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EuroTrash Monday!

A full week-end of cycle sport as Carlos Betancur wins Paris-Nice and Alberto Contador takes control of Tirreno-Adriatica, as always we have all the news, views, results and video action. In other cycling news; the Ronde van Drenthe, bad luck at Sky, Belkin hits Flanders and some silliness from Marcel Kittel. Monday EuroTrash coffee time!

TOP STORY: Contador: “Do not talk about a rebirth”
The best Alberto Contador is back. The Spanish Tinkoff-Saxo rider won stages four and five in the Tirreno-Adriatico and took the overall lead from Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) over the weekend.

To counter his first victory in the ‘Race of the Two Seas’ he said: “It’s really important, all victories are important, more in a race like Tirreno.” On his return to the top he is clear: “I’ve only followed the same regime as I always have done, sometimes I win, sometimes I do not, but I would not speak of a revival, I’m only doing my job…”

As to his early season form: “My preparation has been stress-free this winter. I have isolated myself a bit. I’ve turned down any commitments that could have taken time out from training. I’ve ridden many metres of climbing in training camps, and I’ve kept my mouth closed to keep my weight down, which becomes harder as you get older. You saw the results today, although the year has just begun, and I’m still lacking some race rhythm. My weight is good, but I still need to give my legs the tone they need for my big objectives later in the season.”

Will we be seeing the ‘Pistolero’ performed at the Tour de France? Or has Contador peaked too soon. Most of the other Tour hopefuls are very quiet yet and this is only March after all. Maybe the Tour will recapture some of its lost excitement this year; it’s certainly looking that way.

Tirreno - Adriatico 2014 stage - 5

Paris-Nice 2014
Stage 5 of Paris-Nice offered a short course of 153 kilometres from Creches sur Saone to Rive de Gier with three 3rd Cat and one 1st Cat (the Cote de Sainte Catherine) climbs. The climbs were not as decisive as was expected; in fact many sprinters were in the peloton that chased the attacking trio of Betancur, Jungels, Fuglsang in the last kilometres down to the finish. The three had escaped at 9 km to go, gaining a small advantage that was enough to reach the finish. Betancur won the sprint, while the bunch was 2 seconds too late.

Lampre-Merida sport director Matxin explained that: “In these five stages of Paris-Nice, the main difficulties have been the roads and the crashes, not the climbs, so today we focused our attention on avoiding any kind of trouble, racing in proper positions in the bunch. We moved to the head of the group on the approach of the Cote de Sainte Catherine, but the selection was very light. In fact, the key moment of the stage happened in the downhill. We’ll wait for more demanding stages, because I think Rui, Niemiec and Serpa, with the support of their team mates, will be competitive.”

Paris-Nice Stage 5 Result:
1. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale in 3:38:15
2. Bob Jungels (Lux) Trek
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
4. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar at 0:02
5. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
6. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Giant-Shimano
7. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol
8. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
9. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana
10. Marco Marcato (Ita) Cannondale.

Paris-Nice Overall After Stage 5:
1. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky in 21:52:42
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano at 0:03
3. Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin-Sharp at 0:04
4. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale 0:00:05
5. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar at 0:08
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 0:13
7. Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
8. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin at 0:15
9. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:19
10. Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar.

Stage 5:

Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) took his second stage in a row in Friday’s Stage 6, out-sprinting World champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) after 221.5 kilometres from Saint Saturnin lès Avignon to Fayence. Costa attacked on a bend with 500 metres to go, on the final climb; he got a 15 meter advantage on the chasers, but it was not enough to hold off Betancur.

The race was filled with attacks, but nothing was able to stick as they were caught on both descents and climbs in the last kilometres.

“Today was actually a hard stage,” Omega Pharma – Quick-Step’s Zdenek Stybar was 3rd on the stage and moved up to 4th overall he said after the finish: “There was an early breakaway, but the pace was high the whole day. It was also a long stage, More than 220 kilometres and 10 kilometres of neutralization. I was feeling good, even on the steepest sections on the climbs. In the final, I knew that Betancur and Costa were the two favourites and the two guys to control. When Costa went I hesitated a little bit. I was afraid to exaggerate my effort in that moment and use up too much energy too early. Considering everything, it was probably a mistake. I might have been better off to follow him in the final. There were a couple of turns in the final kilometre and it would have been better to move earlier, in order to have the best position. But in any case I am happy with this result, and how the team worked today for me, as well as for Bakelants. Now we are well placed for the GC. Tomorrow will be a crucial stage. The GC is really close, so that is why I also did the bonifications and took a second. Every second can count at the end of a race like that, when the GC is so close. Tomorrow is a key stage and the day after is likely less difficult as the stage is shorter. But, in any case, it will be a fight and a question to stay focused until the end.”

