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EUROTRASH News Round Up Monday!

The Vuelta a España exploded at the weekend as all hell let loose in the Pyrenees. We have all the news from Spain with results, quotes and video. Plus the Tour of Britain, Tour des Fjords, GP de Fourmies and the Brussels Cycling Classic action. Other cycling news: Rider contracts and Peter Sagan starts 2017 Down Under. EuroTrash coffee time.

TOP STORY: What a Weekend!
Saturday and Sunday’s Vuelta stages showed what real bike racing looks like. On Saturday the Orica-BikeExchange team sent riders up the road in the break, then Simon Yates crossed to them before heading off solo to move up the GC. Behind him; his teammate Esteban Chaves put in a late attack as Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome slugged it out for the overall win. A great day racing.

Then on Sunday Alberto Contador instigated the break and the red jersey of Nairo Quintana joined him. The Sky team ran out of power and Quintana added two and a half minutes to the 54 seconds he had on Froome. Contador moved up the GC and 93 riders were outside the time limit, but were reinstated.

All great stuff and there will be more to come in the final week with the decisive time trial and the final important mountain stage on Saturday. Why is the Tour de France not as exciting?

“C’mon Nairo! Let’s do this.”
Vuelta a Espana - Stage 15

Vuelta a España 2016
Jens Keukeleire out-powered a peloton depleted by the hills of a 193 kilometer Stage 12 to Bilbao, giving his Orica-BikeExchange team their second stage victory in the Vuelta on Thursday. The 27-year-old Belgian surged in the final stretch to out-sprint France’s Maxime Bouet (Etixx – Quick-Step) and Italian Fabio Fellini (Trek-Segafredo). Colombia’s Nairo Quintana retained his red jersey.

Countless attempts took place in another nervous start of the race (44 kph in the first hour) until a group finally emerged. The 1st category Puerto de Alisas (49km) was ideal for a breakaway and seven riders took advantage of it. Among them was a former red jersey holder, Darwin Atapuma (BMC), Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx – Quick-Step) and Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida), ambitious Frenchmen Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), Romain Hardy (Cofidis) and Peter Kennaugh and David Lopez (Sky). Atapuma crashed on the descent and was forced back into the bunch, led by Movistar who held the break under 2:30.

50 kilometers from the finish, the pack raised the tempo and Hardy, then Lopez, were dropped on the first ascent of the Cat 2nd Alto el Vivero (151km), which saw Elissonde collect the KOM points. The leading bunch regrouped in the descent but peloton led by the Astana team, was within 20 seconds with one lap to go. With 18 km to go, the break was over.

The second time up the Alto de Vivero saw Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling) go on his own. Andrey Zeits (Astana), George Bennett (LottoNl-Jumbo), Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) and Matvey Mamykin (Katusha) chased behind the Belgian but were reined in after an attack by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) one kilometer from the summit. Devenyns reached the top with a 30 second lead over the peloton, led by Movistar’s Dani Moreno and Bennett.

The Belgian was pulled back with 2km to go, leaving the door open for a bunch sprint. While some strong finishers were left in the peloton, Keukeleire jumped with perfect timing to surprise the rest of the depleted group. Bouet and Felline had to be content with the podium places.

Race report HERE.

Bilbao - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Jens Keukeleire (Belgien / Team Orica Bike Exchange) - Bouet Maxime (France / Team Etixx - Quick Step) - Felline Fabio (Italie / Trek Factory Racing) pictured during stage 12 from Los Corrales de Buelna to Bilbao - Vuelta Espana 2016 - photo Sabine Jacob/Cor Vos © 2016

Stage winner, Jens Keukeleire (Orica-BikeExchange):
A first win in a Grand Tour, it must be special?

“It’s beautiful, as you say. My first victory in a Grand Tour, it’s even more special because I did it in front of my family. I became a dad about a month ago. They were there the last three days. It’s really beautiful.”

Was it planned for you to go for a stage win?
“We didn’t really commit after that last climb to make everything for a bunch sprint. We said at the briefing in the morning that if I was still there, I should give it a crack but we should not sacrifice the team for a bunch sprint. I’m very happy we eventually did. It was not up to us to control the race.”

At one stage you had to work to bring Simon Yates back to the front?
“It was my main job to look after Simon today. One day it’s Esteban, one day it’s Simon. I had to stay around in case he was in trouble. When we did that final climb the first time, I was really on the limit and really not convinced I could get over it. We were right at the back with Simon and it was normal that I brought him to the front. In the end it was good for me because I felt much better the second time and it went OK.”

Why did you start your sprint so early?
“When we passed the line the first time, I noticed there was a bit of headwind. But I went early because I didn’t want t get boxed in. I was confident I was one of the faster riders left in the bunch. I was looking at Sanchez and Valverde but I can tell you I’m not slow and I knew that if I went over that hill, there would not be many sprinters left and I would have my chance.”

Lots of GC teams say they also go for stage wins but you do win them…
“It’s a bit of a coincidence. As I said I was told in the morning that I could have a go. But we don’t have a lot of chances like that. Mind you last year we did the same with Caleb Ewan and it worked. I’m not going to say I targeted that stage but it was the first time I had that freedom and to finish if off is even more special.”

Is it a big step in your career and why did it come so late?
“A first Grand Tour stage win is always a big step you take in a career and this will be the same. It’s just not easy to win a race. I’ve had this question a lot. I won a few races when I started but it’s not like it all went dizzy afterwards. Every year I took it step by step. The races I won early on were national races. Then every year I’ve been doing Pro Tour races. Only very good riders win immediately at that level. It takes time. For me it took some time. I’m really happy I’ve done it this year.”

2nd on the stage, Maxime Bouet (Etixx – Quick-Step): “There was a stronger rider than me, that’s all. I think I rode the finale of my life. In the last climb I was OK but during the stage I was often on the limit. Everybody is tired. Such a shame to finish second. Last year in a Vuelta stage I was caught with 200 meters to go and this time I’m so close. I started the sprint with 300 meters to go because nobody had already gone. The problem is that I didn’t believe in myself. I’m going for a podium, not for a win. It’s silly because I’m convinced I could win. I make mistakes because I don’t believe in myself enough. Today I proved to some people I could do well on sheer strength, not only in breakaways. I can’t wait for next year.”

4th on the stage, Kristian Sbaragli (Dimension Data): “It was a very tough stage. We already went full gas from the start to the finish yesterday and today it was not different. There were good riders in the break, but it came all back together in the end. It was a good stage for me. The guys were really super in helping to put me in a good position for the first time up the hard circuit climb. Today was one of the stages I wanted to do well at, it was a bit harder than I expected. The group was really small so I had to go really deep to stay in front. I missed a kick in the sprint, I went early and they overtook me but it’s better to try than to have a problem because you waited too long.”

Overall leader, Nairo Quintana (Movistar): “Like the last days, it was a tough stage. There was a climb at the start where there were a lot of attacks, even by people from the rival teams which were close to us in the GC. That made our team ride fast all day. We knew that Contador had the will to attack but Alejandro (Valverde) checked him without problems. We were able to cover all the attacks. Here there are lots of Colombians who live here, people from Colombia… they are proud of their country and want to show that Colombia is about sport, Colombia is about art and Colombia is about peace.”

8th on the stage, and 3rd overall, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): “Today we rode again at an amazing speed. Two Sky riders went to the break, but we kept working with the same two guys, Imanol (Erviti) and Rory (Sutherland), and we could control them. Alberto (Contador) tried it again, he’s a combative rider, but for the moment everyone is OK. Pretty selective days are coming next, but we are used to these long stages at the Tour and the Giro, with stages of up to 240 kilometers. For now, here we are, suffering as everyone. I think the Aubisque stage will be the key, that’s the reason why it is the queen stage.”

5th overall, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff): “It has been nearly 600 kilometers in three days with practically no flat part and at a fast pace. Today this was on top of the high temperatures. My SRM power meter was showing 25-26 degrees, which was combined with the high humidity here. All these factors mean we will reach the final week quite weak. We will see how I feel and how I recover.”

Near solo winner, Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling): “Obviously the only thing that matters is the victory. But being able to be at the front of the race at this sort of level gives me great satisfaction. In my heart, I know that on this stage, I was the strongest. So, even though I didn’t manage the win, I am comforted by that thought. Coming to the Vuelta, my personal goal was clear: to win a stage. Twice now I have been very close. Even today when I broke away I believed in my chances. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite manage to achieve it. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t try again.”

