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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, July 26, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places. - Henny Youngman

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Tour de France stage 18 team reports

We'll start with the report from winner Nairo Quintana's Team Movistar:

“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion!” After a race where things didn’t go as he planned, Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) did on Thursday at the 2019 Tour de France what only the greats of sport can do: showing again the level of performance he’s always proven to have, and claiming a big stage victory in the Alps after 207km, nearly 5,000 meters of vertical gain and three big climbs from Embrun to Valloire.

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana wins stage 18. The stain on his jersey is from a spilled food gel.

Quintana was part of an early, 23-man breakaway where he was always supported by Carlos Verona and Andrey Amador, the latter taking big turns for his team-mates to chase the gaps in the early slopes of the Lautaret, the slight ascent towards the start of the Col du Galibier (HC). Seven kilometers before the top, 26 from the end, the Boyacá native attacked from the break, finding no real opposition as the likes of Romain Bardet (ALM) and Alexey Lutsenko (AST) quickly lost more and more terrain as they tried to keep close to Quintana. It’s Nairo third career stage win in the Tour -after mountain-top victories in Semnoz (2013) and the Col du Portet (2018)- and an extra chance to go for a good overall result, now 7th -just over two minutes behind the podium- with two mountain stages remaining before Paris.

Behind at the GC group, the efforts by Marc Soler to make the race contenders suffer at the Izoard didn’t have much effect, and despite Julian Alaphilippe’s (DQT) struggle near the top fo the Galibier, all big GC names finished together – but one: Egan Bernal (INS). The Colombian put 32″ over the line on a group containing Mikel Landa -now 8th overall-, while Alejandro Valverde concede 58″ against the yellow jersey to now sit in 10th place.

Friday’s stage 19, the second Alpine journey of this year’s ‘Grande Boucle’, will cover just 126km, yet with five rated climbs that include the Col de l’Iseran (HC) and the final ascent to Tignes (Cat-1), just two kilometers before the end.

Nairo Quintana: “This victory is a proof of the big efforts we’ve made for so many months leading up to this race. We worked so hard, we did things we thought were right, yet the race didn’t go as we had wanted. We kept our head down, kept digging and here’s the result. I knew it could be a good day for me, and we talked with the team about any possible strategy to go for a good result. In the end, we got this stage victory – we also gave it a try with Mikel, picking up the pace behind so he could attack and gain some places back. On an individual side, things went good for me, but above all, this is a victory which proves how good the team has done over the race. They worked really hard during the entire Tour, helped me a lot. It was sad when I lost time in the Tourmalet, but here we are. This goes to my team-mates, my family and my country, which has always been supporting me, at good times and not so good. It’s always a big emotion to be able to win such a great stage, on a route for the climbers. Here I was, doing well in my terrain, over beautiful climbs, those that I like.”

Mikel Landa: “Everyone knows how tough Nairo is. He never surrenders, and again proved today the quality he has. He got himself into the breakaway, did an excellent job, and he will play a big tactical factor for the whole team in the remainder of the race. We saw some riders struggling, and that’s why we set that pace through the Izoard – we then stopped, so the breakaway could gain some terrain back. There wasn’t really many moves into the GC group before near the top of the Galibier, which allowed Alaphilippe staying with us. He’s got that spark, and was able to get over that difficult moment. He’s still there and everyone has got respect for what he’s going. In my case, having Nairo ahead, we were also making our rivals a bit nervous and I had to respect that position and not try a move, so he could keep that gap. I saw the main contenders doing well. It’s been a tough day, and the fact that no one really lost time means that it’s going to be tight. Let’s see if we can take advantage from our current situation to have one of us on the podium. None of us will get a margin to try a long-range attack anymore, yet the terrain ahead is tough, it will be hard to control the race and it could make it easier to attempt something different. We must keep trying until the very last day.”

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

The main story of this year’s Tour de France, Julian Alaphilippe showed once again why he’s the embodiment of panache and resilience, this time on a stage containing the mythical Col d’Izoard and Col du Galibier, as well as 5200 vertical meters, a combination of factors that made for another stressful and wearing day.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe heads off to start the 2018 Tour's first day in the Alps. Sirotti photo

Not just Julian, but also the entire Deceuninck – Quick-Step team rose to the occasion, relentlessly working at the helm of the bunch and keeping an eye on the breakaway until the tough Col de Vars, where a change of pace whittled down the peloton, leaving under 30 riders in the main group. The yellow jersey had Enric Mas with him, and the Spaniard’s presence turned out to be instrumental when Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) attacked more than two kilometers from the top of the Galibier.

