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PCM.daily » PCM Stories & Story Games » PCM 18: Stories
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Diamonds in the Rough (Vuelta P2)
Mresuperstar
i.imgur.com/VYzxSSv.jpg

Monthly Review

July means one thing, the Tour de France. A year removed from finishing 5th overall in Paris, the team decided this year's edition had too many steep climbs and time trial kilometers to maximize my abilities for another strong showing.

Instead, I'll wait my turn and prepare for the upcoming Vuelta a Espana.

SEG - Quick Step at the 2026 Tour de France
Stage WinGC LeaderSEG StageSEG GC Leader
S1i.imgur.com/dc34LmP.jpgCSCHovorka4: SEG +2733: Hyravy +27
S2i.imgur.com/zhvzQE4.jpgLooijV. Poppel28: Pienaar s.t.28: Pienaar +27
S3i.imgur.com/zhvzQE4.jpgEwanV. Poppel11: Pienaar s.t.28: Pienaar +27
S4i.imgur.com/zhvzQE4.jpgWiebesV. Poppel5: Pienaar s.t.28: Pienaar +27
S5i.imgur.com/zhvzQE4.jpgBeeckmanV. Poppel2: Pienaar s.t.28: Pienaar +27
S6i.imgur.com/53HLtr2.jpgGulievKamna18: Sivakov +1'3315: Sivakov +1'20
S7i.imgur.com/zhvzQE4.jpgPlanckaertKamna6: Pienaar s.t.15: Sivakov +1'20
S8i.imgur.com/qzrr6y8.jpgMcNultyRoglic39: Hyravy +2'3029: Sivakov +5'15
S9i.imgur.com/UnyLa5A.jpgDominguezMcNulty18: Sivakov +3525: Sivakov +5'32
S10i.imgur.com/UnyLa5A.jpgAlbaneseMcNulty37: Sivakov +2225: Sivakov +5'58
S11i.imgur.com/qzrr6y8.jpgMartinezMcNulty18: Hyravy +4628: Sivakov +8'57
S12i.imgur.com/qzrr6y8.jpgT.G. HartMcNulty20: Hyravy +2'0025: Hyravy +13'07
S13i.imgur.com/zhvzQE4.jpgEwanMcNulty14: Pienaar s.t.25: Hyravy +13'07
S14i.imgur.com/UnyLa5A.jpgT.G. HartMcNulty44: Hyravy +1'0725: Hyravy +13'17
S15i.imgur.com/zhvzQE4.jpgBeeckmanMcNulty15: Pienaar s.t.24: Hyravy +13'17
S16i.imgur.com/UnyLa5A.jpgDominguezMcNulty50: Sivakov +2524: Hyravy +14'03
S17i.imgur.com/qzrr6y8.jpgMartinezDominguez20: Hyravy +3'0424: Hyravy +16'42
S18i.imgur.com/xEFhvU9.jpgSosaDominguez77: Hyravy +4'2827: Hyravy +20'11
S19i.imgur.com/qzrr6y8.jpgMartinezMartinez46: Hyravy +2'4126: Hyravy +22'49
S20i.imgur.com/qzrr6y8.jpgMartinezMartinez12: Hyravy +2'0722: Hyravy +25'06
S21i.imgur.com/zhvzQE4.jpgGoslingMartinez18: Pienaar +7'5023: Hyravy +25'06
Final General Classification
1 Daniel Felipe MartinezPanasonic89h52'20
2 Urtzi DominguezLiquigas+ 34
3 Vincent LeoGroupama - FDJ+ 2'09
4 Tao Geoghegan HartBretagne+ 2'54
5 Miguel Angel LopezTAP Portugal+ 3'18
6 Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling+ 4'26
7 Primoz RoglicTeam CSC+ 7'51
8 Ivan SosaTeam Ridley+ 8'08
9 Florent BayardAG2R+ 8'39
10 Marc SolerOrbea+ 11'45

Points: Vincent Beeckman (306), Andre Looij (300), Caleb Ewan (283).
KoM: Miguel Angel Lopez (147), Vincent Leo (95), D.F. Martinez (84).
Youth: Jess Valdomino, Walter Martinet (+55), Andre Savino (+6'49).
Best Team: AG2R, Groupama-FDJ (+4'58), Panasonic (+13'50).

Daniel Felipe Martinez defends his 2025 crown with a strong last week to overtake early yellow jersey wearer Brandon McNulty and eventual runner-up Urtzi Dominguez. Colombians have now won seven out of the last nine Tour de Frances.

Add in Great Britain and that last winner not from those two countries was Vincenzo Nibali in 2014 and, before that, Cadel Evans in 2011.

Recent Tour de France Winners
'26: Martinez'22: S. Yates'18: Lopez'14: Nibali
'25: Martinez'21: Bernal'17: Froome'13: Froome
'24: Sosa'20: Bernal '16: Froome'12: Wiggins
'23: T.G. Hart'19: Bernal'15: Froome'11: Evans

As for SEG - Quick Step, not great. Sprinter Tebiro Pienaar failed to win a stage and our GC hopefully Tomas Hyravy finished outside the Top 20, over 25 minutes behind. This result probably means we won't win the Pro Tour this season.

