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EuroTrash Pink Monday!

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Pink is the color for Alberto Contador and EuroTrash Monday. We go all the way to Milan with the Giro d’Italia and catch-up with the Belgian Tour and the Fjords. All the video, reports, results and rider quotes to keep you in the race action.

TOP STORY: Contador’s Giro
There can only be one ‘TOP STORY’ for this morning: Alberto Contador winning the 2015 Giro d’Italia, or more precisely the way he won the Giro.

I think you can say the Tinkoff-Saxo team was not the strongest in the Italian Grand Tour, they rode a very good first stage team time trial and they could ride tempo on the front of the peloton on the flatter stages, but when it came to the high mountains he was on his own. Astana quite often had six riders with Fabio Aru at the most difficult times and Mikel Landa either as his replacement or to work for him, depending on how you view the way the Basque rode. Contador didn’t win the Giro single handedly, but it was close. His ride on the Mortirolo was what legends are made of and the way he limited his losses on the road to Sestriere was cool and collected. Bravo Alberto!

Next up is the Tour in the Giro/Tour double. The Tour will have more top competitors: Froome, Rodriguez, Quintana and last year’s winner Vincenzo Nibali, plus there will be the other strong nearly men like Valverde, Van Gerderen, Mollema, Ten Dam and the revitalized French: Barguil, Pinot, Bardet and Peraud all with sharp teams.

The 2015 Tour is going to be a battle.
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header-giroGiro d’Italia 2015
Another crazy day in the Giro d’Italia. Stage 18 had one climb near the end, but once the break had formed no one expected much to happen in the peloton. The escape group was: Philippe Gilbert & Amaël Moinard (BMC), Chad Haga (Giant-Alpecin), Davide Villella (Cannondale-Garmin), Matteo Busato (SouthEast), Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), David De La Cruz (Etixx – Quick-Step), Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani-CSF), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2r-La Mondiale), Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Kanstantsin Siutsou (Sky).

With 70 kilometers the leaders had nearly 13 minutes, so they knew one of them would be the stage winner.

When they hit the Monte Ologno; De La Cruz split the escape with some strong climbing. At this point there was a big pile-up in the main field and Tinkoff-Saxo put the hammer down as Astana’s Mikel Landa was caught behind the crash. Revenge or just racing, whichever it was, it propelled the pink jersey of Alberto Contador up the climb and away from Landa and Aru (plus all the other top GC riders).

Cannondale-Garmin’s Ryder Hesjedal catches Contador at the summit of Monte Ologno and they pick up Hesjedal’s teammate Davide Villella, who sets the pace. At the front; Bongiorno, Siutsou, Moinard and De La Cruz had Chavanel, Gilbert and Nocentini at 30 seconds.

The front four eased of and Gilbert caught and passed them with 19 kilometers to go and they didn’t see him again until after the finish. Meanwhile Contador and Hesjedal had dropped Villella who had finished his work keeping them a minute ahead of the chasing Landa group. The Spanish/Canadian tandem kept the pressure on to the finish and Contador now has a lead of 5:15 over Mikel Landa and Hesjedal moved up to 9th place overall.

Read the full race report HERE.

Stage winner, Philippe Gilbert (BMC): “This is definitely one of my most satisfying victories,” Gilbert said, “because I had time to enjoy it in the final three or four kilometers. I heard on the radio from (BMC Racing Team Sport Director) Valerio Piva that I had a minute on the chasers. With a minute, I knew the stage was won. This morning on the bus, we talked about how the breakaway might have a chance. At the foot of the climb, the rest went full out. But I knew I had to ride my own tempo. When I made contact with the front group, I started to attack immediately. Yes, I took risks on the descent. But you have to if you want to win a stage in the Giro.”

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3rd on the stage, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling): “I worked hard to get into the break, but I am still happy with my sprint for third place. You need to have some luck in a final like this. But I really wanted to be at the front again today. It was no easy task since we were riding at an average speed more than 48km/h in that first hour. After that, the stage was quieter, but I was surprised with how hard the climb was. I managed my efforts with Philippe Gilbert and Rinaldo Nocentini, and then we really went balls to the wall on the descent to join up with the leading group. With two BMC riders in the break, our task was always going to be hard, and then add in the fact one was Gilbert, who attacked with his usual temperament. I came to the Giro with the desire to do well, though I have not made any special preparations. I have progressed over the days, but I am amazed at how difficult this race is. The average speeds in the stages are far from easy, and you have to fight to get into every break, despite the mountainous profile. I’m happy with how I feel and after the finish in Milan, I will take a few days rest before leaving to train at altitude in Font-Romeu in preparation for the Tour de France.”

Race leader, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo): “We were working at the front because we knew that it was very important to approach the foot of the climb at the head of the peloton, given that there was only space for a maximum of two riders. Behind, you save energy, but there is more danger of gaps opening or crashes. We decided to expend that energy. At the foot of the climb, the team rode hard, seeing that Fabio’s face said that he didn’t have good legs. In the end it turned out to be a good decision. I decided to pace myself because there were many, many kilometers to go to the finish line. They kept me informed of Hesjedal’s position. I knew he might be a good ally, but I obviously had to see if he had gained time on the Aru group. As we reached the top of the climb I saw that he was still there, so I decided that the best option was to ride together, I think it was an interesting and intelligent move. I knew that there would be moments today when I’d have to ride hard, but it was not a stage like tomorrow’s, which has one mountain more, or the Sestriere stage, when there’s one mountain more as well. Today, most of it was descending, which helped the situation. It was a big effort, but less than on a day like tomorrow or Saturday.”

KOM, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo): “Saxo-Tinkoff went full gas on the way to the Monto Ologno,” Kruijswijk said. “Contador’s attack on the climb was impressive. I tried to follow, but he went too fast. There was nothing to do. I was lucky that the break took all the points at the top. I’ll keep an eye on Intxausti, but it’s quite difficult for me, as I don’t want to lose my position in the overall. I shouldn’t waste my strength.”

6th on the stage, David De La Cruz (Etixx – Quick-Step): “At the beginning of the race there were a few attacks, and then at a certain moment a group formed at the head of the race, it was a breakaway formed due to all the riders having strong legs. We had the green light from the peloton for once. They didn’t immediately pull to close the gap. We knew after a few kilometers that the winner of the stage would come from our group. So, we collaborated very well. But in the break we had some dangerous guys like Chavanel, Nocentini and Gilbert. Everyone knows their skills. So when we reached the Category 1 climb I decided to accelerate, do a good tempo, and try to put those guys in difficulty. We went away with four riders, but the Gilbert group didn’t give up. They were always there at maybe a minute down. So we descended, and then there were two small but steep climbs. I thought maybe we could try something, but there wasn’t good collaboration at that point. Bongiorno tried to go solo a few times. Maybe we could have all worked together a bit better to keep the Gilbert group behind us, but it wasn’t possible with such a small gap. They came back, and Gilbert did a great effort. So, I was there at the end to try for a podium place. I think I did a good race and it is important to know I have good legs. Of course when you are there the goal is to always try and win. It didn’t work out, but it was nice to be in a breakaway of a big Tour like the Giro, and to be there to fight against big champions. It’s a big boost of confidence for me and I think as a team we will keep trying to do something in these last days of the race.”

Giro d’Italia Stage 18 Result:
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC at 4:04:14
2. Francesco Bongiorno (Ita) Bardiani-CSF at 0:47
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling at 1:01
4. Matteo Busato (Ita) Southeast
5. Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC
6. David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx – Quick-Step
7. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale
8. Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Sky
9. Chad Haga (USA) Giant-Alpecin at 2:42
10. Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEDGE at 3:55.

