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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Simplicity in character, in manners, in style; in all things the supreme excellence is simplicity. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Tour de France stage 16 team reports

We'll start with stage winner Caleb Ewan's Lotto-Soudal team report:

Caleb Ewan took his second stage victory at the Tour de France today! In a much-anticipated bunch sprint, the fast Australian launched an impressive acceleration to take the win in Nîmes! The Italian Viviani and the Dutchman Groenewegen finished second and third, respectively. Tim Wellens received his fourteenth polka dot jersey.

Caleb Ewan

Caleb Ewan enjoys his stage win. Sirotti photo

In tropical weather conditions, the riders took off in Nîmes for the final week of racing at the Tour de France. Almost immediately after the start - with the approval of the peloton - Bak, Gougeard, Ourselin, Rossetto and Wisniowski attacked to form today’s breakaway. The sprint teams immediately took control, but although the quintet was never granted much advantage, the escapees were only caught at a few kilometres from the line.

At fifteen kilometres from the finish - on an uncategorized climb - the pace was seriously increased. The sprinters were put to the test but they held on and a bunch sprint would take place in Nîmes. It was Caleb Ewan who launched an impressive sprint and took an outstanding second stage victory at the Tour de France! In his first ever Tour, Ewan already gathered six podium spots, two of them victories.

Caleb Ewan: “It was so hot today and I was suffering a lot. I thought about it to get Maxime Monfort off the front because I thought I wouldn’t be able to hang on until the end. On a few climbs, I was really struggling but eventually, I kept the good position. This morning, before the start in Nîmes, we did a recon of the final kilometre with the team, so we knew what to expect. A long home stretch is not always the most easy finish because timing as well as positioning are harder. Jasper De Buyst did a tremendous lead-out and afterwards, I was on the wheel of the other fast guys, so I decided to go early. In the end, it paid off.”

“The fact that my wife and daughter are at the race for the first time, makes it really special. It is incredibly beautiful to celebrate this victory together with them. It was difficult to keep the confidence after some second and third places. I finally got it right in stage eleven. Now, the next sprint chance immediately delivers a second victory, that is just amazing! If I am the best sprinter in this Tour? I think there are some really good sprinters here. Maybe, I proved to be the most consistent one, but in any case, today I showed to be the best.”

Here's the report from second-place Elia Viviani & GC leader Julian Alaphilippe's Deceunick-Quick Step team:

Elia Viviani came close to his second victory at the Tour de France, only to be denied in the finale of the 177km stage 16, a loop around Nîmes, a city with a rich Roman heritage, which in the past has served as finish on numerous occasions at the Tour de France, but also as grand depart of the Vuelta a España.

Elia Viviani

A slightly earlier shot showing just how close Elia Viviani (far left) was to Caleb Ewan at the line.

Excellently guided by Michael Mørkøv and Maximiliano Richeze, who led him through the roundabouts which spiced up the closing kilometers of otherwise a quiet day, Viviani kicked out with 150 meters to go down the right-hand barriers and looked to be on the verge of prevailing, but was passed by Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) with just a few meters left and finished runner-up, scoring Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s ninth podium in 16 days.

Julian Alaphilippe finished safely in the bunch and took to the podium to receive the prestigious yellow jersey, which he’ll wear on Wednesday as the race continues its journey to the Alps. Alaphilippe, a double stage winner and one of the standout riders at this edition, carries a lead of more of one minute over his nearest opponents.

“There isn’t a proper day to recover at the Tour de France, but I felt good on Monday during the rest day. Today was very warm, but it was the same for everybody and all you can do is deal with it. That’s why I made sure of eating during the stage and drinking a lot. I’m happy that I kept the yellow jersey and I get to wear it for at least another day”, Julian said after the Tour de France’s 18th finish in Nîmes.

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

This was it – after the second rest day, it was going to be full-on until the finish in Paris, with no rest days and no easy days before the Champs-Élysées. The 177km circuitous route, starting and finishing in Nîmes, had just the one categorised climb – a simple fourth category ascent a little after the halfway point – but it wasn’t the terrain that was going to be difficult; instead, it would be a combination of the sprinters champing at the bit to take the win on the flat finale and the heat, with temperatures reaching the high thirties.

Five made their move early on, building an advantage of two minutes as the stage progressed, but it was clear that the peloton was keeping a close eye on this quintet, the lead never exceeding those two minutes. As the race neared the intermediate sprint 65km in, Peter Sagan moved through the bunch, eager to take some points after the break had taken their share, although the Slovak rider held off from giving too much here, instead focusing his efforts on the finish.

Knowing there would be a headwind in the final 30km as the race turned back towards Nîmes, it was essential to be well-placed and to save energy. Into the final 10km and the escapees were just hanging on, with fifteen seconds in hand, but the peloton was confident of making the catch. After allowing the other teams to work, it was here that BORA-hansgrohe took over – appearing on the front with 4km to go, Daniel Oss riding hard at the head of the bunch.

The city streets stretched out the peloton, helping the break stay out a little longer, but with 2.5km to go, Daniel had managed to shut the escape down after a huge effort. Peter was surfing wheels as the race wound up for the finale as the bunch exceeded 60km/h before the sprint even started. Obstructed by riders peeling off the front as the kick started, on finding space he pushed hard for the line. Finishing in fourth, the green jersey holder added to his points total, as Emanuel Buchmann stayed safe in the bunch to ensure there was no change in the overall standings.

PEter Sagan

Peter Sagan (green jersey) wasn't far behind winner Caleb Ewan.

From the Finish Line:
"It felt like we were racing in an oven today... In this flat stage, it was important to make sure again my opponents didn't gain many points in the intermediate sprint and then in the finish, to try to do my best. We rode very well, my teammates did a very good job but unfortunately, I found myself without a lot of space in the final metres. Still, I was able to take fourth on the line and keep a good lead in the points classification." – Peter Sagan

"I think it was a good stage for BORA-hansgrohe. Both Peter and Emanuel were well-protected and we managed to avoid the crashes. With 50km to go, we moved to the front, in order to react quickly in the crosswinds, but in the end, they were much weaker than expected and there wasn't any real action. Our guys positioned Peter well for the sprint finish but in my view, he waited a bit too long and lost his momentum. However, we're happy with his fourth place, he added more points to his tally." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

Sunweb's Cees Bol leaves the Tour after stage 16:

As a precaution, Cees Bol will not start stage 17 of the Tour de France tomorrow. The team has taken a day by day approach to monitor the first year pro’s condition and with some big mountain stages to come in the Alps, the decision has been made to not rush things and exceed Bol’s limits.

Cees Bol

Cees Bol winning the first stage of this year's Tour of Norway.

Speaking of the decision Bol said: “Of course it’s with mixed feelings that I leave the race but I think it’s the right thing to do. Upfront we made the plan to take a day by day approach to avoid exceeding the limits. Until the first rest day I coped pretty well and together we fought for some nice results. I took on the Pyrenees with both the rest day and still today’s sprint opportunity for the team in the back of my head. After a talk we decided that with the tough stages coming up this is the moment to pull out. The Tour was a great experience for me and can’t be compared to anything else in cycling. I hope I will be back for more.”

Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek added: “The goal with Cees was primarily to make the next step in his development as a rider and not to reach Paris at all costs. He is still a first year pro in his first grand tour, and we want to protect him from overreaching. Cees had a great Tour. We were really in the race battling for stage results and this will be very beneficial for the next steps in his career. With the difficult days ahead of us we planned to make a decision after today’s stage. We decided that it is the right moment for Cees to go home so that he is not overreaching, and that he can recover and work towards his next goals in the last part of the season.”

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