At the end of the month on July 31, I completed a doubleheader by racing my home classic and playing the second half of a friendly against Hashtag United.

Race Day #24 at RideLondon-Surrey Classic
July 31, 2026
2020: 16th | 2023: 12th | 2024: 9th | 2025: 6th

i.imgur.com/YRIB314.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/aCqgJyP.jpg

Summary: Past the London Eye with 6kms to go. A chaotic sprint finish is looming as riders are trying to jump off the front with the sprint trains trying their best to keep everything togethers.

i.imgur.com/pi8mJf9.jpg

The British national champion is going to give it go under the 5kms to go banner. Has Marcus Diamond caught the sprinters sleeping?

i.imgur.com/hSa7E6I.jpg

No. He is put back in his place.

i.imgur.com/gr0rk1Y.jpg

Andre Looij holds off Fernando Gaviria and Alexandr Kulikovskiy.

Result: 21st - Let's be honest. I'm not winning a bunch sprint. This was my best chance to steal the win and the sprinter's weren't going to watch the Union Jack on back flying away from them that close to the finish.

1André LooijMcLaren - Bahrain5h10'57
2Fernando GaviriaCanyon SRAM Racings.t.
3Alexandr KulikovskiyPanasonics.t.
4Jasper De BuystLotto Soudals.t.
5Bram WeltenEvoPro Racings.t.

Calendar

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/B7wX3cg.jpg

Season Rankings

Pro Tour Points

TeamIndividual
1Zwift Pro Cycling6512 Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling3015
2Team Sunweb6118 Urtzi DominguezLiquigas2878
3GCN Racing6062 D.F. MartinezPanasonic2756
4Team Ridley5700 Tao Geoghegan HartBretagne2565
5Astana5181 Bob JungelsT-Mobile2002
6Liquigas5022 Marcus DiamondSEG-Quick Step1981
7SEG-Quick Step4981 Mike TeunissenTeam Sunweb1948
8Panasonic4815 Nairo QuintanaAstana1670
9T-Mobile4514 Michael MatthewsTeam Ridley1646
10Bretagne4450 Ivan SosaTeam Ridley1588
……
254 Alex VogelSEG-Quick Step36
NR G. Garner-DiamondSEG-Quick Step0

Individual Wins

CyclistTeamWins
1 Aliaksandre RiabushenkoLa Plage Le Club16
2 Dusan RajovicSaidel11
3 Bram WeltenEvoPro Racing10
4 Antwan TolhoekTeam CSC9
5 Arnaud DemareGroupama - FDJ9
6 Marta BastianelliMy Bike Stevens8
7 Sam BennettCAP488
8 Louis BoussardFortuneo-Samsic8
9 Tanguy TurgisRosneft8
10 Anton KuljicTirol Cycling Team8
…
42 Marcus DiamondSEG-Quick Step4
NR G. Garner-DiamondSEG-Quick Step0
NR Alex VogelSEG-Quick Step0

Evaluation

i.imgur.com/DDauCWb.jpg

Training Ride
*Community Growth Development*
Upgraded Training Facilities Boost: +2 Point Per Member
Unlock Progress: 56 Points

Spoiler
- Each member gets 5.0 points to spread however they like over the 13 attributes listed above. One post per member.
- Stats work on a decimal system starting at 55.0.
- Stats are bumped up in PCM when they hit that number, ex. 55.9 = 55 in-game, and 61.4 = 61 stat in-game.
- The decimal numbers will remain hidden.
- There is a threshold for each stat when more points are needed to increase that stat. It's start off on a 1-to-1 scale where 1 point equals 1 stat upgrade. However, the scales get exponentially further and further apart the closer that stat gets to the maximum of 85. The increasing scale will also remain a mystery.
- Locked stats can't be improved.
- Unlock Progress Points: Once a target number between 25-250 is reached, a stat unlock is rewarded. Points from training rides can be used toward the Unlock Progress.
- Comment below to provide stat upgrades.

Stat Decreases/Locks: No locks but four stats did receive a decrease: Flat, Acceleration, Stamina and Resistance.

Contract Offers: Marcus Diamond's four-year contract with SEG Racing Academy and then SEG - Quick Step runs out after this season. Diamond is one of the biggest free agents on the market with teams willing to splash big cash in hopes of signing the talented 26-year-old in his prime.

Four teams have emerged as the leading candidates to sign Diamond.

i.imgur.com/SUEKAvs.jpg

All four teams agreed to terms that Diamond can continue playing football if he signs with their team. The four pending contract offers are:

(Option A) SEG - Quick Step: 3 Years / 55,000 Euros Per Month.

SEG - Quick Step would love to re-sign its beloved superstar, but they don't have the funds to offer what some of the bigger teams are willing to pay. SEG - Quickstep has gradually been building a team capable of winning the Pro Tour the last few seasons, in large part by keeping Diamond on a low wage, but the time has come for them to start paying their team leaders fair market wages. Is there enough money to go around?

(Option B) GCN Racing: 4 Years / 70,000 Euros Per Month.

