Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Mon, 24 Jul 2017 12:44:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 32 32 Froome sets sights on fifth Tour triumph in 2018 Mon, 24 Jul 2017 12:42:39 +0000 Chris Froome has four Tour de France victories. A fifth win would put him in a select group of legendary cyclists.

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PARIS (AFP) — Chris Froome on Sunday set his sights on a fifth Tour de France victory in 2018, which would move him alongside legends Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain as a five-time winner.

“It’s a huge honor to be talked about in the same sentence as those guys with their place in the history of the Tour de France,” said 32-year-old Froome after winning the 2017 edition of the Tour.

“It is just a privilege to even be in the position to be going for that kind of record.

“Each time I’ve won the Tour it’s so unique and so different and it is such a different battle to get to this moment.

“So they’re all special in their own ways, and this year I think will be remembered for being the closest and most hard-fought battle between the GC rivals.”

First off, however, was a Froome family celebration after being reunited with his wife and young son in Paris on Sunday.

“It’s amazing to see them again. It feels like more than a month on the road,” said Froome. “Definitely a celebration is overdue. I’m looking forward to it.”

Froome had already toasted with a glass of champagne on the road during Sunday’s stage 21 of the 104th edition of the Tour, a 103-kilometer run from Montgeron to Paris.

The stage was won by young Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), denying German veteran Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) a hat-trick of wins on the Champs-Élysées.

Having won in 2015 and again last year, Greipel left his charge until too late and came up short of Groenewegen’s winning sprint.

“I was in the position I wanted to be in the corner, but maybe I should have gone a bit earlier,” admitted Greipel, whose team failed to win a Tour stage this year.

“Groenewegen made a really strong sprint. It was a headwind and in the end maybe the race was five meters too short.

“Of course, I am not happy and the team is not happy that we didn’t win a stage and now we have to look forward.”

Groenewegen said he picked the right wheel to follow into the sprint.

“To win on the Champs-Élysées makes it a perfect day. We’re only five riders in the team but it was enough today,” the 24-year-old said.

“They did a great job. They put me in a good position, on the wheel of Alexander Kristoff, and then I rushed to the finish line.”

For Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac), finishing second to Froome was a reason to celebrate.

No one before in any of Froome’s previous Tour victories had finished within a minute of the dominant Briton. Uran was 54 seconds back.

“I’m delighted, it’s emotional, the fruit of many years of dedication, hard work, and effort,” said the 30-year-old Colombian.

“Today is the recompense. I feel like I’m flying. It was a great race against a rival like Froome. Now’s the time to make the most of it.

“My message to the people of Colombia is to work hard — things come to those who work hard, are dedicated, and try.”

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Chris Froome wins fourth Tour de France Sun, 23 Jul 2017 17:17:46 +0000 The 32-year-old Briton from Team Sky crossed the finish line on the Champs-Élysées as a four-time Tour de France winner.

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PARIS (VN) — Chris Froome has won the Tour de France for the fourth time.

The 32-year-old Briton from Team Sky crossed the finish line on the Champs-Élysées near the back of the peloton, one hand in the air and with his entire team around him.

It was the closest Tour in years, decided not with daring uphill attacks but by the methodical accumulation of seconds. Fifty-four seconds, to be precise, was narrow gap over second place Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac). Romain Bardet (AG2R) clutched third by just one second, 2’20 down on Froome.

The victory brings Froome’s Tour win count to four. Only Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain have won more Tours de France. Each has five.

“I never dreamed of being up there of even come close to Eddy Merckx, Anquetil, or Indurain. It’s amazing to be in this position, it’s such a privilege,” Froome said.

The Tour was once again won on the back of Froome’s impressive time trials. While many of his rivals, including Urán, Bardet, and Astana’s Fabio Aru, were able to match Froome in the high mountains they were unable to do so against the clock.

“The key for me in the Tour with respect to Froome was the 51 seconds I lost in the opening stage time-trial in Dusseldorf,” Urán said. “In the mountains there wasn’t much difference and I improved a lot.”

Froome gained 1’16” over second-place Uran across the Tour’s two time trials, a wider gap than his 54” win margin.

“Given the course we had this year it was always the tactic to ride a three week race and not go out one day with the aim to blow the race apart or smash it with a stage win,” Froome said. “It was just about chipping away on eveyr stage and making sure there weren’t any major losses on anyway.”

The Sky leader’s race was not without its setbacks. After failing to eat enough on the stage to Peyragudes, Froome lost seconds and the yellow jersey to the Italian Aru, dropping badly in the final 300 meters of the steep climb.

“I’m grateful it wasn’t any worse than that,” Froome said of the stage. “If you have a bad day in the mountains you can lose minutes.”

Aru would return the jersey two days later in a seemingly innocuous but decisive stage that seemed to characterize the unusual nature of this Tour de France.

“It’s certainly not getting any easier,” Froome said. “This one was the closest of my Tour de France career.”

As Froome dropped atop the Peyragudes, his teammate Mikel Landa rode on, fueling speculation that the domestique may want to challenge for victory. That issue was settled in stage 9, as Chris Froome suffered the second ill-timed mechanical of the race and was forced to chase while Bardet’s AG2R pushed on. Landa dropped off the lead group to pull his leader back to the front.

Wary of Froome’s time trial prowess, his rivals looked to the final stages in the Alps to make the time they needed ahead of Saturday’s Marseilles time trial. Bardet was particularly active, setting his entire team against the face of the Col d’Izoard and adding attacks of his own near its peak.

Nothing could break Fortress Froome, though, or his exceptional team. He came into the final time trial with a healthy gap, and only extended that lead. A fourth yellow jersey, earned against the clock and in the Tour’s unpredictable margins, was his.

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Cookson addresses equal prize money for women’s cycling Sun, 23 Jul 2017 16:40:24 +0000 VeloNews caught up withUCI President Brian Cookson in Paris for a wide-ranging interview about the state of professional cycling.

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PARIS (VN) — UCI President Brian Cookson was in Paris on Sunday for the final stage of the 2017 Tour de France. VeloNews caught up with Cookson for a wide-ranging interview about the state of professional cycling.

We asked Cookson for his perspective on the current inequality in prize money between men and women at many UCI-sanctioned races. This past week organizers of Oregon’s Cascade Cycling Classic received widespread criticism for offering the UCI minimum prize purse for both men ($23,979) and women ($8,025). Cascade stepped up to the UCI 2.2 level for 2017 and was required to offer at least the minimum.

An 11th hour campaign by sponsors and a Gofundme page helped bring the women’s prize money equal for the men’s.

Cookson was not familiar with the specifics involving the Cascade Cycling Classic, but said he hopes the UCI can move its prize money minimums toward a more equitable level in the future.

“The role of the UCI is to make the women up to the level of the men, not to reduce the men’s. Organizers have to make those decisions themselves within the budgets and sponsorships that they have available. We set a minimum [prize money] limit, and at the moment the minimum limit is lower for women than it is for men. We are going to move towards increasing those minimums across the board. I think we have to be cognizant of the fact that some organizers can’t just flip a magic switch and do that.”

The role the UCI can play within this space is to lead by example, he said.

“I don’t think we get enough credit, those events that we control the budgets—like the UCI World Championships—we have absolutely equalized prize money between men and women. We can impose rules but rules don’t necessarily generate funding and sponsorship. You have to find ways to support organizers so it will generate sponsorships. I think that’s what we’re doing with our Women’s WorldTour is to start that journey by raising the profile of women’s racing and making sure the events are high-caliber.

In addition to raising the minimum prize purses for women’s races, Cookson said he also wants to create a hierarchy amongst professional women’s teams in which the top squads can pay a minimum salary. Currently, UCI-registered pro women’s teams are not required to pay salaries.