Giro d’Italia Overall After Stage 18:
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo in 72:23:09
2. Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana at 5:15
3. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 6:05
4. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar at 7:01
5. Yury Trofimov (Rus) Katusha at 9:40
6. Leopold König (Cze) Sky at 10:44
7. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC at 11:05
8. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 12:53
9. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin at 13:01
10. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ.fr at 14:01.

Stage 18:

Stage 19 saw yet another change in the overall, not the leader, who is still Alberto Contador (Tinoff-Saxo), but in the battle between the two Astana riders, Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa for second place. We now have Fabio Aru second at 4:37 and Mikel Landa Meana in third at 5:15.

How it unfolded: Eventually a break formed, it included: Carlos Betancour and Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-LaMondiale), Vasil Kiriyenka (Sky), Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC Sprandi), Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE), Pavel Kotchetkov (Katusha) and Nick Van der Lijke (LottoNL-Jumbo). Astana held the break to 3:30 at the foot of the Saint Barthélemy, but the escape split with Chaves and Visconti going clear, eventually joined by Kiriyenka and Kochetkov. Visconti took the mountain points and kept going solo. 40 kilometers to go, and Visconti had three minutes on Contadors group with Astana doing the work.

Visconti hit the final climb to Cervinia with 2 minutes on the chasers, but he is caught with 11 kilometers to go. Kosta Siutsou (Sky) jumped inside the 10 kilometer mark and is joined by Landa, Contador, Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin), Aru and Rigoberto Uran (Etixx – Quick-Step) and Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo). Aru attacked with 9 left to the top, Hesjedal counters and goes solo with Landa, Contador, Kruiswijk and Aru. Aru tries again and Contador just watches him go. 6 to go and Aru catches and drops Hesjedal as Kruiswijk and Leo König (Sky) chase with Landa and Contador watching each other. Aru has another stage win for Astana and Hesjedal hangs on for second and moves up to 7th in the overall, Aru moved back into 2nd.

Read the full race report HERE.

Stage winner and 2nd overall, Fabio Aru (Astana): “All I can tell you is that you saw how I went on the Mortirolo, the ordeal I went through in the final 50km. Well, in the final 7km today I went through much the same. That’s what this sport is about. It’s a sport based on suffering. It’s easy to win when you are feeling good, but it’s hard to persevere in difficult moments. I’ve never pretended that my career has been easy, but I’ve learned to persevere, to suffer, and today I’ve got this result. The final 7km of suffering were the same as the final 40 km on the Mortirolo. All sorts of things go through you head, but I have learned not to let them affect me. That ability has helped me on many days here, when I’ve pedaled more with my head that with my legs. This win has a particular flavor, because it was unexpected after the previous days when I wasn’t well. I hung in there. It may seem banal, but I have the quality of never being content with what I’ve done so far in a race, and this helped me through. I got through the previous days, I’m very happy. I don’t lose my head over a stage win. I want to complete this Giro d’Italia, then recover and start preparing for my next objectives. If I’m still here, it’s because the Giro d’Italia is close to my heart. But this win has a special flavor. Last year at Montecampione it was my first win, so it was unique for me, but this one, after what I’ve been through, and the last few days I’ve had, makes me particularly happy. I have been very tired. I’ve slept a lot, I’ve fallen asleep during massages, and in the evening. And I’ve slept as much as possible. You get up in the morning feeling shattered, but during the race, you are always thinking that kilometer after kilometer, your feelings are improving.

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Overall leader, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo): “The team was good today, and I kept an eye on my closest rival, Mikel Landa. You have to take a tactical decision in the end: Landa and Aru could have taken turns to attack all the way up the final climb. Obviously, I’d like to win a stage, but it is hard. The final group is always small and I don’t have teammates with me because they work hard earlier in the stage, so the result today is perfect for me. Anyway, if you ask anyone what they would prefer, a stage win or the Maglia Rosa, they’ll say the Maglia Rosa, so I’m very, very happy because I got through another very hard day. The final climb was tough, and Aru was strong and took a great stage win. He’s now 2nd in the GC, and I wish him a great future. Tomorrow the stage is really nice, with a very hard climb, perhaps harder than the climbs today. My job will be to withstand the attacks, and it might even be a day, where I will attack, you never know”.

3rd on the stage, Rigoberto Uran (Etixx – Quick-Step): “The last week is a week to try to get the best out of each stage. My goal was to try to do a good race and see what can happen. At the beginning I tried to also enter into a few breakaways, but they didn’t let us go. I stayed there in the peloton until we reached the last climb here in Cervinia. I felt good and comfortable. When they first started attacking I responded. We were with six riders. But when they attacked again I couldn’t follow. I decided to take my tempo and recover. I found on the road Amador, Nieve, and Kangert. We collaborated with Amador, but he lost contact with us on the climb. I was there only with Nieve and Kangert. They had a teammate in front, so it was clear they wouldn’t try something to compromise that. So in the tunnel I attacked them. At the end of the tunnel I could see Contador and the others. I attacked my group and came back to the maglia rosa group. Then, when I arrived there, I knew Aru was already gone along with Hesjedal. At that point I did my best to play my card. I went immediately and I took a small gap. I really did everything I could and at the end I was 3rd. So, considering everything, I am happy. As I said already, the Giro ends on Sunday, every stage is an opportunity. Every day we will fight, even with all the problems we’ve had here in this Giro. To be honest I am happy I was able to stay with the best and finish the stage among the top guys of the peloton.”

5th on the stage, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) lost his KOM lead: “It was very tough today. It was a long day with a lot of climbing. I tried to be with the best uphill again and was hoping to pick up some extra points for the mountain classification. That didn’t turn out exactly the way I wanted it to, but I was strong enough to finish fifth again in the end. That is the most important thing for me. I want to finish top 10 in the general classification, either way. I will not be able to attack at the Cima Coppi, tomorrow when you look at that stage. I will be quiet and I’m going to try to follow the best climbers again.”

Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling) came in 57:14 after Aru, but was still able to smile and keep his good humor in spite of having spent seven tough hours in the saddle: “I was not fast enough to go in the break. So I mostly managed my efforts in order to be able to finish my first Giro. It was not easy because we were soon lonely on our own. Now we must still survive two climbs before thinking of helping Heinrich Haussler to win on Sunday in Milan. We will do everything in our power to make that happen. But I can assure you that this has been the hardest race of my career. Frankly, the Tour de France last year was much less difficult.”

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar): “Today’s stage was terribly hard. Winds were really gusty; when I was climbing with the mountain on the left-hand side and it blew on my face, the suffering was immense. I think I managed my energy well to keep the advantage alive over those two climbs, but as it usually happens, I wasn’t fortunate enough to escape on the day I should have done. Astana decided to ride this way, and one might criticize them or not, but they were right on riding like they did, as their stage win proves. This jersey is sort of a small compensation for me – well, probably not a small one since taking the Maglia Azzurra at the end of the Giro means a lot, takes a lot of efforts away from you and requires you to climb at the front on many mountains. I’ve got to look towards this prize as i’ve done during the last few years: with optimism. To be honest, I don’t think that ‘contesting’ the GC might have made things harder for me to chase the stage wins. If you think about it, I got into three breaks and GC-wise, even though I was into the top guys, I was quite a long way behind. There was no ‘stop’ signal to me from the real leaders if I decided to get into the breakaway, it was all up to myself. I took my biggest efforts into two important stages, Madonna di Campiglio and this one, and though I wasn’t really lucky, I had the legs. Tomorrow? Let’s see how much energy remains in my body when we wake up; it was a very demanding day.”

Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida): “I made many attack attempts, but none of them was successful. The three climbs of today stage were suitable for me, so it would have been great for me to be in the head of the race. Unfortunately, I missed the best attack, but at that point I had already spent many energies.”

