Stage 5: Viveiro > Lugo

“My ribs and collarbone hurt a lot. I crashed heavily into that pole. It’s terrible that I have to leave this race because of an object that shouldn’t have been there. I’m going home immediately tomorrow. This was, after the Giro d’Italia, my second big target and I’m really fed up about the way I’m leaving this Vuelta.”Steven Kruijswijk, Team LottoNL-Jumbo

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The finale to Stage 5 of La Vuelta reflected the 2015 Pais Vasco, and just like Peter Stetina (then BMC) had unnecessarily crashed after unmarked poles in the road had taken him down, today saw Steven Kruijswijk forced to abandon after hitting a pole in the road. Gianni Meersman (Etixx) was able to avoid another crash in the final kilometres to take the stage win.

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Kruijswijk wasn’t the first abandon of the day – Caja Rural rider Bonet had dislocated his hip after yesterday’s stage, riding to his team bus. When today’s stage had officially got underway, Machado (Katusha) and Morice (Direct Energie) had established a lead of over 4 minutes to the peloton. They were a strong breakaway with no threat to the GC yet could challenge for a stage win – however with only a 2-man power supply for 171km, this was unlikely. Machado is a determined, aggressive rider, most notably on stage 10 of the 2014 Tour de France after he crashed badly on a descent and required stitches. However with 3 mountains left to climb, he ordered his team to give him his bike back and he finished the stage, carrying on his Tour de France for NetApp-Endura.

[I had to carry on and finish the stage for the pride of my family. The team deserved it as well, so I had to do that.] – Machado after the 2014 stage.

Morice is an equally determined rider, with Direct Energie stating he has “won almost everything”. A velodrome champion in Team Pursuit and Omnium, they stated he was the “ideal breakaway partner.” Why? “Because he has a big engine.”

BMC spent a lot of the stage riding at the front of the peloton, working for red jersey leader Atapuma. Atapuma had recently suffered Grand Tour defeat for a stage win at the Giro after being beaten just meters to the line after his breakaway, by Chaves and Kruijswijk. Atapuma came close to winning a stage yesterday, beaten to the line by Calmejane, yet he has now managed to retain the leader’s jersey for two consecutive days. Despite Sánchez being BMC’s leader, Atapuma is determined to hold on to the Vuelta lead for as long as he can.

[“Samuel is the leader, of course, but the team wanted me to get in the breakaway too.” ] – Atapuma.

By the time the breakaway found themselves with just 75km to go, Machado pushed on ahead of Morice and took the intermediate sprint points before the single categorised climb of the day – Category 3 Alto de Álvare. He reached the top alone still and took the KOTM points, while 5 minutes later De Gendt took 2 points ahead of Fraile (DDD) who took the remaining one. De Gendt carried on and tried to distance the peloton towards Machado but was brought back with ease by Etixx, Trek and Giant. The surge of life from the teams at the front meant the gap to Machado decreased fast, with only a minute between them into the final 20km.

The sprinter teams dropped back to allow Movistar, Sky and Tinkoff to pick up the pace and after over 150km in the break Machado was caught. Despite being just under 15km from stage success, he had ridden himself towards the combativity award. Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) took his turn on the front of the peloton in his 16th consecutive Grand Tour. Starting at the 2011 Vuelta a España, he beat Marino Lejarreta’s 10 consecutive GT record despite never intending to get this far. The teeth gritting, beer-on-mountain drinking, occasional stage winning Australian has managed to avoid any nasty crashes in Grand Tours, despite his dislocated shoulder in the 2012 Tour de France.

As the stage neared its end, legs got painful as the road got thinner. Kruijswijk was seen on the floor while just a few meters later another crash took out numerous riders. Clarke (Cannondale) and Gilbert (BMC) attempted a last ditch attempt and they were caught in the last kilometre. Once again Meersman opened his sprint early, beating Felline (Trek) and Reza (FDJ) to the line.

 

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Stage 4: Betanzos > San Andre de Teixido

Persistence: (noun) the fact of continuing in spite of difficulty or opposition.

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Stage 4 of the Vuelta had been over 4 years in the making for Direct Energie. The Professional Continental team had gone 1497 days without a Grand Tour win, and yet they persisted to deliver it in style with Lilian Calmejane.

“I knew that on the Vuelta, unexpected things can happen. Now it’s something that happens to me that I wasn’t ready for.”

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Two breaks attempted to get clear early in the stage, one with 9 men and the later with 18. Neither of these stuck as Movistar were determined to shut large moves down. The peloton were all together by the time they reached the first of two Category 3 climbs of the day – Alto da Serra Capela. The majority of riders scaled it with ease while more breaks attempted to distance, including Fernandez who was brought back quickly. 50km passed before an established breakaway managed to gain almost 2 minutes on the peloton.