Cookson has discussed similar plans throughout his four-year term as UCI President. He said that the solution to creating a minimum salary requirement for pro women’s teams has presented serious challenges.

“Four years ago this was something I was saying, that we’ll have a minimum wage for women. It’s not that easy to just pass a rule. You can’t just pass a rule. What the women’s team directors and riders told me is if you pass that rule you will kill half the teams because they cannot afford it. They will re-register as club teams.”

“Four years ago this was something I was saying, that we’ll have a minimum wage for women. It’s not that easy to just pass a rule. You can’t just pass a rule.”
– Brian Cookson

Whether Cookson will work on these reforms depends on the upcoming UCI election in September. Cookson is seeking his second term, and is running Frenchman David Lappartient and Belgian Tom Van Damme.

“We want to achieve a stronger financial base for the women’s scene that enables miimum wages and gives good prize money and equalizes the situation. It’s not a matter of flicking a switch or passing a rule. It’s a developmental process.”

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De Gendt upset over jury decision to award Barguil Tour’s super-combativity prize Sun, 23 Jul 2017 16:01:54 +0000 Belgian Thomas De Gendt blasted an all French jury for naming Warren Barguil as the race’s most aggressive rider.

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MARSEILLE, France (VN) — Belgian Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), who spent 1,280 kilometers in escapes in the Tour de France, blasted an all French jury for naming Warren Barguil (Sunweb) as the race’s most aggressive rider.

De Gendt failed at winning a stage with his attempts, but at least wanted to take the overall Prix de la Combativite home. Instead, Frenchman Barguil — winner of two mountains stages and the climber’s jersey, received the nod.

“Let at least one international jury member should have a say in it,” De Gendt said. “If there were five Belgians in the jury, the outcome would have looked different. This proves that the jury composition is not correct.”

“If there were five Belgians in the jury, the outcome would have looked different. This proves that the jury composition is not correct”
– Thomas De Gendt

De Gendt won the Mont Ventoux stage in 2016. This year, his long effort to Rodez nearly paid off. It at least earned him the combativity prize for the day.

The panel votes on the most aggressive rider of the day and after three weeks, awards the super-combativity for the Tour. It does have an international flavor with Greg LeMond voting and public input coming via Twitter.

The three-time American worked for Eurosport during the Tour. The rest of the panel includes Frenchmen Jean Montois (AFP), Alexandre Roos (L’Equipe), Laurent Jalabert (France Télévision) and Thierry Gouvenou (Tour de France).

“I’m too disappointed to go deeper into it. I’d like to go home right away, but I will do my utmost to make it a sprint on the Champs-Élysées today,” De Gendt added.

“Let me be clear: Barguil rode a fantastic Tour and he deserves everything. But a mountains jersey is for the best climber, a stage win is for the strongest guy of the day, and the points jersey is there for the most consistent sprinter.

“I think the combativity jersey is there for the rider who showed throughout the whole Tour his intention to animate the race and to attack. For me that hasn’t lead to the desired effect: a stage win, but that is not necessary to win the super-combativity award.”

De Gendt shared in Twitter the public’s vote, showing an overwhelming win for him. The jury panel would have taken that into consideration in its decision.

He wrote, “The public vote is worth more to me than the vote of six jury members.”

In the past, riders gained points that put them in contention for the prize. Since 2003, a jury votes for it daily. Last year, Peter Sagan took home the overall super-combativity award.

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Froome talks Sky budget, TDF media strategy Sun, 23 Jul 2017 12:50:12 +0000 Soon-to-be four-time Tour champ Chris Froome fielded questions about the race, his career, and cycling in general prior to Sunday's finale.

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MARSEILLE, France (VN) — Chris Froome will ride into Paris on Sunday to claim his fourth Tour de France title having survived a topsy-turvy race that afforded few opportunities for time gaps.

As is tradition for Tour champions, Froome held a press conference after Saturday’s stage 20, and fielded questions about the race, his career, and cycling in general.

VeloNews asked Froome about the budgetary inequity that is present amongst the WorldTour teams. Froome’s Team Sky operates with the largest payroll in pro cycling, with an annual budget of around $40 million, according to multiple reports. The payroll is more than double that of many other WorldTour squads.

The sizable budget is one reason why Sky has been able to attract a roster talented Grand Tour domestiques, which include Michal Kwiatkowski, Sergio Henao, Wout Poels, Mikel Nieve, and Mikel Landa.

Froome compared cycling to European soccer, where clubs are often free to spend as much as possible without a salary cap. He believes a salary cap in cycling may actually have a negative impact on the sport.

“If you just look at Football for example. You look at the best teams typically win the most and can then afford to buy the biggest players and the best players and it’s almost this cycle,” he said. “We’ve found a similar thing in cycling.

“If you just look at Football for example. You look at the best teams typically win the most and can then afford to buy the biggest players and the best players”
– Chris Froome

“Obviously I think my teammates have shown that they are the strongest team in the race. We’ve won the team classification. Mikel Landa has just missed the podium as well.

“It’s been an amazing race for us this year,” the 32-year-old continued. “If that’s all due to budget—I can’t say. I personally think that is how professional sport works. If a team is successful it is able to reinvest its funds and develop the sport further.

“If you put a budgetary cap maybe it doesn’t quite incentivize successes they way it is at the moment.”

Reporters also asked Froome about team Sky’s controversial media strategy during this year’s Tour de France. Typically, teams that are contending for the general classification hold press conferences during the tour’s rest days.

This year Sky bucked tradition and did away with those press conferences, instead inviting a select group of television and radio broadcast media to its hotel for the race’s second rest day.

A media controversy then sprung up after David Brailsford, Sky’s principal, asked a reporter from the website to leave the media availability on the second rest day.

Froome said the media strategy was done by his request.

“I think it is something I decided with the team—not to do big press conferences on rest days. I was still doing media but not doing press conferences, more just because rest days are meant to be rest days, and a big press conference is certainly not conducive to recovery,” he claimed. “I felt as though it really helped me this year, being able to switch off on my rest days. That’s what those days are there for, otherwise they’d be called media days.”

“I think it is something I decided with the team—not to do big press conferences on rest days…rest days are meant to be rest days, and a big press conference is certainly not conducive to recovery”
– Chris Froome

Froome called the 2017 Tour de France a “three-week race in essence” due to the lack of decisive days. He said Sky came into the race with the objective of grabbing small time gaps on crucial stages, rather than targeting one or two stages for a decisive victory. So while he finished the race without a stage win, the conservative strategy paid off.

“Give the course we had this year it was always the tactic to ride a three week race and not go out to smash it for the stage win. It was always going to be a three week race this year in a sense of just chipping away on every stage and makingsure there weren’t any massive losses on any days,” Froome explained. “Yes, I did suffer in the Pyrenees and lose 25 seconds on that stage to Peyragudes, but I’m extremely grateful it wasn’t any worse than that.

“Normally when you have a bad day in the mountains you can lose minutes.”

While Froome would not say whether the 2017 Tour de France was his toughest victory, he said that it was certainly his closest. In his mind, the victory was never assured until he finished Saturday’s time trial in Marseilles.

“Coming into the stadium with Romain Bardet just ahead of me, and knowing that if I navigated the last two corners correctly that would be it for this year’s Tour de France battle [was when he knew],” Froome admitted.

“There have been ups and downs over the last three weeks but I think it has been a Grand Tour in a sense that it has been about the three weeks.

“It wasn’t about one single stage,” he concluded. “That is what Grand Tour racing is.”

