News – Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Mon, 29 May 2017 20:45:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 News – 32 32 Nibali, Quintana tip hats to new Giro king Dumoulin Mon, 29 May 2017 17:59:41 +0000 Giro rivals Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana admit Tom Dumoulin's first pink jersey was hard-earned and well-deserved.

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MILAN (AFP) — Colombia’s Nairo Quintana and Italian Vincenzo Nibali tipped their hats to rival Tom Dumoulin after he raced to a sensational, final-day victory to make history as the first Dutch winner of the 100th Giro d’Italia Sunday.

Dumoulin, the Olympic time trial silver medalist in Rio, trailed 2014 champion Quintana by 53 seconds after both he and Nibali turned the screws on a final, thrilling day in the mountains on Saturday won by Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ).

But with a 29.3km time trial set to decide the race, Dumoulin — who beat Quintana by nearly three minutes in a longer, hillier race against the clock on stage 10 — seized the day.

Although finishing 15 seconds behind compatriot and close friend Jos van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo) in front of thousands of waving fans at Milan’s landmark Duomo cathedral, the flying Dutchman did enough on the 21st and final stage to claim his maiden grand tour triumph.

Quintana finished 1:39 behind van Emden, ending up in second overall, 31 seconds behind. He said he could have no complaints.

“I’m not disappointed at all really,” said the Colombian. “I don’t know if I could have done something better or worse during the Giro, but with Tom Dumoulin being so strong in the time trial, I think I deserve to be where I am.”

A two-time runner-up at the Tour de France, Quintana will now target the world’s most famous bike race in July, adding: “As usual, I’ll be going there to give it my all and try to win it.”

Nibali, who finished a disappointing 13th on the stage at 1:09 behind van Emden to finish third overall at 40 seconds behind, became a key ally of Quintana’s in the mountains as they both tried to shake off the stubborn Dutchman in the final week.

But despite Dumoulin suffering “bad legs” on stage 19 to hand the pink jersey to Quintana, he would soon take it back after Nibali and Quintana’s combined efforts on Saturday ultimately failed.

Energy spent

“I couldn’t do any more than this, my energy was spent,” said Nibali, the 2015 Tour de France champion who won the race in 2013 and 2016.

Nibali, though, claimed the inclusion of two time trials in the 100th edition — totaling 69.1 km — had favored Dumoulin.

“It was the time trials that really tipped the balance in this Giro,” added the Italian, who won a thrilling stage 16 into Bormio in which Dumoulin was forced to chase frantically over the last climb of the Stelvio after suffering an embarrassing, unscheduled toilet stop.

Dumoulin, who wore the pink jersey on his maiden Giro d’Italia last year after winning the opening stage time trial in his native Apeldoorn, saw his hopes take flight with his 10th stage time trial victory in Montefalco.

A day after Quintana had taken the pink jersey with a great win atop Blockhaus, the Colombian tumbled to second overall at nearly three minutes behind — and Dumoulin’s dream began to take shape.

“It was only stage 9, the Giro had really just started, but Quintana showed he was very strong,” Dumoulin said Sunday. “I started to think about the podium then, but I didn’t really think about going for overall victory.”

Veteran teammate Laurens ten Dam, however, revealed their victory ambitions started months ago.

“I was in the U.S. in the winter and I saw the Giro course, and I was immediately texting with Tom about time trials, and I said, ‘You have to do the Giro’,” said Ten Dam.

“Then I was beginning to doubt because every week there was another contender, Quintana was going to do it, Nibali, Aru all those guys. I thought maybe it was better to do the Tour de France.

“In the end we had a big discussion and we said that we have to go for it to try for the GC first time.

“He impressed me so much in the mountains this year.”

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NASCAR cycling advocates ride in memory of Nicky Hayden Mon, 29 May 2017 17:27:32 +0000 Stars of the motorsports world, such as Jimmie Johnson, gather for a memorial ride to honor Nicky Hayden who died in Italy after being hit

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Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina, the local crew headed out for a long morning ride. It was a perfect spring spin — conversational pace, sunny skies, no wind, and lots of green in the trees. The group cruised a rolling loop out toward Albemarle and back. But there was a certain sadness. There always is when a group rides in memory of a fallen friend.

Former cyclocross pro Tim Johnson summed it up succinctly: “It was a terrible reason to have a beautiful ride.”

Charlotte’s NASCAR circle invited Johnson to take part in Friday’s ride to celebrate the life of MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden. Nicknamed “The Kentucky Kid,” the Owensboro resident was like many world-class motorsports stars that ride bikes for both fitness and for the simple enjoyment two wheels can offer.

On May 17, a driver hit Hayden while he was riding his bike along the Rimini coast in Italy. He died five days later at 35.

Only about one month prior, Astana rider Michele Scarponi died on April 22. He was out on a training ride when the driver of a van hit and killed him near his home in central Italy.

Johnson says the losses are senseless and tragic, but he is grateful to have a platform to raise awareness for safety issues, alongside a collection of motorsports stars. As a spokesperson for PeopleForBikes, Johnson says activism is one thing that can help make a positive difference in light of tragedies like this.

“Being involved in this through Jimmie [Johnson] means a lot for a group like PeopleForBikes,” Tim Johnson said. “They try to represent bike advocacy for everyone, but the fact is, there are a lot of people there working hard to make conditions safer for all of us, and still fun. Just because we’re pro-bike doesn’t mean we’re anti-anything, like anti-car. We’re all on board with the same message, It’s about putting your hand up and joining this grassroots army.”

Tim Johnson flew from his Massachusetts home to join Hayden’s motorsports friends. The group included a notable NASCAR contingent: reigning and seven-time Monster Energy Cup Series champion and cycling advocate Jimmie Johnson was joined by fellow Cup car drivers Matt Kenseth, Chase Elliott, Kasey Kahne, Daniel Suarez, as well as Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliff and Alan Gustafson, Elliott’s crew chief. Supercross star Justin Brayton and retired Tour de France rider Christian Vande Velde also joined.

“We had a minute to talk before the ride, to talk about why we were there,” Tim Johnson said. “Jimmie turned it over to me, and what I wanted to tell everyone there is that it’s everyone’s worst fear to know someone, whether a family member, a friend, a teammate, even someone you’ve never talked to on a ride, pass away. It’s a tragedy, but there are things we can do to try to avoid things like this in the future.

As for the ride, there was a sadness on a sunny day, but a lot of stories, and smiles.

“The motorsports community is so small, our paths always crossed. Our local motorsports and cycling community wanted to get together and ride 69 miles for Nicky Hayden,” Jimmie Johnson said. Hayden’s racing number was 69. “He left such a mark on the folks the cycling in the cycling and motorsports communities worldwide, we felt it would be appropriate to ride 69 miles and honor him, as well as provide a little bit of awareness through the ride.

“More than anything else, we just wanted to smile and think of him., he added. “The bond of cycling is what’s brought us all here. We all hear the stories and we know it does happen, but this one hit home.”

“I know the Bostrom brothers [Ben and Eric, both former motorcycle races that have taken to cycling] are heartbroken, as they lost one of their own. But it’s amazing that the bike, it really has tied us all together. I mean, I met Nicky at, of all things, a bike race,” Tim Johnson recalls. “We were at the Tour of California before the start of a stage. I recognized him, rolled over and said, ‘Hey, my name is Tim, I’m a big fan of yours … and what are you doing here?’ He said aw, just hanging out, ready to watch you guys race!’ This was two years off becoming the MotoGP world champion.

“The Hayden family has moto racing in their blood, and it carried into cycling. We’re so happy to celebrate him in this way today,” Johnson added. “The connections we all share, regardless of background, it all comes back to the bicycle.”