They were Domont (AG2R La Mondiale), Zeits (Astana), Atapuma (BMC), Benedetti (Bora Argon 18), Thwaites (Bora Argon 18), Madrazo (Caja Rural), Roson (Caja Rural), King (Cannondale-Drapac), Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac), Rossetto (Cofidis), Haas (Dimension Data), Kudus (Dimension Data), Calmejane (Direct Energie), Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep), Arndt (Giant Alpecin), Haga (Giant-Alpecin), Warbasse (IAM Cycling), Wyss (IAM Cycling), Battaglin (LottoNL-Jumbo), De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Grmay (Lampre Merida).

They managed to increase their lead on a red jersey wearing Fernandez-led peloton as they climbed the second Cat 3 climb of Alto Monte Caxado. The relaxed pace through the feed zone meant this quickly rose to almost 5 minutes. Thomas De Gendt is a danger man, already winning stages in both the Giro and Tour de France, with just the Vuelta left to complete the trio. He’s also won numerous mountain classifications – Tour of Britain, Paris-Nice and Volta a Catalunya – and combativity awards. It was later announced he’d won the combativity award for today too, as well as taking maximum KOTM points for the first two climbs. Riders such as Calmejane, King and Rolland will take breakaway chances on days like these, giving them more of a chance for a stage win for their team rather than having to fight with GC contenders. Warbasse and Wyss are yet to have announced a new team for 2017 – meaning their future in the peloton is in doubt if they aren’t seen to be successful.

With 10km to go, more teams were gathered at the front of the peloton to limit the time loss to the breakaway, who were now starting the final climb of Alto Mirador De Veixia. Quintana was behind Sky and Orica, in order to avoid being caught out by sudden breaks. Quintana hasn’t had much luck with this in the past, being caught out in crosswinds during the second stage of the 2015 Tour de France and again during Froome’s attack on stage 8 of the 2016 Tour de France. He’s also competing for leadership with Valverde, his 36 year old teammate.

Calmejane managed to distance the break on the climb while Rolland tried to follow him. Yet he couldn’t quite bridge and the Direct Energie rider just managed to zip up his jersey, showing off his sponsor before celebrating their first GT win in 1479 days.

Stage 3: Marin > Mirador de Ézaro

Aggression: (adjective) ready or likely to attack or confront.

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It’s a rare sight in cycling, but it happens. A rider mistakenly celebrating in the belief they won the stage, when in fact there was another cyclist ahead. Simon Clarke at the Giro d’Italia 2015 is a recent example, with both Simon and today’s second finisher Ruben Fernandez managing to style out the celebration post-race claiming they were celebrating taking the leader’s jersey. (Well, they could have been?)  With Simon he was “keeping the pink jersey in the Orica team”, while Fernandez took the red Vuelta jersey and Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) took the stage win.

Cycling: 71st Tour of Spain 2016 / Stage 3

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The finish on the Category 3 Mirador de Ézaro climb was short (1.8km) yet steep with an average gradient of around 14% while some parts reach 30%. In 2012, Rodriguez won on this climb ahead of Contador and Valverde while in 2013, the climb was featured during stage 4 of La Vuelta, with Daniel Moreno (Katusha) taking the win ahead of Cancellara and Matthews. An attack during the Mirador de Ézaro would certainly take the red jersey. The first attack of the stage came from a group of 7 riders. This was devised of Selig (Bora-Argon 18), Arroyo (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) Cousin (Cofidis) Serry (Etixx-Quick Step), Geniez (FDJ), Pellaud (IAM Cycling) and Smukulis (Katusha) and with 150km to go had developed a lead of 1m50s. Pellaud was the highest placed rider in GC, 62nd place and 1m13s back. By 90km to go, the gap had been controlled by Sky and Tinkoff at 4 minutes. Tinkoff would be right to keep close to Sky and the front of the peloton, as any more lost time would be damaging to Contador’s GC hopes.

Just before the Alto de Lestaio ascent, Bevin (Cannondale) and Bonifiazio (Trek) crashed, yet were able to continue. Barguil (Giant) is one man who abandoned just prior to the crash with sinusitis. Ahead, Cousin (Cofidis) and Pellaud (IAM) attacked while Serry (Etixx) and Geniez (FDJ) chased and caught them. This kind of move away from the ‘big sponsored teams’ is ideal for the sponsors of somewhat smaller teams who need to gain airtime before the GC battle in the mountains. Pellaud distanced and took the KOTM points, equal at the top of the standings. The King of the Mountains jersey in the Vuelta is white with blue polka dots, sometimes referenced to as the ‘polka dot jersey’. Contenders can usually relate to GC hopefuls, yet consistent breakaway riders are also able challenge the overall KOTM win due to the lack of GC focus. Last year saw Fraile (Caja Rural) and the year prior saw Froome take the jersey, while this year they face contention from De Gendt (Lotto), Chaves (Orica) and Atapuma (BMC) to name a few.