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VN podcast, ep. 42: The Tour’s final countdown Sat, 22 Jul 2017 23:26:46 +0000 The last week of the Tour delivered thrills and spills and plenty of drama. It was capped off by Saturday's decisive Marseille time trial.

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

The last week of the Tour delivered thrills and spills and plenty of drama. It was capped off by Saturday’s decisive time trial through the streets of Marseille. Fred Dreier and Caley Fretz have takes galore on the week’s biggest stories and then take a walk through the TT paddock, catching up with Greg LeMond, mechanics, riders, and more. Then, the podcast heads into the Marseille Vélodrome for the final battle between Chris Froome, Romain Bardet, and Rigoberto Uran.

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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Urán saves Tour runner-up spot in near-miss Sat, 22 Jul 2017 19:31:15 +0000 Rigoberto Urán saved his runner-up spot in the Tour de France after near-miss in the closing curves of the stage 20 Marseille time trial.

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MARSEILLE, France (VN) — Cannondale-Drapac’s Rigoberto Urán saved his runner-up spot in the Tour de France after a near-miss in the closing curves of the stage 20 Marseille time trial.

The Colombian, racing to overtake Frenchman Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) for second place blasted towards the famous Stade Velodrome stadium and over-powered through a right-hand bend. He slammed against the barriers, but kept upright.

The technical 22.5-kilometer course through Marseille’s city streets and up to the Notre-Dame basilica saw Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) and Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) hit the deck. Urán’s skills saved his Tour started the parties in Medellín and the rest of Colombia.

“It has been a very good Tour for me, I have won a stage, but finishing second is the most important moment of my career,” Urán said.

“Colombia was accustomed to Nairo Quintana making the podium, and with me, its back on the podium. For the country is very important and shows the talent pool we have in Colombia. There are many more cyclists coming through.”

Urán sits second at 54 seconds behind Chris Froome (Sky). Bardet is third at 2:20 and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) placed 12th at 15:28.

Quintana twice finished second to Chris Froome and last year placed third. In this year’s Giro d’Italia, he placed second to Tom Dumoulin. However, in the Tour de France this July, he was not at his best.

It left the door open for a surprise Urán performance. Not many had mentioned him as a Tour de France favourite when the race left Düsseldorf on a rain-soaked day three weeks ago. Few had even mentioned his name and grand tours in the same sentence since he rode back to back second places in the 2013 and 2014 editions of the Giro d’Italia.

After that second place with team Sky in 2013, he signed for Omega Pharma-Quick Step, but he went silent following his Barolo time trail win and second place in 2014.

“I’ve always been the same, although sometimes I’ve had some health problems, but when ride to a podium spot and then you finish fifth or sixth, it feels like you’ve lost everything. But this time, I stayed healthy over the three weeks and I was able to ride with the best.”

“When ride to a podium spot and then you finish fifth or sixth, it feels like you’ve lost everything.”
– Rigoberto Urán

Urán blasted back into shotgun for the Paris stage tomorrow, where the overall classification typically stays as is while the sprinters go for the Champs-Élysées win. Even with his hiccup in Marseille, he was able to clock a time 31 seconds behind winner Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe) and 25 seconds off of Froome.

While Urán pushed for second, Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and France’s hopes faded. Bardet suffered and almost slipped off the podium. He saved it by one second over Mikel Landa (Sky) in third.

“Am I surprised by Urán? No. He already finished on the Giro podium twice and he has great qualities for there week races,” Bardet said. “He had his own tactic and it paid off, he managed the best possible for the strategy he had.”

Bardet previously had been critical of Urán for not attacking and always following, only shooting ahead for bonus seconds at the end of the stages. What ever strategy he had, it worked for second place.

Jonathan Vaughters is seeking a new sponsor for his the team, but is unsure if he can keep Urán in the team for 2018. Astana and other teams are lining up to sign him.

“I have no idea if I will be able to beat Froome in the future,” Urán said. “This year, Sky had a very strong team and they made the difference in many stages. They controlled the Tour from start to finish.”

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Mixed opinions on new La Course Sat, 22 Jul 2017 18:55:09 +0000 Riders react to the new-look La Course by Le Tour de France, which wrapped up Saturday with an unorthodox individual pursuit in Marseilles.

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MARSEILLE, France (VN) — La Course by Le Tour de France wrapped up Saturday with an unorthodox individual pursuit around the Stade Vélodrome stadium in downtown Marseille.

For the race’s fourth edition, organizer ASO removed the event from the Champs-Élysées in downtown Paris and developed an entirely new format for the race. On Thursday, riders raced 67km from Briançon to the top of the Col d’Izoard. The top 20 riders qualified for a pursuit-style individual time trial in Marseille, to be held just before the men’s individual time trial.

Overall winner Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) praised organizers for shifting the event away from the Champs-Élysées and developing the new competition format. The new event gave other riders a chance to grab attention — not just the sprinters.

I think we can show we can do more than just laps on the Champs-Élysées,” Van Vleuten said. “I think my Strava file from the Izoard, I think people really like to see that; girls are also pretty fast on the bike. It was a great moment to ride up the Izoard with lots of people to watch.”

The event was not without its critics. On Friday the event received public criticism from retired German rider Judith Arndt, who called the event “pathetic and almost humiliating” because of its short length and strange format. Arndt won three world championships during her career, and won the Tour de l’Aude — which was viewed as the women’s Tour de France — on two occasions.

“If they can’t organize a proper race for them, they should just leave it,” Arndt wrote on her Facebook page. “Women’s cycling is such a serious sport and should be treated as such.”

“If they can’t organize a proper race for them, they should just leave it.”
– Judith Arndt

Among women at the race, opinions were also mixed. Reactions were extremely positive after Thursday’s stage up the Col d’Izoard, with criticism coming after Saturday’s event in Marseille. After finishing outside the time limit on Thursday, Marianne Vos (WM3 Racing) called the event “a good show.”

“It is interesting to see this hillclimb as the best climbers have the opportunity to show themselves in La Course now,” Vos said. “We sprinters had our chance of the [Champs-Élysées] and now its time for the climbers.”

Australian racer Shara Gillow (FDJ) also praised the event due to the crowd size. On both Thursday and Saturday the women raced along sections of the men’s route, with the spectator counts numbering well into the thousands. Gillow said the crowds were even bigger than the 2012 Olympics in London.

“I’m still buzzing from riding up in the French Alps — I’m thankful that we can have a day like we did Thursday,” she said. “I didn’t kick up a fuss about it because I think we’re really privileged to have a taste of it.”

“I’m still buzzing from riding up in the French Alps. I think we’re really privileged to have a taste of it.”
– Shara Gillow

British rider Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) was less-enthusiastic about the two days of racing. After the Marseille event she called the unorthodox pursuit race “an experiment” and had somewhat mixed feelings on the La Course format.

“We took it as seriously as probably we felt the organizers took us today,” Deignan said. 

The race posed an event to teams from a behind-the-scenes standpoint, Deignan said. Since a rider’s spot in Marseille was not guaranteed — the results from the Izoard qualified them for Marseille — it was challenging for teams to prepare for the race, she said.

“Our strategy was to win on the Izoard and treat that as a one day event and treat this as a bit of fun and see what happened,” Deignan said. “It’s the behind the scenes stuff that you don’t have an appreciation for. Its the hotels and flights and bikes, spare wheels — what wheels do you even need? All the things we can’t prepare for properly.”

The organization of the Marseille event — or lack thereof — presented other challenges, Deignan said. 

“This morning I was in a car park looking for a female toilet and there wasn’t any at the start,” she said. “To warm up for a TT not knowing where the closest bathroom is—if there is one at all—it’s difficult to take that seriously.”