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How close was the 100th Giro d’Italia? Mon, 29 May 2017 16:49:22 +0000 Tom Dumoulin won the 100th Giro d'Italia by a narrow 31-second margin of victory over Nairo Quintana. How does that stack up to other close

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MILAN (AFP) — The 100th Giro d’Italia finished in Milan on Sunday following a 29.3km time trial that handed Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin the overall victory by just 31 seconds. After racing for 21 days, the 3,609.1-kilometer grand tour came down to the suspenseful final stage.

The Dutchman’s final time was 90 hours, 34 minutes, 54 seconds. He won the race by approximately .001 percent over Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Seems pretty close, right? It is, but actually, in the canon of Giro history, the 2017 edition only ranks as the 10th closest finish between first and second place. Here’s a list of the 10 editions of the Giro d’Italia with the narrowest margins of victory.


1. Fiorenzo Magni (I) 124:51:52
2. Ezio Cecchi (I) at 11 seconds


1. Eddy Merckx (B) 113:08:13
2. Gianbattista Baronchelli (I) at 12 seconds


1. Fiorenzo Magni (I) 108:56:12
2. Fausto Coppi (I) at 13 seconds


1. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) 91:39:02
2. Joaquim Rodriguez (Sp) at 16 seconds


1. Felice Gimondi (I) 119:58:15
2. Johan De Muynck (B) at 19 seconds


1. Gastone Nencini (I) 104:45:06
2. Louison Bobet (F) at 19 seconds


1. Jacques Anquetil (F) 94:03:54
2. Gastone Nencini (I) at 28 seconds


1. Paolo Savoldelli (I) 91:25:51
2. Gilberto Simoni (I) at 28 seconds


1. Tom Dumoulin (Nl) 90:34:54
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) at 31 seconds

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Unserious Questions: How to describe the Giro Mon, 29 May 2017 16:23:52 +0000 We track down five American riders at the Giro for one final round of Unserious Questions at the close of the 100th edition of the Giro

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The Giro d’Italia ended on a high for the American contingent. Joey Rosskopf put in a top-five in the final time trial, Chad Haga and his Sunweb team won their first grand tour, Cannondale-Drapac ended its grand tour drought, and Joe Dombrowski successfully defended 69th overall. Big wins all around. To celebrate, we hit them with one more round of Unserious Questions.

Describe the last week of this Giro with four adjectives.

Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac): Beautiful, tedious, sloping, a real f—king pain in the feet.
Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo): Illness. Climbing. Eating. FUBAR’d.
Chad Haga (Sunweb): Anxious, horrific, hopeful, elated
Joey Rosskopf (BMC): Up, down, “PIANO!” full (stomach)
Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Drapac): Condensed. Altimetrous. Sunny. Well-ended.

If you could be any American cyclist, who would you be?

Howes: Davis Phinney. I saw him jump a bloated raccoon, sprinting full flight in the drops no so long ago. Probably with his eyes closed. Legend.
Stetina: Tyler Farrar. Pure sprinter. Just to know what it’s like on the opposite end of the spectrum of bike racer body type from myself.
Haga: I don’t like the implication that I’m not happy being me, so I’m skipping this one!
Rosskopf: Ty Magner! Quick sprints, big MTB jumps, and long wheelies.
Dombrowski: Alex Howes.

Are you good at keeping plants alive?

Howes: Cactus are plants. Yes.
Stetina: During my recovery from my broken leg all I could do for my daily dose of vitamin D was sit in the dirt, poke holes in the ground, and drop seeds. We have two peach, one nectarine, one fig tree, a strawberry box and veggies.
Haga: If I remember to water them, yes. Good thing I married a green thumb!
Rosskopf: I like to think I could grow some stuff if I got motivated, but our little balcony of herbs is all thanks to Georgia, my pareja.
Dombrowski: Not at all. Even my cactus has died under my watch.

What’s the most Italian thing that happened to you this month?

Howes: A real negroni.
Stetina: Giro transfers. Always a “grande casino.”
Haga: Eating 10 pizzas with my team and enjoying celebratory beers on the curb after today’s podium ceremony.
Rosskopf: Us: “Could we have some cappuccinos, please?” Bar owner: “If you want cappuccinos you can go down the street. I only serve coffee.”
Dombrowski: I said scusi to non-Italians a few times without thinking.

Did you like middle school? Were you cool?

Howes: I did like middle school. I was not cool. I was the only kid who’s parents had cars, that rode a bike to school.
Stetina: Ahh, those were simpler times …
Haga: I liked it, but I was on track for an education in engineering (read: not cool).
Rosskopf: Middle school was alright! I sure felt cool! But I didn’t get along with as many of the teachers as I did in elementary or high school.
Dombrowski: No, and probably not.

What’s your favorite dinosaur?

Howes: Stegosaurus Armatus. It’s Colorado’s state dino.
Stetina: I was never a dino kid. I was all about the X-Men. Gambit was my fav.
Haga: Dumoulinous Rex. Likes to devour small climbers
Rosskopf: Longneck.
Dombrowski: Stegosaurus.

Thanks, as always, to all five riders for playing along. Unserious Questions will be back for the Tour de France.

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Greatest Giro ever? Five takeaways from Italy Mon, 29 May 2017 13:38:36 +0000 Andrew Hood looks back at three weeks of racing through Italy and comes up with his five main takeaways from the race.

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MILANO, Italy (VN) — Was the 2017 Giro d’Italia one of the best grand tours in decades? One could certainly make the case.

Sunday’s nail-biter finale certainly backs that argument, with many recalling the classic duel between Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon at the 1989 Tour de France. Four riders started the final time trial less than one minute from each other, with Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) earning the first Dutch grand tour win since 1980.

The 100th edition of the Giro saw its best field ever, with nearly a dozen aspirants lining up in Sardinia in what now feels like a very long time ago. Crashes and illnesses hampered or eliminated GC hopes for Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa (Sky), Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), but the battle went down to the wire.

“This was superb racing during this Giro,” said Trek-Segafredo sport director Kim Andersen. “You saw all the top riders going against each other, mano-a-mano. It wasn’t controlled by the big teams. There wasn’t one top rider. Everyone was really fighting right to the end. That is great racing.”

While it’s true the decisive mountain stages came down to the best riders slinging it out, the longer distances often seemed to keep the lid on the action until the day’s final climb. And when the attacks did come, the race quickly reverted into a battle of attrition.

The Giro continues to believe that long, hard stages are necessary to fit the bill of what’s expected in a grand tour. The string of 200km+ mountain stages saw riders literally crawling into Milan. The race’s most exciting mountain stages — Blockhaus at 152km and Ortisei at 137km — were shorter days. The Vuelta a España and even the Tour have adopted shorter mountain stages to provoke more explosive racing, and the Giro could do itself a favor by doing the same.

Below are five takeaways from the Giro.

1. Dumoulin arrives

With his 31-second victory over Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, Dumoulin became the first Dutch winner of a grand tour since Joop Zoetemelk in 1980. Holland’s long trip in cycling purgatory is finally over.

At 26, Dumoulin is poised to become a major force in grand tours. A confirmed world-class time trialist, Dumoulin didn’t lose his power against the clock as he worked hard after the 2016 Olympics to target this Giro. He shed three kilos from his Rio de Janeiro weight and confirmed his climbing chops during three weeks in Italy, all without sacrificing his touch in the time trials.

That combination of climbing matched with TT prowess is what makes riders like Chris Froome so formidable in the Tour de France. Dumoulin won’t race the Tour this year, likely returning to the Vuelta a España instead (with a possible matchup against Froome) before targeting the Tour. When? The team says it depends on what kind of course the Tour delivers for 2018, but it’s also likely the Tour will want to see a Froome-Dumoulin matchup and it may serve up a course packed with time trials.

The future seems bright for Dumoulin, who also revealed he’s not afraid to speak his mind and who has the mental fortitude not to crack when the unexpected happens. Without his unplanned bathroom stop, the Giro would have been in the bag a lot earlier — and this Giro very likely would have been a snoozer. If Dumoulin stays healthy and his team buys a few key riders to help him for the Tour, he could emerge as the next great grand tour rider.

