, who won the Clásica de Almeria last Sunday.

A big crash 7k before the finish created even more excitement, and unfortunately BORA – hansgrohe’s GC contender Patrick Konrad was involved. He was able to get back on the bike without any injuries but lost crucial time for the overall ranking. His teammates however, continued riding at the front of the race for the German National Champion, leading a peloton that was down to only 40 riders. Jempy Drucker and Rudi Selig fought hard to bring their captain into a good position, but in a frantic finale, it was almost impossible to lead Pascal out perfectly. In the end it was F. Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quickstep) who did choose the best line today, beating A. Démare for the victory. After giving it his best, Pascal Ackermann finished third in Lagos today. 

Fabio Jakobsen

Fabio Jakobsen takes the first stage.

From the Finish Line
“It was a really good day for us until the crash in the final kilometers. Our GC contender hit the ground. Luckily, he was able to continue the race without any injuries, but lost time for the overall ranking. Pascal managed to sprint to third place. Of course, we wanted to go for the victory and the guys did an amazing job, but you can’t win every day and a podium spot is also a result we can be happy with.” – Christian Pömer, Sports Director

 "It was a very fast and hectic finale. Unfortunately, Patrick crashed with many others and lost time for the GC. I finished third, of course I wanted to win but we will try it again." - Pascal Ackermann

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