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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, July 22, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. - Heraclitus

Tour of Flanders, the Inside Story

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Tour de France stage 15 team reports

Stage winner Simon Yates' Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this:

2018 Vuelta España champion Simon Yates outlasted the breakaway riders to take a solo victory at the Tour de France today on another hard summit finish in the Pyrenees.

Yates attacked at the base of the final climb and held off the general classification contenders to claim his second victory of the race.

Simon Yates

Simon Yates takes another Tour stage win. Sirotti photo

The win comes just three-days after his first ever Tour de France victory on stage 12 and makes it a hat-trick of stage wins for Mitchelton-SCOTT in this year's edition of the race following Daryl Impey's win on stage nine.

The final day in the Pyrenees began at a rapid pace with many riders attacking to try and make it into the day’s breakaway. Simon Yates was alert, making a couple of attacks himself in an attempt to make it into a move. Finally, on the first of four categorised climbs of the day, Yates was able get away in a large group that snapped the elastic to the peloton and opened up a solid lead.

Eight more riders bridged across after the climb to make it a sizeable group of 36 riders and they rode out to a maximum advantage of over five-minutes, but with the peloton chasing hard all day, as some of the breakaway rider sat inside the top 20 on the GC.

As the breakaway group headed over the next climbs, riders began to drop off the pace with Simon Yates always on the front foot, staying at the head of the race throughout the various splits.

On the penultimate climb of the day, the Mur de Péguère, Simon Geschke (CCC) attacked and led solo as the breakaway group continued fragmented behind. The CCC rider was joined by Yates as the descent started and pair increase their advantage, reaching the bottom with a one-minute lead over four chasers.

Behind, action came from the general classification hopefuls which saw Adam Yates lose contact from the GC group as the pace picked up on the steepest section of the climb. Mikel Landa (Movistar Team) launched an attack which ignited the fierce battle for the GC positions.

Reaching the base of the final climb still holding onto a one-minute forty second lead over the chasers, Simon Yates took his chances again and with 8.5kilometres to go on the steepest section of the climb he launched another attack and dropped Geschke.

Powering ahead, the Briton maintained his lead hovering around one-minute in front of Landa for most of the climb, finally reaching the line 33seconds ahead of a late attacker, second place Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ) to take another incredible stage victory.

Simon Yates - Stage 15 Winner:
“It was on from start to finish. The GC guys were coming fast, I know personally how fast they can go, so I wanted to maintain the advantage to the bottom of the final climb. Simon Geschke was a great companion on the descent, so thank you to him, but I knew I had to go early on the final climb.

“I came here with the first objective to help my brother, the second to try to get a stage win. Now I have two so I’m very proud. This one was really hard, the first wasn’t easy, but this one, with the parcours was extremely difficult.

“I’m very tired now but there are three very hard stages in the final week so we will try again.”

Matt White - Head Sport Director:
“The secret is turning adversity around quickly, refocussing and changing targets if need be. We’ve done it before in this organisation and we have done it again today.

"It was an incredible ride from Simon, at the end of the day it is Simon’s win but all the boys have played a part in this victory today as they did on the other two wins. It is a very special day, our third stage win at the Tour de France and we won’t forget this one.

“The quality in the breakaway was very high, with winners, podium finishers of Grand Tours in that breakaway and so the biggest concern was what the gap was going to be at the bottom of the final climb. When it turned into Mikel Landa vs Simon Yates with a one-minute fifteen second head start, we were pretty confident he’d be able to hang on there.

"Pinot was coming very fast but Simon rode a very calculated final climb, he had time checks all the time and he was going just as hard as he had to to win the bike race."

GC leader Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step squad posted this report:

On the toughest and most dramatic stage of this year’s race so far, Julian Alaphilippe struggled for the first time when it started pouring with attacks, but that didn’t discourage Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s livewire, who fought valiantly on the punishing ramps of Prat d’Albis and retained his beloved maillot jaune.

Starting from Limoux, stage 15 needed almost one hour for a breakaway to finally get green light from the peloton, who travelled at crazy speeds in the first 40 kilometers, before eventually relenting. Deceuninck – Quick-Step once again assumed responsibility, putting in a phenomenal amount of work on the first two thirds of the stage. One by one, Kasper Asgreen, Dries Devenyns, Yves Lampaert, Michael Mørkøv, Max Richeze and Elia Viviani turned themselves inside out riding in support of Julian Alaphilippe, protecting him and eroding the escapees’ gap by several minutes on Col de Montségur and Mur de Péguère.

A brace of accelerations made a selection on the double-digit gradients on Péguère, but Julian responded present and easily made it over the top of the first-category ascent, as the group hurtled down on the descent, less than three minutes behind the remnants of the break. Then, on Prat d’Albis (11.8km, 6.9%), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was the first of the favourites to show his intentions, going clear with more than five kilometers to go.

Alaphilippe matched that attack, but when his countryman went again, he began to suffer in the driving rain which only added to the difficulty of the closing kilometers. A combination of tremendous willpower and guts helped the 27-year-old Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider soldier on and limit the losses as the race left the Pyrenes behind and prepared for the last rest day.