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Pellaud continued to power ahead of the 6-man break for an hour, until he was finally caught by Serry and Geniez after Team Sky upped the pace with Movistar on their wheels, 3m40s back. Pellaud had raced himself into the combativity award today, (also known as the most aggressive award) and hopefully into the eyes of other teams. IAM Cycling failed to find a co-sponsor for 2017 and will fold at the end of the season, with their 28 riders having to compete with Tinkoff’s 26 riders who have also been looking for new teams. Yet Pellaud refused to give up and fought back to Serry and Geniez on the Alto das Paxareiras descent with 11km to go. A new team is not an issue for Geniez, who has signed a two year contract with AG2R.

An unfortunate note for this next section of road: It had been made of concrete and roughened to give vehicles extra grip according to Cycling News. Which was unfortunate, as it was here Lopez (Astana) crashed, bleeding profusely from his lip. It was later revealed he had broken 3 teeth and an exposed nerve, and had lost over 13 minutes in GC.

Red jersey wearer Kwiatkowski led the peloton to the foot of the final climb while ahead Pellaud was dropped and Serry followed him. Geniez struggled ahead to take the stage win for FDJ while behind some in the peloton struggled to hold on. The peloton had split and Contador was behind Froome – who finished 4th. Quintana and Valverde had allowed Fernandez to chase for 2nd, giving him the red jersey.

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The biggest disappointment of the day was possibly held by Contador – who finished 54s behind the leader and 28s behind Froome, Chaves and Valverde.

 

Stage 1: Balneario Laias > Castrelo de Miño and Stage 2: Ourense > Baiona

The Vuelta a España (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈbwelta a esˈpaɲa]; English: Tour of Spain) is an annual multi-stage bicycle race primarily held in Spain, while also occasionally making passes through nearby countries.

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The Vuelta a España is the 3rd Grand Tour – and final Grand Tour – of the year. Two years ago, Contador (Tinkoff) had recuperated enough from a broken tibia in the 2014 Tour de France to take the win just ahead of Chris Froome (Sky) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Froome had also been injured in the 2014 Tour and was forced to abandon, showing that despite hampering injuries the Vuelta is still a hotly contested GT regardless of being off the back of the Tour de France. The 2015 Vuelta was won by Fabio Aru (Astana) in front of Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff). This year will be Tinkoff’s last chance to improve their 3rd place into 1st before disbanding while Katusha have no Rodríguez. Froome is attempting the Tour-Vuelta double, undeterred by the Olympics road race and Olympics TT bronze medal win in-between.

The opening stage was a 27.8km team time trial completed by 22 teams. Bora-Argon 18 were first off the starting line to kick off the 2016 Vuelta, with Direct Energie and Lotto Soudal following. Towards the end were Movistar, Team Sky then finally Tinkoff – setting off in 4 minute intervals.

Challenging for the win were favourites Orica-BikeExchange, BMC and Team Sky. Orica won 2 TTT’s in 2012, the TTT in the Tour de France in 2013, the Giro d’Italia TTT in 2014 and again in 2015. BMC won 2 TTT’s in 2014, including the World Championships, and retained their title in 2015. Team Sky won 1 TTT in 2010, 2 in 2013 including in the Giro d’Italia, 1 in 2014 and 1 in 2015. They would also go on to win the TTT in the opening stage of this year’s Vuelta in a time of 30m37s, beating Movistar by 0.4s and Orica by 6s. BMC were 7s behind, while Tinkoff had lost almost a minute.

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The closeness of Movistar and Sky meant Froome and Quintana were level in the standings, while Contador was 52 seconds behind – not the ideal start he would have wanted.

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Stage 2: Ourense > Baiona

The earliest breakaway for today’s stage came from Pichon (FDJ) and Benedetti (Bora-Argon18). With 160.8km to cover, and neither FDJ or Bora challenging for the overall lead, they developed a break of 45 seconds from the peloton. Nauleau (Direct Energie) bridged to them and they established a 4m20s lead, before with 120km to go Trek and Giant-Alpecin worked towards the front of the peloton to bring it down to 2minutes. Giant-Alpecin’s leader is Warren Barguil, who recovered from their training crash in January to place 23rd at this year’s Tour de France. Trek’s sprinter is Bonifazio, who won the sprint for stage 3 during the Tour de Pologne. Sky then came to the head of the peloton, protecting leader Froome despite Kennaugh being in red – the Manxman crossed the line first during the TTT yesterday while Froome crossed 5th. Froome’s Vuelta call up was somewhat surprising due to his Tour win and Olympic bronze, yet unsurprising due to his determination. The mountains will be the test for him, dominant in them during the Tour, could he be distanced here?

Towards the top of the Cat 3 Alto de Fontefria climb, Nauleau attempted to distance in order to claim King of the Mountains points, yet Benedetti beat him to the line. No stranger to mountain success, Benedetti placed 1st in the mountains classification for Tirreno-Adriatico. Pichon later took the mountain points for the Alto de Fontefria after leaving the previous battle between Nauleau and Benedetti. These points meant he would wear the polka dot jersey during stage 3 of the Vuelta.