Lampre-Merida’s World champion Rui Costa sits 3rd in the overall classification at 18 seconds to the leader Betancur and 10 seconds to the 2nd place of Geraint Thomas (Sky). “My compliments to Betancur: I was staring at the finish line that was approaching, I knew my advantage was good, but Carlos succeeded to complete a very difficult recovery. He had very good legs to beat me,” Rui Costa commented. “This was the first selective stage of Paris-Nice, I managed my energies before the approach of the final climb. My positioning in the group was interesting, so I was ready to start my action in the proper moment, it would have been difficult for me to do better, but it was not enough. The balance of the day could be good, but I would have really liked to win. This evening, the overall classification is a little bit longer, the weekend will be very interesting and the fight will be hard: I’d like to give satisfactions to my team and my fans.”

Paris-Nice Stage 6 Result:
1. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale in 5:12:11
2. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida
3. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:03
4. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky
5. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.fr
6. Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar at 0:07
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
8. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol
9. Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM Cycling
10. Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar at 0:11.

Paris-Nice Overall After Stage 6:
1. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale in 27:04:48
2. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 0:08
3. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 0:18
4. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:22
5. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar at 0:24
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 0:25
7. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.fr at 0:27
8. Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:29
9. Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar 0:00:31
10. Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM Cycling.

Stage 6:

Thanks to non-stop attacking and chaos in the peloton due to no teams taking control into the final kilometers of Stage 7; the peloton was reduced in number heading into the finale. Astana tried multiple attacks, including Vincenzo Nibali, but those were neutralized by Ag2r-La Mondiale protecting Carlos Betancur in the yellow jersey.

The result was Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp) winning another stage. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) was 2nd, and Betancur 3rd. Betancur is still in the race lead with Costa is 2nd at 14 seconds and Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) 3rd at 26 seconds.

3rd overall Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step): “It was very hard. The beginning of the race was OK, the peloton had everything controlled, so the pace on the climbs wasn’t so hard. But in the final it was very hard. It was about surviving all the attacks and to minimize the damage in terms of losing seconds. I lost one second to Rojas, but OK, now I am third. I have to keep it for tomorrow. Now I have to recover because it was really hard, but tomorrow we just have to go for it and try to stay in the top three if we can.”

2nd overall World champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida): “I really thought I could win, but I missed the victory once again, the bitterness is huge, because the team raced in an amazing way and my condition is very good. It will be important to turn this sorrow into a spur for trying to win tomorrow. Approaching the final lap, I told my team mates to go in the head of the group in order to speed up the pace, because I had noticed that Betancur was not at the top. I wanted to put pressure on him and I’ll try to do this tomorrow, in the last stage: nothing should be untried.”

Paris-Nice Stage 7 Result:
1. Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin-Sharp in 5:00:05
2. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida
3. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale
4. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar
5. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.fr
6. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol
7. Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM Cycling
8. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
10. Peter Velits (Svk) BMC.

Paris-Nice Overall After Stage 7:
1. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale in 32:04:49
2. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 0:14
3. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:26
4. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar at 0:27
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 0:29
6. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.fr at 0:31
7. Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar at 0:35
8. Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM Cycling
9. Peter Velits (Svk) BMC at 0:39
10. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha.

Stage 7:

On the Final Stage 8 from Nice to Nice a select group battled for victory at the end of a short 128 kilometre course which had a profile of three 2nd Cat and two1st climbs, including the Col d’Eze at 13.5 km to go.

The fight in the race began early, when 17 riders escaped from the bunch 24 km into the stage. The breakaway fell to pieces as the race went on and the group of top riders was together when it hit the Col d’Eze, but nothing decisive happened on the last climb.

On the decent to Nice; Simon Spilak (Katusha) and Frank Schleck (Trek) made a dangerous attack and gained 20 seconds, this caused a hard chase from the group and the attack was neutralized in the final kilometre. At 300 meters to go, the group of 22 riders was starting the final sprint; half a dozen of them crashed after a touch of wheels. The last rider to remount was Rui Costa (Lampre-Merina) who hit the fences, the World champion lay on the ground for a couple of minutes, before crossing the finish line to save his second place overall as the crash happened in the last 3 km there was no tome penalty.

