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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, July 18, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people. - Isaac Newton

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Tour de France stage eleven reports

Stage winner Caleb Ewan's Lotto-Soudal team sent me this:

Caleb Ewan delivered Lotto Soudal a second stage victory at the Tour de France today! Having already finished four times inside the top three during the past ten days of racing, the Australian pocket-rocket sprinter now took his maiden stage victory at the Tour! After another tight sprint between Groenewegen and Ewan, it was the Lotto Soudal rider who threw his bike to the line to take the stage win in Toulouse. A few days after his 25th birthday, Caleb Ewan is now part of a select group of riders who were able to win a stage at the Giro, Tour and Vuelta. Also Tim Wellens could step on the podium today; the Belgian received his ninth polka dot jersey.

Caleb Ewan

This was a close one.

Right after the start in Albi, four riders attacked but the peloton did not grant Calmejane, Aimé De Gendt, Perez and Rossetto more than three minutes advantage. A strong Maxime Monfort was one of the riders to lead the peloton all day long. At four kilometres from the line, Aimé De Gendt was the final escapee to be caught. A bunch sprint would take place in the streets of Toulouse.

During the very finale, Caleb Ewan was caught up behind a crash of teammate Jasper De Buyst, but it was Roger Kluge who brought Caleb Ewan back to the head of the peloton. Groenewegen started his sprint early but Ewan reacted with a powerful acceleration. Once again, it was a close sprint between the Dutchman and the Australian but this time, Caleb Ewan pipped Groenewegen to the line and took his first stage victory at the Tour de France.

Caleb Ewan: “My first dream was to become a professional cyclist, the second one to ride the Tour de France and the ultimate wish was of course to win a stage.  To this day, I was able to do all bunch sprints but I just missed the victory a couple of times. If you’re able to take the victory at the fifth attempt, the joy, relief and all the other different words I can come up with are immense and very intense. The team always kept believing in me and I also never stopped believing in the team and in my own speed. Everything - like my timing and positioning -  just needed to fall into place one day and that was the case today. The final part of the race was quite chaotic, but only the final result is what matters. What didn’t succeed the past sprints, happened today. I can’t describe how happy I am.”

“It takes a lot of character to - as a rider - travel from Australia to Europe and to cover that entire path with the ultimate goal of reaching the absolute top of cycling. With this stage win, I think I made that step. I have to thank a lot of people within my entourage. Leaving for the Tour de France when your new-born daughter is still at the hospital really wasn’t an easy moment but the team supported me as well as possible. The team kept the pressure away but as a sprinter, you are of course not satisfied with only second and third places. It is true that I had a long conversation with sports manager Marc Sergeant yesterday. He - better than anyone - understands the art of keeping the pressure off someone and giving you the feeling to keep the faith until the very last day.”

Here's the report from close second-place Dylan Groenewegen's Jumbo-Visma team:

Dylan Groenewegen has finished second in the eleventh stage of the Tour de France. In the streets of Toulouse, the Dutchman was narrowly beaten in the bunch sprint by the Australian Caleb Ewan. With the Pyrenees stages coming up, Steven Kruijswijk remained fourth overall.

Dylan Groenewegen

This was close....Sirotti photo

The stage from Albi was controlled all day by Team Jumbo-Visma. A leading group was given a maximum lead of three minutes and was reeled in in the last ten kilometres. Mike Teunissen started to pull early, after which Groenewegen was the first to start the sprint. For a long time it seemed he was going to win, but the Dutchman was outsprinted by Ewan on the line.

“Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Today I lost”, Groenewegen said. “Last time, I won by half a wheel, now I lose by half a wheel. We took the initiative early. I wanted to. I was in an ideal position, but I felt that Mike could no longer continue to pull a bit more, so I started my sprint. There was a lot of headwind. It is a pity that I came a few millimeters short, but that is also part of sprinting. I knew that when I started the sprint it went a little early. I couldn’t wait any longer either, because then they would be all over me. This is disappointing because I really wanted to win.”

“We took the initiative early as planned, and Wout and Amund were very strong”, lead out Mike Teunissen said. “We hoped that more guys from other teams would join us in pulling, but that didn't happen. As a result, I had to start my sprint at eight hundred metres from the finish. It meant that Dylan had to start his sprint a little early with that headwind. Unfortunately he couldn’t finish it off.”

And here's the report from GC leader Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

The yellow jersey has never been lost on a stage to Toulouse, and Julian Alaphilippe made sure of keeping the record going as the Tour de France resumed after a rest day spent in Albi. The first Frenchman in eight years to lead the general classification so deep into the race, Julian was protected by his teammates, who also took the race into their own hands and controlled the four-man breakaway on stage 11 with the same incredible Kasper Asgreen.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe will ride stage 12, with its two first-category climbs, in yellow. Sirotti photo

His hard and selfless work paid dividends with 14 kilometers to go, when the break – struggling to remain at the front – saw their lead hover around 20 seconds. Despite a late surge of one of the escapees, it was game over for them some five kilometers from the line and the lead-out trains began slotting into position on the technical finish to Toulouse, which made its return at the race after an 11-year-hiatus.

