Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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)      

Tour Down Under, Stage 4: Keeping The Lead

BMC Racing Team's Rohan Dennis and Cadel Evans avoided injury in a crash in the finishing straight Friday to keep their places in the top two spots on the overall classification at the Santos Tour Down Under.

Neither rider went down in the pile-up that happened fewer than 300 meters from the finish of the 144.5-kilometer stage that was won by Australian national criterium champion Steele Von Hoff (UniSA-Australia). BMC Racing Team's Michael Schär, who was escorting Evans, said the downhill sprint made for a more dangerous situation.

"The speed was very, very fast in the peloton – I think we were going over 60 or 70 kilometers an hour," the past Swiss national road champion said. "Some guys just took too many risks and they went down. I was right behind Cadel and we were sprinting full gas and just hoping we wouldn't go down. Luckily, we stayed upright and everything was fine."

With two days of the race to go, Dennis leads Evans by seven seconds. Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant-Alpecin) is third at nine seconds, while Daryl Impey (ORICA-GreenEDGE) finished runner-up to Von Hoff and earned a total of nine bonus seconds on the day to move from 10th to fourth, 13 seconds back.

Dennis said his first day in the ochre leader's jersey was a smooth one, thanks to the help of his five teammates.

"It was a hectic day, a bit stressful," he said. "But the team was great. They really rode well together and kept me out of trouble whenever it was stressful. They protected me perfectly."

Saturday's penultimate stage finishes atop Old Willunga Hill. The stage was pivotal in last year's race in which Evans lost the overall lead by a single second to eventual winner Simon Gerrans (ORICA-GreenEDGE) while Richie Porte (Team Sky) took the stage win. Porte sits in fifth overall, 15 seconds back of Dennis.

"Our goal is to get both Cadel and me on the podium as one and two," Dennis said. "There is no definite leader. What we want to do is strive to be one and two at the finish and try to pull off the team classification. The one thing in cycling is that you have to risk everything to win everything. It is risky, but it is definitely possible – with Cadel's form, with my form and with the team we have."

The BMC Racing Team remains the leader in the Virgin Australia team standings while Dennis also holds the lead in the Cycle Instead "young rider" competition.

Wippert Powers to Third in Stage 4 at Tour Down Under

January 23th, 2015 (Adelaide, Australia) —Wouter Wippert sailed to third today in a dramatic sprint finish atop Mt. Baker.  With a long relatively flat finishing straight, Wippert was the first to jump but Steele von Hoff came around to take the victory ahead of Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) and Wippert. Immediately behind the leaders, a major crash occurred. Drapac's Travis Meyer was one of the riders that went down, fracturing his hand.

“I am happy for third today. The boys were looking after me all day. They moved me up on the flat parts so we could drop a few positions on the hills and protected me. Travis brought me to the last corner and Graeme then delivered me perfectly. I knew with the slight downhill at the finish and the tailwind, my top speed would be high,” Wippert said, who was also third at last Sunday's People Choice Classic.

The race started in Glenelg to a large, enthusiastic crowd. William Clarke launched early in the race, as he did in yesterday’s stage, but was quickly reeled in as BMC was covering the front of the race closely.

At 23km, an attack stuck with Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEdge) Peter Kennaugh (Sky), Cedric Pineau (FDJ) and former race leader Jack Bobridge (UniSA) getting clear of the field. The gap went out to 2:25 but was reeled back just before the intermediate sprint. Another three riders got off the front after the sprint and built a gap of 2:00 but were caught at 9km to go. Then the sprint teams filed to the front.

“I was on the edge along the barrier, Graeme was guiding and I followed. We had great positioning and he got me where I needed to be. I am pleased with the place and know I can do better,” Wippert said.  “Again, we have a good team and today we showed it.”

Being the first major race for the 2015 squad, the result shows a good starting point for the Drapac sprint train.

“I really wanted full commitment from everyone and we got it today. The boys came together well and it showed. The result is good and hopefully we can move up a few spots on Sunday,” Tom Southam, Sports Director, said.

A major pile up occurred at 200 meters to go and Drapac’s highest place GC rider, Travis Meyer went down. Meyer was taken to hospital for x-ray and was later confirmed to have fractured his hand and has withdrawn from the race.

“It is a blow for us to lose Travis today,” Southam said. “He has performed well all week and today was vital in the sprint for us.”

“I thought I was getting through and then I realized I wasn’t and all I saw was barriers. I thought to myself, ‘I am going to go down hard’. It could have been a lot worse,” Meyer said.

Meyer is meeting with the doctors tonight to determine exact healing time.

“It was nice to see Wouter get third today and I would have liked to have helped him on Sunday. To not be there is a bit disappointing,” Meyer added.

Michael Rogers in top finish on final climb at Tour Down Under

Tinkoff-Saxo’s GC captain, Michael Rogers, was in the mix of GC contenders fighting for the win on stage 3 of Tour Down Under. With a steep, final 2-kilometer climb featuring percentages around 15 % on some sections, the favorites drew swords and battled it out up towards the finish line in Paracombe.

Michael Rogers finished 5th on the day and takes 7th overall in the same time as Richie Porte (Team Sky) in 4th. They are now 15 seconds down on race leader Rohan Dennis (BMC), who also took the stage win following a surprise attack on the last 200 meters of the stage. Upon his return to the Tinkoff-Saxo team hotel, Rogers commented:

“I’m very happy with how it went today. It was a new and untested climb. We hit the bottom after 140 kilometers in a hectic pace, I made sure to find my rhythm and I actually felt pretty good on the climb, which is definitely a nice way to start the season”, says Michael Rogers.

For the third day in a row, four riders made it into the main breakaway of the stage. The group had several minutes on the pack for the majority of the race, but as the favorites closed in on the final climb, so did they on the breakaway, which was caught with 8,7km to go. Tinkoff-Saxo’s Christopher Juul-Jensen, Oliver Zaugg and Jesper Hansen worked hard to position team captain Michael Rogers in the front of the field before the final steep kilometers.

Climb got the system online
The favorites and their lieutenants immediately set a ferocious speed on the climb in what seemed as an uphill lead-out. A small gap among the favorites was closed on the last 0,5km and that was where Rohan Dennis jumped from the front group and secured the stage win. According to Michael Rogers “today’s stage definitely got the system online”.

“Today was actually a bit of a shock really - at least for my body. It was the first stage of the season, where we went full gas on a climb. Normally, I prefer longer and steadier climbs but I felt good today, and I look forward to stage 5 to Willunga Hill, where the race will be decided”, explains Michael Rogers, who is glad to see his fellow teammates finding their race shape.

“The boys are getting better and better. I had a few race days before Tour Down Under at the nationals, but guys like Chris Juul, Zaugg, Jesper Hansen are really finding their race speed. I think we can create some good results together here at the second part of the race”.

Oliver Zaugg crosses the finish line after having provided valuable help leading up to the final climb 

Michael Rogers won Tour Down Under in 2002. Since then he has seen the race grow bigger each year with an increasing amount of enthusiastic spectators along the Australian roads.

“As a native Australian, it’s really encouraging to see this great race evolve. There are so many people at the side of the roads enjoying the summer and showing their support for cycling”, finishes Michael Rogers.

With tomorrow’s 145km stage from Glenelg to Mount Barker favoring the sprinters, the GC contenders will have to wait until Saturday for the queen stage to Willunga Hill.



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