Bernal wins Paris-Nice, Izagirre takes the finale

Bernal wins Paris-Nice, Izagirre takes the finale

Team Sky's Egan Bernal resisted Nairo Quintana to claim the Paris-Nice title after Astana's Ion Izagirre won the final stage in Nice.

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Paris-Nice highlights: Another Colombian battle - Video

Oro y Paz winner Egan Bernal (Team Sky)

The final stage of Paris-Nice was another exciting one, with the yellow jersey once again on the line as Egan Bernal ( Team Sky ) was forced on the defensive after Nairo Quintana ( Movistar ) went on the attack 50km from the line. Quintana bridged up to the breakaway on the Côte de Peille, the same climb that Alberto Contador launched his final stage attacks in 2016 and 2017, and also where his Movistar teammate Marc Soler attacked to win the race last year. With three teammates in the break, Quintana vs Bernal became a mini team time trial as Sky led the remains of the peloton in the chase behind. For some time, Quintana was in the virtual race lead, until it swung back to Bernal on the Col de Quatre Chemins and stayed there. Quintana had been forced to work alone since the 30km to go mark, ...

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Bernal wins Paris-Nice

The final Paris-Nice podium (L-R) Nairo Quintana, Egan Bernal, Michal Kwiatkowski

Egan Bernal ( Team Sky ) secured overall victory at Paris-Nice after a tense final stage which saw his yellow jersey come under attack by Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Ion Izagirre (Astana) took the stage win in Nice, attacking on the final climb of the day to leave behind the remains of the elite break group led by Quintana. The Spaniard quickly built a stage-winning gap, staying upright on the descent to secure the win, 19 seconds ahead of Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) and Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb). Quintana, meanwhile, attacked 50km out, echoing similar moves against Team Sky by Alberto Contador in 2016 and 2017. But like the legendary Spaniard, Quintana would fall short. He was the virtual leader at several points, but ended up only taking four seconds on Bernal at the finish. The Movistar man attacked on the Côte de Peille to link up with the remnants ...

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The Art of Racing Over 7 Days

What does it mean to be a one-week specialist? From 2014 to 2017, Alberto Contador was the undaunted master of week-long stage races. Having finished on the podium of WT one-week stage races (see the races I used for this analysis below) a whopping 10 times, including 3 wins. It would be easy for you to rush to interpret that this means that Grand Tour excellence translates to week-long results, until I tell you that over that time frame, Alberto Contador finished on a Grand Tour podium just once. In the twilight of his career, Contador was a shell of himself when it came to the big 3 week races, but was simply unparalleled when it came to the week-longs. [Full disclosure: Contador was also a week-long asskicker when he was a great GT rider as well… but we’ll get to that later.] You often hear the adage: “Rider X ...

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Paris-Nice 2019: Who are the favourites and who will win?

Joe Robinson 8 Mar 2019 From Colombian talent to Northern grit, here are the riders to watch at Paris-Nice Paris-Nice has had a stroke of luck this year. With rival Italian stage race Tirreno-Adriatico deciding to ignore the Apennine mountain range in favour of a mixture of flat and rolling stages, any climber looking to get some early-season miles in their legs has opted to race in France. As a result, the field for the 2019 edition of the 'Race to the Sun' is one of the strongest for years, with plenty of punchy, one-week experts and high-ticket Grand Tour performers all fancying their chances of taking victory on the French Rivera in just over a week's time. It's no secret that the two most explosive days of racing should come on Stages 6 and 7. Stage 6 is the race's only true mountain-top finish as the peloton heads to ...

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Flying Too Close to the Sun: Paris - Nice Preview

Race to the sun, my ass.

There’s always a discussion around this time about which is the better race-- Paris - Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico-- as the peloton gets split between the two races. The consensus view is usually that TA is the better race-- it gets the better riders and has the better route. Here’s the thing, though. Anyone that still believes that has not been watching PN during the last three years. Each of the last three years has been a barn burner of a race, easily in contention for best week long stage race of the year as well as race day of the year and probably only losing out on those honors due to its placement on the calendar-- before the spring classics and all of the grand tours cloud our collective memories. 2016 saw Geraint Thomas take the GC victory over Alberto Contador by a mere 4 seconds and saw a vintage ...