“To warm up for a TT not knowing where the closest bathroom is — if there is one at all — it’s difficult to take that seriously.”
– Lizzie Deignan

Deignan said she has an open mind for the event’s future. The various sponsors of the women’s peloton, she said, received good attention at the event. But Deignan would like the organization hurdles to improve.

We’re at a stage where we deserve more probably,” she said. 

A universal sentiment from the women’s peloton was that organizer ASO should try to grow the event to multiple days. If the old format featured one day on the Champs-Élysées, and the 2017 format had two race days, then why not extend it to three, four, or five days in the future?

“That would be great if we had a bit longer stage race,” said Polish rider Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling). “I see improvement every year. Last year we only got on [Champs Élysées]. Now we have two stages. I’m hoping in the future we can have four stages and maybe five. Maybe it’s like the [Giro Rosa] and we have 10 stages.”

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Froome honoured to be mentioned alongside Tour greats Sat, 22 Jul 2017 18:02:49 +0000 Chris Froome said on Saturday it was an "honour" to be mentioned in the same breath as Eddy Merckx and Miguel Indurain.

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MARSEILLE, France (AFP) — Chris Froome said on Saturday it was an “honour” to be mentioned in the same breath as five-time Tour de France winners Eddy Merckx and Miguel Indurain.

The 32-year-old Briton all but wrapped up a fourth title in Saturday’s 22.5km time-trial in Marseille, putting himself alone in fifth on the list of most successful Tour riders of all time.

When he rides into Paris on Sunday he will know that only Belgian great Merckx, Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, and Spanish freight train Indurain have won the Tour more times than him.

“Obviously it’s a huge honour just to be mentioned in the same sentence as greats of the Tour de France history like that, but certainly I’m just taking it one race at a time,” said the Sky team leader.

“I have to get to Paris tomorrow safely with the rest of the guys. I’m just taking it one season at a time.

“But certainly, I’ve got a new-found appreciation for just how difficult it is for those guys to win five Tours de France.

“It’s certainly not getting easier. This one was the closest of my Tour de France career.”

It wasn’t just the closest — his 54-second winning margin to Rigoberto Uran tighter than the 1 -minute 12-sec0nd gap to Nairo Quintana in 2014 and a world away from the more than four-minute advantages of 2013 and last year — it was also his least glorious in one way.

Froome won three Tour stages in 2013, two last year and one in 2015. He also won a stage in 2012 when finishing second to his Sky team-mate Bradley Wiggins.

But this year he has not finished higher than third in a stage and in fact hasn’t won any race of any kind in 2017, until his expected coronation tomorrow.

– Pyrenean suffering –

But Froome insisted it takes nothing away from his overall triumph.

“Given the course that we had this year it was always the tactic to ride a three week race and not go out one day with the aim to blow the race apart or smash it with a stage win,” he said.

“It was just about chipping away on every stage and making sure there weren’t any massive loses on any day.

“Yes, I suffered in the Pyrenees and lost 20 seconds that day up to Peyragudes (stage 12) but I’m very grateful it wasn’t any worse than that.

“If you have a bad day in the mountains you can lose minutes.”

Froome was actually jeered by sections of the crowd in Marseille’s Velodrome football stadium when he started his time-trial but he said there were no hard feelings given the battle that was about to play out with home hero Romain Bardet, who faded from second to third behind Uran.

“I think it’s perfectly normal with a Frenchman in second place, 23 seconds behind me on the start line this morning, being in the centre of Marseille and finishing in a football stadium,” said Froome, who was nonetheless cheered at the finish.

“It’s not something I’m going to take personally. I’ll forgive them for that today.

“But the support out on the roads has been incredible. It’s been bigger and better and I just want to thank them.

“Those people make this race so special, it’s their race. People grow up as a family tradition watching the Tour de France and it’s amazing to be a part of that.”

And Froome gave short shrift to rivals who might hope he will slow down one day.

“I’m definitely getting older but at the same time, each year I’d like to think I’m still learning more, still developing as a rider.

“I’m becoming a more complete rider. Something I’ve definitely worked on these last few years is descending, my positioning in the bunch.

“But tactically I’ve still got more to learn.”

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‘Tired’ Bardet relieved to hold onto podium place Sat, 22 Jul 2017 17:03:53 +0000 Romain Bardet revealed he'd been suffering from "fragile" health as he fought to hold onto a podium finish on stage 20 Saturday.

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MARSEILLE, France (AFP) — Romain Bardet revealed he’d been suffering from “fragile” health as he fought bravely to hold onto a podium finish on stage 20 won by Maciej Bodnar at the Tour de France on Saturday.

Bardet, 26, was struggling from the word go in the 22.5km time-trial around Marseille and having started the day just 23 seconds behind leader Chris Froome in second place, he ended it hanging onto third by just one second from Mikel Landa, and 2 minutes 20 seconds behind Froome.

“I’m at my limit, I’m tired, I gave everything. It’s the Tour de France, there are 21 stages, some days when you feel good and other days you don’t,” said the Frenchman, who was 52nd on the stage, some 2:02 behind winner Maciej Bodnar of Poland.

“Today I really didn’t feel good. For the last few days I haven’t been in good health and today I paid for it in cash.

“I fought to the end but it’s true that it was tough, I quickly saw that I wasn’t at the races, I did the time-trial with my head today.

“I’m starting to get to know my body really well and I know when I’m good and when I’m not.

“I’m getting tired. The day after the Izoard (stage 18) I could feel that my immune system was fragile. This morning I didn’t feel good when I woke up.”

Rather than fulfilling the dreams of a nation and battling to overhaul Froome, Bardet not only dropped below Rigoberto Uran but was simply hanging on grimly for third, which he said was success in itself, despite having finished runner-up to Froome last year.

“I knew I couldn’t let my head go down in the money-time. I’m delighted to have given it everything and there’s a little bit of success in having saved a podium place,” he said.

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Van Vleuten escapes chasers in La Course pursuit Sat, 22 Jul 2017 13:29:38 +0000 Annemiek van Vleuten won the first edition of La Course’s pursuit-style time trial on Saturday.

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MARSEILLE, France (VN) — Annemiek van Vleuten raised her arms to a roar inside the Marseille Velodrome as she held off her chasers to win the first edition of La Course’s pursuit-style time trial on Saturday.

Boels-Dolman’s Lizzie Deignan outsprinted Wiggle High5’s Elisa Longo-Borghini for second, crossing the line 1’52” back. Boels’ Megan Guarnier was fourth.

The unique event had each rider set off with the gaps earned in Thursday’s La Course race to the top of the Col d’Izoard. That meant Orica-Scott’s van Vleuten rolled down the start ramp 43 seconds ahead Deignan, 1’23” on Longo-Borghini, and 1’28” on Guarnier.

The format, which left racers on their road bikes and allowed drafting, forced tactical decisions among the top riders. Deignan made the call to wait up for Guarnier and Longo Borghini, believing that she would be unable to bridge the 43-second gap to van Vleuten alone. That put a select group 90 seconds behind van Vlueten in the first half of the race.

“Half of the fun for this race today was thinking about what other riders would do,” van Vleuten said. “If they want to win they have to come together and chase me together. I thought for sure they would wait, especially Lizzie would wait for her teammate and ride together.”

“Today was a different formula, and I think it’s good, like the Hammer series, to try something new,” van Vleuten said.

Even with three riders working together, the gap to van Vleuten refused to budge. As the chasers hit the day’s steep climb Guarnier fell off and left just Deignan and Long-Borghini. In the final kilometers, the two began to play a bit of cat-and-mouse, allowing van Vleuten to further stretch her lead.

