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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, June 15, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. - Michelangelo

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Critérium du Dauphiné stage six team reports

Here's the report from stage winner Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Three days after turning 27, Julian Alaphilippe made himself a beautiful and hard-worked gift – a second career stage victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné. To add to his delight, the win came with a bonus in the shape of the prestigious polka-dot jersey as leader of the King of the Mountains competition. For Julian, who has enjoyed a stellar season so far, it was the tenth win since the month of January, which sees him stay at the top of the 2019 victory rankings.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe just wins stage six. Sirotti photo.

Stage 6 of the French World Tour race contained eight classified climbs and had the riders navigate a long course of 229 kilometers between Saint-Vulbas Plaine de l’Ain and Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne. Surprisingly, only three men decided to take on this rugged territory via the breakaway, attacking and getting a gap after 12 kilometers: Julian Alaphilippe, Alessandro De Marchi (CCC Team) and Gregor Muhlberger (Bora-hansgrohe).

On the lengthy valley road that took them to the first ascent of the day, which averaged a whisker over 7%, the trio’s advantage reached 11 minutes. Surprisingly it continued to stretch further until after the feed zone, when several teams joined forces and upped the pace, scratching off two minutes in the Maurienne valley, the ancestral passage traversed by Hannibal and his army during his famous campaign to invade Rome.

Alaphilippe continued to score in the KOM classification, making sure he would don the polka-dot jersey at the end of day. The last ascent of the stage was Col de Beaune, which made its debut on the Critérium du Dauphiné, and it was on this 8.1km-long climb averaging 6% that the concord between the escapees went up in smokes. Following these numerous skirmishes, De Marchi was dropped and didn’t return at the front, as Julian and Muhlberger continued to push on the technical descent.

Calm and carefully biding his time in the strong headwind at the finish, the Milano-Sanremo champion opened his sprint with only 120 meters to go and held off the Austrian, nabbing the stage for the width of a tyre. After two trips to the podium – for the stage honours and the best climber jersey – the charismatic Frenchman talked of what winning in front of his home fans meant for him.

“I’m always hungry and every victory is important, but to take a stage at the Dauphiné – my first race of the season in France – is really special and makes me extremely happy. The stage was long and hard, but we worked well together and opened that huge gap. In the sprint, I knew that Gregor was explosive and that with the headwind it was important not to go too early. It’s a beautiful win, good for my confidence before the Tour de France, and the fact that it brought me also the blue jersey makes it a really perfect day”, said Julian after netting Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s 36th success of the year.

Second-place Gregor Mühlberger's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

It was a rainy start into today’s longest stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné. The course took the peloton from Saint-Vulbas Plaine de l'Ain to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne over 229 km. On the way to the finish, the riders had to face eight categorized climbs, three of which were category 2 ascents. Directly after the start, a group of well-known riders formed the breakaway of the day and one of them was BORA – hansgrohe climber Gregor Mühlberger. Together with J. Alaphilippe and A. De Marchi, the group went up the road and was able to extend their lead to more than five minutes.

With 125 km remaining a new maximum time gap was recorded and the trio had more than ten minutes advantage, which increased still on the following kilometers. Therefore, today’s stage winner would come out of this group, also the peloton eased up the pace. The young BORA – hansgrohe rider put in a great effort in the day’s break and was always up there. As the leading trio faced the penultimate climb of the day, 25 km before the finish, their advantage was still more than 12 minutes.

Alaphilippe and Mulhberger

Mühlberger and Alaphilippe head for home. Sirotti photo

It was on the final climb of the day, in the last 10km of the race, that Mühlberger and Alaphilippe launched an attack. De Marchi wasn’t able to follow and had to pull back, while Mühlberger tried to drop Alaphilippe several times. The final kilometers were earmarked by a battle between Mühlberger and Alaphilippe, who headed into the final stretch, which featured a headwind, together. Mühlberger started his sprint from the front and looked confident to take the win, when Alaphilippe was able to beat him to the line by only centimeters. Still Mühlberger showed an unbelievably strong performance on today’s first mountain stage at this year’s Dauphine.