The largest and most popular cycling team in Great Britain has been waiting for this moment for years. After missing out and not recognizing Diamond's talent as an upcoming youth, GCN Racing finally has the opportunity to add the homegrown talent that got away from them. Many of GCN Racing's team leaders are free agents this season — Egan Arley Bernal, Tiesj Benoot, Julian Alaphilippe, Tadej Pogacar and Kilian Frankiny — so it will be interesting to see who decides to re-sign. Regardless, GCN has the funds to build a Pro Tour winning team every season.

(Option C) Team Ridley: 2 Years / 95,000 Euros Per Month.

Ridley has had success signing big name free agents the last couple of seasons with the likes of Ivan Sosa, Michael Matthews and Edward Planckaert. Being based out of Belgium, it's no surprised they like the cobbles. Adding Diamond to the mix would almost seem unfair, unless they want to use him more as a GC rider for the Grand Tours, which is an area they're lack in. Or maybe it's both. Either way, they are willing to pay to get Diamond to Belgium for at least two seasons.

(Option D) Liquigas: 3 Years / 120,000 Euros Per Month.

Late to the party, but they brought booze. Liquigas is willing to dump cash to make Diamond the face of their team once they found out their GC captain Urtzi Dominguez was going to sign with another team. Liquigas needs a new identity with their veteran core aging out and Dominguez jumping ship after nearing winning the Tour de France. They believe Diamond is the answer to turn things around and prevent the program from going into a deep rebuild or, perhaps, disbandment altogether.

Order the options from best to worst to decide where Diamond signs.

i.imgur.com/W00JdbM.png
i.imgur.com/wOuhm5A.jpg
i.imgur.com/g5J7yBi.jpg
i.imgur.com/qT9E02v.png
i.imgur.com/cDJTKrt.png
 
https://twitter.com/Mresuperstar
DavidCorperial
+5 Resistance

D, C, B, A
 
Fabianski
Don't like those decreases Angry

+5 TT
D, C, B, A

Would logically select GCN for proximity reasons, but they didn't want him once upon a time. So better go for the money and invest it in Canvey Island Pfft
 
Mresuperstar
i.imgur.com/wPTr72R.jpg

Friday Night Lights - Senior Year (Part 11)

As much as tried to stay humble, I hated it. Golden boy Ryan Reese had the whole school admiring his long, flowing hair and ripped arms this week after leading us past Henderson in the opening round of the state playoffs.

Local media called it the "Biggest upset win of the decade," not because we didn't deserve to be in the playoffs this year but because we shut them out 42-0 and did so without our "highly-talented" quarterback. Their words, not mine.

Now we get familiar foe No. 6 seeded Kings Mountain in the quarterfinals. We beat them 13-7 the first week of the season. It's the Mountaineers' lone loss so far this season. There will be one key difference between that game and the rematch: Asheville has a different, "arguably more talented" QB calling the shots.

Oh, and this time, we are on the road.

State Playoffs at Kings Mountain Mountaineers (8-1)
November 13, 2043
Quarterfinals: Head coach is going with the hot hand, QB Reese starts.

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/utvDTX8.jpg

First Quarter

Jitters cause both quarterbacks to throw early inceptions. Asheville managed to at least score three points on a 33yd FG by K Harvey on the turnover they forced. While Kings Mountain couldn't capitalize on QB Reese's first mistake of the postseason.

The Cougars maintained its slim 3-0 lead going to the second quarter.

Second Quarter

Running the two-minute offense late in the quarter, QB Reese showcased his incredible arm strength with passes of 15, 26, 33 and 25 yards to lead the Cougars 98 yards down the field for a TD scoring drive. His favourite target, WR Sarria caught the last pass to put the points on the scoreboard. The Cougars race out to a two-score lead.

Asheville went to the locker room up 10-0 with its defense yet to give up a point this postseason. As they say, defense does win championships.

Third Quarter

Another master class by QB Reese to open the third quarter sees Asheville march down the field and score another touchdown. FB Glick catches the ball out of the backfield and rumbles 15yds for the score.

The Mountaineers get their next drive to Asheville's 45yd line before having to punt once again. The punt goes into the end zone for a touch back. QB Reese trots out and is going deep yet again on the Cougars' first play of the drive...

Caught. See ya later. 80 yards! TD for WR Nguyen. 24-0 Asheville.

The Cougars have themselves a superstar here in QB Reese. The junior, minus the first-quarter interception, has taken advantage of the opportunity given to him.

And why not another passing TD... QB Reese to WR Ostrander for his fourth passing touchdown of the evening. And, for a second straight week, Asheville is blowing out another top-ranked team. It's 31-0 going to the fourth.

Fourth Quarter

After seven straight shutout quarters of football by Asheville's defense, the impressive run will finally come to an end. Kings Mountain QB Ingram completes a 29yd TD pass to WR Maynard to remove their goose egg from the scoreboard, 31-7.

But, Asheville runs on the rest of the clock. It's over.

Cougars to the state semifinals!

Box Score

i.imgur.com/kuvwwZK.jpg

MDJ Game Stats: 0/0 passing for 0yds, 0 TDs, 0 INTs; 0yds rushing on 0 carries, 0 TDs, 0 Fumbles - Didn't play. Gutted, but not surprised. Reese set a new school record with 547 passing yards in a single game.