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Higuita's mid-season transfer to EF Education First brought forward to May

Sergio Andres Higuita (Euskadi) celebrates winning the white jersey at Volta a la Comunitat Valencia

When the favourites moved to the fore on the toughest stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia last weekend, it was hard to miss a figure in the bright orange colours of the Equipo Euskadi squad amongst their number. That rider was up-and-coming Colombian Sergio Higuita, who, at 21, held his own on the final ascent of Hazallanas and the long drop back to Granada in a select group of six chasers on stage 4. Not only that, Higuita was finally second on the stage, one of the best results in his pro career, as he took the small group sprint behind solo winner Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). After beating WorldTour racers of the calibre of Jakob Fuglsang and Ion Izagirre (Mitchelton-Scott), Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) in the small group sprint on Saturday, Higuita then received a large hug of congratulations from the Equipo Euskadi team staff. But the ...

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Ruta del Sol: Simon Yates wins stage 4

Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) wins stage 4 at Ruta del Sol

Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) has hit the ground running in his first race of the 2019 season, winning stage the toughest mountain stage of the 2019 Vuelta a Andalucia , as the aggressive racing in the Sierra Nevada mountains cracked Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) took the race lead. The 2018 Vuelta a España winner stormed out of a rapidly fragmenting lead group roughly five kilometres from the summit of the brutally difficult Hazallanas climb, crossing the top of the last ascent of the stage with 44 seconds advantage. Yates then managed to keep the chasing group, led by an Astana trio of Fuglsang, Ion Izagirre and Pello Bilbao and also containing his brother Adam, at a distance on the long, fast descent back into Granada and the finish. Former race leader Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) had a tough day, crashing early on, getting dropped at the foot of ...

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Wellens nets first time trial victory of pro career in Ruta del Sol

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) in the leader's yellow and black jersey

Tim Wellens ' hold on the Ruta del Sol/Vuelta a Andalucia leader's jersey tightened notably on Friday as the Lotto-Soudal leader captured his first ever time trial win of his professional career. Eighth in the Vuelta a Andalucia's final race against the clock last year was enough to clinch Wellens the overall title and this time around his second stage win in three days could prove equally critical for his chances of a second straight title in the Spanish stage race. The provisional best time changed no fewer than four times as the last half dozen riders crossed the line, and Wellens winning margin on the highly technical finale was a narrow two seconds over Astana's Jakob Fuglsang, the rider off just ahead of him. But a win is a win, no matter the margin, and although his advantage overall now stands at a scant seven seconds over Fuglsang and ...

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Ruta del Sol: Wellens wins individual time trial

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) tries to stay aero during the time trial

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) won the individual time trial of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol, confirming that he has been working hard on his time trialing skills and giving him a shot at overall victory in the early-season Spanish stage race. Wellens stopped the clock with a time of 22:25 for the rolling course. He was two-second faster than Jakob Fuglsang, with his Astana teammate Ion Izagirre third at nine seconds. Wellens' second consecutive stage win cemented his overall lead, with the top of the GC board reflected the stage results. Fuglsang is now second overall at seven seconds, and Izagirre third at 14 seconds. Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) is fourth overall at 18 seconds and so still an overall contender. The stage looked set to be dominated by twins Adam and Simon Yates, who took turns in the hot seat after setting the fastest times. However they ...