Gilbert (BMC) with 39km attacked from a stalling peloton, no-one wanting to take up the chase to catch the trio ahead. He injected power into the break by taking longer turns on the front while Trek then ensured to counter with pace from the peloton, not wanting to let an opportunity go for Bonifazio. Gilbert won the sprint for 3 bonus seconds, taking his deficit on GC down to 4 seconds. If they could hang on until the end and he took the stage, he would collect 10 more bonus seconds and the red jersey.

7km to go and Team Sky were at the front yet again, wanting Kennaugh and Froome protected. Sprint finishes can be as dramatic as they are fast, and keeping towards the front avoids any wheel catching or elbowing during bunching of teams. Behind them were Giant-Alpecin with sprinter Arndt as well as Orica for Cort and Trek for Bonifazio. With 2.5km to go a Katusha rider was seen to have crashed, yet fortunately managed to avoid taking down anyone else. Etixx hit the front finally with 500m to go, and Meersman launched his sprint. He held off second placed Schwarzmann (Bora) and third placed Cort (OBE) to take the stage win, while Kwiatkowski (Sky) finished fourth and took the red jersey from teammate Kennaugh. Kwiatkowski is also the first Polish rider to hold the red jersey at La Vuelta, ahead of fellow countryman Huzarsi (Bora) by 57 seconds.

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21-08-2016 Vuelta A Espana; Tappa 02 Ourense - Baiona; 2016, Team Sky; Kwiatkowski, Michal; Baiona;

Women’s Road Race: Rio 2016 Olympic Games

“We knew the descent was treacherous. I looked at that road furniture and thought, nobody can crash here and just get up.” – Chris Boardman.

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Just as the men’s race the day before had been overshadowed by crashes on the Vista Chimera, the women suffered the same fate. A late crash had taken away Van Vleuten’s win just a few kilometres from the line, yet the Netherlands still managed to take the gold with Anna van der Breggen.

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68 riders started the event, with much focus put on podium hopefuls such as Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain) alongside teammates Nikki Harris and Emma Pooley as well as Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) with teammates Annemiek van Vleuten, Marianne Vos and Ellen van Dijk. The focus on Armitstead came from her silver medal success in London 2012, yet also from her sudden reveal of missing 3 doping tests – which was reduced after 1 was the fault of the tester, meaning she could ride at Rio. Also causing controversy was Russian rider Zabelinskaya, who got bronze behind Armitstead in 2012. She tested positive for octopamine and served a doping ban, then was banned by the UCI, yet found herself somehow successfully appealing the decision. The banning of race radios had led to an unfortunate start from the British team, as when Armitstead suffered a mechanical before the first climb her teammate Pooley continued to set a harsh pace at the front of the peloton. After a quick bike change she found herself chasing hard to get back alongside Harris. When she finally caught up, Lizzie appeared to be unimpressed with the lack of help from her. Which is true – one teammate was leading the entire group away from her own leader and the other not helping her chase back.

Lotte Kopecky (Belgium), the youngest rider, was the first attack of the day that managed to get distance the peloton. Slightly too early to stick for a solo attack for the win, yet anything could happen as we saw later on. A Kopecky win would be double success for Belgium, as Van Avermaet took the road race win the day previous. With 100km to go Romy Kasper (Germany) attempted to bridge to her across the 2m39s gap, the peloton a further 2 minutes behind.

The cobbles once more created problems for riders – and again for Australia – as Rachel Neylan suffered a mechanical. On the climb, van Dijk and Bronzini (Italy) managed to breakaway while big names such as Pooley (GB) and Ferrand-Prevot (France) found themselves out the back. Armstrong (US) joined the breakaway alongside Worrack (Germany) and Plichta (Poland) and they found themselves almost 1m30 behind Kopecky, the peloton 20s behind the chasers. Kopecky had a lucky moment though – almost taken down by a worker in the road cleaning away the leaves.

The Grota Funda climb provided plenty of opportunities for counterattacks, while Garfoot (Australia) and Whitten (Canada) abandoned. Canuel (Canada) was also forced off her bike while clashing wheels. Kopecky was finally caught on the Grumari climb, and soon after the chasers were caught by the peloton. Yet with fresher legs combining with a tricky descent, they were soon split once again with 60km to go. Van Dijk and Vos were working hard in the break before Cordon (France) attacked and Vos dropped back.

Under 40km to go, 7 riders managed to form a breakaway by taking advantage of crosswinds with a lead of 40 seconds. Cecchini (Italy), Elvin (Australia), Ferrand-Prevot, Jasinska (Poland), Vekemans, Vos and Worrack. They distanced on the flat, yet were caught a few minutes later. While the cameras focused on those out the back (Armitstead doesn’t favour climbing), Abbott (USA), van der Breggen, van Vleuten and Borghini (Italy) had broken away from the peloton.

With 15km to go, van der Breggen and Borghini had been dropped while they formed a trio alongside Johansson. Ahead, Abbott and van Vleuten were beginning the last descent of the race. Van Vleuten was the better descender of the pair and soon opened up a gap between them. However disaster stuck as she suddenly crashed, landing awkwardly and remaining unconscious. Managing to stay ahead of the trio, this meant Abbott was now in the lead by 40 seconds. With 3km to go the chasing trio were closing down fast on Abbott, and the peloton closing in fast towards them.