“This is an important victory for me,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if I could do it, and many thought I would crack like I did in the Vuelta [2015]. I prepared specifically for this Giro, and really targeted a grand tour for the first time. Now I want to try to win the Tour. I have to keep working, but I hope I can do it someday.”

2. Quintana just falls short

Marco Pantani’s double record is safe, at least for another year. Quintana did just about everything right in this Giro but he ran into a superior time trialist, finishing second in his quest to match Pantani’s Giro-Tour double.

If this Giro sounds eerily similar to what Quintana has faced in the Tour against Froome, you’re right. Dumoulin took so much time on Quintana in the first time trial that the Dutchman was riding in defensive mode until his unplanned pit stop at the foot of the Stelvio. That tightened things up quite a bit, but Dumoulin masterfully handled Quintana’s challenges.

It was hard to read Quintana’s immediate reaction in the wake of losing pink on Sunday. He admitted that he felt a tinge of fever on the key stage to Piancavallo, where Movistar did finally crack Dumoulin, but said he didn’t have his usual after-burners to deliver the knockout blow. He seemed satisfied enough with his overall result, pointing out that with 70km of time trialing, the course was far from ideal.

The big question now is whether Quintana will be able to bounce back for the Tour. There’s no doubt that Quintana has one of the best recoveries in the peloton, and the team is convinced that despite fighting through a hard Giro, Quintana will be able to challenge for the yellow jersey this summer. There is huge pressure to deliver in July. Another podium in Paris might be satisfactory, but if he does reach second again behind Froome, many will question if the Giro-Tour attempt was even worth it.

“One cannot be disappointed with a podium,” he said. “Tom was very strong, and we are still on the podium, and that is still important. We did a great time trial today, and some even said yesterday that we could lose the podium. I was thinking about winning, and to finish second, well, that’s not bad.”

3. Nibali wasn’t at same level

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) started this Giro with the No. 1 bib and ended third on the overall podium. What happened? Simply put, Nibali wasn’t consistent enough to seriously challenge for the overall title.

One of the most tactical and dangerous attackers, Nibali came away with a dramatic stage win last Tuesday in the double-climb over the Stelvio. In the final string of mountain stages, however, he didn’t have the spark in the mountains to challenge Quintana in the mountains or the power to overcome Dumoulin in the time trials.

What’s next? Nibali might race the Tour de France this summer, but if he goes he would serve as a stage-hunter. It’s been three years since he won the Tour, and with the arrival of such rivals as Quintana, Dumoulin, and Froome, Nibali might keep his GC hopes centered on the Giro for the next few years. On a course with fewer time trials and more explosive stages, you can never count out “the Shark.”

“The level of this Giro was very high, and the race was very demanding,” he said. “I came into the final time trial still with options to win, but I didn’t have sufficient strength in the legs. There were a few days that I suffered, but I gave the absolute maximum and I am satisfied to be on this final beautiful podium. I lost too much time on Blockhaus and Oropa to win this Giro. Tom deserved to win.”

4. Pinot needs to hit the wind tunnel

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) came into the Giro as one of the favorites, but he saw his podium chances sink in the time trials. Among the strongest in the final week of climbing, Pinot nabbed a well-deserved stage win Saturday He lost any hope of victory after falling flat against the clock.

In the longer time trial at Montefalco, he gave up 2:42 to Dumoulin, permanently tanking his hopes for the pink jersey. But more importantly, he lost time to his immediate podium rivals to put himself on his back foot. On Sunday, he ceded 1:42 to the winner and let a chance to reach the podium slip through his hands, finishing fourth — 37 seconds short of the podium.

Pinot has done well against the clock before, but he explained that because he trained so hard for the mountains, he lost power in the time trials. Finding that balance between climbing and time trials is a challenge for any GC rider. Already a world-class climber, Pinot will need to improve his time trialing if he hopes to win a grand tour. Pinot isn’t expected to start the Tour de France, and will likely race the Vuelta later this summer. With another climb-heavy course that includes fewer TT miles, he could be a favorite for the win.

“The legs didn’t respond when they needed to today,” he said. “The simple truth is that [the podium riders] were stronger than me. Sport is like that. I am happy with this Giro, winning a stage and fighting with the favorites until the very end.”

5. Gaviria arrives

After making headlines in the first half of the Giro, Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) survived the mountains to arrive in Milan. The 22-year-old Colombian won four stages in his first grand tour to put himself one ahead of Peter Sagan’s grand tour debut. By arriving in Milan, he also won the points jersey.

Many see Gaviria as the next dominant sprinter in the peloton. He has the complete skillset, with positioning, ambition, and mental firmness to go with his explosive finish-line speed. He won’t race the Tour de France this year as Quick-Step doesn’t want to burn out its latest jewel. The Tour will have to wait until at least 2018, but Gaviria will likely race the Vuelta a España and build up for some of the mid-season and fall classics.

Although a few of the top sprinters were missing from the Giro, Gaviria showed he can win in all types of conditions. A star is born.

“This was an important step for me and my development,” he said. “They always say you are stronger after a grand tour. I was able to win four stages, and that is good for the future. Maybe next year I will be at the Tour. I wish there was one more sprint stage in this Giro!”

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Quintana believes late sickness cost him the Giro Sun, 28 May 2017 17:53:07 +0000 MILAN, Italy (VN) — Despite falling just short in the Giro d’Italia, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) remains convinced he could win the Giro

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MILAN, Italy (VN) — Despite falling just short in the Giro d’Italia, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) remains convinced he could win the Giro and Tour de France in one season.

Quintana lost to a superior time trialist at this Giro, ceding the pink jersey in Milan’s dramatic final-day time trial, losing the Giro by 31 seconds.

Falling just over a half-minute short of fulfilling the first half of the double, now he sets his sights on the Tour de France defiant as ever.

“One cannot be disappointed,” Quintana said. “We are not machines. Things don’t always turn out as you hope. We worked hard, but there’s not always the payback you’re hoping for.”

Quintana revealed that he woke up with a slight fever on the decisive stage 19 to Piancavallo on Friday, and said he couldn’t fire all of his cylinders at 100 percent on a key day the team wanted to deliver the knockout punch to Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin. The Dutchman lost time, but Quintana said he wasn’t able to finish him off because he was feeling slightly sick.

When asked if he lost the Giro that day, he replied, “One could say that.”

“I woke up feeling a little bad that morning, and I couldn’t give 100 percent on that decisive day,” he said. “It was a day that we had marked on the calendar, and we were hoping to make a big differences. But the health wasn’t with us, and it didn’t turn out as we had hoped, but we kept pressing, and we ended up with this podium.”

Quintana was proud that he could defy some of the naysayers in the 29.5km time trial into Milan, when more than a few suggested he could finish off the final podium despite holding a 38-second lead Sunday.

“We did a great time trial today, and some even said yesterday that we could lose the podium,” he said. “I was thinking about winning, and to finish second, well, that’s not bad.”

Quintana remained defiant, and said that the Giro-Tour double is possible, admitting earlier that he came into this Giro at less than 100 percent in order to be able to take the demands of racing in July.

“I am still convinced that you can do the Giro-Tour double,” he said. “We were second here, and with 70km of TT that were not favorable to me. Now we go to [the Tour], convinced as always that we can win.”

With second place, Quintana keeps his impressive grand tour legacy intact. In seven of the past seven grand tours he’s finished, he’s never been worse than fourth, won two (2014 Giro and 2016 Vuelta a España), and finished three times on the Tour podium.

With second, however, he is stopped short of matching Marco Pantani, who is the last rider to win the Giro and Tour in the same season, in 1998. The Pirate’s mark remains safe, at least until someone else dares to try. Perhaps Chris Froome? Maybe after he wins his fifth yellow jersey.