Attacking rider, George Bennett (LottoNl-Jumbo): “I saw Devenyns go and immediately thought that it was too early. When no one responded, I am trying to follow him. I came close but behind me a group with several strong riders were coming. Despite the strong riders, there was no cooperation, and I just attacked on the descent. Shame it was a wide road, because you’re not in advantage on a big group.”

Break rider, Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx – Quick-Step): “I wanted to get in the break, I thought that today was the good day to go to the finish, but Movistar controlled the race, so actually it was another day of fatigue for nothing. Let’s see, we will have other stages”

Break rider, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ): “I had been trying to go in the break for a week and today I managed to be in it but in the climb it was not my day. That’s cycling. I’m going to try again. Everybody was pulling in this group, we were all full gas but what could we do? It took 60 km for the break to take shape and apparently there was an Astana missing with us. I’m going to try and recuperate and in any case I only have one more chance to breakaway…”

Break rider, David López (Sky): “I couldn’t enjoy it that much, but I will try to realize what I did in the next few days. Our goal was to be up there when there were so many breaks, so Movistar couldn’t stay calm and we forced them to work. It was a coincidence that I jumped into the right one, so it was great. Riding at home was even better, because I knew how hard it would be today. Seeing how the wind was in the first climb I already knew we would have headwind all day, so that was pretty depressing.”

Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal): “I’m starting to feel better. I was no super yet today but it was the first time since my crash that I tried to go in the breakaway. I’m glad I could do that. In the end, I still need a little bit more strength but in the next few days, I’m going to try to perform and to win. It won’t be easy but it’s the only reason why I’m going ahead. It’s not easy to ride in the team cars. But the morale is back…”

Vuelta a España Stage 12 Result:
1. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-BikeExchange in 4:31:43
2. Maxime Bouet (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step
3. Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
4. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension Data
5. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana
6. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
7. Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R-La Mondiale
8. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
9. Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC
10. Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling.

Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 12:
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 46:53:31
2. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky at 0:54
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 1:05
4. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange at 2:34
5. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at 3:08
6. Leopold Konig (Cze) Sky at 3:09
7. Simon Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange at 3:25
8. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 3:34
9. David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx – Quick-Step at 3:45
10. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC at 3:56.

Stage 12:

Italian Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida) claimed the biggest prize of his career when he powered to a solo victory in Stage 13 of the Vuelta a España, attacking a reduced group of breakaway riders with less than 20 kilometers left in the 213.4 km hilly ride between Bilbao and Urdax-Dantxarinea.

The 23-year-old Conti, who was part of the initial 12 man breakaway as the GC favorites kept quiet on a hot day in the Basque country, gave his Lampre-Merida team their first stage win in this year’s race. Nairo Quintana retained the overall leader’s red jersey after a quiet day in the peloton.

They were 171 riders at the start on a hot day in the Basque country and the day’s breakaway took shape at kilometer 19 with the following 12 riders: Michael Gogl (Tinkoff), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Gatis Smukulis (Astana), Tom Stamsnijder (Giant-Alpecin), Sergey Lagutin (Katusha), Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Yves Lampaert (Etixx – Quick-Step), Vegard Stake Laengen (IAM Cycling), Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida), Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18) and Romain Cardis (Direct Energie).

Lagutin was first at the top of the Alto Monte Igualdo (99km) and Cardis won the intermediate sprint in San Sebastian (110km) before the fugitives’ lead exceeded 20 minutes while the peloton was being led by Movistar.

Lagutin was again first at the top of the Alto de Aritxulegi (130.4km) and the Alto de Agiña (139km), the second and third of four third-category climbs of the day. The Russian made sure he would wear the polka dot jersey on Saturday by also reaching the Puerto de Lizaieta (163.2km) first. The stage was too much to handle for Zico Waeytens (Giant-Alpecin), who abandoned some 60 km from the finish.

After an unsuccessful attempt by Rossetto, Wallays attacked the front group with just under 30km left and he was only followed by Gogl. The two are being caught 22.5km from the line. After several foiled attacks, Laengen, Wyss, Conti, Lagutin, Gogl and Lampaert manage to break away from the group, only for the Italian to go solo with 19 kilometers left.

He never looked back, crossing the line with a 55-second advantage over Wyss and Lagutin, who were second and third respectively. The peloton finished almost 34 minutes off the pace.

Stage 13 race report HERE.

Aubisque - Gourette - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Conti Valerio (Italie / Team Lampre - Merida) pictured during stage 14 from Urdax-Dantxarinea to Aubisque - Gourette - Vuelta Espana 2016 - photo Sabine Jacob/Cor Vos © 2016

Stage winner, Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida):
What were your thoughts in the last kilometer?
“I was only thinking about giving my maximum until the finish line. Today was a perfect day, the perfect breakaway, I just went full gas in the hardest part and gave everything until the end with the support of my sports director. I want to thank all the staff, the sports directors, the mechanics, the soigneurs, everyone. I’m the happiest man on earth.”

What kind of future do you see for yourself?
“I’m really young it’s only my third year as a pro. After this year’s Giro I became more mature physically and psychologically. Today is the day I had been waiting for. I’d like to think this victory is the beginning of a bright future.”

You’ve been on the attack a lot in this race. Why did it work out today?
“My objective in this Vuelta is to be in the break and I’ve been trying every day. If I can’t do that I just stay in the peloton to work for my team mates. I’m not riding for GC here. Today I was lucky because I took the good break and it was the perfect day for it. Everything went my way.”

What kind of rider do you want to develop into?
“I want to figure this out in the next two years. I like time trials and I’d like to be a grand tour rider. If I can’t do that I’ll focus on the classics but I don’t want to set any limit.”

2nd on the stage, Danilo Wyss (BMC): “Yes I’m disappointed because I was feeling really well and I thought I had the legs to win. In this great BMC team I haven’t had many opportunities like this season, I’m often here to help. It was a good breakaway but I think that Conti was the strongest. When he went, I told myself it was a bit too far out (for a single rider) after 200 kilometers with five riders working together behind. He did something really strong.”

3rd on the stage and KOM, Sergey Lagutin (Katusha): “I would have been super happy to win another stage but you know, some riders were stronger and I’m satisfied with my third place and the polka dot jersey. It was good to be in the breakaway all day. I will try to keep the jersey as long as possible. Tomorrow is another hard stage, there will be some real climbs so I will see. I’m in a good shape so definitely I will try to keep it as long as possible.”

6th on the stage, Yves Lampaert (Etixx – Quick-Step): “It was very hot for a long day in the saddle and when Conti attacked, he caught the back of a motorbike and he was strong. Between the five the collaboration was good but not excellent. I got dropped in the last climb but I came back 500 meters from the finish and I attacked but unfortunately I finished sixth.”

9th on the stage and most aggressive rider, Gatis Smukulis (Astana): “Yesterday I worked hard at the front of the peloton and I was a bit tired this morning. To get into the breakaway I rode full gas for 20 kilometers. Then it was 200 kilometers with a head wind and in the end I suffered with my 83 kilos on these winding roads but I’m happy with my day, I enjoyed being in the front.”

Overall leader, Nairo Quintana (Movistar): “It wasn’t a dangerous stage for us so we tried to take advantage of that. Now come the real mountains, where we will be tested and I hope I will be up to the task. The sensations are good. Lagos was a great test and I hope I will be able to confirm. It’s one of the days I need to gain time on my rivals – at least I will try not to lose any time. I hope my team will take me safely to the foot of the final climb and then I’ll do my best. I like the Aubisque. It’s in the Pyrenees, which usually suit me.”

10th on the stage, Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis): “Conti was not the most generous in terms of the amount of work he put in the break but he actually got rewarded for it, congratulations to him. He’s an Italian, he’s smart but to win solo you have to be strong. On the rest day I was not sure I would continue. I am injured, I’m taking antibiotics, I’m not at 100 per cent. With a better condition, it could have been different. Tomorrow I know this is going to be hard. I will reach the finish with a group and then I will see if I can have other opportunities.”

Romain Cardis (Direct Energie): “First grand tour, first breakaway. I’ve had a complicated start to the Vuelta and I’ve enjoyed being in the front. The finale was quite tough. I cracked in the last 7-8 kilometers. The legs were stiff but it’s my 13th day of racing and it was a 213-km stage, which is something I’m not much used to in my first year as a pro. Maybe there were not too many candidates for the breakaway today because the upcoming queen stage in the Pyrenees. I grabbed the opportunity, it was a good day after all.”