1km to go and van der Breggen, Borghini and Johansson had a slowing Abbott in their sights. Painfully, they caught her with just 500m to the line. Overtaking Borghini, van der Breggen launched her attack and saw off Johansson (who had now gained a second silver Olympic medal) to take the gold.

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Van Vleuten later tweeted “I am now in the hospital with some injuries and fractures, but will be fine. Most of all super disappointed after best race of my career.” “Knowing this chance is 1 in 4 years doesn’t make it easy.”

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Men’s Road Race: Rio 2016 Olympic Games

“For athletes, the Olympics are the ultimate test of their worth.Mary Lou Retton, 5x Olympic medal American gymnast.

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The Olympics. The most prestigious sporting event due to its emergence every 4 years, the 2016 Games are this year set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The men’s road race was held during the 1st day, meaning most (if not all) were unable to attend the Olympic opening ceremony.

It was by no means a simple race. The 235.7km route featured flat sections, cobbles, climbs combined with treacherous descents, cross-winds and even a controlled explosion during the race at the finish line. It was on the descents where many had fallen, taking gold medal hopes out of contention, broken bones and fractures aplenty. In the end, Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) took the win, with Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) taking silver alongside bronze medal winner Rafal Majka (Poland).

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A usual sight in cycling, Tony Martin was seen controlling the peloton from the front, yet this time it was for his German team rather than Etixx. With no outright leader pegged out of Martin, Geschke, Levy and Buchmann, if they were pushing for a medal it would be likely they’d aim for a man in a late breakaway. This wouldn’t be Levy – who didn’t start. His focus is on the track. Soon after though, Geschke took over from Martin and his fast pace caused an early split. Pantano (Columbia – who had only been called up after Quintana dropped out just after the Tour while Pantano had won stage 15), Bystrom (Norway), Kwiatkowski (Poland), Albasini (Switzerland), and Kochetkov (Russia – only one of two representing) went with him and created a 54 second lead. Dumoulin (Netherlands) abandoned after just 10km, his focus on the TT on Wednesday.

When the riders hit the cobbles, the problems began. The first crash of the day occurred with Örken (Turkey), Richie Porte (Australia) suffered a mechanical and Wellens (Belgium) had to chase to get back to the bunch. This then elongated as the cross-winds hit riders on the flat section with 184km to go. During the second lap, the cobbles provided more issues for Mollema (Netherlands), Albasini (Switzerland) and winner Van Avermaet. Still on the front of the peloton were Stannard (Great Britain), De Marchi (Italy) and Castorviejo (Spain), who had been constantly cutting down the time to the break for numerous kilometres. Stannard is a man who can handle the cobbles with ease, coming 3rd in Paris-Roubaix this year and winning against 4 Etixx riders to take the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad win in 2015 and previously in 2014. Porte again had an issue with his bike and the cobbles, while the Czech Republic drove hard at the front. The peloton soon split and Thomas (Great Britain), Froome (GB), Nibali (Italy), Gilbert (Belgium), Van Avermaet and Phinney (USA) followed Cummings (GB) on the front while Poels (Netherlands) was dropped behind. He managed to cling onto the back of the group yet with just under 80km to go, was out of contention. Albasini from the break had also cracked and Pantano later followed. Finally, Cummings peeled off the front, his effort shown on his face while behind, Poels had crashed. It just wasn’t to be for one of the pre-race favourites.

While Geschke was dropped from the break with 70km to go, Kochetkov attacked. Boasson Hagen (Norway) and Gilbert were dropped from the peloton while Caruso (Italy) attacked from there and took Thomas and Van Avermaet with him. (Are you still with us?) With 69km to go, Henao attacked from the peloton for Columbia. They have a strong team at the Olympics, with Chaves, Uran, Lopez and Pantano alongside him. Pantano loves a breakaway, as seen in the Tour de France, and Chavez always looks like he just loves anything, really. Having held the pink jersey in the Giro then finished 2nd overall, Chaves has had an impressive year riding for GreenEDGE. (Fine, BikeExchange.)

45km to go and Kwiatkowski was brought back. The chasing group too, while the peloton sat 30 seconds behind the leaders. Plenty of riders started to go backwards at this point, with Cancellara (Switzerland) and Roche (Ireland) the next to suffer during the Rio course. While Cancellara is retiring at the end of this season (sad news for all), Roche has just signed a contract from Team Sky to BMC, where he will be reunited with ex-teammate Richie Porte. Kruijswijk had cracked as well, the last hope for the Netherlands gone. Dumoulin abandoned, Poels was suffering and Mollema had already used a lot of energy nearer the start with mechanicals and then not making too big an impact throughout the rest of the course.

