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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, January 18, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I believe the first test of a truly great man is in his humility. - John Ruskin

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Tour Down Under stage 3 team reports

Here's the organizer's update:

Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) has won Subaru Stage 3 of the Santos Tour Down Under to leap into the Ziptrak Sprint Jersey and within one second of Santos General Classification winner Patrick Bevin (CCC Team).

In a lightning sprint to the line, it was the Slovak national champion who beat Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) in the final dash to claim the stage win.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan just barely wins stage three. Sirotti photo

It’s the second consecutive year that Sagan has won in Uraidla, and he benefitted from a controlled race where GC leader Bevin’s CCC Team ensured the peloton had enough in the tank to reach the finish.

“Thanks to all the CCC riders who controlled the race,” Sagan said post-race. “Bora-Hansgrohe took care of me and kept me at the front. At the end, it was a very great finish.

“As we passed the last climb, I thought it was going to be the same as last year. It was almost a copy-paper result from last year. It's much better to have some experience in finales like this. But in the end, [Luis Leon] Sanchez was also very close to winning.”

Sanchez – a former winner of the Santos Tour Down Under – finished second in the bunch sprint. He now sits third behind Bevin and Sagan, and is a strong chance to leap further up the order with a strong performance on the final three stages.

Impressively, Michael Storer (Sunweb) stands fourth overall – 10 seconds behind Bevin – and wears the Young Rider’s Jersey.

When GC contender Michael Woods (EF Education First) launched his attack into Summertown with 2.1km to go, the peloton responded in kind, with Sagan, Sanchez, Dries Devenyns (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Michael Valgren (Team Dimension Data) all joining the response.

With that break neutered, Devenyns mounted his own attempt at the 1.3km mark, but that only served to drag the contenders with him, leaving a mad scramble for the line.

On a stage with 3300m of vertical gain, a breakaway would always find the going difficult. Until the 30km-to-go mark, the day’s early breakaway survivors James Whelan (EF Education First), Nic Dlamini (Team Dimension Data), and Michael Potter (UniSA-Australia) were joined by an Italian trio consisting of Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First), Davide Ballerini and Manuele Boaro (Astana).

Boaro had earlier won maximum points at the Subaru King of the Mountains checkpoint at Lenswood to leap into second place in that classification, and perhaps unsurprisingly couldn’t hold with the break for long.

But his teammate too was unable to keep the pace when the EF Education First combo of Whelan and Bettiol lifted the pace to shatter the break. They pushed ahead but Whelan’s legs gave at the foot of the penultimate visit to the steep Spring Gully Road, while Bettiol fared little better when the peloton engulfed him at the beginning of the final circuit.

It was left to the peloton to decide the winner, with Mitchelton-SCOTT leading the pack into the final

The stage’s final circuit was touted as the track to break open the race, but in reality it provided a similar finish to others – with a bunch sprint instead featuring rouleurs and climbers, rather than straight-sprinters at the end of a difficult day of climbing. Comprising four unique road sections – a fast, technical descent, followed by a short, steep 12% climb and then a rolling ascent to Summertown before a steady climb out through Uraidla, it would punish the riders in a multitude of ways.

But the tactical control of the peloton once again proved too good for the breakaway, with the mass of riders able to conserve long enough to lift the pace at the end and demolish those brave enough to venture on in small numbers.

While Elia Viviani claimed both Sprint intermediates, Peter Sagan’s win on the line catapulted him into the blue jersey for Friday.

Michael Storer reclaimed the Young Rider’s jersey with another solid showing to stand fourth in the GC as well as top of the youth classification.

Jason Lea (UniSA-Australia) retained the Subaru King of the Mountains jersey, but remains vulnerable with Boaro now just behind on the rankings.

Patrick Bevin will continue wearing ochre on Friday, with a course suited to his style culminating with a big climb up Corkscrew Road at the end of 100% Stage 4.

Stage 4 gets underway in Unley (King William Road) at 11:00am on Friday 18 January.

Race leader Patrick Bevin's CCC Team sent me this report:

17 January 2019, Uraidla (AUS): Patrick Bevin continued to show solid form and determination on stage three of the Santos Tour Down Under, sprinting to fifth place and holding onto the ochre jersey and race lead by one second over stage winner Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), with three stages remaining.

Patrick Bevin

Partick Bevin will wear the leader's ochre jersey in stage four. Sirotti photo

The 146-kilometer stage from Lobethal to Uraidla was billed as one of the toughest and most tactical stages in race history with seven laps of an undulating finish circuit providing more than 3000 meters of climbing.

Bevin’s teammates controlled the race from the start line and kept a seven-rider breakaway’s advantage within three minutes throughout the stage, before slowly pulling the group back. By the time the race entered the final 50 kilometers, the peloton, led by the bright orange CCC Team train, was just over one minute behind the now-six rider breakaway.

The gap came down to 30 seconds approaching the last 30 kilometers, at which point three riders jumped ahead of the peloton to join the remaining three riders, and eventually it was just Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) in front.

Team Sky began to pick up the pace and caught Bettiol and as the bell rang to signal the final lap, the reduced group was flying with the General Classification contenders battling for position at the front.

Bevin remained calm, always sitting in the front ten riders, and despite multiple attacks in the final five kilometers, the race leader was able to respond and close any gaps before eventually sprinting to fifth place in Uraidla, behind Sagan.

A ten-second bonus for winning the stage sees Sagan move up to second on the General Classification, one second behind Bevin, while Luis Leon Sanchez sits in third place, nine seconds back.

The General Classification battle is set to heat up again on stage four with the Corkscrew climb and fast descent into the finish in Campbelltown expected to shake things up.

Patrick Bevin:
“Today was the nervous stage. To get through that still in the lead is a big step forward to the ochre jersey on Sunday. From here on out, I feel like it’s about the legs. Today was the tactical day that could have really blown up. We managed it really well and I said at the start of the day that if we’re coming into the sprint then we’ve done our job. To give back a little bit of time is not the end of the world.”

“The last lap was always going to be hard no matter how the day was ridden. There was too much at stake at the finish. I felt like I had to cover those last two or three kilometers to make sure it was all together at the finish and protect the jersey. I feel like I’m climbing really well and I had it completely under control in that last lap. There is no hiding tomorrow. That [Corkscrew] is a very tough climb. Thankfully the stage should play out fairly simply tomorrow, everyone wants to see who has the legs on Corkscrew and let’s hope it comes together at the bottom and we can stand here tomorrow still in the leader’s jersey. I feel like gravity is well in my favor for that eight-kilometer descent. I have done that descent a hundred times so I back myself to pull back any gaps. Obviously, they have to take time from me so it’s a little bit like today, I may cost myself the stage but if it means I’m still in the jersey, then that’s another win. I’ll be fighting all the way to the line to keep the ochre jersey.”

Jackson Stewart, Sports Director:
“It was a super job by the team. The guys were really motivated to keep the ochre jersey so much so that we didn’t let the breakaway go too far ahead. It was a good ride, everyone has come back to the team cars happy and Paddy kept the race lead, despite Sagan’s time bonus. I think tomorrow will be a little less hectic. It will be the climbers’ show, the General Classification showdown on the Corkscrew climb, and another good finish for Paddy. He has been going full gas, fighting really hard in the finishes so we’ll see how tomorrow is.”

Fabio Aru to ride 2019 Giro d’Italia

Aru's UAE-Team Emirates sent me this:

Fabio Aru will be at the start of the 2019 Giro d’Italia on May 11. The decision was a result of recent tests of the Italian cyclist with UAE Team Emirates’s technical staff, trainers and doctors.

Fabio Aru

Fabio Aru time-trialing in stage 16 of the 2018 Giro. Sirotti photo

“The idea of starting in the Giro d’Italia always hugely motivates me given I’m a climber and there’s that extra bit of emotion added given I’m Italian,” the 28-year-old Sardinian explained. “You can imagine my desire to reap some rewards on the road during this Corsa Rosa – rewards I weren’t able to enjoy in the last edition. I have a desire to repay the sponsors, fans and organisers who continued to believe in me in these last months.

"The Giro’s route offers plenty of serious climbs to balance with the number of kilometres in the time trials. We will arrive prepared physically and technically in order to confront every detail of the race in the best way possible.”

Aru’s lead up to the Giro d’Italia sees him debuting in the Trofeo Mallorca, January 31 to February 3.

He will continue with the Volta ao Algarve, February 20-24, and the Volta a Catalunya, March 25-31. He will train at altitude in Colorado, in the U.S., for his final step ahead of the Giro. The race marks the end of Aru’s first chapter in the 2019 season.

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