Vuelta a España Stage 13 Result:
1. Valerio Conti (Ita) Lampre-Merida in 5:29:04
2. Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC at 0:55
3. Sergey Lagutin (Rus) Katusha
4. Michael Gogl (Aut) Tinkoff
5. Vergard Stake Laengen (Nor) IAM Cycling
6. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
7. Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Argon 18 at 1:02
8. Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 1:04
9. Gatis Smukulis (Lat) Astana
10. Stéphane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis at 1:08.

Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 13:
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 52:56:29
2. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky at 0:54
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 1:05
4. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange at 2:34
5. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at 3:08
6. Leopold Konig (Cze) Sky 0:03:09
7. Simon Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange at 3:25
8. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 3:34
9. David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx – Quick-Step at 3:45
10. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC at 3:56.

Stage 13:

Robert Gesink (LottoNl-Jumbo) claimed the Queen Stage 14 of the Vuelta a España on the Col d’Aubisque, powering away from Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) and Egor Silin (Katusha) 300 meters from the line for his maiden grand tour stage win.

The Dutchman, dropped by his breakaway companions on the descent from the Col de Marie-Blanque, eventually rejoined a reduced leading group before showing he was the strongest on the day. Briton Simon Yates, at the end of a long-range, perfectly executed attack, moved up to fourth overall behind his Orica-BikeExchange teammate Esteban Chaves. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) dropped out of the top 5. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) still leads Chris Froome (Sky) by 54 seconds but could not drop the Briton despite several attacks.

The day’s breakaway took shape shortly after 15 kilometers with 41 riders: Ruben Fernandez, Dani Moreno and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff), David Lopez (Sky), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), George Bennett, Victor Campenaerts and Robert Gesink (LottoNl-Jumbo), Simon Gerrans, Jens Keukeleire and Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-BikeExchange), Dario Cataldo (Astana), Kenny Elissonde, Odd Christian Eiking and Alexandre Geniez (FDJ), Haimar Zubeldia and Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Jan Bakelants and Quentin Jauregui (AG2R-La Mondiale), Alberto Losada and Egor Silin (Katusha), Bart De Clercq and Sander Armee (Lotto Soudal), Gianni Meersman (Etixx – Quick-Step), Moreno Moser, Pierre Rolland and Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac), Omar Fraile and Jacques Janse van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Mathias Frank and Larry Warbasse (IAM Cycling), Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida), Romain Hardy and Rudy Molard (Cofidis), Christoph Pfingsten (Bora-Argon 18), Pello Bilbao and Sergio Pardilla (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Lilian Calmejane, Romain Sicard and Pierrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie).

The gap reached 5 minutes near the top of the first climb, the Col Inharpu, where Elissonde, Geniez and Fraile briefly broke away from the leading group. The descent, however, was treacherous and they were reined in as Jose Joaquin Rojas and Jacques Janse van Rensburg crashed. The Spaniard made it back to the front pack while Van Rensburg was caught up by the main peloton.

The break had 6:30 over the Sky-led peloton at the foot of Marie-Blanque. Simon Yates jumped away from the main pack and was briefly helped by his team mate Jack Haig, who had attacked a bit earlier. Yates had 1:15 at the top having rejoined his team mates Cort Nielsen and Gerrans, who had dropped out of the leading group, and the Briton later picked up another domestique in Keukeleire.

Six men – Silin, De Clercq, Elissonde, Bennett, Bernard and Bakelants – went away on the descent and opened a decent gap. Movistar and Tinkoff took over from Sky at the front of the pack.

Elissonde’s acceleration 10km from the finish was fatal to De Clercq and Bernard as the leading four were joined by Gesink, who then went solo before being caught by Elissonde and Silin. He had the best legs in the finalé, though, and put the Frenchman, who claimed the polka dot jersey, 7 seconds back while Silin finished third 9 seconds off the pace. Yates was fifth, 39 seconds behind Gesink.

Quintana was the first to attack in the favorites’ group, forcing Froome to dig deep while Valverde lost contact. The Colombian was at it again about 5km from the top, but Froome came back with Contador and Chaves in his wheel, before the Colombian counter attacked and gained 33 seconds on the line. Contador, who briefly tried to attack, lost 20 seconds.

Race report HERE.


Interview with stage winner, Robert Gesink (LottoNl-Jumbo):
What is your feeling after this stage win?

“This is really special. I’ve had a hard year so far, I crashed in the Tour of Switzerland and I had a concussion, I could not train for a long time, so it meant no GC in the Vuelta. But I wanted to ride a grand tour for stages and now it’s worked out, I’m really happy.”

Can you tell us how it panned out today?
“With this group I was not sure I was the best, I did not have good sensations. I panicked in the descent but the team told me to stay calm and try in the last 8-9 kilometers.”

How tough was it to come back from this crash?
“For a long time nothing really worked, I was so tired all the time. I crashed on my head (in Switzerland) I forgot the whole thing. For weeks I wanted to sleep and not train at all. I went to America for some altitude training but I could not train how I wanted. I wanted to be away from the Tour. When I came back to Girona I felt better and I took it day by day.”

Was it more difficult to come back from the crash or from your heart surgery?
“I’ve had a lot of ups and down in my career so far, I can’t really choose. Winning a stage is really special. At this moment I feel healthy, I feel good and I want to thank the team and the people who trusted me and made me continue.”

Are you surprised you’re taking your first grand tour stage win only now and will you be back for GC next season?
“In this team I have always the role to ride for GC, which is something I like, I think I’m a real GC rider. I wanted to ride a grand tour for stages for a long time and I’ve had this possibility also because my team mate Steven Kruijswijk crashed. I will focus on GCs again in the future but winning stages is a nice feeling, too.”

2nd on the stage and KOM, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ): “I have no regrets, he was more powerful, he was strong. It’s a good race I did well considering what I have. I anticipated by getting into the breakaway. I fought for the polka dot jersey but the Vuelta is long. I had already taken KOM points when protecting Alexandre Geniez the other day. I let Fraile go for it today but then he dropped out and I told myself it was possible. At the end of the day the climbers jersey is a great reward. This morning the legs were stiff but they got better during the day. I want to continue to enjoy myself and please the team.”

5th on the stage and 4th overall, Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange): “We made a plan at the start and executed it to how we wanted and I was pretty tired so I don’t even know how I’ve done, but whatever I went full gas and it is what it is. (I caught a lot of rider in the last climb) but I was in the bunch all day so I was a lot fresher, it’s normal.”

7th overall, Samuel Sanchez (BMC): “To be a bit down in the GC gives you some freedom to move. I think we have done a good stage. Today’s stage really hurt, even more being placed so close to the last week of this Vuelta. I feel the efforts are taking their toll, the legs hurt more everyday and today was another hard day. We have seen some riders cracking and I think it was a beautiful one.”

Overall leader, Nairo Quintana (Movistar): “The idea of the team was to put riders in front to force other teams to work and chase. I wanted to gain time on Chris that’s why I kept attacking and even though it was not as efficient as we wanted I’m satisfied. We also had to be weary of possible counter attacks from Chris. We managed not to lose time either so it’s okay, the legs are good.”

Points leader, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): “I didn’t feel comfortable for the whole day. In the last climb, when my team mates started to pull, I realized I couldn’t follow their rhythm. I could have been in the group for some more time, but it would have been for nothing. I would have been dropped anyway. Now, we have to give everything for Nairo. We are still leaders and we have to make this gap bigger. It will be difficult as Froome is really strong. Tomorrow will be a though day, there’s only 120 kilometers which is ideal if some team want to blow up the race.”

Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo): “At the start I was scared of this terrible stage but I had good legs so I thought I should try. I found myself in the good group with Haimar Zubeldia. At the beginning I was saving myself a little bit but the collaboration in the group was not good so I started to ride to maintain the gap. I don’t know who between me and Haimar was the strongest today but I’m satisfied with my stage. But the climb to the Col d’Aubisque was really really hard.”

6th overall, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff): “I tried to sit with Froome and Quintana, but the changes in rhythm and pace made it hard to follow them. On the other hand, it wasn’t that difficult to follow the other riders. Maybe people will find this surprising, but I’m feeling well. I focussed on Froome and Quintana and for a long time I was riding easily with them, but there were a lot of attacks from dangerous riders that I also had to control – because only for me they were dangerous and not for them. When Chaves attacked, we were going really slow. The way we rode up the climb didn’t really suit me – we had many slow moments and when Chaves attacked, we were really, really, really slow, so it was hard for me to accelerate. The truth is that I felt well and I attacked, but that was only to change the rhythm and to switch to a constant climbing pace. I tried to have a stable power output so that the riders that were ahead of me couldn’t go, but at the end I wasn’t able to get to the finish with Nairo and Froome.”