Mas dully moved to the front of the reduced group and paced Alaphilippe, keeping the Colombian’s gap in check until a new series of attacks came thick and fast, and the status quo went up in smokes. Distanced and under pressure, Julian remained composed and once he crested the summit, he put in a daredevil descent, going full gas into the switchbacks and making contact with the group, thus nullifying the 20-second gap the others had opened.

Despite the fact that Bernal finished half a minute clear of the chasers, Julian – who led the chasers on the downhill – easily retained his yellow jersey in Valloir, just as heavy rain was beginning to make the descent complicated, and will wear the iconic garment for the 14th time on Friday, a beautiful reward for the determination and guts showcased on the first Alpine test.

“First and foremost, I have to thank my team, because they were amazing and did a great job protecting me. I knew it was going to be hard today and that there was a chance of losing everything, but I stayed calm and then, on the descent, I just pushed myself and took some risks, knowing that it was my chance to get back. At the end of the day, I’m very happy that I kept the maillot jaune”, said the leader of the UCI Individual Classification.

Here's the report from Team INEOS which has both the second & third-placed GC riders:

Egan Bernal launched an impressive move on the Col du Galibier as Team INEOS looked to take the fight to the yellow jersey on stage 18.

The young Colombian accelerated on the steep slopes of the hors-categorie climb, opening out a gap to his rivals which he retained at the finish in Valloire. Crossing the line 32 seconds ahead of the chasing pack, Bernal elevated himself into second place overall, just five seconds ahead of team-mate Geraint Thomas.

Thomas also launched an attack higher up the famous climb in a bid to crack the yellow jersey of Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step). The Frenchman was briefly distanced over the summit but was able to regain the lost ground on the lengthy descent.

With two mountain stages remaining he holds an advantage of one minute and 30 seconds over Bernal, who extended his lead further in the young rider standings.

Team INEOS worked hard throughout the day, initially placing Dylan van Baarle in a 34-man breakaway. After pressure from Movistar shredded the peloton on the Col du Izoard, Jonathan Castroviejo played a crucial role, regaining contact on the descent, before driving the pace onto the lower slopes of the Galibier. Van Baarle then dropped back to take over, before Bernal made his big move.

Egan Bernal:
"For us it was really good. I gained a little bit of time on Alaphilippe so I'm really happy for that. G asked me how I was feeling. I said I was feeling really good so he asked me to attack to try to move the race. Then he tried to come with me, but once he saw the guys were on his wheel he stayed with them.

"I was feeling much better when I was at altitude, I don't know if it was just mentally. The last 8km was more than 2000 metres. I was feeling much better and I hope tomorrow can be good for me. I tried to do a time trial in the last 3km. I don't know from how many kilometres out I attacked. I just viewed the finish as the King of the Mountains (summit) and I did my best on the downhill. I was careful to not crash."

Geraint Thomas:
"We wanted it to be hard but the pace just wasn’t really there. The call was made for Egan to just go and hopefully that might kick it off a bit. And it didn’t really – Mas just started riding his tempo. That’s when I went as well, just to test how everyone was. At least Egan gained some time on everyone else.

"I was feeling pretty good today. Two big days to come now. We kind of knew that today wouldn’t be a huge difference and it would be hard to drop Alaphilippe. But it’s certainly going to put some fatigue in everyone for the next two days."

Here's the report from fourth-place Steven Kruijswijk's Jumbo-Visma team:

Steven Kruijswijk has passed the first Tour de France stage in the Alps well. The leader of Team Jumbo-Visma lost a place in the general classification, however, although the time gap with the yellow jersey of Alaphilippe remained the same. The stage started without Tony Martin. The exclusion of the German was appealed, but that decision was not reversed before the peloton started the stage.

After a quick opening phase, a group of 33 riders escaped, including Amund Jansen and Mike Teunissen of Team Jumbo-Visma. The remaining escapee Nairo Quintana took the stage win. On the Col du Galibier, Kruijswijk was able to follow the pace of his competitors, but this group let Egan Bernal go. The Colombian finished more than half a minute ahead of the group with Kruijswijk. As a result, the 32-year-old Dutchman dropped one place in the GC.

Steven kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk earlier this year. Sirotti photo

“I got through the day well”, Kruijswijk said. “In the descent of the Galibier it was all hands on deck for a while. When Alaphilippe returned, it was important to limit the damage to Bernal. I also did not want to take too many risks. The fact that it started to rain in the end, was not ideal. It was a grueling day with those three long climbs. Nobody dared to go early, because they were afraid to pay the price. Although I didn’t feel great, I survived the stage.”

George Bennett crashed twice and was medically checked. No major injuries were found.