Giro d’Italia Stage 19 Result:
1. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana in 6:24:13
2. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin at 0:28
3. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx – Quick-Step at 1:10
4. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana at 1:18
5. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
6. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
7. Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana
8. Leopold Konig (Cze) Sky at 1:21
9. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Sky at 1:24
10. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ.fr at 2:24.

Giro d’Italia Overall After Stage 19:
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo in 78:48:40
2. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 4:37
3. Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana at 5:15
4. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar at 8:10
5. Leopold Konig (Cze) Sky at 10:47
6. Yury Trofimov (Rus) Katusha at 11:11
7. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin at 12:05
8. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC at 12:14
9. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 12:53
10. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ.fr at 15:07.

Stage 19:

Barring an accident, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) will win the 2015 Giro d’Italia in Milan on Sunday. Despite being in trouble on the Colle delle Finestre and finishing 2:25 down on Astana’s Fabio Aru in Sestriere, he limited his losses and still has an overall lead of 2:02 over Aru in 2nd place and 3:14 over Mikel Landa, also Astana who is 3rd.

Fabio Aru won Stage 20 by 18 seconds from Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) and 24 seconds ahead of Rigoberto Urán (Etixx – Quick-Step) in third, all three places were a repeat of the previous day. After leading over the Colle delle Finestre, Mikel Landa worked for his teammate, Aru and finished with Urán. Alberto Contador was 6th, he lost 2:25 to Aru, but he kept calm and at no point was the Maglia Rosa in trouble. Ryder Hesjedal moved into the top 5 with his ride.

Stephen Kruijswijk (Lotto NL-Jumbo) finished in 5th place and moved up to 7th overall, but lost out on the KOM competition to Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) who retained the Maglia Azzurra. Giacomo Nizzolo held the points competition.

Read the full race report HERE.

Stage winner and 2nd overall, Fabio Aru (Astana): “Tinkoff started the climb at the head of the peloton, then after a few kilometers we moved to the front, first with Paolo Tiralongo, then with Dario Cataldo. We were still there with Diego Rosa, Tanel Kangert, me and Mikel Landa. Mikel made a truly incredible move, opened a gap, and demonstrated for the nth time in this Giro that he has great talent. Then, when Alberto was dropped, I was with Hesjedal, and Urán. I stayed on the wheels until I heard that the gap had opened, and then I started to pull too. We joined the leaders and Mikel did exceptional work. In my view our tactics were spot on, and even more important than that is that the team was exceptional and everyone gave their best. I have a fantastic relationship with Mikel. We get on very well together and his behavior during this Giro has been great. I will always remember that he waited 6 or 7 kilometers on the Mortirolo when I didn’t have the legs to stay with him, and then he rode up to Contador and afterwards went off to win a beautiful stage. He didn’t ride his own race but he waited for me, which does him honor, and I thank him. You all saw what he did today. He demonstrated yet again that he is a great champion. He has won two stages during this Giro, and in the future he’ll certainly achieve great things.”

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What are you lacking as a Grand Tour rider? “Experience. I’m acquiring it over the years. I learned a great deal last year, and every year since I turned professional, and even as an amateur. To ride stage races, you need experience. I need to improve against the clock, but in everything. This year has been a different year, because I started in November with responsibility and pressure. I’ve always said that I’m not afraid of pressure: it motivates me to work better, but it’s one thing to start a Giro d’Italia with no pressure and responsibilities, and something else to start with great responsibilities on the part of a team, the media, the fans, and myself. I’ve had some setbacks, but I’ve got back to them, and I think that, as well as these two stage wins, this is my victory.”

Could your reverence for Contador hold you back? “No, absolutely not. When I’ve had the legs to attack, me or my team, we haven’t held back. It’s simply respect I feel towards someone who is not just a great rider but a great person.”

Overall leader, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo): “Today was not a great stage for me. I wasn’t feeling good, probably because of the accumulated effort, but I knew I had a good cushion in the GC and, even though there were plenty of kilometers to go before the finish, I preferred to ride at my own rhythm. There was never a moment, where I thought the jersey was in danger. I remained calm because I knew that the difference in speeds between the groups was going to be small. We’ll have a good dinner tonight, although I have to watch my weight for the Tour. This Giro d’Italia is in the bag now, with just tomorrow’s stage to come, so I’m already thinking of my next target.”

3rd on the stage, Rigoberto Uran (Etixx – Quick-Step): “Today we did everything to try and win this stage. After a few kilometers into the stage we had the feeling that the battle would start from the Colle delle Finestre. It was a matter of staying in the peloton and saving energy for the finale. On the Colle delle Finestre I felt good. I always reacted to the attacks and I was never in difficulty on that climb. I decided to try and stay on the wheels because there was the battle for the GC going on. I was only waiting for the last climb because it was a climb I knew, and I knew it was good for my skills. So, I collaborated in the final to catch the breakaway with Landa and Zakarin. Landa did a good tempo when we caught them, but at 2km to go Aru attacked and I reacted. However, when he saw me on his wheel he attacked again. Unfortunately, I couldn’t follow. I hung on to take at least a podium place. I am a little bit sad, because we did everything to win the stage and it didn’t work out. Still, considering everything, I also have to say how great it was on the Colle delle Finestre today. I think it was really a great show for the spectators and for cycling. The last 8 kilometers of the climb were gravel and it was really something unforgettable for the riders. In sports, even if you are not feeling your best, there are moments like this where you are so inspired by the public and the circumstances that you find the energy to go full gas anyway. This was a spectacular parcours. Now we are nearing the end of the Giro. I have to be satisfied with the reaction of myself and my team in the last week of the Giro, after a lot of problems. At the end of this Giro d’Italia we have the feeling things could be different if we had a bit more luck and health in the first part of the race. But, it is what it is. It’s time to turn the page and start thinking about the next races. I want to thank the staff and riders for staying committed always. My race today is for them, for the effort they put into this race for me.”

4th overall, Andrey Amador (Movistar): “We knew the podium was going to be really difficult to achieve, but we must remain happy about what we have accomplished. Just like in previous days, I kept using my technique or riding steady, without pushing too much, not to lose it all, with the difference that we had to give all that we had today, because there was no ‘tomorrow’. It was a difficult day, in general: the pace was fast in the beginning, meaning that the stage was harder at the end; the pace through Finestre was strong, and that ‘sterrato’ forced us to keep a bit more attention, though it wasn’t really humid and didn’t make things even more complicated; finally, the Sestriere climb, which we spent into the pursuit. We lost time over the first ascent, but I was lucky to have Beñat by my side – he was fantastic, rode like a beast to the finish. He gained much time on the leaders and avoided Hesjedal putting us into trouble – Ryder was some minutes behind, but was becoming sort of a threat. I’m really thankful about what Beñat did. Without my team-mates, we couldn’t have achieved this: having the whole team supporting me in the beginning of the stage, plus Intxausti into the final climb, was the key not to lose much time and keep the fourth spot. Cycling, sport in general, life… comes this way. Sometimes you need to become more mature to achieve this kind of success, or maybe reach an opportunity like the one I enjoyed during this Giro. I think I profited well from it. It’s a massive boost of confidence for the future. It’s true that a fourth place overall might not be remembered other than by the one who achieved it, but all in all, it’s a step forward in my progression. I hope to continue this way, helping the team out and getting results. This team has big leaders, like Nairo or Alejandro, but the rest of us always had a chance to shine. We got one into this Giro and I think we did well, but the key for us is working for them two. After Sunday, we will go back to Barcelona to recover for some days from the race’s efforts and we will see how I feel before planning on the next racing schedule. Then, I’ll know if I remain in Europe or head back home.”