The Vista Chinesa descents were highlighted pre-race as being too treacherous. It was on these that many crashed, Oliveria (Portugal) being the first. He was then followed by Richie Porte, who fractured his right scapular after a mechanical interrupted season. Continuous attacks followed as the peloton looked to distance more riders. With 20km to go, a group of Thomas (Great Britain), Van Avermaet (Belgium), Henao (Columbia), Fuglsang (Denmark), Aru (Italy), Nibali (Italy), Zeits (Kazakhstan), Majka (Poland), Meintjes (South Africa) and Rodriguez (Spain) formed. Behind, Alaphilippe (France) dug hard, cycled past the Froome group (Bardet, Yates), joined Kangert (Estonia), dropped Kangert and carried on to Van Avermaet. Ahead, Nibali attacked with Henao and Majka later joined them.

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Nibali

With 12km to go until the finish, both Nibali and Henao crashed on the descent. Nibali had broken his collarbone while Henao suffered a fractured iliac crest and they were passed by Majka then the chasing group. While the news of another crash was unfortunately unsurprising, it was surprising that it was Nibali. Noted as a great descender, he was looking to take the gold medal at Rio and had previously been a favourite. Geraint Thomas then crashed out. He sat to the side of the road, dejected as his chance of a medal had gone. With 6km to go, Majka led the race by 23 seconds. Both Van Avermaet and Fuglsang tried to attack and distance each other to bridge to Majka while Alaphilippe closed them down.

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With 1km to go, Majka had been caught yet the trio worked together this time. 500m and Fuglsang led them out towards the final sprint. Van Avermaet took the win ahead of him, while Majka had nothing left to give. Alaphilippe crossed the line 4th behind them.

The men’s Olympic road race results:

1. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) 06:10:05
2. Jacob Fuglsang (Denmark)
3. Rafal Majka (Poland) 00:00:05
4. Julian Alaphilippe (France) 00:00:22
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain)
6. Fabio Aru (Italy)
7. Louis Meintjes (Republic of South Africa)
8. Andrey Zeits (Kazakhstan) 00:00:25
9. Tanel Kangert (Estonia) 00:01:47
10. Rui Costa (Portugal) 00:02:29
11. Geraint Thomas (Great Britain)
12. Chris Froome (Great Britain) 00:02:58
13. Daniel Martin (Ireland)
14. Emanuel Buchmann (Germany)
15. Adam Yates (Great Britain) 00:03:30
16. Brent Bookwalter (United States of America) 00:03:31
17. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands)
18. Kristijan Durasek (Croatia)
19. Sebastien Reichenbach (Switzerland)
20. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg)

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  1. Esteban Chaves (Colombia)
  2. Serge Pauwels (Belgium)
  3. Alexis Vuillermoz (France)
  4. Romain Bardet (France)
  5. Simon Clarke (Australia)
  6. Primoz Roglic (Slovenia)
  7. Yukiya Arashiro (Japan)
  8. Daryl Impey (South Africa)
  9. Nicolas Roche (Ireland)
  10. Alejandro Valverde (Spain)
  11. Sergey Chernetsky (Russia)
  12. Christopher Juul-Jensen (Denmark)
  13. George Bennett (New Zealand)
  14. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland
  15. Ramunas Navardauskas (Lithuania)
  16. Andre Cardoso (Portugal)
  17. Eduardo Sepulveda (Argentina)
  18. Pavel Kochetkov (Russia)
  19. Steven Kruijswijk (Netherlands)
  20. Damiano Caruso (Italy)
  21. Andriy Grivko (Ukraine)
  22. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium)
  23. Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eritrea)
  24. Georg Preidler (Austria)
  25. Patrik Tybor (Slovakia)
  26. Aleksejs Saramotins (Latvia)
  27. Anass Ait el Abdia (Morocco)
  28. Lars Petter Nordhaug (Norway)
  29. Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus)
  30. Vegard Laengen (Norway)
  31. Ioannis Tamouridis (Greece)
  32. Jan Polanc (Slovenia)
  33. Jose Mendes (Portugal)
  34. Andrey Amador (Costa Rica)
  35. Michael Woods (Canada)
  36. Michal Golas (Poland)
  37. Simon Spilak (Slovenia)
  38. Petr Vakoc (Czech Republic)
  39. Toms Skujins (Latvia)
  40. Chris Sorensen (Denmark)
  41. Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Kazakhstan)
  42. Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland)
  43. Alessandro De Marchi (Italy)

Finished yet ‘out of time limit’: Murilo Fischer (Brazil) and Ignatas Konovalovas (Lithuania).