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Ruta del Sol: Tim Wellens wins stage 1

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) celebrates his win

Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) has made a solid start towards winning a second V uelta a Andalucia after the Belgian repeated his 2018 victory on the difficult hilltop finish of Alcala de los Gazules. Wellens launched a powerful counterattack with 120 metres to go, just as a late acceleration by recent Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana winner Ion Izagirre (Astana) petered out on the ever-changing cobbled gradients of the finishing ascent. Thanks to his powerful late acceleration, Wellens crossed the line with a useful five seconds advantage on Astana duo Jakob Fuglsang and Izagirre, whilst Mitchelton-Scott’s Jack Haig came home in fourth in the same time. The remainder of the peloton was shattered by a ferociously fast finale and the tough, kilometre-long, uphill finish in the town in western Andalucia, meaning Wellens has claimed an solid early lead overall. “Of course I knew the final from last year and I was ...

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Astana takes 1,2,3 in Vuelta Murcia opening stage

Pello Bilbao (Astana)

Astana hogged the top three spots on stage 1 of the Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia with Pello Bibao taking the honours after a late attack, and teammates Omar Fraile and Luis Leon Sanchez completing the set. World champion, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), finished fourth in the bunch sprint to the line, while Bilbao leads the race with one stage to go. The day belonged to Astana, who caught the early break, set a furious pace on the final incline and then launched attacks, first through Leon Sanchez, then Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang, and finally through stage winner Bilbao, who came into the race with strong form after a recent third place overall in Valenciana. It was the 28-year-old's first win since the penultimate stage of last year's Criterium du Dauphine. "It is a very nice victory for me! Honestly, it was not easy to do the decisive move ...

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Ion Izagirre avoids crash to take overall victory Valenciana

Race leader Ion Izagirre (Astana)

Race leader Ion Izagirre ( Astana Pro Team ) came through a nervous, wind-lashed final stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana to claim his first overall stage race victory in over three years. With no time bonuses at hand, Izagirre’s slender seven-second advantage proved enough to keep reigning world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) the big pre-race favourite and triple winner at bay. Valverde did not attack on the last stage – the completely flat terrain made that virtually impossible – but a large crash in the final kilometre saw many riders go down. Fortunately for the Astana team, Izagirre was not amongst them. Both Izagirre and Valverde were badly injured in crashes on the opening stage of the 2017 Tour de France, making their joint return to the top of the podium in Valenciana a notable moment. Third was Astana’s Pello Bilbao, with the Kazakh squad also taking ...

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Izagirre wins Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana

The final podium (L-R) Alejandro Valverde, Ion Izagirre, Pello Bilbao

Dylan Groenewegen ( Jumbo-Visma ) won the final stage of the Vuelta a Comunitat Valenciana. The Dutchman beat Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) in the bunch sprint, with stage 2 winner Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) rounding out the podium. Astana ’s Ion Izagirre secured overall victory, after avoiding a mass pile-up in the peloton at the end of the stage, seven seconds ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). It was a close-run thing at the finish line, with the top three separated by centimetres. The trio of sprinters was among a small group of riders who were at the head of the peloton in the final kilometre, thus avoiding the pile-up that took the majority out of the running for the stage win. Coming around the final corner and on to the finishing straight, Groenewegen was perhaps the worst-positioned man of the big-name sprinters at the head of the group. But with ...

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Ion Izagirre close to winning first GC title in four years at Valenciana

Ion Izagirre in yellow after stage 4

Consistent racing throughout the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana could see Ion Izagirre ( Astana Pro Team ) claim his first overall victory in a stage race in four years. Astana Pro Team played a very strong hand on stage four's critical final four-kilometre ascent to Santa Lucia hermitage, with Luis León Sánchez and Merhawi Kudus – second on this climb in the 2017 Vuelta a España – very active on the lower slopes, and Pello Bilbao shadowing Izagirre towards the summit. Although Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) proved unmatchable in his ferocious twin acceleration, Izagirre’s fourth place enabled him to move into the lead, with Bilbao now lying in third place overall to create an Astana GC ‘sandwich’ around world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). This is Izagirre’s first stage race lead since the Tour de Romandie in 2016 and, barring disaster, Sunday’s straightforward flat stage into Valencia will end with him ...