Vuelta a España Stage 14 Result:
1. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNl-Jumbo in 5:43:24
2. Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ at 0:07
3. Egor Silin (Rus) Katusha at 0:09
4. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNl-Jumbo at 0:31
5. Simon Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange at 0:39
6. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 0:49
7. Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R-La Mondiale at 1:11
8. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac at 1:14
9. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange
10. Leopold Konig (Cze) Sky at 1:16.

Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 14:
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 58:41:40
2. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky at 0:54
3. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange at 2:01
4. Simon Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange at 2:17
5. Leopold Konig (Cze) Sky at 2:38
6. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at 3:28
7. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC at 3:59
8. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac at 4:30
9. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 5:37
10. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Movistar at 5:52.

Stage 14:

Nairo Quintana made a big move towards the Vuelta a España title when he benefited from Alberto Contador’s early attacks to turn the race upside down on Sunday. The Colombian finished second in Stage 15 behind Italian Gianluca Brambilla as his main rival Chris Froome was trapped behind. Contador is now fourth overall just over four minutes off the pace while Froome lies second, 3:37 behind Quintana and Esteban Chaves is third 20 seconds further back.

Contador attacked six kilometers into the stage, and Quintana followed shortly afterwards as a group of 14 breakaway riders took shape: Jonathan Castroviejo, Ruben Fernandez and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador, Ivan Rovny and Yuri Trofimov (Tinkoff), Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), Fabio Felline (Trek – Segafredo), Matvey Mamykin (Katusha), Gianluca Brambilla and David de la Cruz (Etixx – Quick Step), Davide Formolo and Moreno Moser (Cannondale-Drapac) and Omar Fraile (Dimension Data).

Froome was trapped behind and worse, all of his team mates, except David Lopez, who was then quickly dropped, were in a third group further back. Contador and Quintana both had two team mates with them in a crazy start to the stage.

They increased the lead to three minutes despite the work of Astana and Orica-BikeExchange at the front of the Froome group. In the climb to the l’alto de Cotefablo, Orica-BikeExchange contributed to the chase to reduce the gap to 1:45 but in the valley, it rose up to 2:30 (94km).

At the foot of the final climb, Contador and Quintana were still sitting on a two-minute cushion. Quintana set the tempo in the front group while Froome was left to do the hard work behind to limit the damage. With about three kilometers left, Astana took charge in the chasing group. Quintana accelerated with 3km left and was only followed by Brambilla, who took the day’s laurels while Contador finished 34 seconds off the pace.

Esteban Chaves again showed he had great legs and crossed the line 1:53 behind Brambilla while Froome ended up with a 2:39 deficit. 93 riders, including six of Froome’s team mates, ended up beyond the time delay but the race commissaires said that they would be allowed to resume racing on Monday.

Stage 15 race report HERE.

Sallent de Gallego. Aramon Formigal - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Gianluca Brambilla (Italie / Team Etixx - Quick Step) pictured during stage 15 from Sabinanigo to Sallent de Gallego. Aramon Formigal - Vuelta Espana 2016 - photo Sabine Jacob/Cor Vos © 2016

Stage winner, Gianluca Bambilla (Etixx – Quick-Step):
How proud are you that you won such a stage today?

“Today I believed in it more than yesterday when I got to the finish line with the top guns but already thinking about today. Freshness was key today. I attacked first at 3.5 km into the stage and Contador and the others joined me. Then we rode full gas all day. I was only thinking about winning the stage. In the finale I saw that Alberto was suffering and I kept Quintana’s wheel. I knew I could out-sprint him. When he accelerated with 700m left I hung in there and then I saw he was tired so I went myself with 150m to go. I’m happy I won such a bizarre stage than many people will remember.”

Is this victory more special than your win at the Giro?
“The Giro victory was really special because it was my first one and I also got to wear the maglia rosa. I still have goose bumps when I think about it, But I have to admit that winning ahead of Quintana today is pretty special.”

2nd on the stage and overall leader, Nairo Quintana (Movistar): “Every time we do something like this it is great but pulling something like we did today with this kind of strategy is special. Today was a great day and I will never forget it in my life. The team were fantastic. I want to thank all the riders in the team who worked for me. Alberto did a great thing, he was interested in the podium. The race is still very long and we have to be careful. We can’t take anything for granted. The attack was not planned, our strategy was different but we took advantage of the moment. I think Froome and Sky will try to regain time but I have a great team supporting me. I’m ready to fight and defend the jersey. Alberto loves to draw big plans in key moments so we can’t stop looking at him, he’s such an astute rider.”

3rd on the stage, Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo): “It’s incredible. I gave my best but for me, Brambilla and Quintana were too fast in the final climb. Ending up third in this stage is incredible. It’s the good thing in this Vuelta for me.”

4th on the stage and KOM, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ): “I did not know how I would feel after yesterday but I was motivated to snatch some points. It was a crazy scenario but it’s still a great day. I paced myself in the climbs. Te polka dot-jersey is not a sure thing because of Quintana and Fraile, who is a brave rider who often manages to get into the break. We’ll take it day by day. After my knee surgery I stayed in Nice to get back into shape. Before the Tour of Switzerland I had improved already but I needed some time before it showed in races. I hope I achieved that in this Vuelta. I’m happy for Julien (Pinot) and the team.”

6th on the stage and 4th overall, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff): “After yesterday’s stage I was so disappointed. My legs weren’t bad at all, but Nairo and Froome were controlling each other and so did we, which is a logical thing, but some riders attacked. After crossing the finish line, I was only thinking about today. I saw the last climb was no so hard, but it was an interesting start. I had this in mind and I didn’t look back. I thought there would be a break, and you saw it was finally a beautiful stage. I had a clear idea. Yesterday, I checked the roadbook when we were going to the hotel. For me, the GC is almost impossible. Thinking about the stage, maybe I was too generous in the first hour and a half, when I was pulling full gas. I think the crowd enjoyed the stage. Tomorrow will be another day. This year, I started the Tour and the Vuelta off-balance. Sometimes it is how it goes. I will keep fighting until the end of the Vuelta”

9th on the stage and 3rd overall, Esteban Chaves (Orica-Bike Exchange): “It was a tense, tough stage. The first 5 kilometers were pretty aggressive. After a stage like the one we had yesterday, the legs are still on fire and Quintana and Contador made it in the break. From then on, it was almost a TTT, in the first and in the second groups. Us, Sky and Astana put our teams to work and we tried to reduce the time gap as much as we could. Movistar did an incredible job, they are a pretty strong team, just as Sky, Orica or Astana. I think today was a beautiful stage for the fans”

5th overall, Simon Yates (Orica-Bike Exchange): “It was some aggressive racing. (Quintana and Contador) are aggressive. I was not surprised at all that Contador attacked.”

Points leader, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): “I really didn’t enjoy today’s racing much, I struggled as badly as yesterday, though a bit closer to the front (all laughing and joking). It was a different way of suffering. We knew that such a short, tough course could create havoc. We took a big lead in the overall standings now – even though you can’t say this is already won, as many difficult days are still ahead, we’re many steps closer to our goal. It was a split created by both Alberto and us, a joint strategy which both teams took advantage from to create some gaps. Behind, and especially into the final ascent, I was always keeping Froome’s wheel, trying to make him nervous. And, as soon as he stopped taking turns, I jumped so he never recovered. What do I want to do now? Winning the red jersey with Nairo. Fighting for stages might be impossible for me, as you never want to cooperate with someone who is faster at a sprint, and at this point of the race, what really motivates me is staying close to Nairo.”

Omar Fraile (Dimension Data): “The start was very fast. I wanted to be part of the break and try to get points for the KOM classification. Kenny Elissonde had the same in mind, and with Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador it was a good break to be involved in. We went really fast in the beginning and I was able to cross the first two climbs in first position. On the last climb of the day I tried to hang on as long as possible, but when Nairo increased the pace I couldn’t follow anymore. I think it was a good day though. Now I’m trying to recover as good as possible. Tomorrow is another day.”