DNF:

  • Abderrahmane Mansouri (Algeria)
  • Youcef Reguigui (Algeria)
  • Daniel Diaz (Argentina)
  • Maximiliano Richeze (Argentina)
  • Scott Bowden (Australia)
  • Stefan Denifl (Austria)
  • Rohan Dennis (Australia)
  • Richie Porte (Australia)
  • Maxim Averin (Azerbaijan)
  • Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus)
  • Laurens De Plus (Belgium)
  • Tim Wellens (Belgium)
  • Oscar Soliz (Bolivia)
  • Kleber Ramos (Brazil)
  • Steve Cummings (Britain)
  • Ian Stannard (Britain)
  • Stefan Hristov (Bulgaria)
  • Antoine Duchesne (Canada)
  • Hugo Houle (Canada)
  • Jose Luis Rodriguez (Chile)
  • Miguel Angel Lopez (Colombia)
  • Sergio Henao (Colombia)
  • Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia)
  • Rigoberto Uran (Colombia)
  • Matija Kvasina (Croatia)
  • Jan Barta (Czech Republic)
  • Leopold Koenig (Czech Republic)
  • Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic)
  • Diego Milan (Dominican Republic)
  • Byron Guama (Ecuador)
  • Rein Taaramaee (Estonia)
  • Tsgabu Grmay (Ethiopia)
  • Warren Barguil (France)
  • Simon Geschke (Germany)
  • Maximilian Levy (Germany)
  • Tony Martin (Germany)
  • Manuel Rodas (Guatemala)
  • Cheung King Lok (Hong Kong, China)
  • Arvin Goodarzi (Iran)
  • Ghader Mizbani (Iran)
  • Mirsamad Pourseyedigolakhour (Iran)
  • Vincenzo Nibali (Italy)
  • Diego Rosa (Italy)
  • Kohei Uchima (Japan)
  • Seo Joon-Yong (Korea)
  • Kim Ok-Cheol (Korea)
  • Qendrim Guri (Kosovo)
  • Ariya Pounsavath (Laos)
  • Luis Enrique Lemus (Mexico)
  • Soufiane Haddi (Morocco)
  • Mouhssine Lahsaini (Morocco)
  • Dan Craven (Namibia)
  • Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands)
  • Wout Poels (Netherlands)
  • Zac Williams (New Zealand)
  • Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway)
  • Sven Erik Bystrom (Norway)
  • Maciej Bodnar (Poland)
  • Nelson Oliveira (Portugal)
  • Brian Babilonia (Puerto Rico)
  • Serghei Tvetcov (Romania)
  • Alexey Kurbatov (Russia)
  • Adrien Niyonshuti (Rwanda)
  • Ivan Stevic (Serbia)
  • Matej Mohoric (Slovenia)
  • Jonathan Castroviejo (Spain)
  • Imanol Erviti (Spain)
  • Jon Izagirre (Spain)
  • Michael Albasini (Switzerland)
  • Steve Morabito (Switzerland)
  • Ali Nouisri (Tunisia)
  • Onur Balkan (Turkey)
  • Ahmet Örken (Turkey)
  • Andriy Khripta (Ukraine)
  • Denys Kostyuk (Ukraine)
  • Yousif Mirza (United Arab Emirates)
  • Taylor Phinney (U.S.)
  • Yonathan Monsalve (Venezuela)
  • Miguel Ubeto (Venezuela)

More Than Meets The Eye: Bahrain’s Background

Bahrain have officially launched their own cycling team this month, with the successful signing of Merida (who currently co-sponsor Lampre-Merida) as a sponsor. However there’s more to the cycling team than just promoting “the Kingdom as a premier business and tourism destination” as stated on their website.

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The newly formed Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team was launched by Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa. On the surface, he appears and powerful figure for sport. He led the Bahrain National Endurance team in at Portugal’s 2007 European Open. [1] He came 8th in the individual race while the team won silver. As Chair of the Olympic Committee for Bahrain, he represented them for the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony. Yet there were calls to block his entry from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, who sent a dossier packed full of witness statements surrounding torture allegations. [2]

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“The King of Bahrain declared a state of emergency and a first wave of repressive actions by government’s forces took place. At this time, two oppositional leaders of Bahrain, when detained in the Manama Fort prison clinic Al-Qala’a (seat of the Ministry of Interior), alleged being flogged, beaten and kicked by the son of the King, Nasser bin Hamad. Both opposition leaders were sentenced to longtime imprisonment”

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In 2011, Bahraini footballers tried to absolve Sheikh Salman (to whom Nasser was a superior) – a potential FIFA presidential candidate. Salman had previously acknowledged government plans for a committee that would expose athletes opposed to the government then single them out for punishment. Nasser was head of this committee. On Bahrain TV, he rang in [3] to state:

“Anyone who called for the fall of the regime, may a wall fall on his head. Whether he is an athlete, socialite or politician — whatever he is — he will be held accountable . . . Bahrain is an island and there is nowhere to escape.”

It was also in 2011 after these anti-government protests and the cancellation of the F1 Grand Prix in Bahrain that he became subject to torture allegations. 3 individuals had reported to human rights groups they had been beaten by Nasser. One, known as ‘FF’, has been granted refugee status and lives in Britain. With Nasser being such a frequent visitor to Britain and the royal family, FF has numerous lawyers writing to the CPS asking for his arrest. [4]

(It’s worthy to reiterate that these are all allegations and this blog post is a compilation of said allegations to assess his involvement in cycling.)

