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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, September 12, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

One man cannot hold another man down in the ditch without remaining down in the ditch with him. - Booker T. Washington

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Vuelta a España stage 17 reports

We posted the organizer's report with the race results.

Here's the report from stage winner Philippe Gilbert's Deceuninck-Quick step team:

A massive show of strength, endless amount of guts and an immeasurable performance from the entire Deceuninck – Quick-Step team contributed to a gripping Vuelta a España stage 17, which not only will easily go down as one of the best in the history of Grand Tours, but also netted a string of accolades for the Wolfpack, including a 60th UCI victory of the season.

On paper, it should have been a relatively quiet day, over a slightly undulating terrain, from Aranda de Duero to Guadalajara, where the race returned for just the sixth time in history. But the Wolfpack had other plans and as soon as the bunch exited the neutral zone, they asserted their authority over the race, ripping the peloton through the crosswinds and forcing what proved to be a crucial selection.

Eros Capecchi, Rémi Cavagna, Tim Declercq, Philippe Gilbert, Fabio Jakobsen, James Knox, and Zdenek Stybar all booked a place in the 46-man group and brought out the heavy artillery, showing again why our squad are the peloton’s crosswinds experts. From kilometer three until the finish of the longest stage of this year’s Vuelta (219.6km), Deceuninck – Quick-Step relentlessly drove a burning pace, putting over six minutes between the leading group and a depleted field on this fast, dramatic stage, and turning the race upside down.

A sudden injection of pace with 40 kilometers remaining helped the chasers cut the deficit by more than a minute, giving a glimmer of hope to the bunch, but it was just a brief moment which immediately cooled down, as the Deceuninck – Quick-Step-powered group continued to ride unabated, causing more havoc and averaging more than 50km/h as they pushed the lead out to 5:30.

Inside three kilometers to go, Zdenek Stybar threw in an effort as the road went up and carved out a small advantage, but he was pulled back with 500 meters to go. Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) was the first to open the sprint, but Philippe Gilbert remained attentive and tracked down the attack, catching and surging past the Irishman when he ran out of steam on the stiff gradient to the line, thus adding an 11th Grand Tour stage win to his tremendous palmares.

“The stage was complicated and very aggressive right from the start with the wind and everything, but we were very motivated and had a plan, so we hit the front early and did our thing. It was just crazy out there and I can tell you I have never experienced anything like this in 17 seasons as a pro. I am sure this stage will forever remain in the history of La Vuelta and people will talk about it for many years from now on. All this makes my win, which was possible only with the help of a fantastic and committed Wolfpack, even more sweet and unforgettable”, Philippe Gilbert said after his 77th pro victory, which landed him the prestigious Ruban Jaune, awarded to him after recording the fastest average speed (50.63km/h in this case) in a race longer than 200 kilometers.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert wins stage seventeen. Sirotti photo

On an astonishing day for the team, packed with great racing and a whirlwind of emotions, which brought four Deceuninck – Quick-Step riders in the top 10 in Guadalajara, including a solid third for Rémi Cavagna, James Knox’s leap into eighth on the general classification ended up being the cherry on the top.

“We knew it was windy, we knew it was exposed, and we went full gas as soon as we had the opportunity. When we found ourselves at the front, we knew we were going to give everything and really believed we would go all the way to the line. We rode for the overall standings, but also to protect Phil. What we did today is pretty unreal and I’m not sure I’ll ever top this”, said the 23-year-old Brit, who couldn’t contain his delight after having been one of the day’s main beneficiaries.

Second-place Sam Bennett's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

The race headed back to racing after the second rest day and kicked off the final week with the longest stage in this year’s Vuelta a España. Almost 220 kilometers from Aranda de Duero to Guadalajara with a short but 3% steep uphill finish awaited the peloton today.  With strong winds along the route, echelons made the race even harder.

It was a fast first hour with an average race speed of 50 km/h, which a large group of 47 riders took advantage of to build today’s break. BORA – hansgrohe’s fast man, Sam Bennett, was among them and together with his breakaway companions they opened up a lead of more than four minutes. With some of the GC contenders also being part of the break, the rest of the BORA – hansgrohe riders stayed at the front of the main bunch and helped to drive the pace which cause some more splits.

After 88km of racing eleven riders from the breakaway dropped, but Sam Bennett was still at the front in a now 33­­-rider big break. By winning the intermediate sprint he collected four extra points in the battle for the green jersey. The race headed towards the finish in Guadalajara with Sam still being at the front.