Player of Game: QB Reese (28/56 passing for 547yds, 4 TDs, 1 INT; 20yds rushing on 3 attempts, 0 TDs, 0 Fumbles)

North Carolina Football State Playoffs

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/uG7cy6z.jpg

Recruiting: Interested Colleges

i.imgur.com/VlrYfLF.jpg

How To Feel: Marcus Diamond Jr. is conflicted about how he should feel with QB Ryan Reese leading the Cougars to two straight upset playoff wins to put the Asheville football team in the state semifinals.

(Option A) Keep emotions from boiling over. Be a team player.

(Option B) Take angry out at home. Complain to parents.

(Option C) Explain frustrations with head coach. Seek answers.

i.imgur.com/W00JdbM.png
i.imgur.com/wOuhm5A.jpg
i.imgur.com/g5J7yBi.jpg
i.imgur.com/qT9E02v.png
i.imgur.com/cDJTKrt.png
 
https://twitter.com/Mresuperstar
Fabianski
Definitely sucks to see your rival playing some stellar playoffs so far. On the other hand, that's the only way that the season actually continues. And who knows what happens - in each case you have to be ready in case the team needs you, so you absolutely have to be a team player.

I'd choose Option C with that in mind; so showing the head coach you care about the team, but also trying to get some more time on the pitch.
 
Mresuperstar
i.imgur.com/iHtjSyA.jpg

Monthly Review

One cup match and three league bouts await before catching a flight to Spain for the third Grand Tour of the season. I missed Canvey Island United's first match of the season, First Round of the United British Cup, because I already had plans to race the Clásica de San Sebastián as a prep race for the Vuelta.

But, it was good to see that the team could win without me. After Biggleswade Town out of the British English Prime 3A Division scored first in the 53rd minute, Canvey Island United fought back with the equalizer by Oscar Thorn in the 59th minute and then defender Ian Fitzgerald banged in the game-winner off a free kick cross in the 79th minute. A solid come-from-behind 2-1 victory.

I made my debut four days later in Canvey Island United's home league opener.

Match Day #1 vs. Buxton (0-0-0)
August 8, 2026
Despite all the upgrades to Park Lane, we still only draw 411 people.

Spoiler
Canvey Island United 3, Buxton 0

i.imgur.com/729BvJM.jpg

Summary: Picture perfect for Canvey Island United. All of its stars come to play in an easy 3-0 win to kickoff the league season. Marcus Diamond got the party started on a breakaway goal setup by an Oscar Thorn headed through ball. Thorn then scored off his head before halftime. Diamond capped the scoring by finding the noggin of Ian Fitzgerald on a well-placed free kick.

Rating: 8.7 - Starting the season on the right foot.

Player of the Match: Marcus Diamond, Canvey Island United (8.7)

English Regional Cup at Scarborough Athletic (Tier 9)
August 11, 2026
First Round: Cup for all the teams in the British English Prime Divisions.

Spoiler
Canvey Island United 1, Scarborough Athletic 1

i.imgur.com/g28BhLL.jpg

Summary: From boring to mouthwatering in a matter of minutes. After a scoreless stalemate through 80 minutes, Scarborough Athletic broke the deadlock. Winger Charlie McDonald crossed in and hit the head of Ruben Shakpoke on the back post. Shakpoke directed in what he thought was the game-winning goal.

Six minutes later, on the verge of defeat, Marcus Diamond arrived.

media.giphy.com/media/oi8MvuiSuv8k2orG2s/giphy.gif

The confidence to even try such a move... What a goal!

We have reached extra time tied at 1-1. And, let's just fast forward to penalties, as nobody can score across the added 30 minutes.

Round 1: Scar's Pierce (Saved) -- Canvey's Niven (Scores)
Round 2: Scar's Davies (Scores) -- Canvey's Fitzgerald (Scores)
Round 3: Scar's Nelson (Saved) -- Canvey's Bassett (Scores)
Round 4: Scar's Javaid (Scores) -- Canvey's Diamond (...)

media.giphy.com/media/hIZT1Ov7ubRo4neq1I/giphy.gif

Diamond smashes in the winning penalty in Round 4 after Canvey Island United goalkeeper Fergal Hale-Brown made two huge saves!

Rating: 8.3 - Doesn't get much more exciting than that. A little bit of redemption for the penalty I missed three years ago against Ajax in the battle for the Johan Cruyff Shield. Obviously, the pressure I was under was nowhere near the same, but this moment was huge in helping win over my new teammates.

After the match, I tried to give injured Don White his Captain's Armband back since I've been borrowing it with him being sidelined for 3-5 weeks. But, this time, White didn't want it back.

"It's yours to keep Marcus. Lead us forward."

Player of the Match: Marcus Diamond, Canvey Island United (8.3)

Match Day #2 vs. Hornchurch (1-0-0, 3 Points, 3rd)
August 15, 2026
So... We meet again, I see.

Spoiler
Hornchurch 2, Canvey Island United 0

i.imgur.com/g28BhLL.jpg

Summary: How can you be so unlucky? Canvey Island United suffers an undeserved defeat after having three goals called back due to offsides — with two in the last five minutes that would have at least preserved a draw. Not to mention, Hornchurch saw left back Danny Perry get sent off in the 79th minute.

Revenge for Hornchurch after losing a preseason friendly between the two sides, but you have to feel like this result is an outlier for Canvey Island United.