Leopold Konig (Sky): “They made a better decision and we only had two guys with Chris, the other guys were in the third group and there was no possibility to go because only Sky wanted to go and after that our Vuelta was in a bad situation for Chris.”

Vuelta a España Stage 15 Result:
1. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx – Quick-Step in 2:54:30
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 0:03
3. Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 0:25
4. Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ at 0:28
5. David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx – Quick-Step at 0:31
6. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at 0:34
7. Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac at 0:53
8. Matvey Mamykin (Rus) Katusha at 1:16
9. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange at 1:53
10. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 1:59.

Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 15:
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 61:36:07
2. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky at 3:37
3. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange at 3:57
4. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at 4:02
5. Simon Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange at 5:07
6. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC at 6:12
7. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac at 6:43
8. Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac at 7:17
9. David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx – Quick-Step at 7:23
10. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 7:39.

Stage 15:

Tour of Britain 2016
Andre Greipel sprinted to the opening Stage 1 victory in Scotland, to grab the Yellow Jersey presented by Eisberg, heading Caleb Ewan and Ramon Sinkeldam on the 600-metre drag to the line in the town of Castle Douglas.

The Lotto Soudal team set up the German national champion perfect, leading Greipel safely through the final corner at the head of the peloton, with Jens Debusschere providing the perfect lead-out at the end of the 161-kilometre stage from Glasgow.

Greipel avoided a final crash further back in the peloton on the final corner, removing the likes of Mark Cavendish, Elia Viviani and Dylan Groenewegen from contention.

The stage win and time bonus gives Greipel a 1-second lead over Jasper Bovenhuis, who picked up the time bonuses at all three of the day’s intermediate Yodel Sprints from a breakaway to sit second overall, with Ewan third.

The An Post Chain Reaction rider took the Yodel Sprints jersey from a five-rider breakaway that former early on while the race lapped Glasgow in front of packed crowds throughout the city centre.

Alongside teammate Emiel Wastyn, ONE Pro Cycling’s Peter Williams, NFTO’s Johnny McEvoy and JLT Condor’s Tom Moses the quintet spent the majority of Stage One out front, but a watchful peloton never let them gain more than 4-minutes.

With the Stage One victory Greipel also takes the Chain Reaction Cycles Points Jersey while Williams is the SKODA King of the Mountains jersey and Adnams Best British Rider overall.

The Tour of Britain resumes with Stage Two on Monday 5 September from Carlisle to Kendal, through the heart of the Lake District including the Category One climb of The Struggle with 30-kilometers to go. The stage finishes in Kendal atop the 700-meter climb of Beast Banks, as used in the 2013 Tour of Britain when Gerald Ciolek took the victory.

Stage winer, André Greipel (Lotto Soudal): “Based on the profile, today’s stage was the easiest one of the week. There were five riders in the breakaway, but they weren’t a threat. Our trainee James Shaw did a lot of work together with the riders of Lotto NL Jumbo, Dimension Data and Team Sky. As we’re here with teams of only six riders, it’s difficult to control the race. For us it was important to be in the front of the peloton in the finale. We managed to set up a perfect lead-out: Gallopin and De Buyst prepared us for the sprint while Sieberg and Debusschere gave everything they had in the last kilometer. With five hundred meters to go there was a sharp curve and we had to be in front by then. What followed was a slightly uphill finish. Everyone did a perfect job which is very important when you race with small teams. Before the Tour of Britain I had a very long training period so I had to wait and see how I was doing. This victory is very pleasant if you just get back in competition and it gives a confidence boost also because there are a lot of strong sprinters in the peloton. There are several hard stages to come and I don’t know if and when we’ll be able to sprint again. We’re only with six riders so it’s hard to control the race and because the route is never flat tomorrow it will be even more difficult. With thirty kilometers to go we still have a hard climb to cover with four hundred elevation meters and after that there is the hilly finish. We’ll have to see how the race evolves because it’s a course that should suit Gallopin really well too.”

Tour of Britain Stage 1 Result:
1. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal in 3:52:40
2. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange
3. Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Giant-Alpecin
4. Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Etixx – Quick-Step
5. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
6. Nicola Ruffoni (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
7. Steele Von Hoff (Aus) ONE Pro Cycling
8. Christopher Latham (GB) Team WIGGINS
9. Daniel Mclay (GB) Fortuneo-Vital Concept
10. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal.

Tour of Britain After Stage 1:
1. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal in 3:52:30
2. Jasper Bovenhuis (Ned) An Post-Chainreaction at 0:01
3. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange at 0:04
4. Peter Williams (GB) ONE Pro Cycling
5. Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Giant-Alpecin at 0:06
6. Jonathan Mcevoy (GB) NFTO at 0:08
7. Thomas Moses (GB) JLT Condor at 0:09
8. Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Etixx – Quick-Step at 0:10
9. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
10. Nicola Ruffoni (Ita) Bardiani-CSF.

Stage 1:

Brussels Cycling Classic 2016
Since extending his contract with Etixx – Quick-Step in July and announcing that he’ll put an end to his career after next year’s Paris-Roubaix – a race with which he identifies since turning pro – Tom Boonen is enjoying a true Indian summer, which saw him claim three important wins so far: RideLondon Classic, stage 1 of the Tour de Wallonie (which got him two days in the yellow jersey) and Brussels Cycling Classic, one of the oldest races in the calendar, where he already triumphed, back in 2012.

Having 13 hills jammed in the 200-km long course between Jubelpark and Heysel, the former Paris-Brussels race got off to a furious start, with things settling down only once eight riders got away from the bunch. The race was marked as being one for the sprinters, but this didn’t discourage the attackers, who came into the spotlight several times during the day, making things difficult for the teams who wanted a bunch gallop. Etixx – Quick-Step was one of these squads and as consequence controlled the escapees and the late attackers with firm hand.

In the second half of the race, our team was at the pointy end of the peloton, trimming the lead of the riders up the road, before eventually making the catch in the final hour. Alexis Gougeard (AG2R) and Filippo Pozzato (Willier-Southeast), played all their cards with a late move, but a well-oiled Etixx – Quick-Step team made sure of not giving any of them too much space, so the race came back together in the closing kilometer.

Excellent guided by his teammates and ideally placed in the final 400 meters, Tom Boonen launched his sprint early, after a strong lead-out of Nikolas Maes, and despite having Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) on his wheel, he kept both French riders at bay and crossed the line victorious, after a demonstration of wit and raw power.

“I am very happy for getting this win, the team did a perfect job throughout the day and provided an excellent lead-out in the final kilometer. The race was a fast and frantic one, with many attacks and narrow roads, but I am really satisfied of how things went”, said Tom Boonen after bagging Etixx – Quick-Step’s 46th victory of the year.

“Yesterday, I talked with Marcel and asked him if he’s ok with me going for the sprint and he agreed. On top of that, he also helped me today, so chapeau to him! When Nikolas started his lead-out, FDJ came to the front on the right side of the road, so I decided to go. It was a little bit too early, but I kept something for the last 150 meters, when I pushed 100%. It wasn’t easy, but it’s really great to win again here. This victory bodes well for the next races of the season and for the World Championships in Qatar”, a beaming Tom concluded.
Thanks to Etixx – Quick-Step.

4th, Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida): “I’m fairly satisfied with this result, especially comparing today performance with the one I did in the Cyclassics Hamburg. After two weeks during which I trained intensely, my fitness is good and I succeeded in battling against the other top sprinters. The sprint was very fast, despite the light ascent of the final straight, and it was not possible to overtake the opponents.”

Brussels - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme -    Tom Boonen (Belgium / Team Etixx - Quick Step) pictured during the finish of the 4th edition of BCC Brussels Cycling Classic 2016 (199 kms) also known as Paris - Brussels on September 03, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium   - photo VK/PN/Cor Vos © 2016

Brussels Cycling Classic Result:
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step in 4:35:10
2. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
4. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida
5. Timothy Dupont (Bel) Veranda’s Willems
6. Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
7. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
8. Kenny De Haes (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
9. Roy Jans (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
10. Kevin Ista (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles-Group Protect.

Brussels Cycling Classic:

GP de Fourmies 2016
Etixx – Quick-Step’s perfect week-end continued in France, where the German stormed to his 12th victory of the season.

Marcel Kittel returned to winning ways, one day after helping Tom Boonen take the honors in Brussels Cycling Classic, by roaring over the line victorious in the Grand Prix de Fourmies, one of the most important races in the Coupe de France calendar. Following a flawless display of his Etixx – Quick-Step teammates, who controlled the breakaway and made sure of setting him up for the final kilometer, the 28-year-old defeated two home riders, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie), for his 12th success of 2016, a year which saw Marcel celebrate wins across six different countries.