Elia Viviani got involved again in the bunch gallop and hit a maximum speed of 71.2km/h, taking third behind Caleb Ewan (Soudal-Lotto) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and netting Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s fifth podium in at this edition.

“I would have loved to win again, but it just wasn’t meant to be. On the other hand, Caleb was the only sprinter without a victory until today, which says a lot about the level of this Tour de France. Now we will go into the mountains and it will be important to stay focused, take it day by day and think of the next opportunity, which comes on Tuesday’s stage 16”, Elia said ahead of the first day in the Pyrenees.

Here's the report from points leader Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team:

After the well-deserved first rest day of the Tour de France, riders were welcomed back to the race with a gentler 167km stage that featured only two easy categorised climbs on the profile. The third and fourth category ascents would be straightforward enough for a peloton with fresh legs, but with the race drawing ever closer to the mountains, there were only a couple more opportunities for the sprinters before the finish in Paris. The fast men could yet turn an easy day into a hard one. The breakaway fancying its chances today as well, a small group rode away from the peloton the instant the flag was dropped to start the stage.

The rejuvenating effects of the rest day, as well as a hot sunny start to the race, saw the four escapees soon build up a lead of more than two minutes. With the break stretching their advantage to three minutes, riding behind, the peloton was barely breaking a sweat, covering less than 40km in the first hour of racing, but with the intermediate sprint on the horizon, the pace increased as the sprinters organised themselves.

Taking second from the bunch, Peter Sagan added to his points total, but the finish line was where the biggest prize was up for grabs. With the climbs out of the way, it was flat all the way to the finish line and the break’s advantage started dropping slowly, while their speed started to slow, their lead being cut in half by the 45km to go mark.

The peloton’s speed rising and BORA-hansgrohe taking to the front to make the catch for the sprint finish, the gap shrank dramatically and with only 10km to go the break itself was shrinking too – down to three in the closing kilometres with only forty seconds on the bunch, dropping further to thirty seconds with 6km remaining as the last members dropped off. The last remaining escapee ran out of steam on a false flat 4.5km out from the finish, and from here on in it was all about finding out who had the legs to take the win.

Daniel Oss was keeping Peter safe, giving it his all to get the Maillot Vert holder to the line, negotiating street furniture on Toulouse’s roads. It was frenetic in the shady streets, the sprinters eyeing each other up as they hit breakneck speeds. Bursting into the sunlight the sprint started, Peter close behind and riding hard, but having been forced to brake to avoid another rider peeling off the front, he found himself in dead air, losing the pace that would get him to the line first, instead taking fourth spot.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan stays in green. Sirotti photo

The green jersey of points leader stayed with Peter for another day, while Emanuel Buchmann maintained his fifth in the GC and Patrick Konrad climbed to eleventh after finishing with the bunch.

From the Finish Line:
"It was a day for the sprinters and our team did again a very good job. I was in a good position in the final straight to the finish and I was powering ahead. At about 100 metres from the line, I had to abruptly change my course in order to avoid a rider in front of me. That meant I lost contact with the riders ahead of me and when they sprinted, I tried to close the gap but it was impossible. Despite this, I'm satisfied I was still able to finish fourth and maintain my lead in the green jersey." – Peter Sagan

"The day began relatively easy but in the final kilometres it turned into a hectic race with some crashes and in one of them, Gregor hit the ground. He lost some skin but it isn't anything serious. Peter took important points in the intermediate sprint and in the finale, the team brought him once again in a good position. He was able to catch the wheel of Viviani but then had to swerve in order to avoid one of the lead-out riders, a move that made him lose his position. Still, he managed to take fourth, which is a good result for the green jersey." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

Will new hi-tech steel revolutionize frame production in Europe?

Bike Europe sent me this news:

DUISBURG, Germany – Is there a solution for the major problem that the rocketing e-bike sales in Europe is facing? That problem is in the limited availability of aluminum frames. Production in Europe has to increase; and fast. But starting (robotized) production of alloy frames is complicated. Steel is much easier to process. However, there’s no going back to chromoly tubing. Is a new highly durable steel grade with higher strength and stiffness than aluminum with the forming capabilities of carbon offering the solution?

It was already identified as a problem years ago. And since then initiatives like with the company Triangles, that is now with robots producing alloy frames in Portugal, materialized. But that provided only a small relief to the pressure on alloy e-bike frame production. Much bigger challenges have manifested since as demand rocketed as well as due to the anti-dumping measures in place on e-bikes imported from China. That involves the production relocation of a big part of the 750,000 electric bicycles that were imported into the EU from China in 2018. So, the question is how fast e-bike frame production in Europe can be expanded?

Steel instead of aluminum is the solution for quickly increasing production in Europe. Frame production expert Luigi Seghezzi from Bike Machinery/Mair (the companies that recently joined forces) has pointed that out recently. He forecasts that within the next 3 years some 3 million e-bike frames will be made in Europe. In particular in Portugal, Poland and in Romania (by Italians). He expects that the biggest part of the 3 million frames will be made with what he referred to as ‘light metal’. Asked whether this means the return to ‘old school’ Reynolds 538 double or triple butted tubing, his answer was no. It will be a very new type of light metal which will be matching the lightweight characteristics of alloy frames.

You can read the entire story here.

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