Rating: 7.8 - Weird things happen in football. This was one of them.

Player of the Match: John Jordan, Hornchurch (8.4)

Match Day #3 vs. Enfield Town (1-1-0, 3 Points, 12th)
August 22, 2026
Third home game in a row to start the league calendar.

Spoiler
Canvey Island United 4, Enfield Town 1

i.imgur.com/612Uoub.jpg

Summary: Marcus Diamond, playing in his last football match before leaving town to race in the Vuelta a Espana, scores Canvey Island United's opening goal on a breakaway run. Too much speed to catch him. Oscar Thorn then buried a penalty kick and a header off a cross right before halftime to make it 3-0.

Both teams scored late in the second half to pad stats.

Rating: 8.9 - Four appearances, three goals, one assist and 17 key passes. Not too bad. But, now have to leave for almost a month and hope my team can keep going strong without me. Grace and I are leaving our phones in England for the duration of the trip to avoid any possible distracts. Meaning, I won't know how well Canvey Island United are doing until I get back on September 17.

So, no League Standings or Stats this update. Next time, I promise.

Player of the Match: Marcus Diamond, Canvey Island United (8.9)

League Standings

*Not Available Yet, But Will Be In Future Updates*

League Leaders

*Not Available Yet, But Will Be In Future Updates*

United British Cup: First Round

i.imgur.com/8WqiUNA.jpg

English Regional Cup: First Round

i.imgur.com/6Xb8UjY.jpg

Schedule

Club

i.imgur.com/7tlc04e.jpg

Evaluation

i.imgur.com/f1evgpu.jpg

Training Ground
*Community Growth Development*
Canvey Island Utd Training Facilities: +2 Points Per Member
Fountain of Youth: 73 Points

Spoiler
General Information

- Each member gets 7.0 points to spread however they like over the 36 attributes listed above. One post per member.
- Only stats that aren't locked can be upgraded.
- Stats work on a decimal system starting at 1.0.
- Stats are bumped up in FM when they hit that number, ex. 2.9 = 2 in-game, and 13.4 = 13 stat in-game.
- The decimal numbers will remain hidden.
- There is a threshold for each stat when more points are needed to increase that stat. It's start off on a 1-to-1 scale where 1 point equals 1 stat upgrade. However, the scales get exponentially further and further apart the closer that stat gets to the maximum of 20. The increasing scale will also remain a mystery and is different from the cycling progression scale.
-Comment below to provide stat upgrades.
- Fountain of Youth: Once the target number between 25-250 is reached, a stat unlock will be rewarded.

Regression System

Every month during the football season, there is a 25% chance of a stat reduction for each attribute. That percentage can decrease based on the following achievements:

Technical Attributes: -2% for each goal/assist Diamond has that month.

Mental Attributes: -2% for each win Diamond plays in that month.

Physical Attributes: -5% for each 8.0+ rating Diamond has that month.

Unlocked attributes also face a 25% chance of being locked each month.

Each member also has the option to pick one single attribute across any three of the categories (technical, mental or physical) to decrease that single attributes chance of reduction by 5%. This includes locked and unlocked stats. Include the attribute with your Training Ground points.

Stat Unlocks Earned: One stat unlock has been earned by member DavidCorperial for guessing 16 key passes. Can be used at any time.

Regression: Diamond avoided all stat locks and decreases this month.

i.imgur.com/W00JdbM.png
i.imgur.com/wOuhm5A.jpg
i.imgur.com/g5J7yBi.jpg
i.imgur.com/qT9E02v.png
i.imgur.com/cDJTKrt.png
 
https://twitter.com/Mresuperstar
Fabianski
OK, that key pass guess was way off. Tbh, I don't really know what kinds of passes are rated as "key pass", and how many there are on average per match, so... maybe next time Pfft

Good to see the team off to a great start, although that one unlucky defeat obviously hurts. Let's hope the boys can keep on rolling without Marcus!

+2 FoY
+5 Off the Ball
-5% Pace
 
DavidCorperial
+2 FoY
+5 Tackling
-5% Pace

And I am unsure what stat to unlock so will save it for now, if anyone has suggestions, let me know.
 
Mresuperstar
i.imgur.com/aZQXMBw.jpg

Monthly Review

This pre-Vuelta a Espana update is twofold.

First, I have finally put pen to paper and signed a new cycling contract!

i.imgur.com/WDmVJyC.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/GybBl78.jpg

I'll be joining Team HSE-Liquigas for the 2027 season! I signed a three-year contract worth 120,000 per month. My signing ultimately influenced Holding Slovenske elektrarne (HSE), a state-owned power generation company in Slovenia, to join forces with the Italian natural gas company.

Slovenia cycling has been in the midst of a golden generation with guys like Matej Mohoric, Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar. But, many of their stars are starting to age out of their prime. HSE wants to invest in producing the next talented crop.

They want me to be the face of the team considering I'm energetic, somewhat young and already a proven winner. The team wants my success to build a winning environment to attract more potential future stars of the sport.

Sounds great to me! And, I now have extra funds to invest in my other project.

While I'm obviously sad to be leaving what I have built with the SEG program, but I feel it's time for me to reap the benefits of my abilities. I deserve to get paid. I believe I did everything I could to make SEG successful. So, I have no regrets.