Julian Alaphilippe

After the stage. Alaphilippe clearly looks worse for the wear. Sirotti photo

The first Frenchman in 34 years to spend 11 days in the maillot jaune at a single Tour de France edition, Alaphilippe possesses more than a minute and a half over the riders completing the podium at the moment and remains in high spirits: “I want to thank the team, because they did a great job to control the race and protect me. It was a very hard day, and I expected that, and my goal was to remain in the lead. I am happy I could do that and although I’m aware that the third week will be a very tough one, I just want to enjoy every moment of this great Tour. Until then, we have a rest day, and I look forward to it, to training with my teammates and seeing my family.”

Here's the report from third-place Mikel Landa's Movistar team:

Just like yesterday and so many times, the Movistar Team rode its heart out to offer the fans some joy in the 2019 Tour de France, seeking for the stage win and a step forward in the GC during the final stage in the Pyrenees. The 185km from Limoux to the top of Prat d’Albis (Cat-1) saw the Telefónica-backed squad going all-out, with great legs and attitude from a superb Mikel Landa, who finishes 3rd behind Simon Yates (MTS) and Thibaut Pinot (GFC).

The 28-year-old Basque climber jumped off the front of the favourites’ group with 41km to go, on the steepest slopes of the Mur de Péguère (Cat-1) climb, chasing a breakaway that included two crucial members of the Blue outfit dropping back to support him: Marc Soler and Andrey Amador. As the trio got together into the descent, they opened a 1’30” gap against the GC group through the valley, a gap subsequently reduced by Pinot’s attacks. Mikel, though, was still able to put more than one minute on race leader Julian Alaphilippe (DQT), climbing onto seventh overall, 4’54” behind. Alejandro Valverde, once again inside the second echelon of favourites, took 9th in the stage and currently sits eighth overall (+5’00”).

Mikle Landa

Mikel Landa finished just behind Thibaut Pinot. Sirotti photo

The ‘Grande Boucle’ will enjoy its second, final rest day in Nîmes on Monday -with a penultimate chance for the sprinters on Tuesday- before the brutal Alps stages, Wednesday to Sunday, that will decide the 106th edition of the French grandtour.

Mikel Landa: “I was sad yesterday, because I went empty through the final slopes of the Tourmalet and was left out of stage contention. I felt better today and wanted to try something. We started the stage with a plan to attack, and it was hard to carry out that strategy because the others clearly knew our intention. That’s why it took so long for the breakaway to form, and it was really hard to get those three riders to the front. The team-mates really showed great commitment into that break, Andrey and Marc gave everything for me in the approach to Prat – I’m really thankful for that. Knowing that Yates was ahead I knew it would be really hard to go for the stage win. He’s such a talented rider, and he’s also had the chance to take the foot of the gas at some stages.

“Landismo never dies! (laughs). It’s true that I lost so much time when I crashed on stage ten -I still feel furious about it, I hope I won’t miss those two minutes at the end of the race-, so talking about a GC victory is really too much, yet I think a podium is still possible. I’d like to win a stage and there are many tough routes ahead in the Alps. Alaphilippe? He got over the first long block of mountains in this Tour with a really decent result, and he looks just like any other favourite in the race to me right now.”

Alejandro Valverde: “You can’t say we didn’t try. We got three into the breakaway, Nairo also got really close to having a shot at the provisional GC podium, and then Mikel attacked in the penultimate climb and we could have him gaining some advantage and taking 3rd with that big help from our team-mates. I could also do well, finishing with Thomas. It was nearly a perfect day for us when it comes to attitude. We’re a group of fighters, and we won’t settle with what we’ve got right now. Nairo didn’t have his best legs yesterday -the crash affected him-, but he felt quite better today. We can now enjoy the rest day and, look out for the next week – those three Alps stages will be really, really tough. It’s a very different block of mountains, with high altitude, 2,500-2,600 meters. It will be tough for Alaphilippe, but you can only applaud him for what he’s done so far. It’s still a long way to the end.”

Nairo Quintana: “We didn’t stay in the bunch without doing anything, did we. It was a great team strategy to support Mikel – just like we said yesterday, it was all about supporting him. All team-mates did, and I tried to get into that breakaway to force other teams to keep a high pace behind. Mikel did really well afterwards. To be honest, I was lacking some air at the foot of the final climb and wasn’t able to help him out, yet he was strong and could do well either way.”

Fourth-place Emanuel Buchmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent this update:

The Tour de France’s second – and final – rest day was on the horizon, but after the GC race started to really take shape yesterday, you could be sure it was going to be full-on from the start of today’s second mountain stage in a row. The 185km parcours saw four categorised climbs along its route – nothing as painfully difficult as the Tourmalet, but with one second category and three first category climbs – including a summit finish on the Foix Prat d’Albis – today was going to be tough for very different reasons.