Arthur Vichot (FDJ.fr) won the stage and Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) held onto the overall classification, Rui Costa was second at 14 seconds with Vichot 3rd at 20.

The Lampre-Merida team doctor, Guardascione, said after the examination of the World champion: “Rui suffered contusions and a bruise on the left knee and on the left hip. Nothing serious that could compromise his regular program of training and races.”

Pim Ligthart (Lotto Belisol) goes home with the polka dot jersey, as overall winner of the mountain classification. Yesterday he picked up many points as member of a long breakaway. Sports director Mario Aerts looks back on the Race to the Sun: “After the Three Grand Tours Paris-Nice is one of the most important stage races. That Pim Ligthart wins the mountain classification is a nice performance. He didn’t get it for free; he had to ride for it. That polka dot jersey only became a goal yesterday, when Pim was part of the break.”

“Unfortunately Tony Gallopin crashed in the last hectometres. He was positioned in the wheel of Rojas, who became second today. With a place in top three Tony could have picked up bonification seconds and that way he could have moved up in the overall classification. Top ten was the goal, we just made it. But more was possible. On Friday Tony lost 13″ and that’s a pity because the differences are small. Fortunately he doesn’t have any severe consequences of the crash.”

“The entire team has worked well the past week. Jelle Vanendert showed himself again. On the climbs he could follow for a long time on several occasions. After yesterday we stood second in the team classification, we eventually finished sixth. But that was of minor importance; generally the team has had a good week. Uphill we played a role.”

Movistar’s José Joaquín Rojas (2nd on the stage, 4th on GC): “It’s a bittersweet result for me. While I missed out on yesterday’s win because my rivals were stronger, that wasn’t the case today. The blame was on me, because I got a bit boxed in and couldn’t overtake Vichot in the end. I’m sad for myself, but especially for my team-mates, because they relied on me all the way to the finish, they were sensational. At the Col d’Eze, we chose to release the gas a bit, since I was contesting the sprints with no energy by taking such big efforts in the least suited terrain for me; that is, the climbs. Having three team-mates, we controlled well and ended up bridging. At the end, I was only thinking of the stage and not the podium, because one thing would lead to the other. There cannot be anyone more interested than me in doing well, but we still have to be conscious about all the difficulties I went through this year: the scaphoid fracture, a viral infection that kept me out of racing… I must stay happy, because I could be up-front in such an important race after such misfortune. My next goals will be Milano-Sanremo and possibly País Vasco, because getting to the classics following my hand fracture is too risky.”

Points winner John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano): “Winning the green jersey is a nice success for the team and a reward for all the hard work here at Paris – Nice,” said John after the stage. “The guys controlled it well before the first sprint and those three points were very important. I’m happy with my form ahead of the classics and the team has done a really good job in selecting the best race program to get us in the best possible shape for the classics.”

Paris-Nice Stage 8 Result:
1. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.fr in 3:06:56
2. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar
3. Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar
4. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin
6. Fränk Schleck (Lux) Trek
7. Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin-Sharp
8. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale
9. George Bennett (NZl) Cannondale
10. Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Bretagne-Seche Environnement.

Paris-Nice Final Overall Result:
1. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale in 35:11:45
2. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 0:14
3. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.fr at 0:20
4. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar at 0:21
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 0:29
6. Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar at 0:31
7. Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM Cycling at 0:35
8. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha at 0:36
9. Peter Velits (Svk) BMC at 0:39
10. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol at 0:41.

Stage 8:

Tirreno-Adriatico 2014
The 166 kilometre long Stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico took the peloton from San Vincenzo to Cascina and even though a breakaway was established, the sprinter teams wanted their piece of the cake and everything was decided in a bunch sprint.

Two kilometres into the stage, Daniel Teklehaymanot (MTN-Qhubeka), Marco Canola (Bardiani-CSF), Alex Dowsett (Movistar), David De La Cruz (NetApp-Endura) and Davide Malacarne (Europcar) broke clear of the bunch in a pursuit for stage glory. But the sprinter teams only have a few opportunities in this race to shine and the five riders were easily reeled back in.

In the galloping bunch sprint, Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling) took the win ahead of Arnaud Demare (FDJ.fr) and André Greipel (Lotto Belisol). Mark Cavendish (Omega-Pharma Quick-Step) held the overall lead.

After the stage, the stage winner and the race leader spoke to the press:

Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling):
Sense of achievement: “I can still hardly believe that I’ve won, because all the best sprinters in the world are here. It’s an incredible result. I knew I could be competitive, but it is always very difficult to turn that into a win.”