From the Finish Line:
"The team gave me a chance to fight for a stage win today. After 13km of racing a breakaway went up the road. We were a really small breakaway with only three riders but we worked really good together and were able to open up a huge gap. In the last 15 km the attacks were flying but I was able to counter every attack, and held Alaphilippe and De Marchi under control. Finally, just us two battled for the victory. In the finale, I missed only some centimetres to Alaphilippe." - Gregor Mühlberger

“Our Plan was to be part of the day’s break with Gregor. First, we were unsure about such a small breakaway but as the gap increased, we knew the winner would come out of this group. At the beginning, Sam tried to follow but decided to stay in the peloton then. We kept an eye on Alaphilippe, we knew he would be the guy to beat. Gregor did everything right, he rode such a strong race. To lose by millimeters is such a pity but he will have more chances to come.” – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

GC Leader Adam Yates' Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this report:

On today’s longest stage of the eight-day race, Mitchelton-SCOTT worked to keep Adam Yates safe once again to maintain his overall race lead in Critérium du Dauphiné after a breakaway trio stayed away to the finish line.

Adam Yates

Adam Yates finished the stage safely to retain the GC lead. Sirotti photo

With his teammates surrounding him, Yates was never in trouble and made it through the stage to finish in eighth place, six-minutes behind the stage winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep).

The 229km day included eight-climbs and was characterised by a breakaway of three-riders, Alaphilippe, Alessandro Demarchi (CCC) and Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe). The trio jumped away from the peloton in the early stages but as Team Sunweb led the initial chase, it looked as though the trio wouldn’t be given much freedom to stay away.

However, after 50kilometres of racing the peloton had given up and allowed the group to ride away. Working well together, the three-riders opened up huge lead of over 13minutes at one point, with Mitchelton-SCOTT heading the peloton behind.

The majority of the stage was pretty uneventful with the leaders maintaining their healthy advantage in rainy conditions. With no threat to Yates’ overall lead, the bunch passed the finish line for the first time with a nine-minute deficit and 12kilometres remaining.

Over the final climb, the peloton reduced but Yates had teammate Jack Haig for company, navigating the final descent safely and keeping an eye out for any late attackers.

The Brit finishes the day with the same lead of four seconds over his nearest rival Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), with a crucial and brutally hard stage coming tomorrow, which includes three first-category climbs and a Hors Category climb to finish.

Adam Yates - Overall race leader:
“It wasn’t a full gas stage. The three guys away were quite far down on the GC and everyone else was happy with what we were doing. On the last climb, we expected the race to be a little harder.

"It’s a short stage tomorrow and the day after, so I’m sure a lot of guys want to break away. There’ll be a long climb of 20km to finish with. I almost haven’t done anything like that this year yet but I feel good. It’s hard to say what will happen. We’re all still very close on GC.”

Third-place Alessandro De Marchi's CCC Team sent me this:

14 June 2019: Alessandro De Marchi battled to third place from the breakaway on the longest stage of Critérium du Dauphiné, which featured as many as eight categorized climbs.

Alessandro De Marchi

Alessandro De Marchi heads for the finish line to claim third place. Sirotti photo

It was the third breakaway for De Marchi in this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné after also attacking on stage two and five and this time, the breakaway was allowed to stay away.

De Marchi pulled away after 12 kilometers of racing, going clear with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick Step) and Gregor Mühlberger (BORA - hansgrohe) and the trio quickly established a very sizeable lead.

With all three riders having lost time in the General Classification earlier in the race, and therefore not posing a threat to the GC riders, they were able to gain 11 minutes on the bunch and entered the second, more demanding part of the stage very confident in their chance to fight for the stage win.

De Marchi was battling against Alaphilippe for points on the categorized climbs and was pulling hard to extend the advantage over the peloton. The collective effort from all three attackers saw the breakaway increase the gap to nearly 14 minutes, all but ensuring that the winner would come from the break.

