Monday, July 24, 2017

BMC's Van Avermaet Third At Paris-Roubaix

BMC Racing Team's Greg Van Avermaet enjoyed a career-best third-place finish at Paris-Roubaix Sunday while earning back-to-back podium placings in cycling's two cobblestone classic monument races.

Van Avermaet was part of a group of seven sprinting it out in the Roubaix velodrome at the end of the 253.5-kilometer race. Also third last week at Ronde van Vlaanderen, Van Avermaet was not able to follow a surge by race winner John Degenkolb (Team Giant-Alpecin) coming out of the last turn. Czech Republic national road champion Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) held off Van Avermaet's late charge to take runner-up honors.

"You always want to win the race, but I knew it would be pretty hard against Degenkolb," Van Avermaet said. "He is strong in these kinds of races and he was pretty strong when he came to us. He did a few good pulls and I was a little bit empty at the end. It was hard to come to the finish. I felt a little bit of energy going away in the last five kilometers and had to put out the maximum to get on the podium.

With only two of 27 cobblestones sectors and 12 kilometers to go, Van Avermaet and his BMC granfondo GFX followed an attack by Yves Lampaert (Etixx-Quick Step) and the pair quickly gained 20 seconds. But coming out of the penultimate cobblestone sector, Degenkolb had bridged the gap. The trio was then joined by four others as they exited the final section of pavé within sight of the velodrome.

"I never really had a great feeling today," Van Avemaet said. "Last week, I was feeling good at Flanders. Today, I had to fight against myself on the cobbles. I think I did a good attack with Yves Lampaert in the end. But we could not hold off Degenkolb and Stybar and the others. In the end it was hard to beat them in the sprint."

Van Avermaet's finish bettered his fourth-place result at this race in 2013. It was his fifth third-place finish of the season to go along with a runner-up result at Strade Bianche and a victory in March on Stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico.

Manuel Quinziato was the BMC Racing Team's next best finisher in 34th, 2:55 back. Daniel Oss, who was eighth at Gent-Wevelgem, 10th at E3 Harelbeke and 11th last week at Ronde van Vlaanderen, took a tumble into a ditch with about 53 kilometers to go. He was able to continue and finished 67th.

"Quinziato was doing a great job of protecting the team by following several attacks," BMC Racing Team Sport Director Valeria Piva said. "We had a bit of bad luck with Oss because he was also strong and we planned to have him in the final. But Roubaix is a race like this. We can be happy for the podium. Greg was obviously in top shape, so it is too bad he was not able to win one of the monuments."


Success on Both Coasts as the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Takes Three Criterium Wins

In a busy weekend of racing for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team.

The Blue Train found success on both sides of the country, with National Criterium Calendar racing in North Carolina, and road racing action in Redlands, California.

Read more: Success on Both Coasts as the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Takes Three Criterium Wins

Sean Yates: Oman was important preparation ahead of target races

This year’s edition of Tour of Oman came to a conclusion on Sunday’s stage 6. The stage saw a breakaway making it to the finish line ahead of the peloton, where Peter Sagan won the sprint in the main bunch. Rafal Majka was the best-placed Tinkoff-Saxo rider, as the talented climber finished 4th in the general classification 32 seconds behind race winner Rafael Valls.

The short 138km Stage 6 to Muttrah Promenade was decided among the riders of the early breakaway, as the peloton never managed to close the huge nine minute gap that had opened up with only 50km to go. In the front, it was Matthias Brändle that powered to stage victory, while Peter Sagan won the bunch sprint for fifth place shortly after.

“In the past, this has always been a sprinters stage. However, it was harder than in previous years. The break went early and the sprinter’s teams left the chase too late. They didn’t really start pulling hard before the 25km marker, which was of course too late. We decided not to take up the chase alone, as we’ve been riding a lot in the front. In the bunch sprint, nevertheless, Sagan proved to be the fastest, so that was unfortunate for us”, says Sean Yates, sports director of Tinkoff-Saxo

Despite the absence of stage wins, Sean Yates was satisfied, as he summed up the overall race.

“Obviously, we would have preferred to take home a stage win from Oman. However, our season is not defined by our results at this point of the year. We want to start steady and we have our eyes fixed on the major races of the season. At the end of the day, it’s the big stage races and Classics that matter for a team of our caliber. As a group the guys have been riding really well”, says Sean Yates and elaborates:

“Sagan has been up there on several stages, also today, where he won the subsequent sprint in the peloton. So we know that he’s on the right track with his preparations ahead of the cobbled classics”.

