Saturday, June 24, 2017

Majka secures mountain jersey

It was the last chance for the climbers to make a difference in this year’s Tour de France when the peloton took on the 145 kilometer long 18th stage from Pau to the grueling uphill finish in Hautacam. Along the way, the pack was challenged with the ascent to Col du Tourmalet, a climb that has been a part of the Tour since 1910 where the organizers biggest concern was bear attacks in the wild landscape of the Pyreness. Today, most riders probably feared and expected an attack from the “shark”, Vincenzo Nibali. Hautacam has been a part of the Tour since 1994 where Luc leBlanc outsprinted Miguel Indurain. Bjarne Riis secured his Tour de France win by winning here in 1996 wearing the yellow jersey.

Today, 20 riders formed the long-lasting breakaway and Tinkoff-Saxo had no riders in the front group. In the main pack, Astana controlled the pace and they never let the front group completely out of sight. Cresting the Tourmalet, two riders, Blel Kadri (AG2R) and Mikel Nieve (Sky) created a gap to the rest of the breakaway riders and no one up the road was danger for Rafal Majka in the king of the mountain classification as the nearest rival was Nibali. On the descent from Tourmalet, second overall Alejandro Valvede (Movistar) dived down the mountain and bridged the gap to two teammates, Jesus Herrada and Jon Izaguirre in the breakaway. But Valverde was brought back before entering the foot of Hautacam.

The front duo had a lead of only one and a half minutes entering the lower slopes of Hautacam where Astana picked up the pace causing clutches of riders to drop out the peloton’s backdoor. Soon Nieve was alone in the front but the quest for stage glory was doomed as Chris Horner launched an attack and immediately managed to create distance to the field – apart from Nibali who soon launched a fierce counter-attack and was now chasing and passing Nieve.

Then Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafal Majka turned on his turbo engine and flew up the road on the chase while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) cracked and was dropped by his nearest rivals, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R) who were only 8 seconds apart overall. They dragged along Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and they bridged over to Majka. They were not able to catch Nibali who consolidated his overall lead by taking the stage but Rafal Majka secured the mountain jersey by finishing third while Peruad and Pinot pushed Valverde off the podium.

Rafal did another great stage today and he’s now only a few steps away from the podium in Paris but we still have to do three more stages before we can finally celebrate. He’s done a sensational Tour de France and is probably considered the surprise of the race but I’ve known his potential for quite a while and now it’s unfolding for everyone to see,” said DS, Bjarne Riis after the stage.

The race ends Sunday. 

2014 Tour de France Stage 19 Preview

Friday, the riders remaining in the 2014 Tour de France will travel a much flatter 208.5kms from Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour to Bergerac. 

Although this stage is lumpy, there is only one categorized climb—the Cat 4 Cote de Monbazillac at 195.5kms. Since Majka has the competition sewn up,  I don’t anticipate much fighting to get this point.

The intermediate sprint occurs earlier in Tonneins at 130.5kms.  Really, this should be a day for the sprinters. It may be hot, so everyone needs to hydrate well for the last few kilometres to blaze with action of the fastmen.  

2014 Tour de France Stage 18 Preview

Thursday, the riders in the 2014 Tour de France will ride 145.5kms from Pau to Hautacam in another high mountains stage.

The intermediate sprint falls after 2 cat-3’s in the city of Trebons.  It’s not the cat-3’s the riders should worry about, however. Rather, there are two HC’s that stack the end of the stage:  

  • Km 28.0 - Côte de Bénéjacq2.6 kilometre-long climb at 6.7% - category 3
  • Km 56.0 - Côte de Loucrup2 kilometre-long climb at 7% - category 3
  • Km 95.5 - Col du Tourmalet (2 115 m) Souvenir Jacques Goddet17.1 kilometre-long climb at 7.3% - category H
  • Km 145.5 - Montée du Hautacam (1 520 m)13.6 kilometre-long climb at 7.8% - category H

It’ll be interesting to see who attacks tomorrow trying to find any prize they can as many of the jersey competitions now seem to be winding down.  

2014 Tour de France Stage 18 Preview

Thursday, the riders in the 2014 Tour de France will ride 145.5kms from Pau to Hautacam in another high mountains stage.