5th on the stage and 7th overall, Steven Krijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo): “It was my ambition to finish in the top 10 of the general classification, I succeeded in a very beautiful way. I wasn’t able to win a stage, but I grabbed many good results. I’m glad with that. I wasn’t good enough to win the mountain classification, unfortunately. We had to make sure that Visconti and Intxausti were forced behind. That went well, but you know that it’s also a race and the others aren’t thinking about your ambitions to win the mountain jersey. But it was a very good Giro for me. I think that the people in the Netherlands got excited about it. I’m glad that I was responsible for that.”

Michel Thétaz (IAM Cycling): “There were riders all over the place. Groups started to form and were blown apart by the severity of the percentages, the unpaved section, and the enthusiasm of the fans. We were even handing out bottles and food to riders who were not on our team as we followed Sylvain Chavanel. I had goose bumps. Every last rider showed a lot of courage in the face of the difficulties. And there was more wind and rain for the riders who came later. I repeat: the Giro has been and always will be the most difficult. But that is what makes it so beautiful and popular, and it will continue to be revered. Its organizers will continue as a point of honor to be motivated to create a race that will be above all selective and difficult. Without them, there would never be a fight every day, and we all have to take our hats off to Alberto Contador, since he has proved to be able to master this test. Stages that follow a script where a breakaway is caught shortly before a sprint no longer interest the fans as much. This was a Giro where there were many breaks that were successful and could take victory in style, particularly because of the difficulties.”

Giro d’Italia Stage 20 Result:
1. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana in 5:12:25
2. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin at 0:18
3. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx – Quick-Step at 0:24
4. Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana
5. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 0:34
6. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 2:25
7. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana at 2:28
8. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
9. Leopold König (Cze) Sky
10. Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana.

Giro d’Italia Overall After Stage 20:
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo in 84:03:30
2. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 2:02
3. Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana at 3:14
4. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar at 8:19
5. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin at 9:52
6. Leopold Konig (Cze) Sky at 10:50
7. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 11:02
8. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC at 12:17
9. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ.fr at 16:00
10. Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha at 16:23.

Stage 20:

The Final Stage 21 looked like it was going to be run off in the usual way with a slow start and a sprint finish, but Iljo Keisse (Etixx – Quick-Step) and Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE) got away in the last 30 kilometers and until the last meters, the peloton didn’t see them again. The pair worked perfectly together and as there were no proper sprinter’s lead-out trains, no one could catch them. In the last meters before the line Keisse played the waiting game and was able to come off Durbridge’s wheel for the big final stage win.

Behind the pair; the sprinters had a raged sprint for 3rd, but no one was looking at them, all eyes were on Alberto Contador with his arms in the air as the 2015 Giro d’Italia champion.

Read the full race report HERE.

Overall winner, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo): “My preparation for this Giro d’Italia was optimal. In 2008 I came at the last minute, and I didn’t know the race, or how I’d be received, or what the climbs were like. In 2011, I prepared conscientiously, but only after a very intense start to the season. This time, by contrast, I raced in the start of the season, but it’s also true that it is the first part of an objective that I’ve set myself, and for that reason, perhaps, I’m calmer or more reflective while I am racing. Perhaps I see it like this: there were days when I could have been more ambitious. I decided to ride more tactically, and I think it was the right thing to do, in the end, because look at yesterday: I had a bad day because my strength was declining. No, there is nothing I think that I could improve on for the Tour. Perhaps my main memory of the Giro is the leg pain with which I finished the race, and the tired body. My Tour de France starts now. My preparation starts now. Tonight, to the extent to which it is possible, I’ll go and rest as early as possible. Tomorrow I want to go to Spain. I want to take three or four days before I start concentrating again on the Tour, in complete isolation. So tomorrow I’m looking forward to a nice day.”

Stage winner, Iljo Keisse (Etixx – Quick-Step): “The team decided this morning that it would be up to either me or Fabio Sabatini to try and get the gap, but even last night we talked about it with our team directors, and we wanted to finish the Giro by trying our best until the very last moment. This was a parcours that could be won without a sprint. It’s a tricky circuit with a lot of corners. I’m a road rider with a track background, and can take corners pretty well. For sure I was going to try something. Maybe in the last two kilometers, maybe in the final corner, but I knew I would try. I thought there was a little bit of hesitation when we entered into the final circuit. The sprinter teams weren’t controlling yet. I had a feeling that was a good moment to go. I went at a certain point and I had Durbridge as my breakaway partner in crime. We worked perfectly together and took every corner full gas. We had a pretty big advantage in the last lap, and I knew the move was likely for the win. I counted on my sprint and didn’t do any more pulls in the last kilometer. I took my last pull with one and a half kilometers to go. I heard we still had more than 30 seconds with a kilometer to go. So I put a little bit of pressure on Luke’s shoulders and it became a cat and mouse game. He stayed in front, and then inside the last 200 meters I went. I’ve learned a lot from Mark Cavendish of course, how he does the sprint, so I used some experience from watching him to get the victory, my best victory ever. I’m so happy for this win not only for me, but also for my team Etixx – Quick-Step. We had some bad luck and health in this Giro compared to the last two years. Rigo was struggling with a sickness and we lost two guys in the first week. But we really fought this week to try and get a good result whenever we had a chance. I’m proud to get a victory for Etixx – Quick-Step to conclude the 2015 Giro d’Italia. This is my first WorldTour win with the team finishing my third Giro d’Italia in a row, and I want to celebrate it tonight with my teammates after three weeks of hard racing. This race was really hard. There was always hard fights. Every moment, from the first to the last day was horrible, but also very beautiful. I’d like to congratulate Alberto on his win. I do my Giro a bit backwards. The other stages I always finished way behind, but this stage was mine.”

giro15st21-keisse-win-620

Points competition winner, Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek): “It was hard to control today, and during the stage we lost some points. For the second sprint there was a lot of stress – maybe too much – and in the end the breakaway was gone and for us that was not bad, so we let them go for the jersey. The final sprint was a bit chaotic, but I took 3rd of the bunch and in front of my main competitors so it all worked out. For sure to win both – the stage and the jersey – would have been the perfect scenario, but anyway I can be happy to win this jersey here in Milan, which is my city and I am really proud to go on the podium. We decided to go for the jersey and let the breakaway be; I could lose everything if we arrived all together. We wanted to put pressure on Lampre [Merida] in the chase and they tried, but they didn’t have enough to bring it back. In the end, the two guys were strong, and no one could bring them back. The teams who were pulling seemed to have run out of steam and the peloton slowed down a little bit in the last lap, but the two guys in front went pretty fast, also. We just tried to sprint for the third place. Now we will try again next year.”

7th overall, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo): “It’s been a wonderful Giro. It went better than expected. I think I rode a very strong tour and have performed at my maximum. I was always there and showed myself every day. I ended up seventh and I’m very proud of that. I arrived at the top first (the Mortirolo), which was great. Of course I was disappointed that I came up a little too short, but I did everything I could to win that (KOM) jersey. I had to handle a big blow in the process, but I fought back. You can’t control everything in a three-week race. Some days are better, some less. That’s how a grand tour works.”

3rd on the stage, Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling): “The dream would have been to win the stage, but this third place allows IAM Cycling to finish its first grand tour of the season in style. We were definitely motivated to succeed and get a win on this final stage. But of course, the team had its share of bad luck as well, with Heinrich Haussler and Clément Chevrier puncturing. But in the end, Sylvain Chavanel and then Aleksejs Saramotins prove invaluable to me when trying to place me for the sprint. I was in an ideal position, and was able to make use of my strength by swallowing up the small cobbled section just before the final straight, so I was able to stay in front. I have suffered a lot in this Giro, which has been very mountainous with a constant, infernal pace every day. The team showed incredible strength of character and fortitude by getting a lot of podium places in a race that we must remember above all last three weeks, practically without stop. Today I can feel like I did not lose a stage, but won 3rd place.”