Held for the first time in 1928, the GP de Fourmies was won by such riders as Jean Stablinski or Eddy Merckx, and continues to attract each year at the start some of the sport’s biggest names. On Sunday, the peloton lined out in the north of France for a 205-km long challenging race, which was set to take the riders over a hilly terrain suitable to attackers, whose chances of taking the win increased with the rain that made the day an even more complicated one.

The day’s breakaway consisted of five men, who had a maximum advantage which didn’t exceed five minutes. In the final 50 kilometers, the gap went tumbling down, as the sprinters’ teams were determined not to miss this chance, and the adventure of the quintet came to an end with less than 15 kilometers to go. The sprint was a highly contested one, but supported by a great Etixx – Quick-Step squad – who drilled the pace and handily placed him at the front – Marcel Kittel rolled across the line first, out-kicking all his opponents.
Thanks to Etixx – Quick-Step.


“It was another hard day in the saddle, with harsh weather conditions and a tough course, and that’s what makes this victory even more special. Racing twice in a week-end isn’t easy, but I’m content with how things have panned out for me and the team, with two victories”, Marcel Kittel said following his 12th win of the year. “After working for Tom yesterday, today it was my turn to go for the sprint and everything worked out as planned. The team was great and I must thank the guys for their help! I jumped early in the sprint, but was able to keep the power and this brings me much satisfaction. My confidence is strong, the shape is there and I’m getting better and better with every race I do. This shows that I’m ready for the final part of the season.”

GP de Fourmies Result:
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step in
2. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
3. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
4. Romain Feillu (Fra) HP BTP-Auber93
5. Manuel Belletti (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Southeast
6. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
7. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
8. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18
9. Samuel Dumoulin (Ned) AG2R-La Mondiale
10. Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Wallonie-Bruxelles.

GP de Fourmies:

Tour des Fjords 2016
Perfect work from a teammate and a solid sprint up the middle of the course gave Alexander Kristoff his tenth win of the 2016 season, this one coming on home soil in Stage 2 of the 2016 Tour des Fjords with a finish in Odda.

“That was a hard climb at the end and the attacks came quite early. I should have tried to follow earlier because afterwards it was more flat, but I ended up doing it at my own speed. Nils Politt was the only guy left for me and he was pulling and pulling on the climb. He did an amazing job – he literally pulled for the entire climb. We finally got some help on the downhill, but he was pulling until 2 km to go. He did a job by himself equal to a full team; it was amazing,” said Alexander Kristoff.

All Team KATUSHA did a great job during the day, protecting Alexander Kristoff from the start. In the second part of the distance Dmitriy Kozonchuk started to work in front of the group, chasing hardly the daily breakaway.

With the break caught at under 10 km to go, attacks came often in the closing kilometers, but coming into the sprint, Kristoff felt plenty of power to take the win on the long 212,5 km stage beginning in Stord. Joining him on the daily podium were Leigh Howard of IAM Cycling and Nikolay Trusov of Tinkoff. Howard leads the GC by 2-seconds to Alexander Kristoff.

“In the sprint I felt quite strong, but I want to emphasize that I never would have come to the sprint without Politt pulling like he did. He brought me into perfect position. To do that alone was impressive. Without him today I would not be standing here as the winner. But also, I want to thank all the team for support today,” said Kristoff.
The third stage on Friday is the longest of the five-day race. It begins in Ulvik and ends in Suldalsosen at 221 km.
Thanks to the Katusha team.

2nd on the stage and overall leader, Leigh Howard (IAM Cycling): “I tried to anticipate Kristoff’s sprint, but he was really just too strong. I kept the jersey, and that’s the most important thing, especially in view of all the great work my teammates did. I hope that I am feeling even better for the two climbs scheduled for Friday’s very long stage, since I had to dig into reserves to get through today’s difficult stage in order to keep my position.”

Tour des Fjords Stage 2 Result:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 4:46:57
2. Leigh Howard (Aus) IAM Cycling
3. Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff
4. Alexander Kamp (Den) Stölting Service Group
5. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Team Roth
6. Jonas Koch (Ger) Verva ActiveJet
7. Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton
8. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC
9. Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
10. Adam Phelan (Aus) Drapac.

Tour de Fjords Overall After Stage 2:
1. Leigh Howard (Aus) IAM Cycling in 8:13:57
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha at 0:02
3. Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton at 0:12
4. August Jensen (Nor) Team Coop-Øster Hus at 0:14
5. Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff
6. Bjørn Tore Hoem (Nor) Team Joker Byggtorget at 0:15
7. Christian Mager (Ger) Stölting Service Group
8. Carl Fredrik Hagen (Nor) Team Sparebanken Sør at 0:16
9. Kenny De Ketele (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
10. Joseph Rosskopf (USA) BMC at 0:17.

Sprinter Kristoff:
Arctic Race of Norway 2016 - 11/08/2016 - Etape 1 : Fauske/Rognan (180,5 km) - Victoire de KRISTOFF Alexander, Team katusha, devant DEGENKOLB John, Team Giant-Alpecin

Stage 3 was the longest stage in the five-day race with Alexander Kristoff taking up the chase on his own to ensure he was part of the action for the finish. In the end, the Norwegian rider took his second win in as many days, crossing the finish line at the front in Suldalsosen, marking his eleventh win for the 2016 cycling season.

– The pack was not really strong enough to catch back the break, so I went to the front to try to keep the speed high. Then on the downhill I had good speed and I saw that I had a little gap so I kept going. Two guys managed to bridge up and they were strong guys, so I was very happy to see the time gap go down. In the sprint I was the strongest, but I had to go from the front so it wasn’t ideal. And even though I was pretty tired from the chase, I was confident that I could win, – said Alexander Kristoff.
Kristoff’s winning time of 5:38.58 (39.119 km/h) on the 221 km day was just ahead of Nick van der Lijke (Roompot-Oranje) and Jonas Koch of VERVA Active Jet.

The win and gap to the main field also gave Alexander Kristoff the yellow jersey and the lead in the general classification. With two stages to go, the Team KATUSHA rider leads by 20-seconds to Michael Schar of BMC and van der Lijke. Besides, Kristoff took control over the point classification (blue jersey).

– It was a little bit like a classic today. It was a long race and horrible weather conditions. At the end I saw we did not have the power to close the gap to the strong three guys in the front so I made one big attempt to do it myself and I’m happy it worked out in the end. I can’t predict on the GC yet. There are still two more days to go and tomorrow is a very hard day. Maybe if I still have the lead after tomorrow I think I have a good shot, – said Alexander Kristoff.

Saturday’s stage 4 is familiar terrain for Alexander Kristoff with the stage beginning in his home town of Stavanger. At 165,6 km, the stage ends in Sandnes and promises to be a difficult day on the bike.
– This is my home race but I’m still not to my home city – that will be tomorrow. The last two days of this race are my home training ground and I know every corner, – said Kristoff.
Thanks to the Katusha team for the stage details.

Tour des Fjords Stage 3 Result:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 5:38:58
2. Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton
3. Jonas Koch (Ger) Verva ActiveJet Pro
4. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC
5. Michael Schaer (Swi) BMC
6. Pieter Weening (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton
7. Cees Bol (Ned) Rabobank Development
8. Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise at 0:46
9. Fridtjof Roinas (Nor) Team Sparebanken Sør
10. Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff.

Tour de Fjords Overall After Stage 3:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 13:52:47
2. Michael Schar (Swi) BMC at 0:20
3. Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton
4. Jonas Koch (Ger) Verva ActiveJet at 0:22
5. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC at 0:23
6. Pieter Weening (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton
7. Leigh Howard (Aus) IAM Cycling at 0:54
8. Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton at 1:06
9. Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff at 1:08
10. August Jensen (Nor) Team Coop-ØsterHus.

Stage 3 podium:

After three days of constant rain, Mother Nature finally cooperated with the remaining 117 riders with mild temperatures and sunny skies covering the majority of the 163km route from Stavanger to Sandnes in the fourth edition of Tour des Fjords (UCI 2.1) in Norway on Saturday’s Stage 4.

Hometown hero and 2014 race winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) was a clear favorite to claim his third straight stage and pad is all-time race record, which currently sits at 10 wins. However, someone forgot to tell Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (Delko Marseille-KTM) of Denmark.