The sprint in detail: “I haven’t seen the stage finish on TV yet. It was a very confused sprint. Until the final kilometre it wasn’t clear which team would take matters into hand. There were lots of riders slowing down because they’d finished their work, and lots of others moving up. I was still behind at 500m. That’s how I intended, because on the previous circuit I saw that there was a headwind, so you needed to come out of the group quickly. At 200m I darted ahead of the others. When I saw Greipel, I didn’t want to wait. When I saw I had managed to get past him, I began to believe in myself, and as you see the finish line approach, you feel a surge of strength.”

Kittel’s Crash: “I didn’t see Kittel’s fall: I hope he isn’t injured, I stayed cool, Heinrich Haussler and Roger Kluge kept me out of the wind until 800m to go, and that was a great advantage. Reaching the sprint fresh.”

Dedication: “This win I dedicate to Kristof Goddaert, who died a few weeks ago [18 February] in a road accident. He was often my room-mate. It has been very hard for the team, but it has left us more united than ever and gave us an extra something. We want to be close to those who are close to him.”

Milano-Sanremo: “To be sincere, before this win, it was 90% certain that I wouldn’t ride Milano-Sanremo. That may change now. Bearing in mind the change of route, I could try, although I still consider it a bit too hard for me: it’s long, and the final kilometres are pretty difficult. But I won’t deny I’d like to be there.”

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step):
Kittel’s Crash: “You saw more than me. I was behind Kittel when he crashed at a narrow little roundabout, 2 kilometres from the finish. The peloton split because of it. Some gentlemen in the peloton gave me a hand to move up, but I got to the front with 500m to go, before the sprint even started, and I was already on the limit.”

“I’m not satisfied, because I could not turn in a good result, I had received perfect support from my team mates,” Lampre-Merida’s sprinter Sacha Modolo explained. “It’s my fault because, since before the sprint I had been well covered by my team mates, I did not notice that there was a fairly strong front wind: before the sprint. When me and DeMare started early the sprint, we had to immediatly face the wind, that’s why the other riders, that had begun their action later, overtook us. It’s a pity because my legs were good!”

Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 2 Result:
1. Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) IAM Cycling in 3:56:12
2. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr
3. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol
4. Sam Bennett (Irl) Team NetApp-Endura
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
6. Davide Appollonio (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale
7. Filippo Fortin (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
8. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida
9. Tony Hurel (Fra) Europcar
10. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka.

Tirreno-Adriatico Overall After Stage 2:
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step in 4:16:25
2. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
3. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
4. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
5. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:02
6. Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:03
7. Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica-Greenedge at 0:11
8. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-Greenedge
9. Svein Tuft (Can) Orica-Greenedge
10. Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica-Greenedge.

Stage 2:

Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Tony Martin did an outstanding job leading out Michal Kwiatkowski approaching the final 900 meters of the 210km Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 3 on Friday.

His effort was so strong; he blew up the entire field behind him as riders crossed the finish line in groups with time gaps between each other. Tony’s effort followed a strong pull on the front by teammate Matteo Trentin. The result was chaos for the rest of the peloton. The final 900 meters averaged 5% in gradient, with a max ramp of 11%. Kwiatkowski earned a 2nd place finish behind stage winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale), as Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was the first to launch the sprint, but lost his power in the final meters. Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) finished 3rd, and Gilbert 4th.

Kwiatkowski kept the Maglia Azzura (blue jersey) with OPQS for another day, taking over the race lead from Mark Cavendish. Rigoberto Uran moved up to 2nd in the GC and Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) is in 3rd.

After the stage, the stage winner and the overall race leader spoke to the press:

Peter Sagan (Cannondale):
A victory foretold: “Before Tirreno-Adriatico we said that this stage is very good for me and I wanted to do well in it.”

Approaching the climb: “It was a very confusing finish. In the last 3 km, a team-mate put me on the front, but I lost my position and dropped back to about 10th place. Then I saw [Daniele] Bennati, who was moving up before we reached the final climb. I followed his wheel and moved up into about 6th place. We rode the climb fast from start to finish, which was good for me.”

Gilbert’s attack: “I was on the front with 4 or 5 very strong riders – Gilbert, Kwiatkowski, Clarke, and one or two others. When Gilbert attacked there were still 350 or 400 m to go. It was too early. He attacked too early, which was good for me because he effectively pulled the sprint for me.”