On the last climb, the category two Col de Beaune, a game of cat and mouse ensued with the breakaway riders attacking each other repeatedly and De Marchi, who was doing a good job of pacing himself, was able to come back to the group and launch his own attacks.

Eventually, he lost contact just before the top and despite a fierce chase on the descent, he had to settle for third place, 22 seconds behind stage winner, Alaphilippe.

Alessandro De Marchi:
"It was not easy to get into the breakaway and the key moment, when the group was formed, was on the downhill from the first small bump, where we made the selection. That moment marked the start of a really long day for us. It was quite funny because the beginning of the stage looked similar to yesterday's finale, with three guys breaking away and the peloton chasing."

"It was a really hard and long race because the other riders were strong and the parcours was demanding. In the end, it was all about the legs and I did what I could against these two guys. Maybe I needed a steeper climb because today it was quite fast up the hill and the duo was very quick when they attacked. I was able to come back two or three times and I tried to launch my own attacks but with 500 meters to the top I fell behind. I think I’m going in the right direction, heading into July and I was still third which is a good confidence boost."

"My two previews breakaways didn’t have an impact on my legs today. Yesterday the course was not too demanding and we were pushing strong only in the last 50 kilometers. Today I was feeling okay and it was not about yesterday’s effort but the current form."

Sports Director, Jackson Stewart:
"The idea was to get in the break since the stage was long, with a difficult final and we thought that with so many good climbers in the line-up we can’t wait for the last climb and we need to be up the road. We were also hoping that the GC teams would be willing to let a group go and not spend so much energy on bringing the breakaway back on such a long day."

"The riders who went clear with De Marchi were really strong and nobody could get across. Mitchelton-Scott was willing to let the gap open and in the end everyone gave what they had. The trio was pretty equally matched and De Marchi gave a few attacks to see if he was on a great day but, he lost contact right towards the top of the climb."

"When you’re that close to winning you’re always disappointed but, we can be happy with how everything played out today. Earlier in the race we were seventh, today we got the top three and we were close to achieving our goal of winning a stage. De Marchi’s condition is very good as he comes towards July and the other guys are also doing well and growing from this race. Obviously, we want to win, but we can also be happy with the podium."

Lotto-Soudal previews Tour of Switzerland/Tour de Suisse

The team sent me this:

With the Tour de Suisse, there is another tough preparation race for the Tour de France about to kick off. For many riders, the 83st edition of the Swiss stage race is a proper final test for the Tour, while others still want to make use of their Giro shape.

On Saturday 15 June, the nine-day stage race starts with an individual time trial in Langnau to finish with the queen stage on Sunday 23 June. While most general classification riders are finalizing their Tour preparation in the Critérium du Dauphiné, others prefer this Swiss race. Last year, the Australian Richie Porte took the overall victory, he shared the podium with Jakob Fuglsang and Nairo Quintana. Mario Aerts, sports director at Lotto Soudal, predicts a tough edition.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte won the 2018 edition of the Swiss Tour. Sirotti photo

Mario Aerts: “The Tour de Suisse will be even more tough than other years. Apart from two time trials, it is almost always about riding uphill. The ninth and last stage is maybe the hardest one of them all but I think the general classification will already take shape earlier in the race. Both stage six and seven include a summit finish, on the Flumserberg and the Gotthard Pass, respectively.”

“I do not want to express the ambitions of Lotto Soudal just yet. There are several guys within our line-up who come back from injuries. Just think of Jelle Vanendert for example, who was forced to abandon the Giro with knee problems.”

“With Stan Dewulf, we have a young talent within our line-up. First and foremost, he needs to gain experience in his first hard stage race. Adam Hansen, who finished the Giro, should be fit but he is riding at the service of Maxime Monfort or Tiesj Benoot, who went on an altitude training camp together. Especially for Tiesj, there are a couple of stages which should suit him well. We will take it day by day and then we’ll see if there are any general classification ambitions.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Stan Dewulf, Adam Hansen, Maxime Monfort, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert and Enzo Wouters.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Marc Wauters.


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