Top-10 overall

1. Annemiek Van Vleuten (NED/Orica), in 32:52
2. Lizzie Deignan (GBR/Boels), at 1:52
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA/Wiggle), at 1:52
4. Megan Guarnier (USA/Bols), at 3:00
5. Amanda Spratt (AUS/Orica), at 3:26
6. Shara Gillow (AUS/FDJ), at 3:48
7. Lauren Stephens (USA/Tibco), at 3:53
8. Katarzyna Niewadoma (POL/WM3), at 4:35
9. Ashliegh Moolman Pasio (RSA/Cervelo), at 4:35
10. Ana Sabria (COL/Servetto), at 4:46

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Video: Women’s La Course takes on the Izoard Fri, 21 Jul 2017 20:38:49 +0000 Watch video highlights from the Women's WorldTour's La Course race up the famous Col d'Izoard.

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What happened to Andrew Talansky? Fri, 21 Jul 2017 20:23:40 +0000 After a light racing schedule in the first half of 2017, plus some misfortune, Andrew Talansky comes up short at the Tour de France.

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SALON-DE-PROVENCE, France (VN) — What happened to Andrew Talansky?

The only American to enter this Tour de France with GC ambitions — in fact, the only American to enter this Tour ever having ridden it before — did not, in the end, contend. He will set off on Saturday more than an hour before Sky’s Chris Froome and will finish in Paris more than two hours down on the general classification.

“I did enter pretty hopeful,” Cannondale-Drapac’s Talansky said. But his early results weren’t a sterling case for optimism. He lost time on the tricky finish of stage 3. Then he dropped a few more minutes on Planche des Belles Filles, the first real climbing test. “I knew early on I wasn’t feeling super,” he said. “Even on those early climbs, you know if you’re there or not. It was pretty clear I was not.”

He hoped his legs would turn around, he said at the end of the first week. And slowly, they did. By Thursday he was jumping in breaks again. After a week and a half of near-complete anonymity, he was able to take an important turn for Rigoberto Uràn.

This may be the best Tour de France ever for Talansky’s Cannondale-Drapac team. That makes Talansky’s inconspicuousness feel even more unusual. Uràn is in third, likely to jump to second in the final time trial. He also won stage 9. Taylor Phinney and Nate Brown, the other two Americans in the race, both wore the polka-dot jersey in their first Tour.

In previous years, we would have written half a dozen stories about Talansky’s Tour already. For 2017, this is the second.

So what went wrong? A series of mildly unfortunate events, basically. A broken thumb over the winter slowed his base season, though the spring build went largely to plan. He was strong at the Amgen Tour of California, where he finished third, and rode an acceptable Critérum du Dauphiné. But then he got sick, he says. Training between the Dauphiné and the Tour ground to a halt.

“Up until 10 days before the race started, I was unsure if I was going to be able to line up healthy,” he said. “It was touch and go. You don’t want to line up if you’re not healthy.”

He was healthy by Dusseldorf, but lacked the edge needed to truly contend. The Tour de France is merciless. It does not take kindly to riders who arrive even slightly off their game.

“I’m always an optimistic person, but I’ve also been doing this long enough that I know what the reality of it was as well,” Talansky said. “You need months, not weeks, of things going smoothly. You have enough little things not quite line up and they combine with not having a solid winter, breaking my thumb, you add those things up, and it’s going to be a big ask.

“Perfection doesn’t exist, particularly in this sport,” he said. “It’s more just being realistic. You don’t need 100 percent, you need 80, 85. One hundred percent never happens. Ninety rarely happens. But when you’re down at 50 …”

Cannondale did appear to make every effort to tune its only American GC contender for the Tour this year. Team general manager Jonathan Vaughters allowed Talansky to race infrequently this spring because he’d been given the green light to focus on the Tour. Before the Tour of California in May, he’d raced for just eight days. He didn’t finish either of the early season stage races he entered. It was purposeful, according to the team. Talansky had performed well at the Vuelta a España last fall on relatively minimal racing. He was fifth in Spain. Maybe he could replicate that in the Tour.

Hindsight is 20/20, and it seems both Talansky and Vaughters may be second-guessing the light spring schedule. Talansky said on stage 4 that he had come into the Tour a little “under-raced.” Vaughters now sings a different tune too. “I think [Talansky] felt like he could get to form on time for the Tour, but our take was always that Rigo [Uràn] was our GC rider and Andrew was there to chip in.”

Now it seems that Talansky may be looking toward the Vuelta, though he wouldn’t lay out a specific race calendar. “The Tour shouldn’t serve as laying a foundation for things, but this is definitely serving as a solid foundation,” he said. “I think I’ll be quite a bit stronger than I’ve been so far.”

So where was Talansky this month? He was reminding us how even the best-laid plans can be left crumbling by even minor pitfalls, and how very heartless the Tour de France can be.

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Stage win salvages Tour for Dimension Data Fri, 21 Jul 2017 19:57:28 +0000 After the frustrating loss of sprinter Mark Cavendish to an early crash, Boasson Hagen gets redemption for Dimension Data team at Tour.

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SALON-DE-PROVENCE, France (VN) — In the hours after Mark Cavendish abandoned this year’s Tour de France with a fractured scapula — an injury he suffered in a controversial crash on stage 4 — Dimension Data’s directors sat down with the eight remaining riders to discuss the rest of the race.

Losing Cavendish was a disaster for the squad, which had built its roster around the Tour’s plethora of pan-flat stages that were perfect for the British rider’s fast finishing kick. So rather than dwell on the obvious, director Roger Hammond tried to shape the news with a positive spin.

“It was like what opportunity does this present to you guys — more freedom,” Hammond said at the finish line of stage 19. “You’re less obliged to work and we’re more potent without having to use riders to get us to the finish line.”

The team’s new “freedom” strategy paid off Friday afternoon on the streets of Salon-de-Provence. Norwegian rider Edvald Boasson Hagen sprung free from a daylong breakaway with 2km remaining and then soloed in for his third career Tour victory. Boasson Hagen finished five seconds ahead of Nikias Arndt (Sunweb), nearly 11 minutes before the peloton containing Chris Froome rumbled into town.

After the stage win, Boasson Hagen credited the team’s positive attitude for keeping his motivation high.

“It was big when we lost [Cavendish] early in the race, but everyone in the team was motivated from the beginning,” Boasson Hagen said. “We can’t just sit down and do nothing for three weeks.”

Indeed, in the days after Cavendish’s abandon, Dimension Data riders targeted the breakaways, sending multiple riders up the road each day. British champion Stephen Cummings nearly survived to the finish line in Peyregudes on stage 12. That day stretched over six categorized climbs in the Pyrénées. Serge Pauwels also attacked often. He rode into the big break on stage 15.

The team also targeted the tricky, uphill sprint stages with Boasson Hagen. He has raced as a lead-out man, a sprinter, and a classics rider throughout his career. He nearly won the stage 7 sprint into Nuits-Saint-Georges — a photo finish declared him second to Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors). Boasson Hagen was third on stage 11 into Pau, again behind Kittel, and then he nearly won stage 16‘s sprint.

“We felt like we were running out of stages,” Hammond said.

When Hammond and fellow director Rolf Aldag examined stage 19’s route, the longest stage of this year’s Tour at 222.5km, they initially saw it as a day for Cummings. But the Brit was nursing a battered body after a crash on stage 17. So instead they tapped Boasson Hagen to ride in the breakaway on the lumpy stage.

The team had a staffer drive the course three weeks before the Tour to create a video of the route. They watched it on the eve of the stage.

“We deliberated about this stage for a long time last night,” Hammond said. “We talked to Eddie and said, ‘You need to make yourself available for the win.'”