The BORA-hansgrohe riders would be working to protect Emanuel Buchmann today, and this was clear from the start, with Daniel Oss jumping in the break to try and control the pace. Brought back in shortly after they went out. More attacks came and more attacks were reeled back in before Peter Sagan made an attempt the second day in a row. In spite of the size of this group, they were caught too. After nearly 60km, it was a group containing Patrick Konrad that formed the break of the day, gaining two minutes on the peloton on the day’s first climb, and with thirty-six riders, it was their strength in numbers that saw them maintain their lead.

However, it was a hard day with the relentless climbing and the break started to disintegrate as it hit the tough first category ascents, Patrick losing touch with 73km still to go. In spite of losing many of their number, this didn’t stop the remnants pushing their advantage to more than five minutes, as the roads became damp with rain the higher they went into the mountains.

It was on the Mur de Péguère that things really started getting difficult – the 18% maximum gradients highlighting any tiredness for the break and peloton alike. While the escape still had some time on the bunch, there was no-one who could threaten the yellow jersey, and further back the road, the overall riders – Emanuel Buchmann in their mix, Gregor Mühlberger riding in support – were going to have their own race for the GC. Hitting the final climb, Gregor peeled off, his work done, and from here it was all down to Emanuel.

A constantly changing gradient would make finding a rhythm difficult, but the German rider responded well to his rivals’ pedal strokes, forming a small group on the front with only two riders ahead of them on the road. While unable to react to a solo attack from within his group of four, Emanuel held on, choosing not to chase but instead to recover and work with the other three to regain some ground when the gradient dropped. Soaked through from the pouring rain, there was no way he was going to let that dampen his spirits as Emanuel put in another strong performance to take fourth for the second day in a row. The team will now focus on recovering on tomorrow’s rest day ahead of Tuesday’s flat stage in Nîmes.

Emanuel Buchmann

Emanuel Buchmann finishes with Egan Bernal.

From the Finish Line:
"I had another strong day where I felt really good, with perfect legs. My teammates did an excellent job in protecting me in the tricky roads heading into the final climb. Once in the climb, I was in the yellow jersey group. When Pinot attacked, it was the first time I felt on the limit but I was able to follow him initially. However, he was constantly launching attacks and I realised he was too strong for me to go all the way to the top with him. So, I decided to ride at my own pace. Ahead of me, I think Bernal went too deep and was dropped, so I was able to catch him and feel I was stronger than him. I kept my pace to the finish line, which was perfect.  I'm happy with my result in the stage and the GC. The final week will be decisive, but in my view, this Tour de France is more open than the previous years because there isn't any big team strong enough to have total control of the race. Right now, Pinot seems to be the strongest and is flanked by a fairly strong team, so he could be the favourite but, again, we still have one important week ahead of us." – Emanuel Buchmann

"Another stunning performance by Emanuel. Our plan was to wait until the last climb and follow the wheels of, in particular, Jumbo-Visma. He executed this flawlessly and was able to go with Pinot when he attacked. In the end, nobody could follow Pinot but still, Emu rode with a strong rhythm and took a very good fourth place in the stage. However, the final week will be the toughest challenge, so nothing has been decided yet. In what regards our opponents, we could see today that Movistar had various cards to play while Ineos looked better, so we have to keep an eye on them as well. I think that retaining his current GC spot will not be very easy, but Emanuel is in good shape and we look forward to the race in the Alps." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

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

It was a menacing day at the Tour de France, as UAE Team Emirates’ Dan Martin battled what he described as one of the toughest Tour stages he has ever faced.

The peloton knew it was all to play for on the fifteenth stage, but with four categorised climbs to contend with, they knew it was also going to be a brutal stage; and that it was. The attacking intent of all teams was evident from the off, and as the 36-man breakaway came over the first climb, Martin held a comfortable position. But with climbs coming thick and fast, a number of riders attacked and those with weary legs were soon dropped. Martin looked to attack one of the smaller breakaway groups as he began to ascend the final climb, but the sheer incline proved too much.

Simon Yates (Mitchelton Scott) produced a solo breakaway effort on the final climb to take home the stage win, with Martin finishing 3:38” behind the winner. Martin now sits in 15th place in the General Classification (GC), 11:39” behind leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick Step).

Dan MArtin

Dan Martin riding the stage 13 time trial. Sirotti photo

Commenting on the finish, Martin said: “It was a brutal out there today. We expected a big group to go early, and after the disappointment of yesterday I wanted to be in the race again and enjoy racing. I didn’t think they would let me go, so I waited until it was really hard and then made the split on the climb. I’m looking forward to the rest day now. I’ve been riding GC for two weeks and with yesterday not going to plan, I’m just a bit disappointed to be caught when I did. It’s probably the hardest stage I have ever done at the Tour de France.”

UAE Team Emirates’ Fabio Aru (17th in thr GC, + 14’15”) added: “Today it was a very demanding stage and raced at a very high tempo. I stayed in the main group as long as I could. I’m not 100% yet, but tomorrow we will rest and then we’ll see how to face the last week.”

Riders will welcome the second rest day tomorrow, before taking to the saddle for stage 16, where the sprinters will be back in action as they tackle a flat  route through Nimes.

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