GC 6th-place Emanuel Buchmann's Bora-hansgrohe squad sent this update:

208km is hard enough on flat terrain, but today the riders on stage 18 of the Tour de France would not only have to contend with that distance, but also three categorised climbs on the parcours. They weren’t just any categorised climbs, but two of the most famous Hors Catégorie mountains in the world of cycling – the Col d’Izoard and the Col du Galibier. The Izoard was 14.1km long, with an average gradient of 7.3%, while the Galibier had a shallower gradient of 5.1%, but its 23km distance made it draining and energy sapping – made worse by the sudden steep change in gradient at the top.

Today could see the GC standings change dramatically, but before this, the sprinters in the peloton knew there were some points up for grabs before the climbing started, the intermediate sprint coming after 45km. Peter Sagan was working hard to get into the break but his rivals for the Maillot Vert knew this and worked hard to bring the attacks back in. Not only this, but the climbers knew that today would be a great opportunity for the break to take the win and they too were challenging to escape.

Thirty-three riders eventually made their way up the road, their lead growing to more than three minutes after 60km of racing, going out to six minutes as they hit the foot of the first climb, the Col de Vars, with its 7.5% slopes. As the road pointed upwards, riders started to be distanced from the break, dropping off as their efforts took their toll, while in the peloton, a small GC group formed, with both Emanuel Buchmann and Gregor Mühlberger representing BORA-hansgrohe here, and as they made their way up the Izoard, there were just nineteen riders left in this group.

At the foot of the Galibier, the break had halved in number from riding at a punishing pace – made all the more difficult by their constant attacking and counter-attacking – but they were still more than five minutes ahead of the yellow jersey group. Shrinking again to just five, the break was still pushing on, 4:30 in hand on the GC chasers, as it became clear just how difficult the day had been.

Back in the peloton, it was here that Gregor, having ridden to keep Emanuel safe much of the day, finally dropped off after his hard efforts. On the Galibier, it was clear the other riders in the overall group saw Emanuel as a threat, marking him and staying close.

The attacks came on the steeper gradients at the top of the day’s hardest climb, but knowing there was still a long descent to the finish, the German rider was instead concentrating on keeping his rivals in touch, but not emptying his fuel tank in the process.

The remnants of the break were still ahead – including a solo attacker maintaining a strong lead on the overall riders and it was clear that their advantage would hold until the finish. Cresting the Galibier together and dropping the yellow jersey for a short while, Emanuel’s group saw that the day’s outcome was going to be less about who was the best climber, but who could make it down the descent in one piece, especially as coming into Valloire, the roads were wet with rain, making the final few kilometres treacherous. This didn’t faze Emanuel, staying in complete control all the way to the finish line, and with the stage win taken from the escape, he led out the yellow jersey group to take eleventh after more than five hours of hard riding.

There was no change in the GC standings for Emanuel, holding sixth at the end of the day, while Peter Sagan goes into stage 19 leading the points contest having been in the green jersey since stage 3.

Buchamnn and Bernal

Emanuel Buchmann leads Egan Bernal across the line at the end of stage 15. Sirotti photo.

From the Finish Line:
"Movistar ramped up the pace on the Izoard, making the race hard, so it was important to have Gregor by my side. I'd like to really thank him for his effort, he managed to crest and then was also helpful in the first part of the Galibier. The pace wasn't too hard there and that could be the reason Alaphilippe could follow us all the way to the top. When Bernal attacked, our plan was to wait for the reaction from Jumbo-Visma. I followed Geraint's attack and together with Pinot we were able to catch him. I would say that was the hardest part of the race. Alaphilippe was dropped for a short time but then came back in the downhill. So, overall it wasn't a day where you could make substantial gains but on the contrary, you could lose time, which I avoided. My legs are in good shape and I am fairly positive about the next two hard mountain stages." – Emanuel Buchmann

"The start of the stage of fast and furious, it was crazy. The fight to form a breakaway group was so tough that even before it finally went away, some riders were already dropped. In the end, there was a big group where we weren't represented. It wasn't the ideal outcome but not a big problem either because of the absence of important and dangerous riders for the GC or for Peter. None of the sprinters took any points in the intermediate sprint, so we were covered in the points classification. The race was under control until the Izoard where Movistar accelerated. It was very important to have Gregor supporting there but also at the beginning of the Galibier. When Bernal attacked, for us it was clear Emu had to stay with Jumbo-Visma and Geraint Thomas. When Thomas attacked, Emu was able to close the gap, so, overall, he had a really good race. The time differences are still small, the GC is tight and we were able to save some energy today because, for the climbers, this stage wasn't as hard as feared. We are still optimistic about the last two mountain days." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

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