Riding into form for Milano-Sanremo: “It’s important because now I know my condition is growing. My objective is to ride Milano-Sanremo well. Whether or not I win, I want to do it well there. It’s important to me. You win some and you lose some, but what matters is to perform to the best of your ability. I feel very good, I’m happy to have won this stage, I thank my team and I want to dedicate this victory to my mum who isn’t feeling very well.”

Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma Quick-Step):
Overall victory? “You want to do well in every race and, to do so, you have to believe you can win. I was 4th in this race last year, I’m motivated, and I’ve had a good start to the race, so why not? I know the big stages still lie ahead of us, and that the race has really just begun, but it’s better to be in this position…”

In-form rivals: “You can see that Contador has a lot of support from his team-mates. They were on the front all day. He looked strong at the Tour of the Algarve, so I think he’s the biggest contender for victory in this Tirreno-Adriatico, He’s in really good form, and he was looking good today. Having said that, Sky was always in the front today as well, so tomorrow we will see…”

Stronger this season than last: “I was in good form this time last year, but my race programme at the start of the season was a little bit different. Last year I went to Argentina [in January]; I did well there, but not as well as this year. I started this season a little bit later. That’s the thing. The big difference is that I’m starting to win races. I’m not 35, so I think I will get stronger year by year, and my team, Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, believes in me. With the kind of support I have from my coaches and team-mates, I hope I’ll get stronger year by year.”

Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 3 Result:
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale in 5:10:17
2. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
3. Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
4. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC
5. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge
6. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo
7. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol
8. Simon Geschke (Ger) Giant-Shimano
9. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 0:04
10. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale.

Tirreno-Adriatico Overall After Stage 3:
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step in 9:26:36
2. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:10
3. Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica GreenEdge at 0:13
4. Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:15
5. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge 0:00:17
6. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale at 0:22
7. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol at 0:30
8. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo
9. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 0:31
10. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge.

Stage 3:

On Saturday, the Tirreno-Adriatico peloton was challenged with a marathon Stage 4 over 244 kilometres with a physically demanding finale with an uphill finish to Cittareale. Tinkoff-Saxo put their faith in Alberto Contador and supported him well all the way to a very exciting finale.

Three riders Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) and Mathias Brändle (IAM Cycling) did their outmost to interfere with the GC riders´ plan to battle for the stage win. But Movistar did a huge effort on the front of the pack to drag them back in and at the same time the peloton was torn apart. Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador was surrounded by teammates in the first chase group. A puncture set him back in the high-paced chase but with a swift reaction, he was back in the chase group soon after.

Thundering towards the foot of the final climb, the front group split up and with 12 kilometres to go, the remaining escapees were swept up by the group of favourites. The first attack was launched by Stefano Pirazzi, which animated Tinkoff-Saxo’s Roman Kreuziger to follow and he quickly bridged the gap and maintained the pressure in the front duo.

With 5 kilometres to go, Pirazzi still hung on to the back wheel of the strong Tinkoff-Saxo rider but with 3.5 kilometres to go, Roman was alone in the front going solo towards the finish line.
On the final kilometre however, he was caught and left things to captain, Alberto Contador and the powerful Spaniard showed no mercy as he took the stage win ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Contador is now second overall, 16 seconds behind Michael Kwiatkowski (Omega-Pharma Quick Step).

Tinkoff-Saxo DS, Philippe Mauduit comments: “I think the boys did a fantastic effort today. Everything went according to plan, which the guys executed to perfection. With Roman attacking on the final climb, we had Alberto in the chase group sitting and waiting for his moment and when the group caught up with Roman, Alberto left no doubt that he’s in excellent form by outsprinting the other favourites on the final hundred meters of the stage. Now, he’s second overall and even though Kwiarkowski was left behind today doesn’t mean that we can do the same thing again. But of course, we’ll chase the overall win with all we have,” Mauduit concluded.

Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Michal Kwiatkowski: “It was a pretty hard stage, but fighting against the best climbers in the world is always hard to do,” Kwiatkowski said. “But, actually I am really happy about what my teammates did. Wout Poels pulled for 7 kilometres in the end. That was the first time he could really help me this season and I was really impressed by what he did. Seven kilometers on that climb, we had a headwind for a few kilometres. I’m very impressed and thankful for him. Then I had Rigo at the end, and he did a great job for me. We set our own pace. I didn’t lose much time to Alberto. But, he had a good day today so congratulations to him. I’m very happy I defended the jersey. I think tomorrow it’s going to be the last day when the climbers can gain some time. I think everything will be close. You see everyone looking for bonifications, but it’s not just important to get a few seconds. It’s also important to win a stage. Alberto was looking for the stage today because 10″ is important at the end of this Tirreno-Adriatico. I expect some big efforts by the GC competitors and we will see how it is tomorrow.”