It's time to move on to a new challenge. Start a new chapter.

With all that said, I also had a prep race at the Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian this month that needs to be shared. See below for details on how that race went.

Race Day #25 at Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian
August 4, 2026
2025: 2nd

i.imgur.com/Q82Stbx.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/iWHhDhs.jpg

Summary: After a long day chasing a strong breakaway, the peloton makes the catch at the base of the final climb with 10kms to go. That's the cue for the favourites to start attacking each other. Simon Yates tries first but gets nowhere.

i.imgur.com/dWWgw5H.jpg

A group of 21 favourites do break the elastic band on the climb and sprint for the win at the finish line. Gall wins over Vincenzo Albanese and Simon Yates.

Result: 30th (+53) - Missed the split. Simply as that. The climbers made this edition a little harder than last years when I finished runner-up. Tough break, but at least I was only using this as a tune-up race.

1Felix GallCanyon SRAM Racing5h33'54
2Vincenzo AlbaneseZwift Pro Cyclings.t.
3Simon YatesQantass.t.
4Daniel Felipe MartinezPanasonics.t.
5Wout Van AertZwift Pro Cyclings.t.

Evaluation

i.imgur.com/KkJvU3T.jpg

Training Ride
*Community Growth Development*
Upgraded Training Facilities Boost: +2 Point Per Member
Unlock Progress: 56 Points

Spoiler
General Information

- Each member gets 5.0 points to spread however they like over the 13 attributes listed above. One post per member.
- Stats work on a decimal system starting at 55.0.
- Stats are bumped up in PCM when they hit that number, ex. 55.9 = 55 in-game, and 61.4 = 61 stat in-game.
- The decimal numbers will remain hidden.
- There is a threshold for each stat when more points are needed to increase that stat. It's start off on a 1-to-1 scale where 1 point equals 1 stat upgrade. However, the scales get exponentially further and further apart the closer that stat gets to the maximum of 85. The increasing scale will also remain a mystery.
- Locked stats can't be improved.
- Unlock Progress Points: Once a target number between 25-250 is reached, a stat unlock is rewarded. Points from training rides can be used toward the Unlock Progress.
- Comment below to provide stat upgrades.

Regression System

Attributes at risk of reduction haven't received an upgrade since previous reductions that take place in January and June. Next reduction, each stat now has a 30% of reduction (going up 5% every January and June). Each member can pick a stat to reduction by 5%. All unlocked attributions now have a 20% chance of getting locked. This will go up 10% every January and June.

Vuelta Predictions: Correctly predict any of the five prompts below to earn +5 Unlock Points for each correct guess made.

1. Marcus Diamond's Overall GC Finish:
2. How Many Stages Will Marcus Diamond Win:
3. Will Marcus Diamond Wear The Green Jersey At Any Point:
4. Vuelta a Espana Winner (Pick From List Below/Or Put Other):
5. What Stage Will The GC Winner Wear Red For The First Time:


Expected GC Favourites To Be In Attendance

i.imgur.com/Ao4cljX.jpg

The Route

i.imgur.com/L7W4aNs.jpg
Spoiler
(For my long-time readers, this route might look familiar...) Wink

Stay Tuned For Vuelta a Espana Review (Part 1)

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https://twitter.com/Mresuperstar
Ad Bot
Posted on 30-09-2022 09:42
Bot Agent

Posts: Countless
Joined: 23.11.09

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jandal7
4th
2
Yes
McNulty
Stage 4

+5 Resistance
24/02/21 - kandesbunzler said “I don't drink famous people."
22/07/21 - quadsas said "I admire you [jandal] so much as a manager, squad builder and a person"
15/08/22 - SotD said "Your [jandal's] humour is overrated"

[ICL] Santos-Euskadi | The Life And Times | [PCT] i.imgur.com/c85NSl6.png Xero Racing

i.imgur.com/PdCbs9I.png
i.imgur.com/RPIlJYr.png
4x i.imgur.com/wM6Wok5.png x4
i.imgur.com/olRsxdu.pngpcmdaily.com/images/mg/Awards2021/funniest21.png
 
DavidCorperial
5th
3
Yes
Urtzi Dominguez
Stage 4

+5 Resistance
 
Fabianski
4th
2
Yes
McNulty
Stage 10

+5 TT

Are stat regression probability reductions to be posted every month as well? If so, Mo -5%.
 
jandal7
-5% Flat
24/02/21 - kandesbunzler said “I don't drink famous people."
22/07/21 - quadsas said "I admire you [jandal] so much as a manager, squad builder and a person"
15/08/22 - SotD said "Your [jandal's] humour is overrated"

[ICL] Santos-Euskadi | The Life And Times | [PCT] i.imgur.com/c85NSl6.png Xero Racing

i.imgur.com/PdCbs9I.png
i.imgur.com/RPIlJYr.png
4x i.imgur.com/wM6Wok5.png x4
i.imgur.com/olRsxdu.pngpcmdaily.com/images/mg/Awards2021/funniest21.png
 
Mresuperstar
Fabianski wrote:
Are stat regression probability reductions to be posted every month as well?

