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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, March 2, 2019

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UAE Tour stage six reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner and GC leader Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team:

Primoz Roglic has put the icing on the cake in the queen stage of the UAE Tour. The overall leader of Team Jumbo-Visma won the sixth stage to the top of the Jebel Jais, the highest point of the United Arab Emirates, after impressive team work.

For Roglic, it is his first individual win of the season. Earlier this week, he already won the team time trial. For Team Jumbo-Visma it is the fourth victory this year.

Primoz Roglic wins stage 6

Primoz Roglic wins stage six.

Team Jumbo-Visma controlled the stage all day. On the final climb, the team took the initiative and was well-represented in the front with Jos van Emden, Tony Martin, Koen Bouwman, Laurens De Plus and Roglic. With five kilometres to go, De Plus took over. The Belgian’s pace was high up to the last five hundred metres, after which Roglic finished it off sovereignly in the sprint.

The overall leader was impressed by the work of his teammates. “Today, we showed how strong we are as a team. I am very happy that I have been able to reward the efforts of my teammates with a stage victory. The boys kept me safe and in the front. This victory is for the team.”

Tomorrow, the UAE Tour will end with a stage in Dubai. “A new day. I did well regarding the GC today, but we’ll have to stay focused and make sure we won’t be caught by surprise”, the Slovenian concluded.

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

With two riders in the top 10 of the UAE Tour’s stage six, the UAE Team Emirates once again underlined the overall quality of its roster.

The race debuted the Jebel Jais mountain finish, climbing 16km at a 6% average. Daniel Martin took 4th place and Rui Costa placed in 9th place at the finish at 1458 metres altitude.

Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) won the stage and strengthened his lead in the general classification.

The group took the climb at a high but regular pace that left only 15 riders for the last kilometre. At 300 metres from the finish, Daniel Martin shot forward and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) replied and then Primoz Roglic with a winning charge.

Dumoulin held on for second and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) took third.

Roglic leads the overall, 1-11 minutes ahead of Martin in seventh, with only one stage left, the Dubai Safari Park-City Walk.

“It was a lively day in a group, but thanks to my team-mates for their wonderful work in supporting me,” Martin said. “The climb was very fast, different from the European ones, so it became quite a tactical game. I think I was more effective today than the stage that ended on Jebel Hafeet, which makes me happy, although I still lack a bit to be able to follow the changes in rhythm in the final.

"Tomorrow, we’ll try to take the chance to help Fernando sprint again.”

And Bora-hansgrohe sent me this stage six report:

The sixth stage of the UAE Tour commenced in Ajman in the northeast of the country. The first 130km passed through flat terrain before ramping up to Jebel Jais. This ascent was around 20km in length and had an average gradient of approximately 5.4 per cent.

The final 35km contained more than 1500 metres of elevation. Already during the first few kilometres, a soloist escaped from the field and not long afterwards, he was joined by 7 further riders. The gap of this group grew continuously during the day, at one point reaching 9 minutes. The peloton reacted quickly and tried to spoil the plans of the breakaway. Under the tempo that was meted out by the teams of the favourites in earnest, the gap came down relatively quickly, and as a result, some riders from the break had to fall back. On the climb to Jebel Jais, the field quickly became strung out and broke up into several groups, and many riders found themselves in difficulty.

With 2km remaining, only 20 riders were left in the reduced field, including Emu Buchmann, Davide Formolo and Maximilian Schachmann. With 300 metres to the finish line, D. Martin opened up the sprint, but was overtaken by T. Dumoulin. In the last few metres, however, P. Roglic was able to come from behind and race past the Dutch rider to take the win. Maximlian Schachmann took out 7th place. His teammate Emu Buchmann finished the stage in 8th position, and was therefore able to maintain his 4th place in the overall standings.

From the finish line:
“A 20km long climb sounded good, but the ascent today was actually too flat for me. The tempo in the last few kilometres was incredibly high, and because of the wind there was no point in attacking. I am satisfied, that I was up there at the front, and my form is good. It’s a bit disappointing that I only missed out on the podium by a few seconds, but in general I’m satisfied with how the week went.” – Emanuel Buchmann

“We tried to support our climbers and GC hopefuls and bring them into a good position on the final climb. In the end, Emu [Buchmann] and Maximilian [Schachmann] were able to hold their own against the favourites. In the finale, Maximilian finished in 7th position, while Emu collected 8th place. I think this is a good result. Davide [Formolo] admittedly lost some time, but this is one of his first races in the season, and so when one takes that into account, his performance today was not bad. We’re looking forward to the last stage of the UAE Tour, where we’ll be looking to fully support Sam Bennett.” – Enrico Poitschke, Sport Director 

EF Education First headed to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

The team sent me this lovely race preview:

The opening weekend of the Spring Classics is upon us as we start racing the Belgian cobbles at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Cobbles biting at tires slowly drain most of the peloton of its energy. Riders, sports directors and mechanics tick off each cobble sector and climb as it passes. They are all attentively listening to the race radio, poised and alert, ready to help any of their riders with mechanicals, punctures or crashes.

There will be many. The cobbles are far less forgiving than the roads we race on during the rest of the season.

The Spring Classics require equipment adjustments, a fair bit of luck and a huge uptick in resources from a professional cycling team.

“I think on paper we currently have 21 bikes ready and 55 or 56 wheel sets, which is ridiculous, right?” says EF Education First sport director Andreas Klier says ahead of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the official spring season opener.

We enlist locals, who have become friends, to disperse throughout the route with the spare equipment.

Despite the added challenges and drama that come with these races, the Classics are heartily embraced. With them come mud, beer and the glorious enthusiasm that Belgians bring to bike races. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad lifts the country out of its winter slumber, signaling the build-up to two of the biggest one-day races on the calendar: Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

“These races are a big party for the spectators,” Klier explains. “It’s like the World Championships and the Olympic Games from now until Paris-Roubaix."

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad not only marks the start of the Classics season, it’s also the first European WorldTour race of the year. The race begins in Ghent, as it did last year. The 199.8km course weaves through the Flandrien countryside over seven cobble sectors and 13 climbs, known to the Flandriens as ‘bergs’. A 12km flat section will lead the peloton down into the finish at Ninove after the cobbles and hills have wrung them out to dry.

The infamous cobbled climb of the Muur de Geraardsbergen, with ramps up to 20 percent, followed shortly after by the Bosberg, serve as the finale. Expect attacks to come thick and fast.

“The tactics are you can’t really have tactics in this type of race!” says Sep Vanmarcke. “Basically in all these Classics the first half of the race is to mainly make the riders a bit tired and then from half-way the hills and the cobbles start, as do the attacks.

Vanmarcke is a seasoned Classics racer. The Belgian won Omloop het Nieuswblad in 2012 and has finished third in the spring season opener for the last two seasons (2017-2018). A born and bred Flandrien, Vanmarcke currently lives in Anzegem, only 40 kilometers from the start of Saturday’s race.

Sep Van Marcke

Sep Vanmarcke wins 2012 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad ahead of Tom Boonen and Juan Anotnio Flecha.

“Anything can happen,” says Vanmarcke. “It’s so nervous that people crash a lot. You need to fight a lot for your position, and I need to be with my teammates and trust that they will bring me to the right position. Then in the final it’s man-to-man and it’s just very different and hard to choose the tactic.”

After winning the opening stage of Tour du Haut Var this year, Vanmarcke goes into the Classics’ season with renewed self-belief. “This win gives me a lot of confidence, you just think ‘Okay, I am in good shape.’ whereas other years you think ‘Am I good enough?’ and now I know I should be good enough,” Vanmarcke says.

A win like this means a lot to Vanmarcke, who over previous years has felt the pressure that naturally comes with being Belgian, leading the team at the biggest one-day races on the calendar and following in the footsteps of cycling’s greats. He admits that there have been times when this pressure has been too much for him, and  he’s struggled. His recent win has sparked a response that counter-balances that sense of stress.

“Every Belgian rider wants to be on this top level. But also I’ve started to feel it over the last few days when I’m training or in the supermarket, to feel people are awake again because the Classics are coming. People are super happy I won that stage and on my training days, they’ve been stopping their cars to shout ‘Congratulations’, ‘Good job’, ‘Keep going’ and ‘Good luck this weekend,’” Vanmarcke says, trying to convey just how much the momentum is beginning to build.

“If you are Belgian and you sit at breakfast and open the local newspapers you can read the pressure,” Klier laughs.

Thousands of people make the pilgrimage to this sacred cycling ground to celebrate the men and women who tackle these fabled roads. Riders are expected to maintain peak form for six weeks, from opening weekend until mid-April when the Spring Classics come to a close with Paris-Roubaix.

“It’s not always easy to find an even balance, to be in the best ever shape now but then to keep that form up to Flanders, Roubaix it’s not easy,” Klier explains. “Sep has been training with the intention of building his form to peak around Flanders and Paris-Roubaix as opposed to previous years coming into this opening weekend in peak form and then trying to hold it all the way through.”

"The team asked me this year just to focus from E3 Harelbeke through to Paris-Roubaix,” notes Vanmarcke.

It’s a shift for Vanmarcke from previous years, and there’s also a bit of a shift in the team. Vanmarcke isn’t the only one coming in with a win. The team has garnered five victories in the first eight week of the year.

“All the riders just love racing at the moment,” Klier says. “There is the fun factor on top of the motivation. I saw a lot of smiling faces when I looked around at the training camp. I hope we’re also going to have smiling faces on Saturday or Sunday.”  

EF Education First for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad:

Sep Vanmarcke
Sebastian Langeveld
Tom Scully
Matti Breschel
Taylor Phinney
Alex Howes
Mitch Docker

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