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

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president, but they don't want them to become politicians in the process. - John F. Kennedy

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Tour de France stage four team reports

We'll start with stage winner Elia Viviani's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Five years after a memorable Deceuninck – Quick-Step stage win in Nancy, another member of the Wolfpack roared over the line victorious in the former capital of Lorraine. Elia Viviani was the one to make it two in a row at the 106th Tour de France for our team, emerging as the fastest in an enthralling sprint at the end of the long 213.5km stage 4.

Elia Viviani

Elia Viviani just wins stage four. Sirotti photo

“This victory means a lot to me. Actually, I can’t believe that I won today, it’s crazy. Notching up a stage here at the Tour de France was one of my season’s biggest goal, and having achieved it thanks to the team’s outstanding work makes me very, very happy”, Elia said after his massively deserved success, which helped him become the 18th active rider boasting stage wins in all Grand Tours.

With Kasper Asgreen still on the mend following his crash on Monday, Yves Lampaert assumed pace-setting duties, as soon as the field left behind Reims and its stunning Gothic cathedral and three men slipped clear. The former Belgian Champion threw in a colossal effort, made sure the gap would hover around the three-minute mark. With the help of other teams, they clawed back the escapees on the last climb of the day, Côte de Maron.

The peloton remained together over the top of the hill, despite a strong tempo of some teams who tried to put the sprinters in the red, and later pegged back a solo attacker, before making way for the lead-out trains. Nancy, which made its Tour de France debut in 1905, witnessed how none other than yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe took over the reins, furiously stretching out the bunch and bringing his teammates in position under the flamme rouge.

Danish Champion Michael Mørkøv then piloted the Deceuninck – Quick-Step train, peeling off with only 500 meters to go, when Argentinean Champion Max Richeze stepped in and expertly delivered another flawless lead-out to Elia Viviani, who could afford to wait until inside the final 200 meters before hitting out and powering like a locomotive past all his rivals before celebrating one of the most beautiful victories of his career.

“With one kilometer to go I felt that everything was going perfect and was really confident. Then, when Kristoff anticipated the sprint, I was ready to go, but Max’s experienced played again a huge role and I waited a bit before opening my sprint close to the barriers. Julian’s win in Épernay motivated us and I’m glad I could keep the team’s streak going. I don’t have enough words to tell you how proud I am to have this incredible team around me: Yves and Dries worked hard, Michael and Max provided a perfect lead and having yellow jersey Julian pulling for me in the final was truly special.”

Viviani’s victory was Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s 90th in a Grand Tour stage and helped the 30-year-old Italian jump up to second in the green jersey classification: “It’s not my goal, but I’ll try to be in the mix at the intermediate sprints when the parcours favours me, just like I did today, and we’ll see what happens. One thing is certain: if all bunch finishes will be like the one of today, then I can hope of winning it.”

Julian Alaphilippe concluded the stage safely in the pack and on Wednesday’s stage in the Vosges will sport the unique personalised yellow jersey displaying Jacques Anquetil, the first five-time winner of the Tour de France.

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

UAE Team Emirates’ lead sprinter, Alexander Kristoff, showed off his form with a hard fought second place in stage 4 of this year’s Tour de France. Kristoff opened up his sprint in the final 200m after being perfectly led out by Jasper Philipsen. The Norwegian power house looked like he would take the victory, but was narrowly beaten to the line by Elia Viviani (Deceuninck Quick Step) after more than five hours of racing.

Alexander Kristoff

This view shows how close the finish was.

Stage 4 from Reims to Nancy was a relatively flat affair, with only two short inclines for the peloton to crest during the 213.5km route. The day was set-up for pure sprinters, who were all present with their lead out trains in the final run-in to the line. With 3kms to go Kristoff was able to work his way to the front of the bunch, safely guided by his team mates and, just as the finish line came into sight, Kristoff exploded into action up the final 200mt drag. His effort was rewarded with a second place spot, holding off both Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe).

Talking after the race, Kristoff said: “Today the team did a super job for me and put me in a perfect position. I didn’t have to use too much energy during the race so it was set up for me to win, but Viviani was just a little faster at the end. I was there fighting with him side by side and if I had a bit extra to give I would have made it. So, it was a bit disappointing but I am still proud of a second place and I will continue to work towards a stage win.” Commenting on his lead out, Kristoff continued “Jasper was the perfect lead out man for me. Today he showed how talented he is for such a young rider. He rides with passion and on feeling and has proved he is more than good enough to be at the Tour. This gives me confidence for the rest of the race.”

Philipsen: “I think we did what they expected of us. It wasn’t easy to be at the front, but Bystrøm is experienced in these situations so I followed this wheel.
I gave everything in the last 500 meters and then Alexander came around me fast and missed the win by just a little bit.
I think we can be happy with the performance and maybe next time go one place better“.

Tomorrow the Tour heads further east and skirts the France-Germany border for Stage 5, with a 175.5km hilly route from Saint-Die-des-Vosges to Colmar. It’s a stage that will favour the breakaway specialists with four categorised climbs and a flat 10km run in to the line.

Fourth-place Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

The second of two long days in succession, today’s 213.5km stage headed east into the Lorraine region. In addition to this being a long day in the saddle, the second half of the stage saw more undulating terrain, including two categorised climbs – both fourth category. Nestled between these climbs, 147km into the day, was the all-important intermediate sprint which, with Peter Sagan in the familiar green colour of the Maillot Vert of points leader, would play an important role in the BORA-hansgrohe team’s tactics. With the final climb summitting 15km from the finish and a flat finale, it was all but certain that a sprint finish was going to close the day.