8th on the stage, Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo): “I soon discovered that the local circuit was quite hectic, with six laps to go, I rode to the front with Rick Flens and Maarten Tjallingii. Maintaining yourself at the front is easier and requires less energy. I’m finished sixth of the pack, which is not bad for me on a flat finish line. Sadly, two riders were still riding in front of us. I had a good start with a second place in the second stage. I had hoped to fight for a victory again after that, but unfortunately, that did not work, although I still finished top ten a few times. I became stronger thanks to this tour.”

Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal): “We knew it would be very hard in the last mountain stage yesterday, with the Colle delle Finestre on the course. After three weeks of racing you are tired and it’s a very hard climb in itself. I immediately looked for the right rhythm. I noticed Yury Trofimov had a bad day, so I saw there was an opportunity to get past him in GC. At the end I came one and a half minute short for the tenth place. Although it’s not yesterday that I lost a top ten place, that happened in the stage to Aprica. I have mixed feelings. This is definitely a nice performance and I’m glad I raced at my best level. On the other hand it’s a pity when you come so close to top ten but don’t make it. But I can live with that. On the fourth day I joined a breakaway. After that I noticed I performed strongly and could get a good GC. As the Giro continued I started concentrating on that. In the stage after the second rest day I tried to join a break again, but that attempt wasn’t successful. The next days I just focused on securing my place in GC and tried to get in the top ten.”

giro15st21-tinkov-contador-620

Giro d’Italia Stage 21 Result:
1. Iljo Keisse (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step in 4:18:37
2. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE
3. Roger Kluge (Ger) IAM Cycling at 0:09
4. Alexander Porsev (Rus) Katusha
5. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek
6. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Giant-Alpecin
7. Elia Viviani (Ita) Sky
8. Moreno Hofland (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
9. Davide Appollonio (Ita) Androni-Giocattoli
10. Elia Favilli (Ita) Lampre-Merida.

Giro d’Italia Final Overall Result:
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo in 88:22:25
2. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 1:53
3. Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana at 3:05
4. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar at 8:10
5. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin at 9:52
6. Leopold Konig (Cze) Sky at 10:53
7. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 11:21
8. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC at 12:08
9. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ.fr at 15:41
10. Yuri Trofimov (Rus) Katusha at 16:41.

The final stage 21:

header-belgium-tour-15Belgium Tour 2015
Etixx – Quick-Step rider Tom Boonen won the Knokke-Heist bunch sprint in the Baloise Belgiun Tour for the second consecutive year, beating Arnaud Demare (FDJ.fr) and Jens Debusschere (Joker+ Soudal) at the end of the 178.5 kilometer Stage 1 on Thursday.

Five riders of Etixx – Quick-Step moved to the front in the final few kilometers as they made sure to bring back Sander Cordeel (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) in time for the final kilometer. Cordeel went solo out of the original breakaway when the gap was dropping to less than 30 seconds. Etixx – Quick-Step rider Nikolas Maes set the tempo on the front of the peloton going into the final few hundred meters, and Boonen launched from a great position just a few riders back, on the wheel of Demare. Despite a brief uphill kick in the final meters, Boonen held his power until the line.

Stage winner, Tom Boonen (Etixx – Quick-Step): “Today we had the first road stage of Tour of Belgium, a classic stage that is almost the same every year. It was pretty windy but the wind was not in the right direction to split the group with echelons and make any big gaps. So we decided to go for the sprint instead. I think everyone did a perfect job helping me out. In the end I made the right decision to stay with Demare, just let him do his sprint. I waited for the last 50 meters when the road started to go uphill to pass him. I like this finish. It isn’t so explosive, which suits my skills. I’m also really happy with the win today because I am coming back from some bad luck in the first part of the season with my injury. I had to work hard to get back to this kind of condition and I will continue to build on it day-by-day. I’ve won this stage five times and I will do my best for a good result again tomorrow.”

Overall leader, Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling): “I must admit that I felt a bit of pressure when I punctured so close to the finish, but in those moments, it’s very important not to panic. I thank my teammates who waited for me and helped me get back into the peloton, especially Vicente Reynes who gave me his wheel. I hope I will have better luck tomorrow, though the stage looks complicated. I think that the climbs will give me more trouble than the cobbles. In any case, I will do everything I can to stay in red another day.”

4th on the stage, Jonas Van Genechten (IAM Cycling): “It was not an easy day, we controlled it from beginning to end. There was a lot of head wind, so I think that for the guys riding on our wheels, it was a touch less complicated. Fortunately, no other teams tried to trap us, so we were allowed to do our jobs in relative calm. The only problem was that Matthias Brändle had a puncture with 20 kilometers to go to the finish, so that disorganized us a bit. But fortunately for him and for the rest of the team, he was able to rejoin and order was restored. For myself, I was able to contest the sprint, which was quite dangerous because everyone felt fresh still and there was a lot of bumping shoulders. I finished fourth which is pretty good. I feel like I have gain in confidence since the Bayern Rundfahrt as well as yesterday in the prologue. I proved to myself that I can expect to do even better.”

Belgium Tour Stage 1 Result:
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step in 4:19:21
2. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr
3. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Joker+ Soudal
4. Jonas Van Genechten (Bel) IAM Cycling
5. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Roompot
6. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC
7. Jans Roy (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
8. Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo
9. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
10. Aleksei Tsatevich (Rus) Katusha.

Belgium Tour Overall After Stage 1:
1. Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling in 4:27:15
2. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC at 0:02
3. Gaetan Bille (Bel) Verandas Willems at 0:09
4. Martin Elmiger (Swi) IAM Cycling
5. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC at 0:11
6. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC at 0:16
7. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step at 0:17
8. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr at 0:18
9. William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ.fr at 0:19
10. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step.

Stage 1:

Etixx – Quick-Step did what they could to control the race in support of Tom Boonen, wearer of the blue (points) jersey, in Stage 2 on Friday. However, due to a full-gas chase in the final few kilometers with a dangerous escape group, Boonen then had to improvise to put himself in good position for the sprint in the final few hundred meters.

Joker+ (Lotto) Soudal was in front with two riders, with Boonen third wheel and Arnaud Demare (FDJ.fr) behind him. Demare was able to get the jump and win the stage, with Boonen 2nd and Jurgen Roelandts (Joker+ Soudal) 3rd.

Niki Terpstra did a great job as the last lead-out rider for Boonen before the sprint. The race came back together with 1.6km to go thanks to Etixx – Quick-Step using the train to chase down Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Tiesj Benoot (Joker+ Soudal), Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), and Laurens De Vreese (Astana) with about 5km remaining. The gap was 10 seconds with 4.3 kilometers to go, and eventually Benoot tried to attack with Van Avermaet going with him. However, they couldn’t stay away with the tempo Etixx – Quick-Step set to ensure the bunch sprint finish.

Overall leader Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling): “I really want to emphasize that I have this jersey still tonight because of the team. Without them I cannot do anything. They all helped me stay in touch with the peloton and protected me throughout the entire stage. I was not afraid to lose the lead. I have already done a good prologue, but I feel strong and I want to stay in the red jersey for as long as possible. For Saturday’s sprint, it is possible that either Arnaud Demare or Tom Boonen could win and take the lead overall. But even if that happens, it does not matter. I may even be good for the team since it will allow us to rest a little, and nothing will prevent us from retaking the lead the next day.”