The 24-year-old Dane chased down the remnants of a five-man break before leaving them behind after being joined by Norwegian Bjørn Tore Hoem (Joker-Byggtorget) and German Christian Mager (Stölting Service Group), who finished second and third respectively, with 2km to go. The win marks Andersen’s first pro win of the season – second of his career – after he was forced to take time off due to knee issues.

“I stopped racing four months ago due to problems with my knees, so I am really happy with the win,” said Andersen after winning the same exact stage as his younger brother Søren Kragh Andersen (Giant-Alpecin) last year. “It’s amazing really nice and my brother win here last year, so it makes it more special.”

While Kristoff battled back to within seconds of the trio, he could only manage fourth place tied with Mager on time.

The highlight of the day came from fellow Norwegian Carl Fredrik Hagen (Sparebanken Sør), who was one of the originators of the initial break that had at one point extended its lead to more than 10 minutes.

With the gap almost closed, Hagen launched a solo attack on the second of three climbs up Bakken hill with a max gradient of 25 percent.

“My strategy all week has been to try to be the break every day, get some points and show a good result in the final, but today it was very, very close,” said the former cross-country skier and runner who turned to mountain biking four years ago at age 21 before switching to cycling. “We were five guys, and I saw the peloton was coming closer and closer, so my tactic was to get away with maybe two or three of the strongest guys in the break and then speed up and maybe get a top 3 result.”

The 24-year-old has already wrapped up the mountains classification, which makes it his second of the season after claiming the polka dot jersey at Le Tour de Bretagne (2.2) in May.

“This is just my second year on the road,” said Hagen. “It’s always nice to have a jersey and this is now my second, so 2016 is a good year.”

There is no change on general classification (GC), with Kristoff maintaining a 20-second lead on Michael Schar (BMC Racing) of Switzerland and best young rider classification leader Nick van der Lijke, (Roompot-Oranje Peloton) of Holland.

“I wanted to win here in Sandes, but it was tough at the end,” said Kristoff. “Now the main priority is the yellow jersey. There are still a lot of things that can happen and bonus seconds that can get away, but I feel like we have control of the situation.”

In other news, Belgian Eliot Lietaer (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) was involved in mid-race crash and transported to the hospital. No word yet on his condition.
Thanks to Tour des Fjords for race info.

Tour des Fjords Stage 4 Result:
1. Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (Den) Delko-Marseille Provence-KTM in 4:00:14
2. Bjørn Tore Hoem (Nor) Team Joker Byggtorget
3. Christian Mager (Ger) Stölting Service Group at 0:03
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
5. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Team Roth
6. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC
7. Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton
8. Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) Tinkoff
9. Michael Schaer (Swi) BMC
10. Pieter Weening (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton.

Tour de Fjords Overall After Stage 4:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 17:53:04
2. Michael Schaer (Swi) BMC at 0:20
3. Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton
4. Jonas Koch (Ger) Verva ActiveJet at 0:22
5. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC at 0:23
6. Pieter Weening (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton
7. Bjørn Tore Hoem (Nor) Team Joker Byggtorget at 1:00
8. Christian Mager (Ger) Stölting Service Group at 1:05
9. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Team Roth at 1:12
10. Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) Tinkoff.

Kristoff in the black jersey:

It was a successful 2016 Tour des Fjords for Alexander Kristoff and Team KATUSHA. Winning three of five stages, the general classification and the points jersey were the culmination of dedicated work throughout the week.

– We almost passed by my house today and I know all of the roads in this area. My teammates did everything I wanted and did an amazing job, especially Anton Vorobyev and Dmitriy Kozonchuk who were pulling all day. In the end Michael Mørkøv and I continued on, too. Michael did a perfect lead out and it’s good to see him in such great shape again. All this week we worked so hard for this and I’m just really happy right now, – said Alexander Kristoff, who became the most winning rider of the season with 13 victories so far.

The Final Stage 5 on Sunday was a straight up sprint with a perfect lead out from teammate Michael Mørkøv – so perfect in fact that behind winner Alexander Kristoff was Mørkøv for second place. Third place went to Kristoffer Halvorsen of Team Joker-Byggtorget, all on the same time of 3:47.01 for the 166 km stage from Hinna Park to Kristoff’s city of Stavanger.

– We can leave Norway really happy and proud for our six riders. They all did a fantastic job. From our winner Kristoff to the lead out guys, to the workers like Anton Vorobyev and Dima Kozonchuk, it was a really, really great week. We won three stages, the GC and the points jersey. Some of our adversaries were very strong and they were very well prepared, as were the Scandinavian teams who are always very motivated in this race. But on the long third stage with the rain, two climbs in the middle and then the impressive last 15 km with Alex, that was the key point. Today it’s nice and sunny, so to win on home roads with a nice lead out and second place for Mørkøv is very nice for the boys, – said sports director Torsten Schmidt.

Kristoff won the general classification by 30-seconds to Michael Schar (BMC) and Nick van der Lijk of Roompot-Oranje Peloton.
Thanks to Team KATUSHA.

2nd overall, Michael Schär (BMC): “I’m simply very thankful for the work that the guys did for me in the last two days. Normally I’m never on this side of the job. It’s the first time that I see that the teamwork really makes the leader stronger. It gives me confidence and the race was also much easier. I only had to do the finale as the rest was done by Floris Gerts and Fabian Lienhard and Joey Rosskopf. They did so much work the whole day by keeping me out of the wind, and then in the finale I had Damiano Caruso who pulled for 10km. The other guys have eight riders for that so it’s cool to see the other side because sometimes I do my job and I wonder if our leaders really see or feel that it is easier for them to ride a bike, and today I felt that. My form is good as I was training very hard after the Tour de France. I wanted to have a good fall, not just letting it go, and I was motivated. And now with this result it’s extra motivation to help Greg Van Avermaet at the races in Quebec and Montreal and fall back into my normal role.”

Marcel Aregger (IAM Cycling): “I was the last of the Mohicans for IAM Cycling. In fact, we used up a lot of energy and reserves in those first two stages to win the stage and then keep the overall leader’s jersey. Five guys riding for the leader proved not an easy task. I am satisfied with my condition. The legs responded well in spite of all the work we had to do. And then to have Alexander Kristoff praise you in person after the finish on behalf of all the work that IAM Cycling did at the head of the race, it does make you feel good. But I am not even certain I will be continuing to race next season since I still don’t have a contract with another team.”

Kjell Carlström (IAM Cycling): “With a stage win and a 2nd place for another stage, and then also defending the leader’s jersey through two stages, we can say, in my opinion, that we fulfilled half of our goals for the Tour des Fjords.”

Tour des Fjords Stage 5 Result:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha IN 3:47:01
2. Michael Morkov (Den) Katusha
3. Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Team Joker Byggtorget
4. Jonas Koch (Ger) Verva ActiveJet
5. Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff
6. Michael Schaer (Swi) BMC
7. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC
8. Christian Mager (Ger) Stölting Service Group
9. Chris Anker Sorensen (Den) Fortuneo-Vital Concept
10. Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton.

Tour de Fjords Final Overall Result:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 21:39:55
2. Michael Schaer (Swi) BMC at 0:30
3. Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton
4. Jonas Koch (Ger) Verva ActiveJet at 0:32
5. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC at 0:33
6. Pieter Weening (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton
7. Bjørn Tore Hoem (Nor) Team Joker Byggtorget at 1:10
8. Christian Mager (Ger) Stölting Service Group at 1:15
9. Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff at 1:26
10. Huub Duijn (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton at 1:30.

Final podium:

Cycling superstar Peter Sagan to ride 2017 Santos Tour Down Under
Twenty-six year old Slovakian powerhouse, Peter Sagan will start his 2017 cycling season with new team Bora-Hansgrohe at the Santos Tour Down Under.

Today’s announcement confirms that the current UCI World Road Champion, seven time Tour de France stage winner and 11 time Grand Tour stage winner will take to the start line as part of the peloton in January.
Race Director Mike Turtur said that Peter Sagan’s first WorldTour race was the Santos Tour Down Under back in 2010, so it is quite fitting and sentimental to see him return as such an accomplished athlete some years later as a champion of the sport.

“Six years ago we saw Sagan attack over the last climb on Willunga Hill finishing fifth, battling it out alongside Cadel Evans, Alejandro Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez. The race and the fans are in store for something special next year when he tackles the climb for the second time,” said Mike Turtur.