The intermediate sprint falls after 2 cat-3’s in the city of Trebons.  It’s not the cat-3’s the riders should worry about, however. Rather, there are two HC’s that stack the end of the stage:  

  • Km 28.0 - Côte de Bénéjacq2.6 kilometre-long climb at 6.7% - category 3
  • Km 56.0 - Côte de Loucrup2 kilometre-long climb at 7% - category 3
  • Km 95.5 - Col du Tourmalet (2 115 m) Souvenir Jacques Goddet17.1 kilometre-long climb at 7.3% - category H
  • Km 145.5 - Montée du Hautacam (1 520 m)13.6 kilometre-long climb at 7.8% - category H

It’ll be interesting to see who attacks tomorrow trying to find any prize they can as many of the jersey competitions now seem to be winding down.  

OPQS to Tour de Wallonie

OPQS has announced the selection that will participate in Tour de Wallonie, a 870.6km stage race from July 26th until July 30th. Tour de Wallonie is a Belgian stage race, with each less than 200km and the longest being Stage 2, at 193.1 kilometers in total distance.

"The course this year is a bit harder than past years," Sport Director Rik van Slycke said. "There is more demanding parts in the Ardennes. But we have a good team going there, with guys coming back for the first time after a period of rest from competition. Guys like Zdenek Stybar, a guy that is known to train well at home. Wout Poels is another rider who be there. He is also using this as an important step toward Tour de Pologne."

Tom Boonen will not participate, and will be replaced by Guillame Van Keirsbulck. Boonen had an accident at home 15 days ago that caused a small fissure on the sacrum just above the coccyx (tailbone). The injury causes him pain when out of the saddle.

“It was really a banal fall at home,” Boonen said “But sometimes stuff like that happens. It’s a small fissure, but it causes me a lot of pain when I try to get out of the saddle and accelerate on climbs. After five days off the bike I started training again. Yesterday I made a long training in the Ardennes, but when I go uphill it’s still painful. So I decided with the medical staff to skip this race and continue to train and let this injury heal 100% to be ready to start at Eneco Tour."

26.07–30.07 Tour de Wallonie (BEL) 2.HC
 
Riders Julian Alaphilippe (FRA)
Andrew Fenn (GBR)
Gianni Meersman (BEL)
Wout Poels (NED)
Pieter Serry (BEL)
Zdenek Stybar (CZE)
Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL)
 
Sports Director Rik van Slycke (BEL)
 
 
Stages  
26.07.14 Stage 1 Frasnes-lez-Anvaing 147.9 km
27.07.14 Stage 2 Peronnes-lez-Antoing - Perwez 193.1 km
28.07.14 Stage 3 Somme-Leuze - Neufchateau 174.1 km
29.07.14 Stage 4 Herve - Waremme 174.9 km
30.07.14 Stage 5 Malmedy - Ans 180.6 km

Majka: I focused on the last climb

Two stage wins in two day’s and a consolidation of the mountains classification. That’s the reality after Rafal Majka won today’s stage 17 to Plat d’Adet in the Pyrenees. The 24-year old Pole had been in the breakaway together with teammate Nicolas Roche and on the final climb of the day, he managed to drop all of his rivals.

“I’m just so happy for this win and what we’ve achieved the last days of this Tour. This is my first Tour and I’ve won two stages already. It’s simply unbelievable. Nicolas and I were together in the break throughout the stage and the work Nico did out front was very important”, says Rafal Majka after crossing the finish line.

Rafal crossed the finish line 29 seconds in front of Visconti with race leader Nibali 17 seconds further behind. The two-times stage winner tells that the plan wasn’t to secure points for the mountains classifications but to win the stage.

“Bjarne said to me, ‘if you win the stage, you’ll secure the jersey for now’. So it was really important for me to get in the breakaway. I only thought about getting up the last climb as the first man, because that was the key to winning the stage and securing the points for the jersey. Today, I proved to myself that if I attack early on, my chances of winning are bigger. I really like the Tour because the weather suits me really well and I feel really strong”, concludes Rafal Majka.

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