2nd on the stage and 4th overall, Tom Boonen (Etixx – Quick-step): “Like expected the final was a pretty explosive sprint, maybe we could have done more to prevent having to close the gap in the last uphill part of the stage. But that was a strong group that attacked. I think the effort to chase blew up some of our power. But my team did a good job closing it down for me. The sprint was a bit hectic. I had to choose a wheel for my sprint and I went with Roelandts, where I thought I was in good position. But the moment I wanted to go there was a hesitation, and Demare and I launched our sprint together. He is a strong sprinter of course, and was able to pass me. He deserves the victory today. Of course I’m disappointed with 2nd, but tomorrow is a new chance. We worked hard to make sure the sprint happened for me and I did the best I could today. We will see what can happen again tomorrow if there is another bunch arrival. My condition is good, with a victory and a 2nd place so far at this Baloise Belgium Tour.”

Vicente Reynes (IAM Cycling): “It was a difficult day, I think the team really managed it well. On the final circuit, with only one lap to go, I thought it would be good to attack and not stay behind. That way, the other teams would also have to work. Today, it was simple to understand: everything would be hard. Cobbles, climbs, wind, everything. What I had to do was stay with Matthias and make sure he could keep his jersey. But it was also important to remain vigilant as regards to Martin Elmiger, who is also very well placed in the overall classification. In the final, with an eye towards defending the team’s position, and since we did not have a lot of guys to work, I gave the word to attack. The sole objective was to attack so that the other teams would have to work.”

Belgium Tour Stage 2 Result:
1. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr in 4:43:39
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
3. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Joker+ Soudal
4. Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo
5. Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned) BKCP-Powerplus
6. Raymond Kreder (Ned) Roompot
7. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Joker+ Soudal
8. Edward Theuns (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise at 0:02
9. Gaetan Bille (Bel) Verandas Willems
10. Dennis Coenen (Bel) Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace.

Belgium Tour Overall After Stage 2:
1. Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling in 9:10:56
2. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr at 0:06
3. Gaetan Bille (Bel) Verandas Willems
4. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step at 0:09
5. Martin Elmiger (Swi) IAM Cycling
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC at 0:11
7. Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned) BKCP-Powerplus at 0:19
8. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
9. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Joker* Soudal
10. Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Joker+ Soudal at 0:21.

Stage 2:

Joker+ (Lotto) Soudal, wanted the Stage 3 win and they put three men on the front to pull back the escape on the numerous cobbled sections. They succeeded in splitting the peloton, but did pull the race together with 10 kilometers to go. The chase peloton started close up and Etixx – Quick-Step took over controlling the race for Tom Boonen. Steve Chainel (Cofidis) tried for a solo with 8 to go, he was caught and spat out by a group of four, which included: Van Avermaet, Benoot, Leukermans and Claeys. Niki Terpstra was the strongman of the chasers for Etixx – Quick-Step and he pulled the four back with 1.6K’s left. A late attack from Topsport Vlaanderen’s Van Speybrouck was cut short by the Joker+ boys into the finishing straight. FDJ.fr’s Arnaud Demare was placed on their wheels, he came round Jens Debusschere and was far too fast for Tom Boonen. IAM Cycling’s Matthias Brandle held the overall lead.

Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling): “This is my first pro race since my big crash at the Dwars door Vlaanderen and today I can tell that I am not afraid to race in Belgium. In fact, I do not remember even falling. I have absolutely no recollection. The target for this stage was to stay all together, and ride like a real team. Most of the work was the responsibility of other teams to do today. I have done a lot of work since the beginning of the race, which is normal since we are young and we need to prove ourselves. But this Saturday we weren’t forced to ride at the front so I am pretty happy. We could save some strength. But I am really happy to do this work for Matthias and for the team.”

Belgium Tour Stage 3 Result:
1. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr in 3:52:50
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
3. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Joker+ Soudal
4. Aleksei Tcatevich (Rus) Katusha
5. Jonas Ahstrad (Swe) Cofidis
6. Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo
7. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana
8. Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
9. Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned) BKCP-Powerplus
10. Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis.

Belgium Tour Overall After Stage 3:
1. Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling in 13:03:41
2. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr at 0:01
3. Gaetan Bille (Bel) Verandas Willems at 0:08
4. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
5. Martin Elmiger (Swi) IAM Cycling at 0:11
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC at 0:14
7. Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned) BKCP-Powerplus at 0:24
8. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
9. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Joker+ Soudal
10. Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Joker+ Soudal at 0:27.

Stage 3:

BMC Racing Team’s Greg Van Avermaet soloed to win the Final Stage 4 of the Baloise Belgium Tour on Sunday and capture the overall title. Van Avermaet narrowly held off a charging Tiesj Benoot (Joker+ Soudal) after attacking Benoot and Egor Silin (Katusha) in the final kilometer of the 199.2-kilometer stage. Van Avermaet and the two others broke free from a rapidly dwindling group as the race split up severely in the last 20 kilometers. Hilly terrain, wet descents and a fierce pace set by BMC Racing Team were all contributing factors. Teuns finished fourth on the day and fourth overall as the BMC Racing Team took home the team title of the five-day race. After a pair of runner-up finishes here in 2088 and 2011, Van Avermaet won his first Baloise Belgium Tour title by 41 seconds over Benoot. Gaëtan Bille (Vérandas Willems) was third, at 56 seconds. Van Avermaet’s victories add to his stage win at Tirreno-Adriatico in March and are the BMC Racing Team’s 11th and 12th victories of the season.

In a strange development, the riders who were ahead of Van Avermaet on the classification heading into the final stage – Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling) and double-stage winner Arnaud Démare (FDJ.fr) – both dropped out during the final stage. Brändle complained of food poisoning while Démare’s withdrawal was not immediately explained.

Stage and overall winner, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC): “I had in mind to give the stage victory to Benoot, but that would be possible if you are with two. Then I could go for the GC (general classification) and he for the stage. But with a third, he was fast and not working and I did not want to give something to someone who was not working – and he even started attacking. I wanted to wait for my sprint and with one kilometer to go, I had in my head to just try and go. If I make a gap, it is hard to get me back. I gave it all to finish and it is nicer to win the stage and the GC. This gives a little extra to the victory. We controlled the race all day long, we had Dylan Teuns and myself in the front. It was a big group and there where big groups going away and I was a little bit afraid to have everybody in and that we had to start riding directly from the beginning, so I moved also in. That was easier for the team. There were also some strong guys in the group, so it was good to be up there. I spent a little bit of energy there, but not too much.”

10th on the stage and 5th overall, Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling): “It was hard. We were racing the entire day full gas, I was with the best. I wasn’t missing too much, but I did the best I could. I have not raced for six weeks, and I am very happy with how good I feel. I think I’ll be in excellent shape for the Tour of Switzerland, which is my next race. We had a great week as a team here at the Baloise Belgium Tour, since everyone preformed to the maximum to defend Matthias’ red jersey. There is no better learning opportunity for the young guys than a race like this. Being in the lead, and ushering the peloton through the day, that is completely different to riding simply in the middle of the pack. It was also an excellent chance to give IAM some coverage in Belgium, which is a cycling-crazy country.”

BMC Racing Team Sport Director Max Sciandri: “He needs to win these races and Greg is a guy who was second and third so many times, so he finally got it. The team really rode together where you don’t have to have the radios. The plan was good, not because of me, but because the guys had a really good vision and executed well.”