“He has had an outstanding season to date, not just with his Tour de France campaign but with victory at the one day classics, Tour of Flanders and the Gent-Wevelgem. Not only is he a great cyclist, he is also one of the most popular cyclists on the WorldTour. We cannot wait to welcome him back to the race – he is an exciting addition.”

Peter Sagan remembers the first time he rode the Santos Tour Down Under six years ago, when making his WorldTour debut and is looking forward to returning.

“I’m excited to announce that I will race at the Santos Tour Down Under next year. This iconic Australian race brings the world’s best riders on a course that features tough climbs and fast sprints and I’m convinced its 19th edition could be the best so far,” said Peter Sagan.

“The Santos Tour Down Under will be the curtain-raiser of the 2017 season and my first race wearing the Bora-Hansgrohe colors, but it also holds a special place in my heart. I first took part in 2010 in what was my maiden WorldTour race and I still remember the excitement and anxiety on the start line of the first stage in Clare.

“Returning, after seven years, to the race that set off my professional career is a great feeling and I look forward to riding on the roads of Adelaide and South Australia.”

Fans will not only have the opportunity to see Sagan ride in South Australia in January, but they will also have the opportunity to hear him talk at the Legends’ Night Dinner on Saturday 21 January 2017, where he will be honored. Tickets are on sale now through www.tourdownunder.com.au.

The 2017 Santos Tour Down Under will be held from Saturday 14 January until Sunday 22 January and the Santos Women’s Tour will be held from 14 – 17 January 2017.

Peter Sagan:
100ste Ronde van Vlaanderen 2016

Jarlinson Pantano Joins Trek-Segafredo for Two Years
Trek-Segafredo is happy to announce that 2016 Tour de France revelation Colombian Jarlinson Pantano will join the team for the next two years. Pantano, 27, is a strong climber who has shown an aptitude for stage races, winning stage 15 of the Tour and stage 9 of the Tour de Suisse this season.

Pantano, currently racing with IAM Cycling, turned professional in 2007 and showed early promise in his first years, finishing third and winning the mountains classification in the esteemed under-23 Tour l’Avenir in 2010.

Pantano has accumulated numerous top-10 results in the overall classification of short stage races, including fourth in this year’s Tour de Suisse and 8th in Volta ao Algarve.

Pantano: “This team has always drawn my attention. It’s magnificent to join my dream team starting January 2017! It goes without saying that my stage victory in this year’s Tour de France has changed things a lot for me, but it doesn’t prevent me from keeping my feet on the ground. So my ambitions for next year are pretty simple. First of all, I want to support the team and do my job as well as possible in whatever the team asks me to do during the race for our leaders. Secondly, I want to adapt to the team, to all the riders and the staff; I am excited to join the Trek family! And last but not least, when I get an opportunity to go for the win, I will give it my all.”

General Manager, Luca Guercilena: “I am convinced Jarlinson will be of great added value to the team. He has already proven to be a force in stage races, and will be a great support for our GC riders in the Grand Tours. And, as we have witnessed this year, Jarlinson can win stages and go for the GC in one-week stage races. He performs very well in mountain stages, and can do well when it comes to a sprint with a reduced group. We are excited to have him join Trek-Segafredo next year.”

Jarlinson Pantano:
Culoz - France  - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme -   Jarlinson Pantano (COL-IAM Cycling)  pictured during stage 15 of the 2016 Tour de France from  Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz, 159.00 km - photo Dion Kerckhoffs/Tim van Wichelen/Cor Vos © 2016

Kevin Van Melsen extends with Wanty-Groupe Gobert
Kevin Van Melsen extends his contract with Wanty-Groupe Gobert with one year. The Walloon rider will start his ninth season in Jean-François Bourlart’s team.

“I am glad to continue the adventure in the team. I have been here for eight years and I feel really good”, Kevin Van Melsen said.

Kevin Van Melsen was always on the offensive in the Flemish classics. Afterwards, the 29-year-old rider suffered from the knee and underwent surgery. “Despite my health problems I am happy that my work on the Flemish classics is rewarded. That motivates me already for next year,” he continued.

In 2017 he hopes to show great things again in breakaways. “After my knee surgery I doubted about the rest of my career because there were a lot of complications. I thought for a moment it was over for me. The team always supported me in difficult times. I would like to thank them by having a great season 2017”, he concluded.

Current team for 2017 : Frederik Backaert, Thomas Degand, Kenny Dehaes, Guillaume Martin, Tom Devriendt, Wesley Kreder, Kevin Van Melsen.

Kevin Van Melsen:
Kevin Van Melsen (BEL/Wanty-Groupe Gobert)Pro Cycling Team Wanty-Groupe Gobert2016 pre-season training camp in Alicante, Spain

Team LottoNl-Jumbo signs Daan Olivier
LottoNL-Jumbo strengthened its team with 23-year-old Dutchman Daan Olivier. The two-year contract is a big step up for the talented climber Olivier, who stopped cycling in July 2015 for one year.

“It has always been my dream to race for the Dutch professional team,” Olivier said. “After a pleasant conversation with the team, I immediately knew that it was good. Team LottoNL-Jumbo supports me with training and coaching. I get the time to develop myself as an athlete, and also as a person.

“I had lost the balance between training and relaxation. A year after I decided to stop, my desire to be a professional rider returned. Fun is the most important thing for me and I found it back on the bike.”

Nico Verhoeven
Olivier has raced for Giant-Shimano before stopping. Now he will race a couple of races on elite level. Before starting as a pro.

“Daan Olivier stopping was a surprising move, and it’s certainly unique that he has started again,” said Sports Director Nico Verhoeven. “We found that his motivation is back, and the talent that he has not vanished.

“Daan Olivier is good uphill and as a pro, he already showed good things. Together we want to help him finding his way to the top again and we have to take time to do so. An important stage in his development has been the rediscovery of fun.”

Olivier is no stranger to the team, he worked with team trainer Mathieu Heijboer before.

Daan Olivier:
Trainingscamp Giant - Alpecin 2015

Haller, Kuznetsov and Mørkøv re-sign with Team KATUSHA
Team KATUSHA is happy to announce that it has reached an agreement with Marco Haller, Viacheslav Kuznetsov and Michael Mørkøv to extend the term of their contracts.

Austrian rider Marco Haller (25) is one of the key players in the lead-out train for Alexander Kristoff, but he can finish the job himself too, as he proved last year by winning the Overall Classification of the Tour des Fjords as well as the Austrian Road Championship.

– I am still young, but now I am already finishing my fifth year in this Team KATUSHA. I feel myself as a part, or a brick, of this project. There were options for me to sign elsewhere, but I prefer to stay where the atmosphere is good. I am really happy to have re-signed. Now I already feel a renewed good vibe in the team, – said Marco Haller.

Viacheslav Kuznetsov (27, Russia) was one of the revelations of last Spring when he obtained a podium spot in Gent-Wevelgem. Kuznetsov knows the KATUSHA house very well after having spent three years in the continental and four seasons in the WorldTour team.

– Many things changed for me in 2016. The team had trust in me and gave me chances and I was happy not to have disappointed, like I showed in Gent-Wevelgem and Tour de Wallonie. Moreover, I was very pleased with the opportunity to start and to finish my first Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia. I made some steps forward and I am happy to go on with Team KATUSHA. I will still improve and would love to help my teammates as well in reaching big results, – says Viacheslav Kuznetsov.

Danish Michael Mørkøv (31), former world champion and silver Olympic medalist on the track, joined Team KATUSHA in 2016 to strengthen the sprinters group around Alexander Kristoff.

– I am as happy to extend my contract as I was last year in joining Team KATUSHA. I am very satisfied with the season so far, especially with the way we spent the Spring campaign. It is great to continue with this successful team. I feel a really great atmosphere here in KATUSHA and the management in the team is very professional. For me everything is really good in the team, – said Michael Mørkøv.

– For us there was not one second of discussion about these three riders. Everyone who follows cycling will have noticed what these three guys signify for the team. Viacheslav Kuznetsov suprised us in a positive way this year; Marco Haller is a rock where you can build on. He only thinks of his leader, which is the right spirit in a team sport and Michael Mørkøv showed he was the guy we needed in our sprinter’s train. The way Michael continued on in the Tour de France after his terrible crash in the first stage was proof of his unflagging dedication to his team, – said Team KATUSHA General Manager Viacheslav Ekimov.

Haller, Kuznetsov and Mørkøv:

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