Lampre-Merida’s Chris Horner is 11th in the overall classification at 1:06 to Kwiatkowski. “The group covered the climb at a very high pace and this did not allow attacks,” his sports director Maini explained. “The selection was natural; the riders that could not keep the speed had to give up. Horner, whose main skill is the management of his energies, could be in the top ten, now his situation in the overall classification is really interesting.”

Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 4 Result:
1. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo in 6:39:56
2. Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar at 0:01
3. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha at 0:05
4. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo
5. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky
6. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 0:08
7. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:10
8. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek at 0:11
9. Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre-Merida
10. Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha at 0:17.

Tirreno-Adriatico Overall After Stage 4:
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step in 16:06:42
2. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:16
3. Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar at 0:23
4. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 0:34
5. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:38
6. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:39
7. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek at 0:49
8. Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale at 1:01
9. Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Sky at 1:02
10. Julian David Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek at 1:03.

Stage 4:

Sunday’s Stage 5 of Tirreno-Adriatico was another gruelling stretch of 192 kilometres starting in Amatrice to finish in Guardiagrele where a steep summit formed the perfect scene for an intense and exciting finale.

Eight riders, Benjamin King (Garmin-Sharp), Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol), David De La Cruz (NetApp-Endura), Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Yaroslav Popovych (Trek), Luca Paolini (Katusha), and Simon Geschke (Giant Shimano) were eager to form the initial breakaway. The group however slimmed down to just Ben King, David de la Cruz and Simon Geschke ascending the first big slope.

More importantly, Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contender eyed a weakness in overall leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) and on the penultimate climb with 32 kilometres to go, he launched an attack in a big gear that simply exploded the group of favourites while team mate, Roman Kreuziger stayed on the wheel of the suffering Kwiatkowski.

Third overall, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) put in a tenacious effort to bridge the gap to Contador who now worked together with the dropped riders from the initial break. Diving down the descent, Alberto was still chasing three leaders with Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) while being chased by a small group including Nairo Quintana but without Kwiatkowski. Contador was fighting for the overall lead of the race and a possible stage win.

With 9 kilometres to go, Contador and Hansen bridged the gap to the front group and the Spaniard continued the fast pace going straight to the front of group without asking for favours and anyway none was going to be given.

On the steep uphill finish with an average gradient of 25% but with sections of more than 30%; King put in a sudden and quite surprising attack with two kilometres to go, Contador kept to his rhythm and pulled him back up and in the final kilometre with Geschke trying to hold him. Alberto Contador powered away to take the stage win and a deserving overall lead.

Naturally, Alberto Contador was thrilled after his performance: “Well, the dream was to go alone and that motivated me to go the way I went and needless to say that I’m extremely happy about this result and the way the whole team performed today. The race is not over before the final stage is done so the overall win is not secure just yet. Right now, I just enjoy the moment.”

Conversations with Quintana: “I spoke to Nairo at the foot of the Passo Lanciano. Soon after the start, he had no team left. I still had Kreuziger. I thought the best strategy was to stay on Nairo’s wheel and then attack at the end of the stage, but instead I managed to open a gap. I’m happy because I was able to build a good advantage and stay away to the finish. I’m in good shape, and confident, hence the long attack today.”

Winning in Italy: “I wouldn’t say it’s my best win on Italian soil because winning the Giro was incredible for me and, of all the Grand Tours I’ve won, it left me with wonderful memories.”

Tinkoff-Saxo DS, Philippe Mauduit was excited as well but admits the overall lead isn’t safe: “Of course, our main ambitions was to take time on Kwiatkowski but when and how to make the crucial move was not planned as we wanted to see how the stage developed. And fortunately, Alberto found just the right time and place to launch the attack and he worked alone against a chase group of five riders but still managed to gain time. However, the race isn’t over yet and we have to remain focused on the job.”