Cycling stat reductions only happen every six months (so not needed right now). Football is every month because of the level of competition Diamond is playing at currently.
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i.imgur.com/wOuhm5A.jpg
i.imgur.com/g5J7yBi.jpg
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https://twitter.com/Mresuperstar
Mresuperstar
i.imgur.com/nEXsr56.jpg

Vuelta a Espana Review (Part 1)

Welcome to the 81st edition of the Vuelta a Espana!

The podium from last year's edition have all returned for three more weeks of racing through the sweltering Spanish sun. Defending champion Marc Soler (Orbea) has surprisingly been omitted from the Pre-Race GC Favourites list provided provided by bet365. Maybe for good reason since the Spanish NC RR Champion only managed to finish 10th overall at this year's Tour de France.

There has also been a lot of parody at the Vuelta with five winners over the last five years. This all happening after Vincenzo Nibali three-peated from 2018-20.

Other former winners in this 2026 edition: Brandon McNulty (Zwift) in 2023 and Enric Mas (TAP Portugal) in 2022.

The odds-on-favourite is 2024 Tour de France winner Ivan Sosa (Ridley), who is arguably the best climber in the world but does struggle against the clock. Luck of him, the Vuelta only features a 16km TTT and a 42km ITT.

Sosa expects to be challenged by McNulty and Spanish hopeful Lucas Arauco, who hasn't quite lived up to his prodigy status with his best result being a 5th place at the Vuelta in 2024. The 28-year-old looks to be in good form after recently winning his second Spanish ITT NC.

Other notables that have to be named: Urtzi Dominguez (Liquigas) fresh off a runner-up finish at the Tour de France, and Jai Hindley (Sunweb) still looking for his first Grand Tour triumph after a 4th overall at the Giro earlier this season.

As for SEG - Quick Step, we are going with the co-leader approach with Harry Zuurman and myself. Zuurman doesn't have much Grand Tour experience with his best result being 10th at the Giro last year. I can do a bit of everything.

Time will tell what I end up targeting. Let's go racing!

Race Day #26-32 at Vuelta a Espana
August 25-31, 2026
First Week: We start with a 16km TTT in the coastal city of Benidorm.

Pre-Race GC Favourites
i.imgur.com/NIwMmAF.jpg Sosa (Ridley), McNulty (Zwift), Arauco (ISS)

i.imgur.com/RVFx9bq.jpg Dominguez (Liquigas), Hindley (Sunweb), Lopez (TAP)

i.imgur.com/CqGESrb.jpg Zuurman (SEG), Diamond (SEG), S. Yates (Qantas)
SEG Racing Squad
i.imgur.com/VIz0e7h.jpg

Stage 1

i.imgur.com/e2Sn6Z7.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/RY20MjX.jpg

Summary: SEG - Quick Step give it their all, but it's not going to be enough to dethrone the home crowd favourites. The opening stage of the Vuelta will be a Spanish conquest; Orbea wins by 11 seconds. A huge win for its GC contender and reigning champion Marc Soler, while its only non-Spanish rider on the team, Ronaldo Malagueta, will wear the first leader's jersey of this tour.

Here is how some of the other GC favourites fared:

Marc Soler (Stage Win)
Marcus Diamond (+11")
Harry Zuurman (+11")
Ivan Sosa (+44")
Brandon McNulty (+1'00")
Miguel Angel Lopez (+1'00")
Simon Yates (+1'06")
Urtzi Dominguez (+1'06")
Lucas Arauco (+1'13")
Jai Hindley (+1'47")

Result: 2nd, 9th GC (+11") - Strong start. You can't win a Grand Tour with a good TTT, but you certainly could lose it with a bad one.

1Orbea19'34
2SEG - Quick Step+ 11
3Discovery Channel+ 18
4T-Mobiles.t.
5Team Ridley+ 44
6Canyon SRAM Racing+ 46
7Astana Pro Teams.t.
8Zwift Pro Cycling+ 1'00
9GCN Racings.t.
10TAP Portugals.t.
11Qantas+ 1'05
12Liquigass.t.
13McLaren - Bahrain+ 1'12
14AEGON+ 1'13
15ISSs.t.
16Team Novo Nordisk+ 1'22
17Groupama - FDJ+ 1'25
18Cofidis, Solutions Créditss.t.
19Panasonic+ 1'39
20Bretagne+ 1'47
21Team CSCs.t.
22Team Sunwebs.t.
General Classification
1Ronaldo MalaguetaOrbea19'33
2Xavier AlbaOrbeas.t.
3Peio GallegoOrbeas.t.
4Mikel LandaOrbeas.t.
5Marc SolerOrbeas.t.
6Óscar GonzálezOrbeas.t.
7Jaime CastrilloOrbeas.t.
8José Israel JornetOrbeas.t.
9Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step+ 11
10Alex VogelSEG - Quick Steps.t.

Stage 2

i.imgur.com/Ceo7mL0.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/3CulCF0.jpg

Summary: The first King of the Mountain polka-dot jersey wearer will be 37-year-old Rasmus Guldhammer from Team ISS.

i.imgur.com/ZuoH5DE.jpg

The first road stage winner will be sprinter Dylan Groenewegen!

Result: 10th, 9th GC (+11") - Didn't go full speed, but still managed a Top 10 finish on the stage and nab a few sprint points.