Boasson Hagen did not disappoint. He rode carefully in the breakaway over the climbs. Then he followed moves from Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) in the final 20km. As the fastest sprinter in the break, he contemplated waiting for the sprint. But when the group slowed at 2km to go, he attacked.

“To finally make a stage win is great,” he said.

Hammond called the victory “payback” for his riders.

“The guys never really lost motivation,” Hammond said. “The negative of [the crash] was so early for us but also nobody was tired, they were fresh. They were excited about the Tour de France.”

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Froome: It’s my Tour to lose Fri, 21 Jul 2017 19:33:18 +0000 With a 22.5-kilometer time trial standing between Chris Froome and a fourth Tour de France victory, the Brit is cautiously optimistic.

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SALON-DE-PROVENCE, France (AFP) — Chris Froome said he could only lose the Tour de France now on the eve of the decisive time trial in Marseille.

Following Friday’s stage 19, the longest of the race at 222.5km, yellow jersey leader Froome (Sky) admitted that with only Saturday’s race against the clock and Sunday’s procession to Paris left, he should wrap up a fourth overall victory.

“Tomorrow I have to not lose the race. I can’t win it, but I mustn’t lose it,” said Froome, who leads by 23 seconds from France’s Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and 29 seconds to Rigoberto Uràn (Cannondale-Drapac).

But he is widely regarded as a better time trial rider than both of those two, and it would be a major shock were he not to sew up victory on Saturday.

“I have to treat it like any other time trial that I’ve done before,” said Froome of the 22.5km stage. “I have to do everything right. I’m not going to go out there and take any big risks.”

On the opening stage, a 14km time trial in Dusseldorf, Froome beat Bardet by 39 seconds and Uràn by 51 seconds, although heavy rain at times made the conditions treacherous.

“It’s the same as in Dusseldorf. I wasn’t going to take risks in the corners,” said Froome, 32. “When I can push, I will push. It’s not a course where I’ll be going out to risk everything.

“I’d now much rather be in this position than second, third, or fourth and having to make up time on someone else.”

‘Give it everything’

Bardet is usually the slowest of the three contenders against the clock, and he says there will be no pressure on him.

“There’s nothing to think about. You just have to give it everything and not ask any questions,” said the 27-year-old.

The time trial will start and finish in Marseille’s iconic velodrome football stadium, which began life in 1937 as a multi-sport arena hosting track cycling, athletics and rugby, as well as football, to which it has since become dedicated as the home ground of Olympique Marseille.

“At the velodrome, at the finish, it will be as if we’re seeing the Champs-Élysées,” added Bardet. “I’ve had a great Tour. It’s my desire to finish it as well as possible.

“I’m expecting a royal battle, man to man, and to have no regrets.

“I’m thinking about riding the 22 kilometers as fast as possible and we’ll see at the finish.”

Froome has stated Uràn will be the man to beat in Marseille as the Colombian has shown good time trial ability in the past.

And the 30-year-old certainly isn’t ready to let anyone start crowning the Briton. “I would say that it’s the most important time trial I’ve done, coming in the last day and so close to giving victory,” said Uràn. “It’s the most important time trial I’ll do, tomorrow is the most important day of my career!

“The past isn’t important, what matters is the present and what happens tomorrow.

“Froome is a fine rider, he’s really strong. But he knows I’m good in time trials. I hope to do well.”

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‘Project Bardet’ gaining ground in Tour, but not yellow (yet) Fri, 21 Jul 2017 19:08:45 +0000 Romain Bardet's Ag2r teammates are confident the rising French star will ride into the yellow jersey in future Tours de France.

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SALON-DE-PROVENCE, France (VN) — Romain Bardet will return and win the Tour de France soon, says his Ag2r La Mondiale team after a close-fought battle with Chris Froome (Sky) in this 2017 edition.

Bardet sits 23 second back in second overall after 19 stages in the 2017 edition, fast improvement from an already strong ride in 2016. That year, the 26-year-old Frenchman finished second to Froome at 4:05.

“He’ll come back to win the Tour de France. I hope so, he deserves it,” teammate Jan Bakelants told VeloNews.

“He’s a very nice guy to work for, polite and intelligent. He’s a great leader to have. He knows how important a good team around him is, and I think we have that here. You see here that there is a great dynamic in the team that everything falls into place and everyone fights for the other.”

Bardet started the race without his right-hand man Clément Chevrier, who had a crash and head trauma early this year. The two grew up racing together and often escape on wine tasting trips. The French WorldTour team still created a solid fortress around France’s star. Belgian champion Oliver Naesen steamrolled the flats. Mathias Frank, Pierre Latour, and Alexis Vuillermoz sheltered him on the high passes.

“Already he is very strong,” Ben Gastauer said. “He also has the head, the mentality to fight for a long time and never give up. That makes a difference for three weeks.

“If you don’t risk anything then you will not win. He is focused on winning at all costs, the rest, second place for example, is not very important.”

“He has the experience and is ready for the job,” said Naesen. “He’s at my age, 26, and he’s already been second one time. Sometimes you have to gamble it all to win it. If I was him I would do it the same. And he has been second before.”

Last year on the Mont Blanc stage, Bardet attacked when no one else seemed to be able or willing, to earn his second place overall with a stage win. This year, he tried another coup on the Galibier stage and poured everything into a last-ditch effort to overthrow Froome on the Izoard stage. Both days, Froome fended off the attacks.

Ag2r and France want to see him succeed. In doing so, he would become the first Frenchman to win the home race since 1985 when Bernard Hinault won.

This year it is not to be. In fact, he risks sliding down to third overall in the 22.5-kilometer Marseille stage given Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac) sits right behind him and time trials that much better.

However, Vincent Lavenu and the team are building a long-term project off a series of top-10 finishes since 2014. He now has his teammates like Chevrier and Mickaël Chérel, sport director Julien Jurdie, nutritionist Denis Riché, and even his preferred bus driver Cyrille Bertino. The group joined as part of a four-year ‘Project Bardet’ that began in 2015.

“They have been looking for the next French winner for a long time,” Naesen continued. “I think he has the capacity to do so but just needs to improve a little bit. He needs to improve in the time trial but consider he’s only 26 years old.

“If anyone could’ve beat Froome, I expected that Romain Bardet could have this year. And in the future he can keep battling because Froome is 32 and he’s not going to be the best forever. For now, Froome is the best but next year and the year after, I expect Romain to be at the top.”

“He is clearly a rider for the grand tours, and I don’t know if he always wants to do the Tour de France, but maybe he should try the Giro d’Italia or the Vuelta a España once,” added Gastauer. “Even if it didn’t come this year, he will win the Tour soon.”

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Tweets de France: Social media’s impact on cycling’s biggest race Fri, 21 Jul 2017 17:34:16 +0000 In the modern era, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media influence the Tour de France just as much as the riders and teams.

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BRIANÇON, France (VN) — The 2017 Tour de France may someday be remembered less for the battle between Chris Froome, Romain Bardet, and Rigoberto Urán, and more for the victories of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Throughout this Tour, the race’s most contentious moments — and there have been many — have taken a new life on social media. Fans have flooded Twitter and Facebook with slow-motion video clips and GIFs of the controversial moments. They have also used social platforms to praise and attack riders and team staff involved in the disputes.

In some instances, the social chatter reached into the race like an invisible hand. Some riders and staff now avoid contentious situations for fear of the online repercussions. Others use social platforms to actively fan the flames of debate in hopes that the online masses can help enact change.

“It feels like social media gets bigger every year here,” said Jack Bauer of team Quick-Step Floors. “Especially when there are incidents in the race that polarize opinions.”