Movistar’s Nairo Quintana (2nd on GC): “I took the chance and attacked from far away at the Lanciano climb, but Alberto followed my wheel, we didn’t get on with each other’s job well and we ended up being caught. He jumped from behind afterwards and caught me a bit unprepared. When I reacted, I had him sort of at reach, but to be honest, he was stronger and went away. He distributed his energy well through both climbs and took a nice victory. It has been a hard two days for me; looking at my fitness status, still building on my Giro condition, I’m pretty satisfied. Especially, seeing the team doing so well. They’ve helped me out all these days, and that makes me confident towards that goal we have. We will try to keep our podium place in these two stages. We know it will be hard with such rivals in the time trial, but we will do our best.”

Fourth on the stage Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol): “It was the plan to be in the break today. I took off with two guys on the first uphill part of the day. We waited for five other riders. The eight of us worked all very well together. I didn’t come to this race with my best condition, because it is not one of my main goals. So my climbing wasn’t super and I lost contact with the first guys in front. I went a bit easier when I was by myself. I heard riders were coming from the back and I definitely wanted to be under the two kilometre sign of the Passo Lanciano. Eventually it was just Contador alone who joined me and I jumped on his wheel. I knew he was going for the win. He led in the last kilometres of the climb and we did the descent together and I helped a little on the flat.”

“I wanted to ride my own tempo on the Muro di Guardiagrele, because I knew if I had problems I would have to walk (laughs). I thought the last climb would be much harder. We covered a certain climb in the Vuelta and everyone said today’s climb was much harder, but that wasn’t the case. The fourth place is a very good result considering everything. The Tirreno-Adriatico isn’t a main goal and I can’t be good in every race. This is a transfer period for me. My job here was to help Van den Broeck and Greipel. I am a little bit disappointed because I had a chance to win today, but I’m not in the best shape. I can’t beat Contador, but in a better condition the race could have evolved differently. But I’m on schedule. The Tour Down Under was very good. Then I had a rest period before Tirreno. I’m very fresh and I had a very good base training. My preparation for Giro, Tour and Vuelta is going very well. Next is Milan – Sanremo. I would like to be good in the Tour of Turkey and carry that form to Giro for which I have personal ambitions.”

Chris Horner did not reply to the attacks on the Passo Lanciano, preferring to go at a steady pace to limit the gap on the climb and gain seconds on the downhill thanks to the amazing help by Ulissi and to finish 2:05 down on Contador. In the overall classification, the American Lampre-Merida rider is 11th, at the same time as Kiserlovski in 10th at 3:06.

“Today we got two positive items: the grind by Horner and the altruism by Ulissi, who gave Chris a fundamental help in limiting the gap after Passo Lanciano climb,” Lampre-Merida sport director Maini explained. “In the group that was preceding our two riders, in fact, there were cyclists that could overtake Horner in the overall classification: Ulissi was great in reducing the gap, so now Chris still has many chances to enter in the top ten. The time trial will be crucial.”

Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 5 Result:
1. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo in 4:54:42
2. Simon Geschke (Ger) Giant-Shimano at 0:06
3. Benjamin King (USA) Garmin-Sharp at 0:46
4. Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol at 1:01
5. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 1:26
6. Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha at 1:39
7. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo at 1:42
8. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale
9. Julian David Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek
10. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale.

Tirreno-Adriatico Overall After Stage 5:
1. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo in 21:01:30
2. Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar at 2:08
3. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo at 2:15
4. Julian David Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek at 2:39
5. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 2:40
6. Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Sky at 2:50
7. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha at 2:51
8. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 2:56
9. Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha at 2:58
10. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek at 3:06.

Stage 5:

Ronde van Drenthe 2014
Scott Thwaites rode to yet another podium finish within just a few days. The 24-year old Briton from Team NetApp-Endura conceded defeat only to Kenny Dehaes (Lotto Belisol) in the Ronde van Drenthe. After finishing third in the “Three Days of West Flanders” just one week ago, Thwaites has proven that he is in excellent form for the Classics.

“Scott rode a really strong race. Over the last few weeks he has shown that he is in good form. Today he fought his way into the right group and then rode really cleverly. He attacked at precisely the right moment when crossing the mountain for the final time. He was one of the strongest riders on the final stretch and deserved to make it onto the podium,” André Schulze concluded, who was also celebrating his debut as Sport Director at this race.