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Giro still ‘rosy’ as Pinot targets last-gasp pink jersey Sun, 28 May 2017 01:24:30 +0000 Frenchman Thibaut Pinot is thrilled with his Giro debut, and he's holding out hope for a miracle in Sunday's decisive time trial.

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ASIAGO, Italy (AFP) — Frenchman Thibaut Pinot’s impressive Giro d’Italia campaign has been “rosy,” but the FDJ team leader hasn’t given up on a last-gasp bid on Sunday that could see him snatch the pink jersey.

“I knew the Giro was a race that suited me, so I’d be delighted to come back. Everything’s been rosy so far,” Pinot said. He claimed his maiden win on the three-week race following a 190km ride from Pordenone to Asiago on Saturday.

“I hope to be on the podium, but for overall victory, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Pinot becomes the first Frenchman to win a mountain stage at the Giro since Charly Mottet triumphed atop Pordoi on June 2, 1990, only four days after he was born.

And on the eve of the 100th edition’s finale, he is still among four that are contention for a prestigious, and dramatic overall win when the race concludes with a final stage time trial over 29.3 km on Sunday.

Italy’s two-time and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (at 39 seconds), Pinot (43 seconds) and Tom Dumoulin (53 seconds) are all within one minute of Colombian Nairo Quintana. The Movistar leader is looking for his second victory after his maiden Giro triumph in 2014.

Dumoulin crushed the field in the stage 10 time trial to take command of the race before losing the pink jersey on Friday. He is the big favorite on paper. If successful, he will become the race’s first Dutch champion.

But Pinot, the French national time trial champion, hasn’t given up hope of emulating American Greg LeMond’s exploit at the 1989 Tour de France.

LeMond won by just eight seconds after overtaking Laurent Fignon, the last Frenchman to win the Giro in 1989 and a two-time Tour de France champion, in a dramatic final time-trial stage.

Probed on his victory chances, Pinot added: “There are five of us fighting for three podium spots. But the victory favorite for me is Tom Dumoulin.

“In second? I hope me. And third, whoever wants to finish third!”

Pinot underlined his potential as a future Tour de France contender when he finished third on the 2014 race behind winner Nibali and compatriot Jean-Christophe Peraud.

It was the first time that two Frenchman stood on the podium of ‘La Grande Boucle’ since since Fignon and Bernard Hinault, as runner-up, completed a one-two at the 1984 Tour.

By then Pinot had already won a prestigious mountain stage of the race, in 2012. On his debut, aged 22 and 54 days, he became the youngest rider since Raymond Impanis in 1947 to finish in the top 10.

A second Tour stage win came in 2015 when Pinot, after a solo attack, conquered Alpe d’Huez.

Given he finished 2:42 behind Dumoulin on stage 10, victory on Sunday remains a long shot for Pinot.

But for the Frenchman, his maiden Giro campaign is already a success. “For me, the most important thing was to lift my arms in victory. I knew at the start there were stronger riders than me,” he added. “I came to win a stage and try for the podium, so it’s already a success. But we’ve got 30km remaining, and I don’t want to have any regrets when we finish tomorrow [Sunday].”

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Giro TT: Four riders, one minute, three podium spots Sat, 27 May 2017 22:27:04 +0000 We talk to the top riders, sport directors, and experts in the peloton to find out what to expect in the Giro's stage 21 time trial.

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ASIAGO, Italy (VN) — How close is this Giro d’Italia? Many are already comparing it to the epic showdown between Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon in the 1989 Tour de France.

Four riders start Sunday’s final-day time trial within 53 seconds, and two more are at 1:30 back. Only one will win, and three will finish on the podium. Who will be the odd man out?

We hit the paddock after Saturday’s final showdown in the mountains to gauge the favorites:

Nairo Quintana (Movistar), 1st: “Tomorrow will have to be the best time trial I’ve done in my life. I’ve done good time trials before. It’s the last day. It’s for the maglia rosa. I will give everything I have.”

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), 2nd at 39 seconds: “We went really hard today, and the climbing speed was very fast. Tomorrow will be a hard, difficult day. This Giro has been very difficult, very tactical. No one’s been brilliant, and we are all equal. Maybe Dumoulin has worked so hard yesterday and today that he won’t be at his best in the time trial.”

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), 3rd at 43 seconds: “Dumoulin remains the favorite to win the Giro. Today we all went at the maximum to try to open a gap, but he found some help, and it was not easy for us at the front. I need a great day to win the pink jersey. We are all at the same level, but I still have legs. I feel better now than I did when I started.”

Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), 4th at 53 seconds: “I’m proud of how I rode today, I feel mentally and physically much better than I did yesterday which is good. I need a really good day tomorrow to get that gap. It’s not going to be differences like in the last time trial because I’m really tired after this week in the mountains. It’s going to be tight with five of us so close but I will just focus on my own ride and see what happens.”

José Azevedo, sport director Katusha: “Ilnur [Zakarin, 5th at 1:15] came close to the win. All the work the past few days has been all about making the podium. Everyone is on the limit. When you have a time trial on the last day, special things can happen. Ilnur will need to give his maximum.”

Eusebio Unzué, general manager Movistar: “Today we wanted to have two minutes at least over Dumoulin to go into the time trial with tranquility and more security for the final victory. It didn’t happen, and logically, with these differences, it’s difficult that Dumoulin loses the race. But you still need to finish the race. Many things can happen in a final-day time trial.”

Luke Roberts, sport director Sunweb: “Tom bounced back today, with good mental strength and paced the climb well. He had to fight for every second. At the end of a three-week tour, and Pinot showed he can do a good time trial. It will be an interesting day tomorrow, not that the rest of the Giro hasn’t been.”

Fabrizio Guidi, sport director Cannondale-Drapac: “Favorite is Dumoulin. The last time trial is always a question mark. Everyone is always tired. There can always be surprises. It is for who has the legs. We will have to watch it on TV.”

Matt White, sport director Orica-Scott: “Same as I said a few days ago, Tom Dumoulin. It’s a margin that is very achievable for a world-class time trial, and he is. The parcours suits Dumoulin better than anyone here. He might have lost a little bit of time, but he is not out of shape. He rode a very smart race, and I think he will win the Giro very comfortably tomorrow.”

Kim Andersen, sport director Trek-Segafredo: “We all know after three weeks, it’s not easy to say. I think it will be Nibali or Dumoulin. Normally, Dumoulin will win, but we also know after three weeks, it is different. It’s been a spectacular race.”

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Giro’s maglia rosa up for grabs in final TT stage Sat, 27 May 2017 22:13:35 +0000 The Giro d'Italia's overall title is up for grabs in Sunday's time trial, and Olympic silver medalist Tom Dumoulin looks poised to strike

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ASIAGO, Italy (VN) — Anything can happen in the Giro d’Italia and nothing is certain, says Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb).

The tall Dutchman from Maastricht sits fourth overall at 53 seconds. Several insiders consider him the favorite to win the 100th edition of the Italian tour when it ends in the shadows of Milan’s Duomo cathedral Sunday afternoon.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) leads the overall by 39 seconds on Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and 43 on Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). Dumoulin stands above all when those inside the corsa rosa predict the 2017 victor. After all, Dumoulin finished second only to Fabian Cancellara in the Olympic time trial and won one in the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 2016.

“It’s quite a big gap, I definitely need a good day to get that gap,” Dumoulin said.

“It’s not going to be time difference like the last time trial. I know that and it’s been a very hard three weeks. I’m very tired, and that makes for a very weird TT tomorrow.”

In the last time trial, Dumoulin rode his way into the pink jersey. He rode 2:53 into Quintana over the 39.8 kilometers, 2:42 into Pinot and 2:07 into Nibali.

“I’m just going to focus on my own ride tomorrow, then we’ll see after the finish what it’s worth,” Dumoulin added.

“It could be possible, but after three weeks of racing, after a hard week in the mountains like this, anything can happen tomorrow.”