Rafal Majka finishes as 4th in the overall standings after strong performances on stage 2 and stage 4 up Green Mountain, where he was among the best on the final, steep climb. It was the first race of the season for the young double Tour de France stage winner, which Yates sees as a positive sign ahead of the European stage races.

“If you look at the history of the race, Rafal was among the all-time fastest up Green Mountain. And considering the big names, such as Rodriguez and Nibali, who were dropped on the climb, I think it bodes well for his possibilities in the spring stage races. He’s a rider on the ascendancy and his teammates obviously respect him as a team leader, as his potential is quite obvious”, finishes Sean Yates, who together with fellow staff and riders seals Tinkoff-Saxo’s Middle Eastern campaign and heads back to Europe for more racing.



Tinkoff-Saxo ready for Tour Down Under queen stage despite high-speed crash

Stage 4 of Santos Tour Down Under looked like a delicacy for the sprinters. The fast men didn’t let that opportunity go and the stage ended in a mass sprint with Steele von Hoff (UniSA-Australia) taking the win, while a crash brought down a large part of the peloton in the final 150 meters.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Chris Juul-Jensen, an important part of the setup around GC captain Michael Rogers, was involved but escaped without serious injuries allowing him to continue ahead of the all-important stage 5 to Willunga Hill. Lars Michaelsen, leading DS at Tour Down Under, explains:

“The stage went as expected. After some attempts, a breakaway group formed, which was then caught again before the final sprint. A classic sprinters stage you might say. For us it meant that we could save some energy before tomorrow’s stage. However the big pileup within the 150-marker brought down Chris, he hurt his elbow and hand, but he will be able to continue. That’s a part of the game, sometimes these high-speed crashes happen and there’s nothing you can really do”.

All eyes on Willunga Hill
As the sprinter’s teams played cat and mouse with the breakaway, Tinkoff-Saxo focused on protecting team leader Michael Rogers, who had showed great signs on the tough stage 3. Lars Michaelsen tells that “there were a few times during the race, where we had to really concentrate - before some of the small climbs, on the descents and going into the final sprint” - but he reckons that all GC favorites have their eyes fixed on tomorrow’s stage to the, by now, legendary climb Willunga Hill.

“Tomorrow’s stage will decide the race, there’s no secret in that. Of course, surprises can happen, but most likely we’ll see the GC guys, including Michael Rogers, battling it out on the last 3 kilometers on the 7 % climb. I know that Michael is motivated, and the team is ready to support him. Probably the wind and weather will play a factor tomorrow, so we will stay alert and make sure that Michael is delivered at the final climb to finish the work himself”, concludes Lars Michaelsen after today’s stage.

None of the GC riders lost time on the stage as the time was suspended due to the crash in the final meters. Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) was the big mover on the day, improving his GC position from tenth to fourth due to the bonus seconds he picked at the finish line, where he was second. Rohan Dennis (BMC) still leads the race with Michael Rogers in sixth.

Stage 4 Results
AUS  1  VON HOFF, Steele (UniSA-Australia)       3:24:28
RSA  2  IMPEY, Daryl (ORICA GreenEDGE)          
NED  3  WIPPERT, Wouter (DRAPAC)                
AUS  4  HAUSSLER, Heinrich (IAM CYCLING)        
GER  7  SELIG, Rudiger (KATUSHA)                
NED  10 DE KORT, Koen (GIANT - ALPECIN)         

General Classification after Stage 4
AUS  1  DENNIS, Rohan (BMC RACING)               13:41:34
AUS  2  EVANS, Cadel (BMC RACING)                    +  7
NED  3  DUMOULIN, Tom (GIANT - ALPECIN)              +  9
RSA  4  IMPEY, Daryl (ORICA GreenEDGE)               + 13
AUS  5  PORTE, Richie (SKY)                          + 15
AUS  6  HAIG, Jack (UniSA-Australia)            
AUS  7  ROGERS, Michael (TINKOFF - SAXO)        
ESP  8  FERNANDEZ, Ruben (MOVISTAR)             
FRA  9  BOUET, Maxime (ETIXX - QUICK STEP)      

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