“Today I knew that it was important to stay at the front and concentrate the whole day. Using my knowledge from the race last year where I punctured out of the winning break, I made sure that I was always in the top 20 for the cobbles and climbs. After 120km a strong crosswind section followed a long cobble section and the race split as the front group of 15 formed. I was outnumbered by Lotto and Topsport so I watched them closely to see if they would attack. The group worked well but it was too big to take to the finish. So the last time up the climb I attacked at the bottom and the Rabobank rider continued the pace over the climb and the group broke down to 4 riders. We worked well and had time to slow and watch each other at the finish. I was in good position in second round the last corner but I missed the acceleration of Dehaes and by the time I got back up to him, there was not enough road left to pass. Credit to Dehaes though because he sprinted well from a long way out. I am happy with the result and my form, which I hope to consolidate for the bigger classics in two weeks”, says Scott Thwaites after his podium result.
Thanks to NetApp-Endura for the race report.

Ronde van Drenthe Result:
1. Kenny Dehaes (Bel) Lotto-Belisol in 4:56:58
2. Scott Thwaites (GB) NetApp-Endura
3. Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Rabobank Development Team
4. Sander Helven (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
5. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise at 0:03
6. Clement Koretzky (Fra) Bretagne-Séché.environnement
7. Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
8. Brian Van Goethem (Ned) Metec-TKH CT
9. Sven Erik Bystrom (Nor) Team Oster Hus-Ridley
10. Remco Te Brake (Ned) Metec-TKH CT at 0:31.

No Luck for Sky
Richie Porte had to abandon Tirreno-Adriatico and Geraint Thomas quit Paris-Nice. Porte was taken ill and according to his team doctor: “Unfortunately due to illness which occurred overnight it’s been decided that Richie is too unwell to start the race this morning. We expect him to recover quickly and hope to have him back in training within the next 48 hours.” Thomas crashed near the end of stage 7 of Paris-Nice, he finished the stage over seven minutes down losing his second place overall. His doctor summed up the problem: “Thankfully nothing appears to be broken. Geraint’s got multiple bruises and abrasions but we’ve cleaned him up and he won’t need a trip to the hospital. He’s travelled back to the hotel with us this evening and we’ll monitor his situation closely overnight.” Thomas could not start the final stage to Nice.

Flat Out in Flanders – Racing in Belgium Continues for Belkin
Press Release: The Belkin Pro Cycling Team continue their run up to the Classics with a duo of Belgian races that take in wind, hills, cobbles and sprints at Nokere Koerse and the Handzame Classic.

Twists and turns
The Semi Classic Nokere Koerse race on the 19th of this month will show off many of the conditions that make Belgian bike racing so famous and so loved. Finishing on a cobbled, uphill sprint the race twist and turns its way through the heart of the Belgian classics territory from Ronse to Nokere, climbing and descending many of the roads used in the Tour of Flanders.

It’s a race that Sports Director Michiel Elijzen knows well; “I raced Nokere quite a few times and I liked racing in Belgium, it’s a great race but the finish is a hard cobbled sprint. We have a great team, very strong and with good experience and it will be really good for Barry Markus to be leader on the day. He’s going very well and he will make the most of being the main sprinter with Hofland and Bos not in the race”

Markus himself is no stranger to Nokere Koerse as he explains; “Although the race was cancelled last year because of heavy snow I rode the race the year before and know that it is a very hard sprint finish, but I feel good at the moment and I’ll be going for a good result with a great team to get me to the sprint.”

Bos Handling Handzame
Meanwhile Theo Bos will lead the Belkin team for the Handzame Classic two days later, a parcours suited to the big Dutch sprinter. “Handzame is much flatter than Nokere,” says Bos, “It’s not super difficult but there is a long straight with a shallow curve at the finish and it will be very fast. I have raced there twice and been 4th one time so maybe it’s third time lucky!”

Bos, who partnered Australian Graeme Brown in the Six Days of Rotterdam is full of praise for the Aussie fast man and the team. “Graeme is going really well and he’ll help me in the finish and the team has had such a good run up to the race that for sure we will go for the win.”

Belkin line-up Nokere Koerse:
Jack Bobridge, Jetse Bol, Laurens ten Dam, Nick van der Lijke, Barry Markus, Paul Martens and Dennis van Winden

Belkin line-up Handzame Classic:
Jack Bobridge, Theo Bos, Graeme Brown, Stef Clement, Marc Goos, Barry Markus, Nick van der Lijke and Dennis van Winden.
Sports Director: Michiel Elijzen.

That’s no Way to Treat Your Bike!
A less than happy Marcel Kittel on stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico. he later Tweeted: “I tried to keep our relationship after our fight yesterday. I apologized to my girlfriend this morning! #GiantLove”.

The next day he gave her flowers.

And That’s no Way to Treat a Bike Rider!
On the same stage, a man tries to kick a Tinkoff-Saxo rider:


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