While the fast men wanted to take the stage, a group of three – the day’s break – set out to spoil their fun. This trio built up an advantage of three minutes in just 10km of racing, and with such an early surge, the peloton upped its pace and barely let it extend any further. The break knew how easily the peloton could reel them back, but kept trying. With the racing full-on right from the start, there was nervousness in the bunch and Patrick Konrad was brought down in a crash with 117km to go. Re-mounting his bike, the Austrian National Champion was unscathed, if shaken by the incident. The pace went up for the intermediate sprint, in which Peter Sagan added to his points total and this brought the break ever closer – with less than 40km to go the advantage was cut to just forty seconds. The finish town of Nancy getting closer, the crowds filled the roads, encouraging the peloton and giving them a boost of energy, and with Lukas Pöstlberger taking to the front in the last 20km riders to drive the pace, it was only a matter of time and the catch was made with 16km remaining. Street furniture and some tight turns would make for a chaotic finale.

Daniel Oss stuck close to Peter Sagan in the last kilometres, keeping him safe as riders fought for position. Some narrow roads pinched the bunch as the sprinters pushed their way to the front. Into the final few hundred metres, his rivals kicked, Peter surfed the wheels to find space and pushed on hard, picking off positions as he accelerated, but he just ran out of road, having to settle for fourth on the line, but this finish enabled him to keep hold of the Maillot Vert for another day.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan remains in green. Sirotti photo

"A rider suddenly crashed in front of me and I was able to brake on time but I was then hit from behind. I am now feeling the impact on my ribs but it seems it should be fine. The team doctor will, obviously, check me but I don't have any visible abrasion and, hopefully, this will just be a scare more than anything else." – Patrick Konrad

"As expected, this stage was decided in a very fast sprint finish. Although a lot of strong sprinters were fighting for this win, it was a clean sprint. It was a close finish and I took fourth, which allows me to keep the green jersey but I said before, we will have to fight every day all the way to Paris." – Peter Sagan

"The team did a good job today and in the last kilometres we tried to make the race hard but the course wasn't difficult enough to make a difference. The finale was very fast, Peter was in a good position and came close to the win. We are still in green, so all is good on that end. Unfortunately, Patrick was involved in a crash about halfway the stage but he doesn't seem to be suffering from anything serious. Our doctor will check him but I think he looks good and that is important for us." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

Annemiek van Vleuten attacks to take a solo victory and moves into the Giro-Rosa race lead on day five

Van Vleuten's Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this report:

Last year’s Giro-Rosa champion Annemiek van Vleuten has attacked her way into the Maglia Rosa on the first mountain stage of the 10-day Grand Tour. The world time trial champion used the steepest ramp to launch her move at the start of the final climb, passing two surviving breakaway riders before continuing to extend her lead to cross the finish line solo, two-minutes 57seconds ahead of second place and her main GC rivals.

Van Vleuten now heads into tomorrow's uphill individual time trial with a sizeable overall lead of two-minutes 16seconds.

Annemiek van Vleuten

Annemiek van Vleuten racing in the 2017 World Championships. Sirotti photo

The short 87.5kilometre day began at 486metres altitude but after just 15.4kilometres, the riders crested the top of the first climb, the Fine Salita Corona, with an altitude gain of 1063metres.

As expected, the peloton shattered into multiple groups with the pure climbers coming to the fore. Van Vleuten and Amanda Spratt headed over the top of the climb in first and second position, with the front group down to just 26riders after a lot of work by teammate Lucy Kennedy.

Once the race settled down on the flat roads in the valley,  Nikola Nosková (Bigla Pro Team) attacked away from the front group and with no real commitment behind, she quickly opened up a lead of over two-minutes.

Shortly after, two more riders bridged across and the trio worked together and gradually drew closer to the final tough climb.

Despite the Passio di Gavia being removed due to safety reasons, Van Vleuten knew today's climb was her best opportunity to take some time and launched out of the reducing chase group at the bottom of the steep final 10kilometre climb and quickly flew past the remaining leaders.

As the kilometres ticked down and the road continued to head north, the Mitchelton-SCOTT rider continued to push on, continuously increasing her lead to finally cross the finish line in Lago di Cancano with an important time advantage over the rest of her rivals, while teammate Spratt patrolled the group, before finishing the stage in a strong fifth position herself.

Van Vleuten also now leads the points and mountains classifications alongwith the overall classification.

Annemiek van Vleuten:
“I’m very happy, after they took the Gavia out I knew it would be harder to take a lot of time. I knew I needed to attack from the bottom to try and get as much time as possible so it was 10kilometres of suffering.

“I’ve very proud to wear the pink jersey again, it’s my dream to wear pink. It’s very special and it is a very big goal of mine to win the Giro-Rosa this year.

“I'm super happy that I could use my legs today, it has been a bit of a waiting game the past days but today finally I could have a go.

"I can sleep a little relaxed tonight knowing it’s some more seconds gained and I know now I have good legs. I just put out a big effort but to finish around three-minutes in front, it’s more than expected.”

Giro-Rosa - Stage 5 Results:
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 3:09:47
2. Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) +2:57
3. Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) ST

General Classification after stage 5:
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 11:17:44
2. Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) +2:16
3. Ashleigh Moolman (CCC-Liv) +3:05 

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