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However, cycling is not bereft of these types of powerfully rich characters with calls about their involvement in sport. Another man in cycling Oleg Tinkov. Recently in his blog, [5] he stated:

“This year, Sky (with its super budget) has been splashing out on new, talented riders and this means that they have a very strong team overall. This will give them some edge. But we will kick their ass anyway.”

It’s worth noting Contador went on to abandon the Tour de France, Chris Froome took the Maillot Jaune and Tinkov has stated his wish to return to the sport when Froome is no longer winning.

He has a history of being controversial. On Twitter, July 2015 he called Obama a ‘monkey’.

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He’s also seen to be sexist on Twitter, tweeting Chris Froome was riding “like a girl”, and meaning it derogatorily. What he didn’t know for the reason behind Froome’s tentative riding was down to the fact he had a broken bone in his foot, yet carried on to finish the stage.

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Yet unfortunately, cycling needs money. It’s a fact. You can either perform well in a top team, earning yourself quite a decent living or you can try and participate in the sport you love while struggling to get by. While the Tinkoff team are shutting down at the end of the season, Bahrain Merida are only just beginning. Some you win, some you lose and at the end of the day – we viewers can’t really do anything about someone’s involvement in our sport. We can only watch.

The 2016 Clásica San Sebastián

The Donostia-Donostia Klasikoa (Basque) — Clásica San Sebastián (Spanish): a cycle race that has been held every summer since 1981 in San Sebastián, Spain.

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The Clásica (or Klasikoa) is Spain’s biggest one-day cycling race and before their folding after the 2013 season, Basque-based cycling team Euskaltel-Euskadi were a prominent feature in their distinct orange kits. However this year’s prominent feature was the revival of Bauke Mollema (Trek), who came 2nd in the 2014 Klasikoa and had cracked in the last two days of the Tour de France, falling from 2nd to 11th overall.

The 2016 Klasikoa featured three Category 2 climbs and three Category 1 climbs, yet like before had no dramatic showdown as 2014 and 2015. In 2014, Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) had crashed on the descent and gave the victory to Valverde (Movistar), while in 2015 Yates had rode ahead and taken the win after Van Avermaet (BMC) had been hit by a motorbike. This year both were looking for another Klasikoa win, alongside Luis León Sánchez (Astana) and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal).

Six riders got an early yet large break, with Jamie Roson (Cajal Rural), Moreno Moser (Cannondale-Drapac), Loic Chetout (Cofidis), Jaques Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Pirmin Lang (IAM Cycling) and Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) getting a lead of 5:20. Katusha were seen doing a large amount of work at the front of the peloton, with Zakarin at San Sebastián as he had been banned from participating at the Rio Olympics for a prior doping offence. They were working for Joaquim Rodríguez, who had announced his plans for retirement after this season at the Tour de France. Also missing the Olympics was Contador (Tinkoff), who had abandoned the Tour de France and is now aiming for La Vuelta.

After 110km the break were kept at around 5 minutes, yet the Category 1 climb of the Alto de Jaizkibel saw their lead reduced to just over 3. With 80km to the finish the riders approached the Arkale climb, the break only a minute ahead as Movistar led the peloton. Rodríguez had dropped back from the peloton, needing his teammate yet was soon back in the bunch. With 60km to go, Vichot hit teammate Geniez’s (FDJ) wheel and they crashed, with Vichot’s hand injured by wheel spokes.

Cataldo (ex-Sky, now Astana) attacked on the Jaizkibel climb, while Landa (ex-Astana, now Sky) followed. Other riders tried to bridge to them yet failed, causing a split of two groups in front of the peloton. With 50km to go and on the descent of the Jaizkibel however, they were caught before they could gain too much time. On the ascent of the Arkale climb, Vilella split the peloton riding for leader Uran (Cannondale), a move which saw Contador dropped. At just under 30km to go, Movistar took over for Cannondale, working hard for their leader Valverde who last won the Klasikoa in 2014.

The Orica riders were then strong on the front, with Durbridge, Juul-Jenson and Impey (or ‘Durbo’, ‘Joker’ and ‘Imps’ as they’re known on the Backstage Pass) doing long turns for leader Adam Yates, looking for a consecutive Klasikoa win after last year. At just under 10km to go, Uran attacked and Yates followed him, alongside Dan Martin (Etixx) and Rodríguez. Mollema had attacked behind while Tony Gallopin (Lotto – 2013 winner) and Valverde followed, reluctant to take their turn on the front. Mollema powered ahead, distancing them as Gallopin and Valverde then found Rodríguez. The trio tried to bridge to Mollema, yet it was not enough. He reached the line first, arms in the air.

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For the cyclists not at the Olympics, some will feature at the Tour of Utah from the 1st of August to the 7th. Mollema will represent the Netherlands at Rio, alongside Tom Dumoulin (provided he can after his Tour de France abandonment), Wout Poels and Steven Kruijswijk.

 

 

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(photos from cyclingnews.com and sbs.com.au)