Sagan’s ouster and the fallout

The Tour’s first scandal erupted on stage 4 when the UCI jury disqualified Peter Sagan. The world champion crashed with Mark Cavendish in the sprint finish. Initial video appeared to show Sagan elbow Cavendish into the barriers.

In the wake of the crash — which knocked Cavendish out of the race with a fractured scapula — Twitter exploded with debate. Was Sagan to blame? Was Cavendish at fault?

Ralph Scherzer, who oversees Bora-Hansgrohe’s social media, said the team’s social accounts received thousands of negative and accusative comments about Sagan’s elbows in the minutes after the finish. An hour later, however, Tour broadcasters and fans posted slow-motion video of the incident online, which went viral. A new storyline emerged: Perhaps Cavendish’s handlebars knocked Sagan’s elbow forward.

Scherzer said the Twitter comments toward the team immediately shifted from outrage to support.

“The first one and a half hours was really not that good because everybody thought it was Peter’s mistake after seeing the first pictures from the front,” Scherzer said. “When the other point of views popped up, people saw something different. Within two hours, most of the comments were to support us.”

It was a much different story with Cavendish and his Dimension Data team, which filed a complaint with the race after the crash. Team director Roger Hammond tweeted that he believed Sagan should be ousted.

“Causes a big crash at 1.5 to go, elbows fellow competitor in the head 300 meters … can only result in one decision.”

The tweet quickly circulated online, generating a wave of negative feedback. Sagan, the peloton’s most popular rider, has 718,000 followers on Twitter and 1 million on Facebook. Hammond eventually closed his Twitter account for the remainder of the race. Dimension Data’s public relations team banned him from commenting on the matter.

“We use our social channels to promote our charity work around the bicycle,” a team representative said.

Cavendish also felt the backlash. The day after the crash, Cavendish posted a video on his social Twitter account to address the crash. He asked fans to stop harassing his family on social media.

“Vile and threatening comments on social media to myself and my family isn’t deserved,” Cavendish said in a video. “I ask you all to respect that please not send threatening or abusive language to myself and my family.”

As the race continued, riders seemed wary of attracting any attention online. German sprinter André Greipel went on Twitter to apologize for being critical of Sagan on a television broadcast.

When the race’s next incident occurred —Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni punched Bauer during stage 10 — both riders simply stayed quiet. Bauer did not even acknowledge the incident at the stage finish, or mention it online. When video surfaced of the punch, Bauer simply told reporters it “was part of cycling.”

Days later, Bauer said he kept quiet because he was wary of generating yet another massive controversy.

“If you want to know what I think, people can talk to me in person because I don’t broadcast it online,” Bauer said. “I think [social media] very often blows these things out of proportion.”

Tweets vs. the UCI

After Sagan’s expulsion, Scherzer said fans reached out via Facebook and Twitter to try and exonerate the sprinter. A group of physics students told him they could prove Sagan’s innocence with a mathematic analysis the video clips. Others sent in clips that were slowed down and zoomed in on the point of contact.

Scherzer made a strategic decision not to share any of the content across the team’s social channels. He tweeted out news of Sagan’s expulsion and the team’s failed appeal to the CAS, but did not challenge the ruling via a statement.

“We didn’t want to influence the official part of the race — we wanted people to make their own decision,” Scherzer said. “It’s not in our attitude to get the public involved.”

One week later, the Cannondale-Drapac team adopted a much different strategy after the UCI docked Rigoberto Urán 20 seconds for taking a water bottle several kilometers from the finish line. The UCI jury penalized Urán, Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo). However it did not penalize French rider Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), the eventual stage winner, who also took a swig of water.

After complaining to the UCI, Cannondale-Drapac team boss Jonathan Vaughters took his grievances to social media. He tweeted his displeasure with the ruling and then posted a video to Instagram showing Bardet taking a drink. He tweeted that the inconsistent ruling was due to “incompetence.”

“I absolutely used Twitter to leverage every bit of support I could to change the situation,” Vaughters said. “We played the official channels as best we could, and when we were shut down, we did it.”

Vaughters then live-tweeted his interaction with the UCI jury, going so far as to inform his followers that the UCI representatives had not responded to his calls and texts. When he did contact the UCI, he tweeted out news from the phone conversation. He said that the person who had conducted the feed was not a team employee, but rather a fan in a team shirt.

In each of the tweets, Vaughters linked to the official UCI twitter feed. Fans retweeted the posts thousands of times.

“It was a point-by-point strategy to put lots of pressure on the commissars to reconsider,” Vaughters said. “Every now and then you need to turn on the switch, and I thought there was a genuine injustice.”

The day after the ruling, the UCI jury reversed its decision and removed the time penalties for all riders. A UCI representative said that the social media pressure did not influence the decision. In a statement, the UCI said, “As with all sports, cycling fans often have very strong and passionate opinions. Like any governing body, we do of course listen to our fans.”

A statement provided by Tour de France owner ASO said that it also does not “react to team or fan commentaries” on social media. ASO employs four staffers to monitor its social channels for comments from riders and teams. They then decide whether to repeat the sentiments online.

Vaughters believes his tweets influenced the UCI’s decision. In a text conversation with a UCI official, Vaughters said the official was weary of the negative online feedback the water-bottle incident had generated.

No matter if his vocal online presence worked or not, Vaughters said the ordeal speaks to a new potential strategy for teams.

“I don’t think it is something you can do too often — maybe once every two years or so,” Vaugthers said. “Social media is supposed to be a place to be goofy and make fart jokes.”

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Garbage Takes: Time for winless Froome to become an alpha dog Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:39:22 +0000 Chris Froome is still winless in 2017. What can the Tour champ in waiting do the prove himself to the peloton and fans?

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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!

Winless Froome

Chris Froome, ostensibly one of the best in the world, has yet to win a bike race in 2017. He looks destined to win a fourth Tour, and may accomplish this without winning a single stage. Only six other champions have won the Tour without taking a stage — the most recent was Oscar Pereiro in 2006. (When Floyd Landis infamously said “I’m gonna say no,” when asked if he doped.) History aside, Froome needs to reassert himself as the peloton’s alpha dog. Here’s my plan: He should win on the Champs-Élysées. Think about it — nearly every sprinter is out of the race due to crashes, sickness, or the UCI jury, so he may have a decent shot at victory. Of course another way Froome could exert his dominance is to go the Bernard Hinault route and punch a protester during Friday’s stage. It is the Tour’s longest day, so surely some French laborers, somewhere along the 222km route will be picketing. Last year, he grabbed beers for his Sky mates on the final stage. Froome could take it up a notch and drag a pony keg behind him to really get the party started.

Or Froome could just win the stage 20 time trial. Yep, that would work for me.

TDF sprinter rematch on Zwift

Marcel Kittel abandoned the Tour de France on stage 17. He was the latest star sprinter to miss the Champs-Élysées. What a shame. Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish, Arnaud Démare, and now Kittel — all out. Fans have been robbed of some great racing this Tour. Fortunately, it’s 2017, and there’s a way we can arrange a rematch. Cav recently tweeted that he was hopping on the Zwift virtual training app for a ride. I say we get all his top sprint rivals online for a virtual showdown. And here’s the best part: If they’re racing on the Internet, Bouhanni can’t hit anybody. He might smash his TV though.

Ski jumpers make the best cyclists

Primoz Roglic won his first stage Thursday, and he did it in his debut Tour de France. What is the secret to his rookie-year success? Maybe it’s his background as an elite junior athlete. No, not a junior cyclist … A ski jumper! It is time for cycling to recruit fresh talent in unexpected places. Maybe the Pro Continental teams can start trolling obscure Olympic sports like modern pentathlon or whitewater canoe to find talented athletes. If Fortuneo-Oscaro wins the 2020 Tour de France with a former French curling champion, we should stop putting so much pressure on junior cyclists.