Belgium Tour Stage 4 Result:
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC in 4:57:44
2. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Joker+ Soudal
3. Egor Silin (Rus) Katusha at 0:10
4. Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC at 0:33
5. Gaetan Bille (Bel) Verandas Willems at 0:39
6. Alexander Foliforov (Rus) RusVelo at 0:44
7. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Joker+ Soudal at 1:26
8. Nicolas Vereecken (Bel) Team 3M
9. Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha
10. Martin Elmiger (Swi) IAM Cycling.

Belgium Tour Final Overall Result:
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC in 18:01:16
2. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Jumbo+ Soudal at 0:41
3. Gaetan Bille (Bel) Verandas Willems at 0:56
4. Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC at 1:28
5. Martin Elmiger (Swi) IAM Cycling at 1:49
6. Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned) BKCP-Powerplus at 1:59
7. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise at 2:02
8. Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha at 2:13
9. Huub Duijn (Ned) Roompot at 2:15
10. Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 2:17.

Stage 4:

header-fjords15Tour des Fjords 2015
The longest stage in the Tour des Fjords brought yet another win for Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). The Norwegian sprinter chalked up his 15th win of the season in Haugesund. His victory gave the Russian Katusha Team the 24th of 2015.

Stage 2 started in Jondal with the peloton of 122 riding the 205 kilometers to Haugesund all day in the falling rain. Katusha rode in protection of race leader Kristoff, consistently managing breaks and attacks before the final action for the group sprint, won by Kristoff. Second place was taken by Jesper Stuyven (Trek), third by Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (Team Trefor-Blue Water).

His second win in two days keeps the race lead for him at 14-seconds ahead of Stuyven and teammate Marco Haller, both on 14-seconds. Alexander Kristoff leads in the point’s classification, while Team Katusha is first in team classification.

Stage winner and overall leader, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha): “We managed to be in the first group with both Jacopo Guarnieri and Marco Haller ahead of me in the last kilometer. Marco did a very long pull so Jacopo didn’t have to do so much before I started my sprint. I was actually able to wait a little longer to begin my sprint as Jacopo was still fresh. Stuyven went early and that made me feel a little bit nervous and anxious to go but I felt I had him under control. There are good riders here who I am racing against, so it’s always a pleasure to win.”

Tour des Fjords Stage 2 Result:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 5:42:11
2. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek
3. Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Trefor-Blue Water
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN-Qhubeka
5. André Looij (Ned) Roompot
6. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka
7. Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo
8. Fridtjof Røinås (Nor) Team Sparebanken Sor
9. Carlos Barbero Cuesta (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
10. Oscar Landa (Nor) Team Coop-Oster Hus.

Tour des Fjords Overall After Stage 2:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 10:13:46
2. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek at 0:14
3. Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha
4. Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Trefor-Blue Water at 0:16
5. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEDGE
6. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka at 0:20
7. Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo
8. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN-Qhubeka
9. Carlos Barbero Cuesta (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
10. Mads Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy.

Stage 2:

Sprinting in for his third win in a row, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) handily took his 16th win of the 2015 racing season and brought the grand total for the Katusha team to 25, six of those wins coming in the last ten days. The win came in Stage 3 of the Tour des Fjords in the 166 kilometer stage from Stord to Sauda, which featured a unique start in the 8 kilometer Bømlo Fjord tunnel at 264 meters below sea level – 4km downhill and then 4km back up to the surface. Joining Kristoff on the podium were Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Edvald Boasson Hagen of MTN-Qhubeka. Kristoff retained the leader’s jersey for the third day.

The original break of 17 riders went clear right from the gun and was chased down by Katusha and Trek. A smaller more manageable group of four went next, but the late attacks at under 10km to go put Katusha riders on the front to bring it all back for Kristoff to sprint in for the win.

Stage winner and overall leader, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha): “I felt quite good in the tunnel but it was a bit too long for me so the last 1k I was really struggling. After that a break of 17 guys went away and we were lucky that Jasper Stuyven was riding near me so Trek had the same interests as we did in bringing them back. Katusha and Trek worked well together and managed to take back the break in the start. That was a very hard start to the race. I was thinking for a while that I had lost the jersey but here I am still in yellow so I’m very happy. Boasson Hagen tried to put pressure on me in the last climb, also Orica-GreenEDGE, but I always feel stronger near the end of a race instead of at the beginning, so I was confident that I could follow in the last climbs. I’ve done this last climb in the past and I didn’t remember that it was so long, but when I saw the finish I felt confident that I could win. Truthfully you never know as there are some very fast guys here but I won with a decent margin today. We’ll see tomorrow if I can follow on the climbs but in general tomorrow’s climb suits me much better than today’s in the tunnel. It’s more like a Classic’s climb and I hope to handle it quite well. Can I take five out of 5 stages? It will be tough but I will try.”

4th overall, Michael Valgren (Tinkoff-Saxo): “The stage started out fast and hard, as we rode down to 262m below sea level in a tunnel, where Orica then put in a hard tempo on the way up. I was with Chris Anker and Pavel Brutt in a 17-man front group as we reemerged and we had an advantage of about a minute at some point. But Trek and Katusha worked together and brought everything back together. But we were approaching an intermediate sprint, so I decided to attack and get the seconds, cause you never know what the situation is on the final stage. I also won the next sprint in the 4-man group and at some point I sensed that the other guys were tired and some of them didn’t work at the front due to the tactical situation, so I attacked and rode off alone. It was actually a pretty good feeling to be out there for myself after nearly a month without racing. I knew that I would probably get caught again and I stood a slim chance but instead of just following Kristoff to the sprint, I thought I might as well just challenge from the front.”

3rd on the stage and 7th overall, Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka): “We tried to make the racing really hard today, hoping to tire out Kristoff a bit but he was very strong again. I lost a few positions in the final corner and was just too far back to really go for the win. The team was really good in the final kilometers, we upped the tempo as much as we could before the climb and then attacked on the gradient as well. This was part of our plan for the day so it was good that we executed it nicely.”

Tour des Fjords Stage 3 Result:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 3:57:05
2. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEDGE
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN-Qhubeka
4. Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Trefor-Blue Water
5. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek
6. Mads Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy
7. Alexander Wetterhall (Swe) Team Tre Berg-Bianchi
8. Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo
9. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka
10. Eduard Prades Reverte (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA.

Tour des Fjords Overall After Stage 3:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 14:10:41
2. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEDGE at 0:20
3. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek at 0:24
4. Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo
5. Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha
6. Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Trefor-Blue Water at 0:26
7. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN-Qhubeka
8. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka at 0:30
9. Mads Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy
10. Marco Marcato (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert.

Stage 3:

Søren Kragh Andersen (Tre For-Blue Water) took his first pro win in Stage 4. The young Dane broke away from the thirteen-man escape group and in the end out-sprinted Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and his own teammate Michael Olsson. Katusha’s Marco Haller was also in the break, he finished 5th on the stage and moved into 2nd overall, 8 seconds behind Søren Kragh Andersen.

Stage winner and overall leader, Søren Kragh Andersen (Trefor-Blue Water): “What a wonderful day for me and the team. To have two men in the top three is incredible. I’m so happy. This is the biggest victory in my career so far. I’m hoping to go pro soon. This is my dream. My season has been wonderful up to now but if I win the Tour des Fjords overall, it would change my career a lot. It was a very tactical stage at the beginning. Four riders went away and they were all fifteen minutes down on Kristoff but other teams rode to close the gap. We formed a big group and we realized we were going for the yellow jersey as we got three minutes lead. The last three laps in Stavanger, it was just full gas. It’s going to be hard to defend the jersey on the last day. We’re a continental team, not as strong as some World Tour teams that are here but our director has a plan.”

