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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, March 29, 2019

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Volta a Catalunya stage four reports

We posted the race report from stage winner Miguel Lopez's Team Movistar with the results.

Here's the organizer's short post:

Miguel Lopez, the winner at La Molina and new leader of la Volta Ciclista a Catalunya was confident after his great victory.

“The triumph gives me a lot of confidence because I have started the season very well at Colombia, we came to París – Nice with calm, but we lose a nice victory that we had been working at, we had put aside the victory for that day but it went away. I needed to win, always being second or third, and I have accomplished it today. I’m also very motivated because my son is on his way here and that gives me more motivation”, has affirmed Superman Lopez.

Miguel Lopez

Miguel Lopez wins the stage and the GC lead.

In front of the few difference that he has over rivals as Adam Yates, Egan Bernal or Nairo Quintana, Miguel Angel has been confident of his possibilities. “I don’t fear any of them because I also have a good position for the climb. You have to respect the other riders, but you don’t have to fear them. We have tried today and it has gone well for us.”

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this stage 4 report:

Stage 4 of the Volta a Catalunya was another mountainous day with one HC climb and another mountain top finish at La Molina, which the riders had to pass two times on the 150-kilometer-long course. In the descent from the first climb of the day, Gregor Mühlberger and Max Schachmann took off from the bunch together with 23 riders to build the day’s breakaway, which led the main bunch by more than three minutes.

As the escapees had reached the top of the Porte de la Cuesta, Gregor Mühlberger attacked with two other riders, while Schachmann controlled the race in the chasing group. Team Sky drove the main bunch the first time up to La Molina, and as a result the group of favorites got already small with 25k to go. Before the top, first Mühlberger dropped his companions, before M. Soler bridged across to the young Austrian. Both worked together well and at the bottom of the final ascent they enjoyed still a 1:30 lead over the group of favorites. The pace was high, and it was still Team Sky who pulled, swallowing up the chasers with 10k to go. Also R. Majka looked confident today, still following the likes of Quintana and Bernal.

When M. A. Lopez attacked from the first bunch, he managed to bridge across to the leading duo quite fast. But after a long day in the break, Gregor was still able to hang on the Colombian’s wheel. On the final 1000 m Lopez increased the pace once again and both, Soler and Mühlberger couldn’t follow any more. Gritting his teeth, Mühlberger was able to secure a strong second place, while Rafał Majka came in ninth, to move into tenth place overall. A strong day in the mountains for BORA – hansgrohe.

From the Finish Line:
“After yesterday’s stage, which was disappointed for us, the guys showed fighting spirit today. We went into the day’s big breakaway with Gregor and Max, both guys rode an offensive race and took control from the beginning. But the whole team did well today, and Gregor got rewarded with a strong second place. But also, Rafal rode with the best and finished 9th, moving up to 10thin the GC, which was our plan.” – Jens Zemke, Sports Director

“I am really happy with my result. I didn’t have the best legs to be honest but wanted to give it a try today. Max and I went into the breakaway, then I attacked to lead with Soler. It was not easy at all, and when Lopez bridge across, I knew I am not going to win because he was a lot fresher. But I gave it my all and was still able to secure second today. I think that was the maximum in the end.” – Gregor Mühlberger

“I have still not fully recovered from my crash at Tirreno- Adriatico, but I feel that my form is coming back. Day by day it is getting better, therefore I am satisfied with my current tenth place in the GC and especially that I was able to climb with all the other strong climbers today.” – Rafal Majka 

Coppi-Bartali Week team stage two reports

We posted winner Mikel Landa's Team Movistar report with the results.

New GC leader Lucas Hamilton's Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this:

Australian Lucas Hamilton moved into the race lead of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali after finishing second on a hilly stage two in Italy.

The 23-year-old jumped clear from the peloton with Mikel Landa (Movistar Team) on the final lap of a tough finishing circuit, with the duo staying away to contest the finish.