Transfer rumors are Quintana’s Tour tonic

Cycling is on the brink of the silly season, when riders switch teams (or don’t … but threaten to in order to get more money). This week, the biggest rumor was that Nairo Quintana would leave Movistar. I’m indifferent about whether or not he’ll leave. But I’m very excited that this rumor is floating around. Why? It’s an all-time pro PR move on Quintana’s part. Everyone is bagging on him for failing the Giro-Tour double attempt and tanking at the Tour. Sure, the Colombian quelled this rumor at the end of the week, confirming he’ll ride with the Spanish team through 2019. But he managed to change the storyline — or at least his agent did, planting some stories in the media. Maybe Alberto Contador will emulate the Colombian’s genius PR move with some rumors of his own. Will he start producing his own line of “Pistolero” firearms? Is he going to throw a lavish retirement party for fellow Spaniard Haimar Zubeldia in Mallorca? Could he go vegetarian in 2018 to improve his climbing?

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Froome: Landa could challenge for yellow next year Fri, 21 Jul 2017 13:29:20 +0000 Mikel Linda is slated to leave Sky for another team at the end of this year as he seeks to be a team's top rider.

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COL D’IZOARD, France (AFP) — Mikel Landa can come back next year and challenge Chris Froome for a Tour de France victory, the current champion believes.

Landa, Froome’s Sky teammate, sat fourth at the Tour after Thursday’s final mountain stage at 1:36 behind Froome despite working for him throughout the race.

The 27-year-old Spaniard has already said he’s leaving Sky at the end of the year to look for a role as a team leader. Froome has no doubts he will come back in 2018 to challenge the Briton, who is on the brink of a fourth Tour victory.

“He did have a tough first week in this year’s race but keeping in mind he did the Giro d’Italia, he’s come up through the race remarkably well,” said Froome.

“He’s really been there for me in the moments when it’s been tough up there in the mountains. I’m extremely grateful for that.

“He’s got the engine to ride with the best in the world and he’s certainly capable of coming back to contest the overall victory.”

Landa has already set out his goal: he wants to be No. 1.

“Let’s be clear about this, this can’t happen to me again. I won’t go back to being a No. 2 [rider],” he told journalists on the second rest day.

In 2015, he played second fiddle to Fabio Aru at the Giro d’Italia, giving up his own aspirations to help the Italian, who finished second to Alberto Contador while Landa was third.

It was one of the reasons he then left Astana to join Sky, ostensibly to be the team leader at the Giro.

However, illness cost him and he quit the race after 10 stages when sitting eighth overall in 2015. Earlier this year as a co-leader with Geraint Thomas, a crash in stage 9 ended his overall hopes, although he battled back to win the mountains jersey.

But still, his Giro woes have seen him spend two years riding as Froome’s domestique in the Tour.

What Landa wants now is an unequivocal role as team leader, wherever he can get it.


“You have to make the right decision relating to your personal objectives,” said Landa.

“I’ve been through that experience with Astana and it’s happening again. Life is about the decisions you make for your own interests and the confidence you have in yourself.”

Landa has a lot of self-confidence and hasn’t been afraid to show his strength at this Tour, much like Froome did when riding as Bradley Wiggins’s chief domestique in 2012.

While Wiggins seemed to be annoyed by questions about whether or not Froome could beat him if given free reign, the latter has spent much time praising his Basque teammate this year and repeatedly thanking him for his efforts.

“Mikel Landa has been a brilliant teammate, absolutely amazing,” Froome said Wednesday.

“He’s getting stronger and stronger the further into the race we go. He has the potential to finish on the podium.”

When Landa leaves at the end of the year, it won’t be the first time Froome has lost a key teammate with lofty personal ambitions.

Rigoberto Uran had ridden for Froome in the 2012 Vuelta a Espana before leaving at the end of 2013 to pursue his own grand tour ambitions. He finished runner-up at the 2013 and 2014 Giro d’Italia and is now set for a podium finish at the Tour.

Richie Porte was a key helper to Froome in his 2013 and 2015 Tour victories but grew tired of waiting for his own chance, especially after his bid for Giro glory in 2015 ended early after a crash.

He was expected to be Froome’s biggest rival this year but again crashed out.

Next year, Froome is likely to line up against a former lieutenant, now hell bent on taking his title.

And Landa could be the man to finally manage that.

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Week in Tech: Mavic support continues, Silca pumps, and more Fri, 21 Jul 2017 12:52:58 +0000 This week's roundup of tech news includes a five-year extension of Mavic's neutral support for the Tour de France.

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Here’s the Week in Tech — all the gear news, tips, and announcements you need and none of the marketing gibberish you don’t.

‘Saint Bernard’ of the Tour signs for five more years

After 40 years of supporting the Tour de France, Mavic extends its contract as the Tour’s official neutral support partner until 2022. Mavic’s owner Bruno Gormand first imagined the idea of neutral support back in 1972. After implementing the program at Paris-Nice the following year, the concept transformed the dynamics of professional racing. “The neutral support from Mavic represents the true “Saint Bernard” of the race,” Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said. And what would the Tour be without the iconic yellow support cars and motorcycles zipping through the field?


Beet pigments make you faster

Sur PhytoPerformance, a plant-based supplement company, launched a new phytonutrient supplement that is aimed at enhancing athletic performance and recovery through beets. AltRed is derived from the pigments found in beets, which Sur isolates and unbinds from nitrates and sugars. Unlike eating beets or beet powder, Sur’s “unleashed” betalain powder provides a pure source of the chemical.

The Sports Performance Laboratory at the University of California Davis performed two double-blind crossover studies on runners and triathletes, testing the efficacy of the betalains in AltRed. Both studies demonstrated statistically significant improvements that were measured by faster performance times, a lower heart rate, a lower perceived effort, and reduced markers of muscle damage.


Silca turns 100 and offers cool stuff to celebrate

Silca brings back a classic to its line, reintroducing the Pista track pump to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary. Silca says it worked to preserve the aesthetics and form of the original Pista while improving function and durability. Each Pista pump comes with an optional anniversary travel bag made from nylon and canvas with multiple storage pockets.

Silca also introduced a limited-edition set of its HX-One tool kit to celebrate the occasion. The fully forged S2 steel keys are encased in a limited edition box made from the heartwood of American walnut trees. Each HX-One box is adorned with a hand-painted centennial emblem.


Outride ADHD campaign from the Specialized Foundation

The Specialized Foundation launched a campaign for exercise as an alternative method of combatting attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “Outride ADHD” is aimed at educating parents, teachers, and doctors about the benefit that cycling can provide to children with ADHD, which affects one out of nine schoolchildren in the United States.

The Specialized Foundation partnered with Stanford University to further research the impact that cycling and physical activity have on ADHD symptoms. Previous research findings have found that riding a bike daily can help children focus and improve their mood and academic performance. In the original study, conducted by the Specialized Foundation and RTSG Neuroscience Group, a single biking session significantly improved measures of executive attention in ADHD students.


Get your Speedvagen CX bike while they’re hot

Speedvagen is taking pre-orders until August 1 for its two ready-made cyclocross bikes, the CX-R and CX-X. Both Team Issue bikes come fully built and are handmade in Portland, Oregon. The CX-R features a full SRAM Force 1 build, while the CX-X is tricked out with Shimano 1x Dura-Ace Di2 and an Easton EC90 SL crank. Both bikes include Berzerker disc dropouts, an integrated seat mast, and stainless reinforcements. Complete disc brake builds start at $5,995.


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