Dumoulin lost time on the Stelvio mountain stage and suffered in Friday’s stage to Piancavallo, but always kept control. Saturday in stage 20, he managed himself well while Quintana climbed clear with Nibali and Pinot. Behind, he found help from Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), and Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) – seventh through ninth in the classification.

“I’m happy that I’m mentally and physically much better than yesterday. I’m forever thankful and grateful for the work Bauke Mollema, Bob Jungels, and Adam Yates did for me today,” Dumoulin added.

“You collaborated with like objectives? Yeah, but they were pretty much not really fighting anymore for spots on GC because they are pretty much fixed in their spots on GC so it was also definitely to help me. So I’m very happy with that and very thankful.”

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Quintana: ‘I need the best time trial of my life’ Sat, 27 May 2017 17:34:56 +0000 Nairo Quintana wishes he had a bigger cushion on time trial ace Tom Dumoulin ahead of the Giro's final stage in Milano.

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ASIAGO, Italy (VN) — Nairo Quintana (Movistar) wanted more time going into the Giro’s dramatic time trial showdown Sunday. He didn’t get it.

Archrival Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) ceded only 15 seconds Saturday to Quintana and the other climbers in the final mountain stage at the Giro d’Italia, and there was a sense of quiet celebration around the Sunweb bus. Quintana will start with a 53-second head start to Dumoulin in the flat 29.3km time trial from Monza to Milano, but the Colombian knows he’ll need a great day to win his second Giro.

“Tomorrow will have to be the best time trial I’ve done in my life,” Quintana said. “It’s the last day. It’s for the maglia rosa. I will give everything I have.”

Saturday’s two-climb, 190km stage 20 over the fearsome Monte Grappa was the last chance for the climbers to try to shake the stubborn Dumoulin. Yet just a day after giving up the pink jersey to Quintana, the Dutchman was back in fine fettle.

Dumoulin hovered near the attacking climbers, never giving up more than a 10 to 20 seconds as Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale), and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) attacked ferociously. Dumoulin found friends in Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), and only gave up 15 seconds to Quintana as Pinot took an emotional win.

Though Dumoulin dropped from second to fourth, many expect him to end up on the top step Sunday.

“It’s not won yet, but today was very important,” said Sunweb sport director Luke Roberts. “Tom did what he had to do today. Normally, he can take back time. He recovered well, and had a good mental attitude. Tomorrow it’s all in play.”

If there was jubilation in the Sunweb camp, Movistar put up a brave face. Team manager Eusebio Unzue admitted that Quintana needed a lot more time to be able to sleep soundly.

“Today we wanted to have two minutes at least over Dumoulin to go into the time trial with tranquility and more security for the final victory,” Unzué said. “It didn’t happen, and logically, with these differences, it’s difficult that Dumoulin loses the race.”

Movistar played all the right tactical cards during this Giro, but Quintana squared off against what’s been billed as the deepest Giro GC field in decades.

Four riders start Sunday’s final time trial within one minute of each other. Only one will win, and only three will stand on the podium. Quintana is hoping he isn’t the odd man out.

“Maybe it’s not sufficient to win, but maybe it’s just enough,” Quintana said. “We know that that could happen [no podium], but we also know that I could win. It’s been a very equal Giro, and I will give 100 percent.”

And the larger question remains: Is it too much for a rider to try to win the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same season? Quintana demurred when asked if the weight of the double attempt hampered his Giro effort.

“This is what happens when you arrive less than 100 percent, because this year we are trying for two important objectives,” Quintana said. “We did all we could. The team did a great job. We are now first, but it might end up differently.”

If Quintana tumbles off the podium, recriminations will inevitably follow. If he wins, he’s halfway to becoming the first rider since Marco Pantani to win the Giro and Tour in the same season. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

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Kruijswijk pulls out of Giro d’Italia Sat, 27 May 2017 14:31:07 +0000 Steven Kruijswijk pulls out of the Giro d'Italia prior to Saturday's penultimate stage to Asiago due to stomach problems.

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PORDENONE, Italy (AFP) — Former pink jersey hopeful Steven Kruijswijk, of the LottoNL-Jumbo team, pulled out of the Giro d’Italia prior to Saturday’s penultimate stage to Asiago due to stomach problems.

“I didn’t feel good last night,” said the 29-year-old Dutchman, who had dropped to 10th overall at over seven minutes behind race leader Nairo Quintana of Colombia.

“It’s not the way I wanted to end the race, but I can’t go on.”

It is the second year in succession the race had ended in disappointment for Kruijswijk, who looked poised for overall victory last year before losing the pink jersey two days before the finish.

On Saturday’s 20th stage, the final day in the mountains, his compatriot Tom Dumoulin, of the Sunweb team, will carry the torch for Dutch cycling fans hoping to see one of their own secure what would be an historic victory.

He only lost the pink jersey on Friday, dropping to second overall at 38 seconds behind Movistar climbing specialist Quintana, the 2014 champion, after the fourth of five days in the mountains.

Italy’s two-time champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) is third at 43 seconds with Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) third at 53.

The 100th edition of the race ends Sunday with a 29.3km time trial from Monza to Milan.

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Dumoulin apology doesn’t deter Nibali’s attacks Fri, 26 May 2017 20:11:28 +0000 Though Vincenzo Nibali and Tom Dumoulin made peace after exchanging harsh words, the race was on in stage 19.

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PIANCAVALLO, Italy (VN) — Sicilian Vincenzo Nibali struggles to understand his tall Dutch rival. Though the two seemed to bury the hatchet, the Giro’s defending champion sniped at Tom Dumoulin following Friday’s stage, saying that even the late Italian star Marco Pantani would not have said what Dumoulin did.

Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Dumoulin (Sunweb) shook hands the morning of stage 19 and made up for their war of words. However, it shows that deep into the Giro’s third and final week, both muscles and minds are fraying.

“I’ve known big champions in the past. I’ve seen their jesters,” Nibali said at Friday’s Piancavallo summit finish, where Dumoulin lost his overall lead. “Not even our great and famous Marco Pantani would have been seen so brazen to act as Dumoulin did. He excused himself with me today, and also with the others, and we restarted from the top.”

Pantani won the Giro d’Italia/Tour de France double in 1998, but his career was marred by doping, and he died of a cocaine overdose in 2004.

Dumoulin is trying to win his first grand tour. He faded from his pink jersey lead Friday. He finished the stage 1:09 behind top rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and slid to second at 38 seconds. One mountain stage remains and a time trial, which suits Dumoulin, on Sunday in Milan.

Stage 18 Thursday proved the war is raging on and off the road. Dumoulin did not like how Quintana and Nibali seemed to be joining forces to ride against him, unconcerned with other rivals. They did not care how Dumoulin sat up and refused to work when Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) rode clear.

“I hope that Nibali and Quintana will lose their podium spots because of only focusing on me,” Dumoulin said. “If they only focus on me it would be nice if they lose podium spot in Milan.”

Nibali fired back saying, “I don’t care what Tom said, I think he is being cocky. I’d never talk like that. He’s got to keep his feet on the ground, does he know what karma is?”

The words were music to journalists’ ears and fueled debate on social media. The issue escalated to such a point that Dumoulin offered an apology to Nibali and Quintana the next morning. Dumoulin explained, “I said some words at the finish with a lot of emotion and it wasn’t maybe the smartest or nicest thing to say.”

Nibali explained that he considered the apology a “noble” move, but the battles continued Friday. Once Dumoulin was in a bad spot in the back of the group only 56 kilometers into today’s stage, Quintana’s teammate José Joaquín Rojas reportedly radioed up to his leader to attack.

Quintana’s Movistar and Nibali’s Bahrain-Merida teams fought to maintain a gap over the next 80 kilometers. It may have seemed pointless, but the message was sent.

“When we are racing,” continued Nibali, “it’s the race and anything can happen.”

Dumoulin, perhaps due to the early efforts, lost contact on the summit finish climb and slipped out of the leader’s pink jersey. Could it have been the karma that Nibali mentioned?