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Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana: Adam Yates wins stage 4

Adam Yates wins stage 4 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana

Adam Yates ( Mitchelton-Scott ) won stage 4 of the Vuelta a la Comunitat Valenciana at Alcala-Alcocebre, beating Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on the tough uphill finish. Pello Bilbao ( Astana ) rounded off the podium, while his teammate Ion Izagirre took fourth and the race lead. Yates led a group of attackers from the peloton midway up the 4.2km climb, after Merhawi Kudus (Astana) had caught the last man standing from the break, Silvan Dillier (AG2R La Mondiale). As the double-digit gradients bit, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) struggled to keep up, and it became clear that he wouldn’t hang on to the leader’s yellow jersey. After an attack from Jesús Herrada (Cofidis), Yates was the next to go, jumping away in the final kilometre. Valverde tried to follow but didn’t react quickly enough to catch and pass Yates, who hung on to take his first win of 2019. Just ...

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Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana: Van Avermaet wins stage 3

Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) beats Matteo Trentin (MItchelton-Scott) in uphill sprint to win stage 3 at V

Greg Van Avermaet took his first victory of the season for the new-look CCC Team , winning the uphill sprint on stage 3 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana . The Belgian launched his sprint off the wheel of Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and took the victory ahead of the previous day's winner Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), while Sanchez hung on for third. World champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished fourth in Chera. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) stayed safely inside the front group over the last ascent to the finish line, and retained his lead in the overall classification for a third day. He heads into stage 4 with a five-second margin over runner-up Ion Izagirre (Astana) and eight seconds on third-placed Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida). "I was really happy to win here for sure. It's always great to start the season off with a win on a hard parcours," said ...

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Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana: Boasson Hagen wins opening time trial

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data)

Edvald Boasson Hagen ( Dimension Data ) took victory in the opening stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana . The Norwegian national time trial champion beat Ion Izagirre (Astana) by five seconds and Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma) by six seconds across the 10.2km individual time trial to take the race lead into stage 2. In the 19C sunshine, the riders took to the 9.7km of flat course before a sharp and savage incline in the final few hundred metres that threatened to win and lose riders the stage. Jos van Emden (Jumbo-Visma) took the early lead with a time of 13:05 and proved the steep 600m climb towards the finish was not a tough enough obstacle to stop the time trial specialists from filling the top positions on the leader board. Boasson Hagen was the first, and as it turned out the only rider to go under the 13-minute ...

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Offseason Capsule: Astana

Another middling season for the pyjama-clad team We pretty well have a formula for Astana year on year these days. 2018 followed that formula, but with an unexpected injection of classics excellence early in the year. That bug has been fixed and normal service will resume in 2019. What we said last year I had a memory that the comments on my Astana capsule picked up on how little love I gave to a Valgren-led cobbles squad. Not so, that came with my first cobbles ranking . I was down on the cobbles team and missed Valgren’s great year (though he was on my list of potential hilly-classics winners, fortunately). I am pleased that I gave praise to Bilbao, who proved a valuable lieutenant in the hills, and that I was more positive about Lopez than Fuglsang, who performed in line with my luke-warm preparation. Was I overboard on Lopez? ...

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Blue Monday be damned - here comes an incredible 2019

Joe Robinson 21 Jan 2019 Some pro racing reminders as to why you shouldn't be down about Blue Monday Today, January 21st, is officially Blue Monday. No, not a day dedicated to New Order's groundbreaking 1983 hit but the day in which it is claimed to be the most depressing of the year. Originally conceived by a tutor at the Cardiff University's Centre for Lifelong Learning, Cliff Arnall, in 2006, Blue Monday was derived from a formula which includes weather conditions, debt level, low motivation, time since Christmas, time since failing our new year's resolutions and the drive to take action. So considering this morning's sub-zero temperatures and the fact that Strava predicted we will have given up our new year's fitness resolutions last Thursday , it comes as no surprise that today is the year's most desolate day. However, it's not all doom and gloom, in fact far from ...

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