Meanwhile Rafał Majka still tried hard to limit his losses together with some other GC contenders. At the front of the race Sam Bennett saw himself battling for the victory against six Deceuninck - Quick Step riders. He fought hard the last kilometers but it was Philippe Gilbert who crossed the line two seconds ahead of the Irish Champion, who took a strong second place.

Unfortunately, Rafał Majka crossed the line some minutes behind and lost two positions on the overall, sitting in seventh place now, more than seven minutes down on Primoz Roglic.

Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett at the start of stage sixteen, Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
“Of course, I wanted to take the win today, but at the end it was a battle six against one. However, Gilbert was the strongest and therefore congrats to him. Today's stage was from kilometer 0 until the line just ridden with high speed and many attacks. I made it into the breakaway of the day and felt quite good, at the end it was just enough for second place.” – Sam Bennett

“It was an extremely hard stage with an incredibly fast tempo right from the start. We have to be honest to ourselves and face the truth, that we were missing the large break with Rafał. Following this mistake, we lost two positions on the overall and got some minutes. For the stage win, Sam was up there but he saw himself fighting against a strong and big group of Deceuninck- Quick Step riders, however he sprinted onto the podium and still took a great result. Well, sometimes you win, sometimes not, but you always learn something.” - Patxi Vila, Sports Director

And here's what race leader Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team had to say about the stage:

Primoz Roglic was surprised in the spectacular seventeenth stage of the Vuelta a España, from Aranda de Duero to Guadalajara. The riders turned the windy region of Castilla-La Mancha into a battlefield. There have been several changes in the general classification. Roglic survived the echelon stage, despite losing some time to the new second place rider. He is still well positioned as the leader of the race.

Primoz Roglic

Roglic is still in red.

A big breakaway group of more than 40 riders got clear at the beginning of the stage. It quickly became clear that some attentive GC riders were present. Together with Astana and the UAE Team Emirates, Team Jumbo-Visma avoided any serious damage.

Sports director Grischa Niermann was relieved that the stage was finished. “It was a very nervous day. A group around fifty riders got clear after we'd raced just two kilometres. We were there, but not with Primoz. After the group got a few minutes, we knew that a hard and difficult day was coming up. It was not a good day for our team. We have to be thankful to other teams for their help. Fortunately, Primoz is still in a very good position.”

Roglic conceded that he had made a mistake at the start of the race. “It was a very hard stage. I have made a mistake which I really have to learn from. I wasn’t in the place that I should have been. The team made a big effort and helped me out. However, I never panicked. Luckily were are still in a very good position. We lost today’s battle but of course not the war. I think there will be more battles between the GC riders the upcoming days."

Tour of Britain stage five reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Stage winner Dylan Groenewegen's Jumbo-Visma team sent me this update:

In Birkenhead, Dylan Groenewegen has claimed his third stage victory in the Tour of Britain. In the fifth stage, the leader of Team Jumbo-Visma majestically won the bunch sprint after a textbook lead out.

Dylan Groenewegen

Dylan Groenewegen wins stage five.

It is a fourteenth victory of the season for Groenewegen. It's already the 46th for Team Jumbo-Visma.

The stage in and around Birkenhead was animated by a leading group of four riders who were chased down in the final. Groenewegen lost position on the final climb, but was brought back in position by a strong Jos van Emden. Jansen and Teunissen then brought their leader into an ideal position in the last two hundred metres.

"I am very happy with my third stage win,” Groenewegen explained. “This was a really good team performance and a great lead out. However, compared to the previous days I didn't have the best feeling. We had the stage under control and Koen did a lot of work in the chase. On the final climb we were not in an entirely ideal position. Thanks to Jos, we were back at the front at the right moment, after which Amund and Mike started a fantastic sprint. This victory is not only good for my morale, but also for the team."

New race leader Matteo Trentin's Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this:

Stage two winner Matteo Trentin has moved himself back into the overall race lead at the OVO Energy Tour of Britain, after sprinting to third place and picking up valuable bonus seconds on the finish line of stage five today.

Matteo Trentin

Matteo Trentin wins Tour of Britain stage two.

It was Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma) who took the stage honours in another bunch sprint finish and now, after five days of racing, Trentin sits three seconds ahead of his nearest overall rival, Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), heading into tomorrow’s individual time trial stage.