“It seems to be!” Dumoulin said. “If this is the karma then it’s good, if this was my bad day and I have good legs tomorrow then I’m happy.

“I had really bad legs today and if I limited my losses today to this then it isn’t so bad after all.”

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Quintana on Giro lead: ‘I need more time’ Fri, 26 May 2017 18:29:21 +0000 Nairo Quintana knows he'll need a solid lead in the Giro's overall classification before Sunday's final time trial.

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PIANCAVALLO, Italy (VN) — Nairo Quintana rolled into Friday’s post-stage press conference dressed in his Movistar team jersey, perhaps in an unconscious admission that the pink jersey is not quite his yet.

The Colombian was back in pink Friday. Perhaps it took longer and cost more than anyone could have expected against Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb). Now with a lead of 38 seconds, Quintana was quick to admit he needs more time going into Sunday’s final-day time trial.

“It will be difficult,” he said. “We have tomorrow’s stage, and we want to take more time against Dumoulin, who is the best in the time trial.”

On Friday’s explosive stage, Dumoulin finally cracked under the collective pressure of the climbers, and Quintana was first in line to profit. The Colombian hasn’t been his sharpest during this Giro, but he’s been good enough to win a stage, including an early stint in pink.

Quintana is hoping to win the Giro in the first leg of his Giro-Tour double attempt. He admitted that the race has been harder than expected.

“The level is very high in this Giro, and the time differences have not been so exaggerated,” he said. “The stages have been very demanding that we’ve gone through, especially since the Stelvio. My plan was to stay with the GC favorites in all the key stages, and try to differences when I could. We hope to maintain the jersey. Tomorrow will be a very decisive stage.”

So far through this Giro, Movistar has been playing the right tactical moves to set up Quintana, slotting riders such as Andrey Amador, Winner Anacona, and Gorka Izagirre into early breaks. Quintana has been unable to follow through with the knockout punch. And Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Dumoulin, and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) have made it hard on everyone in this Giro.

Quintana didn’t put a number on it, but everyone knows he will need at least one additional minute on Dumoulin, and an extra margin against Pinot and Nibali, who can also time trial well.

“It’s not just [Dumoulin] I am worried about,” he said. “All the top riders are a danger.”

Quintana made it clear that Movistar did not attack Dumoulin during a pee break early in Friday’s stage when the main pack split. Dumoulin also confirmed that he was simply riding too far back when accelerations came after the pack rolled over an unrated climb.

“The intention was to go downhill very fast, and make the race very hard,” Quintana said. “We heard that there were riders behind, and the collective interests came together and we could drive forward.”

Even if Quintana has been at his absolute best during this Giro, he’s been consistently with the favorites. He’s back in pink. He knows he will need one more great day to have hopes of winning in Milan.

“It’s the last climb of the Giro,” Quintana said. “Everyone will play their cards. The attacks will come, and I know I need to take more time against my rivals.”

So what’s that mean? Quintana must attack on his own.

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Alafaci remains in Giro despite throwing water bottle Fri, 26 May 2017 18:02:50 +0000 Trek-Segafredo rider Eugenio Alafaci remains in the Giro d’Italia despite throwing a water bottle late in stage 19 Friday.

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PIANCAVALLO, Italy (VN) — Trek-Segafredo rider Eugenio Alafaci remains in the Giro d’Italia despite throwing a water bottle late in stage 19 Friday.

Citing “acts of violence,” UCI race jury fined the Italian rider 200 Swiss francs and gave him a one minute time penalty for hurling a bidon as teams jostled for position ahead of the day’s final climb.

That’s in contrast to Bahrain-Merida’s Javi Moreno. The Spaniard was ejected in the Giro’s fourth stage for shoving a rider during the stage to Mount Etna.

Alafaci was riding near the front to position captain Bauke Mollema as the peloton roared toward the final climb. It appeared that Alafaci jostled with Movistar rider Rory Sutherland as both riders fought to protect their respective captains. Alafaci then hurled his water bottle into the back of the Australian.

When the image was posted on Twitter, Sutherland acknowledged it was him, writing: “Good throw though …”

When VeloNews later posted the fine amount on Twitter, he countered: “That’s it?”

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Dumoulin: ‘I made a rookie mistake’ Fri, 26 May 2017 17:51:47 +0000 A combination of bad legs and mental errors leaves Tom Dumoulin behind in the Giro d'Italia. The Dutchman loses the pink jersey.

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PIANCAVALLO, Italy (VN) — The pink jersey was unraveling with every switchback for Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) in Friday’s 19th stage in the Giro d’Italia.

Just two days short of Milan, the 15.4km summit finale turned into Dumoulin’s Black Friday as he suffered through a deplorable day. First, he got caught out in a mid-race gap, and then was popped on the Cat. 1 final climb. A day after riding confidently to defend pink, and throwing barbs at his rivals, Dumoulin lost the Giro leader’s jersey to arch-rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar), slipping to second at 38 seconds back.

“I made a rookie mistake,” Dumoulin said. “If stay with them tomorrow, I still have a chance, but it will be very difficult.”

Just like that, Dumoulin’s Giro went from being a near-sure bet, to being one mountain too far from a breakout grand tour victory.

In what was eerily similar replay to the 2015 Vuelta a España, when Dumoulin cracked in the final mountain stage, his rivals isolated him and then attacked.

“I had bad legs from the start,” he said. “It could have been much worse today.”

Friday’s stage was broken into two parts: first, was mid-stage surge by Movistar and Bahrain-Merida that caught out Dumoulin and a handful of other GC favorites. And the second was the final climb. In both key moments, Dumoulin admitted he made mistakes.

“I made a rookie mistake from the beginning to sit in the back of the bunch when we went into the downhill,” he said. “With my bad legs, I needed to go to the max to come back on the climb in the middle of the stage, so that was already unnecessary.”

And Dumoulin made it very clear; his rivals did not attack him when he stopped for a pee break. He was simply rolling along at the back of the bunch.

“No, I didn’t stop for a pee,” Dumoulin clarified. “I was just at the back of the bunch. They split it. It was a smart move, and a rookie mistake from our side.”

Dumoulin said he woke up Friday morning feeling a little off. Once he was on the bike, he knew right away he didn’t have good legs. Dumoulin found friends when the bunch split over an unrated climb about 50km into the stage. A frenetic chase ensued, and Dumoulin regained contact ahead of a Cat. 2 climb at 104km, but he paid the price from the effort.

On the final climb, Movistar and Bahrain-Merida tightened the noose. Dumoulin popped about halfway up the climb, and looked to be managing the gap, especially with help from Simon Geschke. Accelerations came at the front from Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) in the closing kilometers, and Dumoulin could only limit the bleeding.

“In the final, I tried to limit my losses,” he said. “The team was really strong today. They had to save me a couple of times. I really have to thank them. Otherwise, it would’ve been worse for me today. I just had bad legs.”

So is Dumoulin’s dream Giro over? He hopes not.

“If I have legs like I did today, I will lose more time tomorrow, and I will not be able to take more time back in the time trial,” he said. “It’s not for me to say I need one minute or whatever in the time trial. I just need to fight tomorrow, and then we’ll see.”

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VN podcast, ep. 30: Dumoulin’s time dump; van Garderen’s redemption Fri, 26 May 2017 16:42:43 +0000 We discuss the action-packed final week of the Giro. Rolland breaks Cannondale-Drapac's drought. Tejay van Garderen gets Giro glory.

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Welcome to the VeloNews cycling podcast, where we discuss the latest trends, news, and controversies in the world of cycling.

Tejay van Garderen won a grand tour stage! So did Pierre Rolland, thus officially ending the Cannondale Curse. Fred Dreier, Caley Fretz, and Spencer Powlison discuss an action-packed week at the Giro d’Italia, from Tom Dumoulin’s time dump to van Garderen’s emotional roller coaster. Yes, there are some poop jokes.

This episode is presented by Health IQ, which offers special rate life insurance for cyclists. Get a quote today >>

If you like what you hear, subscribe to the VeloNews podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. Also, check out the VeloNews Fast Talk training podcast with Trevor Connor and Fretz.

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Garbage Takes: Giro in the toilet; Tejay is back! Fri, 26 May 2017 16:28:05 +0000 Here's how that crazy mid-race bathroom break actually saved the Giro for Dumoulin. Plus, can we talk about how Tejay is back!?

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Any given week, there are oodles of cycling stories flying around in the news. So here’s a quick-hit summary of this week’s happenings, plus my own garbage opinions on each. Much like my gambling advice, these takes are for entertainment purposes only!

Dumoulin’s weight-loss program

We are all familiar with the wackiest story from this year’s Giro: Tom Dumoulin nearly lost the race overall because he had to stop and answer the call of nature. Is this the wackiest Giro story ever? If Dumoulin loses, it may go down in history as such. We literally can’t make this sort of story up, people. But maybe, on the contrary, the bathroom break actually saved his Giro. I’ve been there. I know how awful it is to be riding hard with that extra — um — weight. Maybe, if he hadn’t made his own drop-off, he would have been dropped even worse by Quintana and Nibali. Hopefully other racers don’t take a cue from the pink jersey in the stages to come, though. Things could get messy.

Tejay is back!

Tejay van Garderen saved his Giro on Thursday when he rode into the stage 18 breakaway and beat Mikel Landa in a nervy, high-speed sprint. Didn’t I tell you last week? Didn’t I say verbatim “Don’t quit, Tejay!” Well there you have it. This is empirical proof that the pro peloton hangs on my every word. If that is the case, we might start seeing a lot more weird mishaps at the races. On second thought let me add this disclaimer: Attention pro racers reading this. Don’t take my advice. Unless you’re Tejay.

The climber’s jersey may be cursed

Like van Garderen, Landa went to the Giro hoping for a crack at the pink jersey. He’s been sorely disappointed and well out of the running for the overall. Instead, he’s leading the mountains classification and on Friday he finally won a stage after finishing second twice in big mountain stages. Most teams would be thrilled to have those results, but is it enough for Team Sky? The British outfit is used to steamrolling everyone in the Tour de France. I have to think that pink was really the only prize that would suffice. This could be further proof that Sky is truly cursed in the Giro. If David Brailsford starts burning sage and whispering incantations at the start line on stage 20, you’ll know Sky is pulling out all the stops to break the bad juju.

Why are the GC guys so grumpy?

Tom Dumoulin had some choice words for Giro GC rivals Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana after stage 18, saying he hopes they lose their podium spots. He didn’t like how uncooperative they were when Thibaut Pinot attacked. Nibali shot back, calling Dumoulin “cocky.” Seems like the fellas were a little cranky after that tough mountain stage. Maybe they ate a few too many energy gels and their stomachs are feeling a bit knotted up? Luckily there were ample toilets available at the finish. But if the chippy comments continue through the weekend, we’ll know there actually is some bad blood between the Dutchman and the Italian.

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Pressure on, but Yates pulling tricks out of bag Thu, 25 May 2017 19:16:11 +0000 Adam Yates is battling to win the Giro's best young rider's jersey. Without time lost to an untimely crash, he might have been riding for

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ORTISEI, Italy (VN) — The pressure is on, but Adam Yates, 24, keeps pulling tricks out of his bag.

The Brit stuck with the Giro d’Italia’s top stars Thursday, fell behind, returned and attacked. The 137-kilometer stage 18 through the Dolomites challenged him, but he prevailed with a 12th place in Ortisei and enough time to move into the white jersey as best young rider.

“I mean it’s only my second time riding GC, there’s not loads of pressure from the team, but there’s quite a lot of pressure on myself to pull something out of the bag,” Yates said, dressed in white with the bill of his blue Orica-Scott team cap flipped up.

Yates, twin brother and teammate with Simon Yates, moved up two spots overall. He sits 7:06 behind leader Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and 28 seconds ahead of Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) in the youth classification.

Much of Yates’s lost time came when he and others, including Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) and Sky’s Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa, fell due to a parked police motorbike in stage 9 to Blockhaus.

“I’m up there,” added Yates. “I lost quite a lot of time on the day I crashed. We’re losing bits of time here and there, but in general we’re in a good position so all good.”

“He may not be the strongest rider, but if he didn’t crash in Blockhaus, lose four minutes, then for sure he would’ve been in better position,” said teammate Rubén Plaza. “He could’ve won the Giro without the crash? I don’t know, it’s hard to win a grand tour, so it’s hard to say. But he can win these races in the future.”

Plaza dedicated himself to Yates in Thursday’s stage. He made the escape and when he heard his team needed him, he dropped back to the GC group on the Gardena climb midway through the stage.

The duo attacked on the descent with Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Plaza wanted to “turn the race on its head” to see what Yates could do. Yates lost ground on the climb into Ortisei, but regained his strength and powered back.

The ride may not come as a surprise. Yates held second place behind Chris Froome (Sky) in the Tour de France. He managed himself through his second French grand tour, recovered when a one-kilometer inflatable arch fell on him. He placed fourth overall and took won the white jersey.

“He’s a young rider but he has the mentality of an experienced rider,” Plaza said. “He has clear ideas what he wants, and that’s good to ride with someone like that. I work much for him, but he’s appreciative.”

Yates will need to distance Jungels as much as possible over the next two mountain days to Piancavallo and Asiago. In the Luxembourger’s favor, the race ends with a 29.3-kilometer time trial.

“He’s [Jungels] shown that he’s climbed really well. It’s only today where I put quite a bit of time in to him,” Yates said. “In general it’s not really about white it’s about trying to move up the GC in general.

“He’s [Jungels] pretty good. How much time needed? A fair bit — I don’t want to put a number on it, but I definitely need to take some more time.”

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Van Garderen reaches Giro’s promised land Thu, 25 May 2017 18:51:26 +0000 With an emphatic stage win on the Giro's 18th day, Tejay van Garderen breathes new life into his career as grand tour rider.

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ORTISEI, Italy (VN) — Tejay van Garderen erased years of frustration and close-calls Thursday in one dramatic coup in the Dolomites.

After throwing in the towel on his GC hopes earlier during the 2017 Giro d’Italia, van Garderen regrouped to target breakaways, a high-risk bet in any grand tour. The stars aligned in the 137km 18th stage, and van Garderen packed the punch and tactical wile to pull off the biggest win of his career.

“It’s incredible. I came here with GC ambitions, and that didn’t materialize, but I tried to keep the morale high,” van Garderen said. “I’m eight years professional, and this is my first grand tour stage victory. It’s emotional because I’ve had so many trials the past few years.”

The hard-earned success comes as a huge boost for the 28-year-old American, who struggled with the weight of expectation that came with winning the best young rider’s jersey and finishing fifth in only his second Tour de France. The hype soon followed, and though he backed it up with another fifth overall in the 2014 Tour, van Garderen struggled to live up to the demands.

Thursday’s dramatic victory swept away all the built-up angst, and reminded everyone of just the kind of rider van Garderen can be.

“Sometimes things go up, sometimes things go down. Today was definitely up, and hopefully we can keep that trajectory,” he said. “The stage win is always a great feeling to put the arms in the air.”

Just days after expressing doubts to VeloNews about his future as a grand tour rider, Thursday’s victory seemed to bolster his self-confidence that he can compete in three-week grand tours. For a rider who calls himself the “Zen Warrior,” this win seemed to help him remind himself of what he can do.

“I’m not giving up on riding grand tours for GC,” van Garderen said. “I see myself as a similar rider as [Tom] Dumoulin. I just need to avoid having bad days.”

While van Garderen seemed revived about his future prospects, Thursday’s performance was impressive by any measure. A day after riding into Wednesday’s winning breakaway, van Garderen was feeling strong again. BMC Racing teammate Joey Rosskopf followed an early move on the day’s first climb up Passo Pordoi. Van Garderen soon bridged across to a 19-rider group.

With the GC still largely undecided, the main group never let the gap grow beyond two-and-a-half minutes. Van Garderen and Mikel Landa (Sky) were the only two riders left after a long battle of attrition, and the pair nursed a half-minute gap as the pair hit the final kilometers.

Landa, who had lost Tuesday’s stage in a similar two-up sprint into Bormio, seemed to be in control coming into a tricky, technical finale into Ortisei, but van Garderen dared to risk all for the win.

“[Mikel] Landa is a very good bike rider and a very quick sprinter, so it was a bit tactical there at the end,” he said. “I had to be patient and not be excited. I knew it was a downhill finish — I had to do it from the front. He closed on me a bit but I told myself: ‘If I crash, I crash but I’m not going to brake.’ Luckily, I didn’t crash and I’m delighted.”

A jubilant van Garderen leaned against the race barriers at the finish line as fans yelled out congratulations. He buried his face into his hands, and hurried off to the podium area without revealing his at-the-finish emotions.

There was no hiding that the victory meant the world to van Garderen.

“It feels good for me, it’s good to know that I’m still capable of doing a ride like that,” he said later. “Now I have to just put it all together over three weeks like I’ve done in the past, like I know I can do.”

This win puts van Garderen in some elite company. It’s the first American grand tour stage win since Chris Horner won two stages en route to the overall at the 2013 Vuelta a España. It was also the first American winner of a Giro mountain stage since Andy Hampsten won at Selvino in 1988.

Van Garderen isn’t slated to race the Tour. BMC Racing already let it be known that Richie Porte will be the team’s lone leader this July. But he indicated he might race the Vuelta a España.

As BMC Racing sport director Max Sciandri said, a stage win can bring a big boost to any rider. It certainly turned out that way for van Garderen. He seemed to need the win to convince not only his doubters but himself as well.

So what happened over past two weeks?

“That’s a good question. I am going to try to figure that out,” van Garderen said. “For some reason my body hasn’t responded. I would have loved to have come here and raced for GC. This is an amazing feeling. I am happy to have taken something out of this Giro.”

With the win, van Garderen can be content with his Giro debut. His longtime affection for Italy came pouring out as he recounted his association with the mountainous region.

“I love Italy — I love the Giro,” he said. “I used to live in Lucca for several years. I’ve had training camps up the road from here, staying at Chalet Gerard, a lovely hotel on Passo Sella. This area in particular feels like home. Italy is beautiful, people are passionate and positive. I’m surprised it has taken this long in my career to come to the Giro and I’ll certainly be back.”

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Dumoulin swats attacks, trades barbs with Nibali Thu, 25 May 2017 17:56:50 +0000 Polemics erupt at the Giro d'Italia. Tom Dumoulin frustrated by lack of cooperation. Nibali calls the leader "too cocky."

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ORTISEI, Italy (VN) — Just call him “Don” Dumoulin.

The Sunweb captain is emerging as the strongest rider in the 2017 Giro d’Italia. But he’s also showing some spine.

Tom Dumoulin swatted away attacks from Movistar and Bahrain-Merida in Thursday’s explosive five-climb stage across the Dolomites, and then flung a few himself post-stage. He’s the Giro’s new patron.

Dumoulin got his hair up after arch-rivals Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) sat on his wheel as podium challengers Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) sent out late-stage flares, taking back 58 seconds. Tempers flew at the line.

“I hope that Nibali and Quintana will lose their podium spot because they’re focusing only on me,” Dumoulin said. “I don’t understand why the three of us didn’t work together. They also lose their podium spot if the other contenders get closer. Pinot is much better in the time trial than Nibali and Quintana … Like I said, if they only focus on me, it would be nice if they lose the podium spot.”

Those comments quickly ricocheted around the race paddock, and an old-school “polemics” kicked up as journalists got grabs from the major contenders. After nearly three “tranquilo” weeks, the “real” Giro finally started.

Nibali was the most pointed and accused Dumoulin of getting “cocky.” He suggested the Dutchman is getting nervous with the growing stress that comes with the maglia rosa.

“I don’t care what Tom said. I think he is being too cocky,” Nibali told RAI after a journalist recounted Dumoulin’s comments. “He is talking too much. He could also lose the podium, because nothing is sure in this Giro. Maybe he should keep his feet on the ground. Does he know what karma is? Because everything comes around.”

Dumoulin quickly countered: “And he called me cocky! Those are strong words from his side. If Nibali is here to win the Giro, I was not happy how they rode today. They were only trying to make me lose. That’s his choice.”

“Until today, I had no problem with Nibali. I just didn’t like his style of racing in the bunch,” Dumoulin continued. “It’s strange that they rode that way. Maybe they will lose their own podium spot. If [Nibali] doesn’t care about it, that’s his problem.”

The “he-said, she-said” continued. Nibali insisted that it was Dumoulin’s responsibility, as race leader, to chase down the podium threats from all sides.

“He’s the strongest. Nairo and I had to control [Dumoulin],” Nibali said. “He cannot expect that if fifth on the GC attacks, that it’s up to us to chase.”

The heated comments came at the end of a heated stage. Movistar and Bahrain-Merida had the knives out in the short, intense stage across the spectacular mountains of Italy’s Dolomites.

Movistar put two riders up the road in a breakaway, and slowly turned the screws. By the time the main GC pack hit the Passo Gardena on the day’s third climb, the trap was set. Dumoulin was left without teammates, and then Quintana attacked to bridge to the waiting Andrey Amador and Winner Anacona. Nibali soon followed.

Dumoulin looked to be on the ropes, and the leading attackers were hoping to clear the summit before a long descent to finally break the stubborn Dutchman. Revealing his depth of strength, Dumoulin singlehandedly bridged a 20-second gap that nearly put Quintana into the virtual lead.

“It was a strong attack on Gardena, and it was not easy, but I was able to close it,” Dumoulin said. “In the final, I was not completely happy with the situation. I wanted to stay with all the GC riders. It was for Nibali, Quintana, and me to keep it together. That’s why I was a little bit frustrated that they only rode my wheel.”

After a long, 40km downhill, punctuated by a short climb, the GC group hit the base of the final 9.3km run up to Ortisei eyeing each other. Dumoulin smothered a few sorties by Quintana and Nibali. He even countered with one acceleration. With Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) winning the stage out of a breakaway, the GC group looked stalemated until Pinot and Pozzovivo attacked in the closing 3km.

“I saw that everyone was very tired,” said Pozzovivo, who remained sixth, but trimmed his gap to 2:07. “When I attacked, only Pinot could follow, and I thought that they would hesitate, and I could take time. That is exactly what happened.”

Quintana, meanwhile, kept his poker face on. The Colombian tried at least two major attacks, and couldn’t shake Dumoulin. Sensing that the Dutchman was strong, he took a risk when Pinot and Pozzovivo attacked to put Dumoulin under pressure.

Dumoulin was waving to Nibali and Quintana to chase, but they both sat icily on his wheel.

“He was telling us to close the gap, but we left the responsibility to him,” Quintana said. “Every team has their tactics. We had ours today, and it worked well, but Dumoulin is proving he is very strong. I think today at least we made him suffer, and tomorrow we’ll try again.”

Time could well be running out for Nibali and Quintana. Only two more summit finales stand between Dumoulin and the final-day time trial in Milan. But even he knows the race is far from over.

“If I have a bad day in the coming days, I can lose time. Today I felt confident that I was able to control the situation,” Dumoulin said. “I lost it all on the last day of the Vuelta, so it’s definitely not over until we are in Milan.”

The Giro might not be over, but the polemics finally started. It will be all over La Gazzetta dello Sport in tomorrow’s edition.

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