The Spaniard got the jump on Hamilton in the run to the line, but the prize for second place was the leader’s jersey and a 16-second lead in the overall.

Mikel Landa

Mikel Landa wins stage two.

With five climbs on the cards, including the passing of the Ville di Monte Tiffi on three occasions, Mitchelton-SCOTT were happy to let a breakaway of six go clear. The gap to the escapees began to fall as the race approached the Ville di Monte Tiffi for the first time and Giovanni Visconti (Neri Sottoli - Selle Italia – KTM) went solo over the top, while attacks began in the peloton behind.

The race was all back together as the pack approached the last lap, with one more climb still left to contend with.

The final ascent presented a key opportunity for attacks and Landa took that chance as he jumped away from the bunch and he was quickly followed by Hamilton.

The pace in the peloton stalled as teams scrambled to get organised and form a chase, with Mitchelton-SCOTT happy to see Hamilton go up the road. As the finale approached it was clear it was going to be a two-up sprint for the victory, with Landa taking the day while Hamilton took the leader’s jersey.

Lucas Hamilton:
“The stage today was a pretty solid day and because we had the jersey the team rode awesome on the front all day and controlled the whole race. Everyone did an amazing job which made it easy for us guys who were waiting for the final climb."

"We pretty much just made sure that we held onto the GC today, obviously a stage win would have been nice but it was good to be able to cover all the moves and we had a couple of options."

"The plan was just to keep it all together and control it until the final climb and then try and cover the moves that came. We weren’t too stressed about Movistar as they lost time in the TTT yesterday, but obviously Landa was the strongest climber today so when he went I went with him hoping we could get a gap on the Team Sky guys who weren’t so far behind on the GC."

Matt Wilson (Sports Director):
“The breakaway went with no serious GC contenders so we were happy to let that go and we basically controlled the whole day until we hit the circuits.”

“The guys rode incredible, it was never really in doubt that we wouldn’t bring it back and then on the last lap Landa attacked and Hamilton went with him. Back in the bunch we still had (Damien) Howson and (Nick) Schultz behind and they did a good job of blocking the road.”

“It’s a shame for Lucas to not get the win but we’re very happy that we’ve increased our lead in the general classification and we’re in a pretty good position now going into stage three.”

Teams looking forward to E3 BinckBank Classic

Lotto-Soudal sent me this preview:

Friday 29 March, Lotto Soudal will be at the start of the E3 BinckBank Classic, a WorldTour race that is often regarded as a rehearsal for the Tour of Flanders (7 April). Between the start and finish in Harelbeke, fifteen hills and several cobbled sections await the riders.

The 62nd edition of the 200 kilometres long spring Classic underwent some changes compared to last year. Climbs like Wolvenberg, Oude Kruisberg and Eikenberg were left out of the course, but the finale has not changed much. Things are expected to kick off with the Knokteberg, at 95 kilometres from the line. Afterwards, sharp and steep climbs like Kortekeer, Taaienberg and Boigneberg follow in quick succession. At around 40 kilometres from the finish, the famous duo Paterberg-Oude Kwaremont will reduce the contenders for the victory even more. After the ultimate hills of the day, Karnemelkbeekstraat and Tiegemberg, the riders will set course for start location Harelbeke, where the successor of Niki Terpstra will be crowned. Tiesj Benoot, who finished fifth last year, talks about his ambitions, the course and the competition.

Tiesj Bennot

Tiesj Benoot in this year's Strade Bianche. Sirotti photo

Tiesj Benoot: “After Tirreno-Adriatico, I rested a bit and afterwards I resumed training, did a recon of the course and tested some equipment. I rode well in Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico so I hope to continue like that during the spring Classics. In the shape that I am in right now,  the podium in the E3 BinckBank Classic should be the ambition. Last year, I finished fifth in Harelbeke and also previous years, I was part of the group just behind the winner. So, I have always been there during the finale and I hope of course, to be up there again on Friday and to battle for the win.”