Like all of the previous stages, a breakaway group established within the opening 15kilometres of the day. Four-riders headed away from the bunch and hovered around the two-minute mark.

Team Jumbo-Visma and Corendon-Circus took the responsibility at the front of the bunch to control the distance to the leaders. The advantage to the quartet dropped back under one-minute with around 50kilometres to go, the hard chase behind and a strong headwind not playing into the advantage of the escapees.

Just two riders remained ahead with 20kilometres remaining and Mitchelton-SCOTT headed to the front to begin to help with the chase.

The day was finally over for the remaining breakaway riders with six-kilometres to go and Mitchelton-SCOTT remained at the front, following moves and keeping Trentin in a good position to try for the stage win.

On a slight uphill drag to the line, the sprint teams came forward and it was the usual battle for the stage win.

Trentin was able to finish inside the top three to take four important bonus seconds and leap-frog yesterday’s stage winner Van der Poel to move back into the race lead with three-stages remaining.

Matteo Trentin - Race Leader:
“I’m back in the jersey and luckily for the team it is a time trial tomorrow so they don’t need to ride on the front all day again. The plan was to sit back a bit today, the guys rode amazingly the last couple of days, they deserved a rest and they need a rest.

"As I said before, in this race you don't have one single day of breathing and when you have the leader’s jersey it is another extra workload to support it. You could see also Corendon-Circus today, they had to ride to try and keep the jersey, they didn't want to give the jersey away that easily.

“With Van der Poel you can guess he will be good tomorrow, nobody really knows how he goes in a time trial but I think he is going to be good.

“Lets see, the time trial is going to be a bit more of a defence for me because I have never been that good in time trials but I have good legs so I am hoping it is going to be a good day.”

Matt Wilson - Sport Director:
“We knew that Trentin was going to be one of the faster guys for the final today. Obviously Groenewegen was the fastest and it would be very hard to beat him but second or third was definitely up for grabs today.

“It is great that Trentin was able to get third and that he is back in the lead, he now has a healthy lead of 22seconds over most of the time trial favourites for the stage tomorrow, so it is going to be a very very interesting GC after tomorrow, that’s for sure."

Lotto Soudal previews GP Québec and GP Montréal

The team sent me this:

With the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on Friday 13 September and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal on Sunday 15 September, two one-day WorldTour races in Canada are scheduled this weekend. Tim Wellens was already successful in Montréal and is again part of the contenders for the victory this year. Sports director Herman Frison confirms.

Time Wellens

Tim Wellens win the GP Montréal in 2015.

Herman Frison: “In both Québec and Montréal, the course consists of local laps. Québec has a very tough finish, which ends with one-kilometre stretch of false flat. In the final three to four kilometres, the peloton could split, but often, a considerable group sprints for victory. The rider who still has the most energy left in the tank at the end of the race will win because it is a course that suits strong finishers.”

“In my opinion, Montréal is a little harder. Immediately after the start, there is a long climb, followed by another one mid-race. Afterwards, it goes towards the finish, where the riders are presented with another hill. The two races in Canada are really beautiful and if the weather is nice, there will most likely be a big group that sprints for the win. If the weather conditions would be bad, I fear that the whole bunch will be stretched out.”

“But I have to admit that bad weather conditions could maybe play into our hands. Tim Wellens already won in Montréal in wet conditions. Also this year, he is the clear leader and the other Lotto Soudal riders will mainly ride at the service of Tim, which means they will protect him or they will join a breakaway. We like to make it a hard race, so it may well be that we will ride very aggressively.”

“I haven’t looked at the list of participants yet, so I don’t know exactly who will be at the start, but riders like Matthews, Vanmarcke, Oliver Naesen and Wellens will have a good chance. The better punchers will battle for victory in Canada.”

“This diptych in Canada sure is important because they are WorldTour level. You need to be at the start with a clear goal in mind, something we have with Tim Wellens. In addition, Monfort, Vanendert and Dewulf are excellent riders to join a breakaway, if necessary.”

Adam Hansen suffered a foot injury, so Lotto Soudal will be at the start with six riders.

Line-up Lotto Soudal GP Québec: Stan Dewulf, Nikolas Maes, Maxime Monfort, Lawrence Naesen, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.

Line-up Lotto Soudal GP Montréal: Stan Dewulf, Nikolas Maes, Maxime Monfort, Lawrence Naesen, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary