Monthly Archives: May 2017

Tour de France 2019: Brussels will host Grand Depart to honour Eddy Merckx

Eddy Merckx wins the 1974 Tour de France title

Eddy Merckx won five Tour de France titles between 1969 and 1974

The 2019 Tour de France Grand Depart will take place in Brussels to mark the 50th anniversary of five-time champion Eddy Merckx’s first title.

Belgian rider Merckx, 71, won six stages on his way to the 1969 title and holds the record for the most Tour de France stages wins, with 34.

Brussels has hosted the Grand Depart once before, in 1958, while 2019 will be the fifth Tour start in Belgium.

“I’m very emotional, I hope I’ll still be alive,” said Merckx.

Nicknamed ‘The Cannibal’, Merckx also won three world road race championships, four Giro d’Italia titles, the 1973 Vuelta a Espana and claimed 19 victories across cycling’s five prestigious one-day ‘Monument’ races.

This year’s Tour begins in German city Dusseldorf on 1 July, after London turned down the chance to host, while the 2018 edition starts in Vendee in Western France.

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Geraint Thomas eyes Tour de France gain after Giro d’Italia pain

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Geraint Thomas says wedding business is nice change from cycling

Geraint Thomas is meant to be in Italy, scaling the peaks of its daunting mountains as the Giro d’Italia draws to a close this weekend.

Instead, after being forced to withdraw from the race prematurely, the cyclist is sat outside a grand country house, bathed in rare Welsh sunshine.

This is the impressive property in the leafy outskirts of Chepstow that Thomas has bought with his wife Sara and turned into a wedding venue, which Sara and her parents run while the cycling season is in full swing.

Turning 31 on Thursday, this is a rather more tranquil setting for Thomas’ birthday celebration than a long ride along the undulating hillsides of northern Italy.

Yet even 1,000 miles from the tumult of the Giro, his knees still bear the scars of the crash which forced him out of the race.

“I still avoid looking back at it. Whenever I see the race on TV, I turn over straight away or if I see it on Twitter I don’t want to hear about it,” Thomas says.

“It’s still quite depressing to think about how it ended. All that hard work and for it to be going well, for it to be ended through no fault of my own, or the team or another rider, was really frustrating.”


Geraint Thomas won two Olympic gold medals on the track before focusing on road racing

The Giro was Thomas’ first chance to lead Team Sky at a Grand Tour, one of cycling’s three most prestigious road races alongside the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana.

Everything appeared to be going according to plan in the early stages, as the Welshman sat comfortably in second place, ready to make his move.

However, on Sunday 14 May, disaster struck when Dutchman Wilco Kelderman was unable to avoid a police motorbike that had stopped at the side of the road, prompting a chaotic pile-up of riders which included the Team Sky contingent.

As much as Thomas may try to avoid thinking about the Giro, is he not beset with questions of ‘what if'; how he might have fared had the crash not happened?

“Yeah, that’s the bit that sort of eats away at you,” he says.

“To not lose so much time was encouraging, the time trial went really well but from that point I wasn’t getting any better – my knee was getting more sore and it was just a case of doing it just to finish, whereas my aim was to win the race.

“I was chatting to Dave [Brailsford, Team Sky principal] and he pointed out I’m in that point of my career where I need to target the big hits.”

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Watch the crash that ended Thomas’ Giro hopes

‘Mixing it up’ at the Tour de France

As well as the damage to his knees, Thomas sustained a shoulder injury in the crash which has required extensive physiotherapy treatment.

Another fall on the shoulder could mean he would need surgery to repair it but, for the time being, it is an ailment he can manage as he turns his attention to the next Grand Tour and the most illustrious of them all, the Tour de France.

Cycling’s showpiece event is a stage on which Thomas has shone in the past, garnering a reputation as one of the sport’s finest ‘super domestiques’ as he has helped team-mate Chris Froome win the previous two titles.

Thomas will return to that supporting role when the Tour starts in July but now, having had a taste of leading Team Sky at the Giro, he admits it will be a little strange to relinquish the status of being the top rider.

“Yeah, for sure, it’s certainly given me that sense of unfinished business. I didn’t get that chance to prove what I can do,” he adds.

“Luckily, there’s three Grand Tours in a year, so next year there’s the option of doing the Giro and the Vuelta.

“I think to do back-to-back Grand Tours, the second one you’re not going to be at your best, so to do the Giro and the Tour, the Tour is never going to be as good – unless you crash out of the Giro!”

Thomas bursts into laughter at this point, a show of characteristic self-deprecation.

However, his modesty should not obscure the fact that he is a fierce, world-class competitor.

Thomas will be at the Tour to support Froome but, with experience of leading and aspirations of doing it again, he will not simply lie in his team-mate’s shadow in France.

“I still think I’ll get the chance to try and do something,” says Thomas.

“If I’d done the whole Giro, I would have purely gone to the Tour 100% for Froomey and sat out days, lost some time and targeted days we really needed me.

“But having done half the Giro, I’ll be in just as good a shape as I was for the Giro hopefully. That’s the plan – hopefully it will give us another card to play.

“Obviously Froomey will still be the main guy but maybe I can mix it up a bit as well.”

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Giro d’Italia: Tom Dumoulin wins 100th edition of race in Milan

Tom Dumoulin and Team Sunweb squad

Dumoulin dedicated his victory to the hard work of his team-mates after winning in Milan

Tom Dumoulin produced a sensational individual time trial to win the 100th Giro d’Italia in Milan by 31 seconds.

The Dutchman, 26, started Sunday in fourth, 53 seconds behind leader Nairo Quintana but beat the Colombian by more than a minute on the 29.3km last stage.

Quintana, chasing the first leg of a Giro-Tour de France double, had to settle for second place overall.

Dumoulin also leapfrogged defending champion Vincenzo Nibali and Thibaut Pinot, who dropped to third and fourth.

“It’s really crazy,” said Team Sunweb rider Dumoulin, who became the first Dutch winner of the Giro and the first rider from his country to win a Grand Tour since Joop Zoetemelk’s victory in the 1980 Tour de France.

“This is incredible. It was such a nerve-wracking day but I had good legs and I just went for it.

“I would have been really happy with a stage win and that would have been a successful Giro for me. I didn’t think that this was something I could do.”

Britain’s Adam Yates was beaten in the race for the white jersey, awarded to the quickest rider under the age of 25, by Luxembourg’s national time trial champion Bob Jungels.


Dumoulin (centre) was joined on the podium by second-placed Quintana (left) and Nibali

Yates, 24, started the time trial with a 28-second advantage over Jungels, but the Luxembourger’s time of 34 minutes two seconds was more than one minute quicker than Yates, who finished a creditable ninth overall.

Jos van Emden won the stage in a time of 33:08, 15 seconds clear of Dumoulin, who crossed the line in 33:23 to claim second and he then had an agonising wait for first Pinot, then Nibali and finally Quintana to reach the finish.

Movistar’s Quintana, the 27-year-old 2014 Giro champion, and twice winner Nibali, 32, are climbing specialists and knew they would struggle to defend their advantage on a flat route more suited to time trial specialists.

And so it proved with Dumoulin quickly erasing the time gaps the riders ahead of him had built after 20 stages of racing.

His winning margin is not the narrowest in Giro history, with Fiorenzo Magni triumphing by just 11 seconds in 1948. The closest win in Grand Tour history was Frenchman Eric Caritoux’s six-second victory at the 1984 Vuelta, while Greg LeMond won the 1989 Tour de France by eight seconds.

Britain’s Geraint Thomas, who started the race as co-leader of the Team Sky squad with Mikel Landa, was forced to pull out after crashing on stage nine.

Landa took the consolation of winning the King of the Mountains jersey.

General classification:

1. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Sunweb) 90hrs 34mins 54secs

2. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) +31secs

3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Bahrain) +40secs

4. Thibaut Pinot (Fra/FDJ) +1min 17secs

5. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus/Katusha) +1min 56secs

6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita/AG2R) +3mins 11secs

7. Bauke Mollema (Ned/Trek) +3mins 41secs

8. Bob Jungels (Lux/Quick-Step) +7mins 04secs

9. Adam Yates (GB/Orica) +8mins 10secs

10. Davide Formolo (Ita/Cannondale) +15mins 17secs

Stage 21 result:

1. Jos van Emden (Ned/LottoNL) 33mins 08secs

2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Sunweb) +15secs

3. Manuel Quinziato (Ita/BMC Racing) +27secs

4. Vasil Kiryienka (Blr/Team Sky) +31secs

5. Joey Rosskopf (US/BMC Racing) +35secs

6. Jan Barta (Cze/BORA) +39secs

7. Georg Preidler (Aut/Sunweb) +51secs

8. Bob Jungels (Lux/Quick-Step) +54secs

9. Jan Tratnik (Slo/CCC) +57secs

10. Andrey Amador (Crc/Movistar) +1min 02secs

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Giro d’Italia: Nairo Quintana leads but Tom Dumoulin favourite to win

Thibaut Pinot wins stage 20 of the Giro d'Italia

Pinot led home a select group including Nibali (left) and Quintana (in pink)

Tom Dumoulin is favourite to win the 100th Giro d’Italia when it concludes with Sunday’s individual time trial.

The Dutchman dropped from second to fourth overall on an enthralling 20th stage, won by France’s Thibaut Pinot.

However, Dumoulin, who trails race leader Nairo Quintana by 53 seconds, is expected to overhaul that advantage on the final 29.3km time trial to Milan.

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali is second, 39 seconds adrift of Quintana, with Pinot four seconds further back.

Sunweb team leader Dumoulin, who is trying to become the first Dutchman to win the Giro, won the time trial on stage 10, completing the 39.8km course more than three minutes quicker than Quintana and more than two minutes clear of Nibali and Pinot.

But the 26-year-old, who has won two Dutch time trial titles and was silver medallist in the discipline at the 2016 Olympics, said: “The time gaps on Sunday will not be as big as in the last time trial and I have to fight for every second.”

Colombian Quintana and Nibali of Italy had both said after Friday’s stage that they needed to try and put Dumoulin under pressure on Saturday, fearful of his superior time-trialling ability.

The pair, helped by Pinot, repeatedly attacked on the final climb of the race to Foza and at the summit were around 30 seconds clear of Dumoulin.

However, the 190km race to Asiago did not finish at the summit and Dumoulin was able to recoup some of his losses on the 14.5km remaining to the finish, crossing the line 15 seconds after Pinot, who claimed 10 bonus seconds as well as his first Giro stage victory.

Quintana’s Movistar team manager Eusebio Unzue said: “We tried to get a bigger gap but Tom has been very strong and is now the clear favourite to win the race.”

Pinot, the French national time trial champion in 2016 also appears to have given up hope of winning. He said: “The time gaps are minimal and the flat time trial is tailor-made for Dumoulin.

“To win the Giro I will need to have one of the best days of my life on the bike.”

Team Sky’s Mikel Landa just needs to complete Sunday’s time trial to win the King of the Mountains jersey, while Britain’s Adam Yates is holding the white jersey as best young rider.

Orica’s Yates, who is eighth overall, leads Bob Jungels by 28 seconds in that classification, however, he said that he was a “realist” and does not expect to hold on to the jersey.

“I needed to take a few more seconds out of Bob to keep hold of the white because he is a time trial specialist,” said Yates.

“Maybe if it was a bit more technical, with a few more lumps, I’d have a chance but he’s a big strong boy and he’s definitely going to take more than 28 seconds out of me over 30km but I’ll give it a go.”

Stage 20 standings:

1. Thibaut Pinot (Fra FDJ) 4hrs 57mins 58secs

2. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus/Katusha) Same time

3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Bahrain)

4. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita/AG2R)

5. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar)

6. Bob Jungels (Lux Quick-Step) +15secs

7. Adam Yates (GB/Orica) Same time

8. Sebastien Reichenbach (Swi/FDJ)

9. Bauke Mollema (Ned/Trek)

10. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Sunweb)

General classification after stage 20:

1. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) 90hrs 00mins 38secs

2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Bahrain) +39secs

3. Thibaut Pinot (Fra/FDJ) +43secs

4. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Sunweb) +53secs

5. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus/Katusha) +1min 15secs

6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita/AG2R) +1min 30secs

7. Bauke Mollema (Ned/Trek) +3mins 03secs

8. Adam Yates (GB/Orica) +6mins 50secs

9. Bob Jungels (Lux Quick-Step) +7mins 18secs

10. Davide Formolo (Ita/Cannondale) +12mins 55secs

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Giro far from over says race leader Quintana

Nairo Quintana

Quintana replaces Tom Dumoulin, who held the lead for eight stages

Colombian Nairo Quintana has taken the overall lead at the Giro d’Italia with two stages of the race remaining.

Team Sky’s Mikel Landa broke clear on the race to the summit finish to win stage 19 but the drama was behind him.

Tom Dumoulin, who had led since winning stage 10, cracked on the final climb, and his 31-second advantage evaporated.

The Dutchman is 38 seconds adrift of Quintana and five ahead of third-placed Vincenzo Nibali but Sunday’s final stage time trial will favour Dumoulin.

Movistar’s Quintana, the 2014 Giro champion, immediately warned that the 100th edition of the three-week race was “far from over” and that he had to try and “take more time” from Dumoulin on Saturday’s “decisive” final day in the mountains.

Italy’s defending champion Nibali, who rides for Bahrain-Merida, agreed, saying: “We have to give it everything, we have to take as many seconds as possible before the time trial.”

Stage 20 features two big ascents as the riders tackle a 190km route from Pordenone to Asiago and 27-year-old Quintana and Nibali, 32, are more accomplished climbers than Dumoulin.

Sunday’s final stage is a largely flat 29.3km time trial from Monza to Milan and 26-year-old Dumoulin is expected to comfortably beat his rivals in the race against the clock.

Sunweb team leader Dumoulin, who is trying to become the first Dutchman to win the Giro, won the time trial on stage 10, completing the 39.8km course more than three minutes quicker than Quintana and more than two minutes clear of Nibali.

Friday’s winner Landa rode solo over the finish line after two near misses earlier in the race.

The Spaniard has twice been beaten in the final metres of a stage this week but he made sure on stage 19, riding clear from the breakaway in the final 10km of the climb to Piancavallo.

Landa leads the King of the Mountains classification after taking victory from Rui Costa by one minute 49 seconds.

Orica’s British rider Adam Yates finished in a group alongside Quintana, more than eight minutes behind Landa, to move up to eighth in the overall standings.

Nibali crossed the line a couple of seconds after Yates and Quintana with Dumoulin more than a minute further back.

Stage 19 results

1. Mikel Landa (Sp/Team Sky) 4hrs 53mins 00secs

2. Rui Costa (Por/UAE Team Emirates) +1min 49secs

3. Pierre Rolland (Fra/Cannondale) +1min 54secs

4. Pello Bilbao (Spa/Astana) +2mins 12secs

5. Sebastian Henao (Col/Team Sky) +3mins 06secs

6. Evgeniy Shalunov (Rus/Gazprom) +3mins 51secs

7. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa/Astana) Same time

8. Matteo Busato (Ita/Wilier Triestina) +5mins 05secs

9. Lorenzo Rota (Ita/Bardiani Valvole) Same time

10. Ilia Koshevoy (Blr/Wilier Triestina) +6mins 44secs

Overall classification after stage 19

1. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) 85hrs 02mins 40secs

2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Sunweb) +38secs

3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Bahrain) +43secs

4. Thibaut Pinot (Fra/FDJ) +53secs

5. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus/Katusha) +1min 21secs

6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita/AG2R) +1min 30secs

7. Bauke Mollema (Ned/Trek) +2mins 48secs

8. Adam Yates (GB/Orica) +6mins 35secs

9. Bob Jungels (Lux/Quick-Step) +7mins 03secs

10. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned/LottoNL) +7mins 37secs

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Johnny’s favourite stores