8th on the stage and 8th overall, Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka): “The stage was pretty hard, harder than we expected it to be especially on the circuit. I was in the break and I didn’t work too much because we had Edvald in the peloton and the climb was too hard and steep for me. Anyway I fought to stay in front and unluckily there was a split just before the last climb because of a lot of attacking. I tried to cross the gap but I wasn’t able to make it so I ended with 8th.”

Tour des Fjords Stage 4 Result:
1. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Trefor-Blue Water in 4:03:27
2. Amets Txurruka (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 0:01
3. Michael Olsson (Swe) Team Trefor-Blue Water at 0:04
4. Rasmus Guldhammer (Den) Cult Energy
5. Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha
6. Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:07
7. Mads Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy at 0:23
8. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka at 0:35
9. Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
10. August Jensen (Nor) Team Coop-Oster Hus.

Tour des Fjords Overall After Stage 4:
1. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Trefor-Blue Water in 18:14:28
2. Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha at 0:08
3. Michael Olsson (Swe) Team Trefor-Blue Water at 0:10
4. Rasmus Guldhammer (Den) Cult Energy at 0:14
5. Amets Txurruka (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 0:25
6. Mads Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy at 0:33
7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha at 0:40
8. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka at 0:45
9. Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
10. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEDGE at 0:48.

Stage 4:

At the start of the Final Stage 5 in Hinna Park on Sunday, Marco Haller (Katusha) was in second place at 8 seconds and had vowed to try everything to gain the needed time and win the race. With the full backing of Team Katusha, Haller and teammate Sven Erik Bystrøm followed the move of Edvald Boasson Hagen on the second of two laps with only Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) able to join them. This group came to the finish line in Stavanger after 186km of racing with Boasson Hagen, Impey and Haller crossing the line in that order, 15-seconds ahead of the main field and enough time to give Marco Haller the overall win in the 2015 Tour des Fjords by 12 seconds.

Haller, age 24, came to Team Katusha in 2012 and has continued his improvement as a rider while spending most of his time working as a lieutenant for Alexander Kristoff and recently announced his renewed contract for 2016 with Team Katusha. Haller was joined on the final podium by Søren Kragh Andersen and Michael Olsson, both of Team Trefor-Blue Water, at 12 and 24 seconds.

Overall winner, Marco Haller (Katusha): “I am very proud. This win is absolutely deserved since Team Katusha has worked incredibly hard all week. I am so happy to give something back to the team. It’s a great feeling for once to switch places with Alexander Kristoff and I will enjoy this win very much. We had so much momentum coming into today and I had good legs. Sven was obviously great and it worked out perfectly. I tried to collect bonus seconds on the way to the sprint and I was able to do that in the first sprint. But I had strong legs today and I took my momentum on the steep climb and went for it with Impey, Boasson Hagen and my teammate Bystrøm. I had one of the best riders up there with me today and that’s how this win was possible. This was a very, very hard race. The quality of riders here are some real superstars in our sport. This victory ranks very high in my personal career.”

Stage winner, Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka): “It was really nice to win today. The team was working so well together once again to put me in a good position for the final climb. My legs were good and I was able to put in an attack on the final climb and got away with 3 other guys. We worked well to the finish and then I was able to win the sprint. It has been a long time since I have won so I am really happy to have won today, for myself and for the team. They worked 100% for me so it was great to reward their efforts. It’s also good to win in the new colors as it’s great publicity for the Qhubeka charity.”

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha): “Marco Haller has been so loyal to me these past few years and now he has come up to a really strong level. I know if he was not always working for me that he could win many races for himself. After yesterday he was in a position that he could win the entire race and it gives me great joy to help him today. I didn’t have to do much for him – he really did so much himself. He went away with Bystrøm and everything worked out perfect for us with that arrangement. This morning in the team meeting we thought we would be leading out Haller for the win, but on the climb he was so strong I let a small gap develop to my wheel for the Trefor rider over the top and they could not close it.”

Katusha DS Torsten Schmidt: “Even though this wasn’t the exact plan we came with to this race, once we started winning that became the mood of the riders. They believed they could win and we should all appreciate this great mentality from our guys. They made this race fantastic for Team Katusha. We were in a perfect situation and the race was packed with action. The riders here are most of the classics group and we’ve done many races together. It’s such a pleasure to work with them. They operate as a unit on the road and I think the many victories show the strong ambitions of this group as a part of the entire Katusha team. We have seen so much development from these riders. Marco Haller is a perfect example of this.”

Tour des Fjords Stage 5 Result:
1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN-Qhubeka in 4:04:18
2. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEDGE
3. Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha
4. Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) Katusha at 0:06
5. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek at 0:15
6. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka
7. Mads Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy
8. Marco Marcato (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
9. Daniel Hoelgaard (Nor) Team Joker
10. Rasmus Guldhammer (Den) Cult Energy.

Tour des Fjords Final Overall Result:
1. Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha in 22:18:47
2. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Trefor-Blue Water at 0:12
3. Michael Olsson (Swe) Team Trefor-Blue Water at 0:24
4. Rasmus Guldhammer (Den) Cult Energy at 0:28
5. Amets Txurruka (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 0:39
6. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEDGE at 0:41
7. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN-Qhubeka at 0:46
8. Mads Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy at 0:47
9. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha at 0:53
10. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka at 0:59.

Stage 5:

header-wanty-leftBackaert Renews Contract
Frederik Backaert will be part of Wanty-Groupe Gobert for the next two seasons. The 25-year old Belgian joined the team in 2014 and signed a new contract for 2016 and 2017.

“I am happy with the confidence they have in me. In this team I can continue to develop myself as a rider,” Backaert says about his new contract. “We have a fantastic race program with wildcards for all major WorldTour Spring classics. All races between Omloop and Paris-Roubaix suit me well.”

Sports director Hilaire Van Der Schueren sees the progression Backaert has made in the last one and a half years.

“He really improved and made a step forward. That is also what we need to do as a team. Next to the seven riders we already signed for next year, Frederik is an important addition. He is an allround rider who knows how to ride uphill in WorldTour races like Catalunya or Tour de Suisse for which we receive wildcards but he is also good on the cobbles.”

Backaert joined Wanty-Groupe Gobert in 2014 but saw his Spring campaign, of which he had expected much, ruined by illness. The rider who lives at the foot of the infamous Berendries climb, did show his qualities on the cobbles this season.

In Nokere Koerse and in Parijs-Roubaix he was at the front of the race until the final. It resulted in a 25th place in his first Roubaix. In stage races like the Tour of Austria, Bayern Rundfahrt and the Three-Days De Panne-Koksijde he finished in the top 20 of the overall classification.

“I want to improve my time trial skills and my positioning in the peloton in the years to come. I do believe that positioning and tactics will come when you become a better rider. The next two years I want to ride finals more. It does bring more pressure but in this team I get these chances,” Backaert adds.

“I am more and more convinced that as a procycling team we need to give these chances to young riders,” general manager Jean-François Bourlart concludes.

“Creating optimal working conditions for young, talented and hard-working riders is our goal for the upcoming seasons.”

Wanty-Groupe Gobert is a Belgian procontinental cycling team that finished second in the UCI Europe Tour ranking in 2014. For 2016 it has already signed the following eight riders: Marco Marcato (ITA), Simone Antonini (ITA), Frederik Backaert (BEL), Roy Jans (BEL), Jérôme Baugnies (BEL), Kévin Van Melsen (BEL), Lander Seynaeve (BEL) and Tom Devriendt (BEL).

Frederik Backaert:
wanty-frederik-backaert15-620

header-velonGiro Stage 16 On-Bike Video
Fabio Sabatini and Maxime Bouet rode the Queen Stage of the Giro d’Italia, Stage 16, with On-Bike cameras. This video by Velon includes footage from all teams of the Velon group!


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