“Compared to last year, there have been some changes to the route but it still is a typical E3 course. The removal of the Eikenberg is a serious change. That way, there is some more time after the Taaienberg - always one of the crucial points in the race - to move up. But in fact, once you start the Kortekeer climb, it is difficult to gain positions. The narrow passage ways, the hills and the cobbled sections make it a race in which there are almost no moments to recover. That is to my advantage because such kinds of races really suit me. Course-wise, it is the toughest Flemish spring race.”

“With nice temperatures and little wind, the weather conditions for Friday look fine. I prefer bad weather, like it was the case last year. That gives another dimension to the spring Classics, but the course is tough and selective enough to make it a beautiful edition. I hope for a long finale, as was the case last year.  The ideal scenario for me would be to be part of a small group, attack and then finish solo in Harelbeke. Because there are a lot of candidates for the victory, I won’t keep an eye on specific riders. Guys like Oliver Naesen and Wout Van Aert were of course impressive during Milan-San Remo. The shape of Peter Sagan is also going upwards, so he sure is one of the main favourites.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Stan Dewulf, Frederik Frison, Jens Keukeleire, Nikolas Maes, Lawrence Naesen and Brian van Goethem.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

And here's CCC Team's preview:

28 March 2019: Greg Van Avermaet will fine tune his preparation for the Tour of Flanders at the re-named E3 BinckBank Classic this Friday, followed by Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.

Van Avermaet, who was victorious at the then-named E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem in 2017, is looking to continue his early season success on home soil which saw him on the podium at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet wins E3 in 2017.

Sports Director Fabio Baldato said the tough block of racing in Italy from Strade Bianche through to Milan - San Remo was the ideal preparation for the team that will support Van Avermaet.

“We are more or less taking the same team to the next Belgian Classics, only swapping a couple of riders in and out of some of the races. The core Classics team has been with Greg in the past weeks in Italy and the long, tough stages provided a good foundation for the upcoming Classics. We know that Greg is in good shape and he will naturally be our leader at E3 BinckBank Classic. The key to the Classics is to be aggressive and have multiple options so our riders will be protecting Greg and setting him up as best they can for the finale. E3 BinckBank Classic is typically a mini Tour of Flanders and is a race that suits Greg’s strengths. He won in 2017 and was on the podium last year, so we hope to see him back up there again on Friday,” Baldato said.

“Gent-Wevelgem is typically more of a sprinters’ Classic and we often see a larger group of 30 or 40 riders going for a bunch sprint. However, as we saw when Greg won in 2017, anything can happen especially when no-one takes responsibility for chasing any late attacks on the flat run into the finish. Greg has always been up there and in the right moves at Gent-Wevelgem and with his current shape, it should be no different on Sunday,” Valerio Piva, lead Sports Director for Gent-Wevelgem, explained.

Van Avermaet is hungry to return to the terrain he feels most comfortable on; the cobbles. “It’s always exciting to get to this point in the season, the final races before Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. I feel good and am confident in the shape I have after Italy. It was frustrating to have a few near misses so I’m going to channel that frustration into these Classics and hope to be back on the podium,” Van Avermaet said.

“As a team, we have raced the last two months together and I think we are working well. All of the guys have a lot of experience on the cobbles and know the roads so I’m confident that we will race aggressively. The key to success at the Classics is a combination of form and luck. I know I have the form so I can’t wait to get back to the start line on home soil.”

E3 BinckBank Classic:
Rider roster: Kamil Gradek (POL), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Gijs Van Hoecke (BEL), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BEL), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL), Łukasz Wiśniowski (POL)

Sports Directors: Fabio Baldato (ITA), Valerio Piva (ITA)

Rider roster: Paweł Bernas (POL), Szymon Sajnok (POL), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Gijs Van Hoecke (BEL), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL), Łukasz Wiśniowski (POL)

Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA), Fabio Baldato (ITA)

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