1Dylan GroenewegenTeam CSC4h09'58
2Jasper PhilipsenCofidis, Solutions Créditss.t.
3André LooijMcLaren - Bahrains.t.
4Jakub MareczkoTeam Sunwebs.t.
5Fernando GaviriaCanyon SRAM Racings.t.
General Classification
1Xavier AlbaOrbea4h29'31
2Ronaldo MalaguetaOrbeas.t.
3Mikel LandaOrbeas.t.
4Marc SolerOrbeas.t.
5Óscar GonzálezOrbeas.t.
6Peio GallegoOrbeas.t.
7Jaime CastrilloOrbeas.t.
8José Israel JornetOrbeas.t.
9Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step+ 11
10Grace Garner-DiamondSEG - Quick Steps.t.

Stage 3

i.imgur.com/RIcbp0s.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/bL0OXiS.jpg

Summary: Rain coming down, Marcus Diamond looks around.

He is all alone going over the summit of the Alto de la Santa. That will give him the polka-dot jersey tomorrow, but he wants more than that. This is a GC attack!

i.imgur.com/PREn4xq.jpg

It's a mad dash down the hill to try and catch this mad man.

i.imgur.com/NOYXDrx.jpg

The catch is made under the banner...

i.imgur.com/gXeTT2Q.jpg

The winner by a wheel: Fernando Gaviria!

More importantly for the GC contenders, there is a 35-second gap for the first 30 finishers. Diamond's attack split the peloton on a so-called "flat" stage. Notable GC contenders losing time today include Jai Hindley, Tadej Pogacar, Enric Mas, Primoz Roglic, Mark Padun and Diamond's own teammate Zuurman.

Result: 29th, 4th GC (+11"), 1st KoM - The team worked hard to put me in a good position to attack the last climb. It kind of worked but I was the only SEG - Quick Step rider to make the split and I didn't win, so it also wasn't ideal either. Still plenty of stages to go.

1Fernando GaviriaCanyon SRAM Racing4h05'01
2Jasper PhilipsenCofidis, Solutions Créditss.t.
3André LooijMcLaren - Bahrains.t.
4Dylan GroenewegenTeam CSCs.t.
5Thomas BoudatAEGONs.t.
General Classification
1Ronaldo MalaguetaOrbea8h34'32
2Marc SolerOrbeas.t.
3Jaime CastrilloOrbeas.t.
4Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step+ 11
5Felix GrosschartnerT-Mobile+ 19
6Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channels.t.
7LoĂŻc VliegenDiscovery Channels.t.
8Maikel ZijlaardDiscovery Channels.t.
9Xavier AlbaOrbea+ 35
10Mikel LandaOrbeas.t.

Stage 4

i.imgur.com/TNGp0vG.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/IKfLVA9.jpg

Summary: The Vuelta isn't messing around as we finish on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada. It's a 23.2km climb with an average gradient of 6.6%.

As the peloton starts the climb to the line, a morning breakaway of nine riders is still 4'50" up the road.

i.imgur.com/aDXdQdc.jpg

SEG - Quick Step has been controlling things so far with 14.3kms still to go. Van Niekerk and Garner-Diamond have been setting the pace for Marcus Diamond.

i.imgur.com/nTWZVV5.jpg

The first attack from the peloton comes from 10kms out. M.A. Lopez on the offensive looking to pull back a minute deficit.

i.imgur.com/nQRBqPB.jpg

Brandon McNulty doesn't know what to do as he finds himself pacing the peloton to keep MAL within their sights. With 6.4kms left to climb, he must think it's too far out to just attack himself.

i.imgur.com/r2aXssX.jpg

The attack to bridge the gap comes from Kudus, and is followed by Hindley, Sosa and A. Yates. This looks dangerous.

i.imgur.com/5rP0jEW.jpg

McNulty won't let those riders go. All the favourites, including MAL, have been brought back. The lead group is 23 cyclists strong. McNulty increase the tempo with multiple breakaway riders still ahead.

i.imgur.com/iczAy8e.jpg

The favourites have just miscalculated this and it's going to be a sentimental win for Antonio Nibali. Often over-shadowed by his older brother, Vincenzo, all the spotlight is now on Antonio. A phenomenal win on the Sierra Nevada.

Fellow breakaway companion Brodie Chapman gets a second place for his efforts. And then come the GC guys. Defending champion Marc Soler and Brandon McNulty will get the same time.

Soler becomes the new leader of the race.

i.imgur.com/4Jd8o3f.jpg

Other big winners today include Kudus, Hindley, S. Yates, Grosschartner, Eres and Arauco all finishing inside the Top 10.

i.imgur.com/iYvTWLt.jpg

Result: 11th (+1'09"), 5th GC (+1'24") - Held on for as long as I could. Losing a minute here hurts but, long-term, I still think a podium finish after 21 stages is still possible. If I can stay on my bike, knock on wood.

1Antonio NibaliTeam Novo Nordisk5h17'36
2Brodie ChapmanTeam Sunwebs.t.
3Marc SolerOrbeas.t.
4Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cyclings.t.
5Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 22
General Classification
1Marc SolerOrbea13h52'04
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 45
3Felix GrosschartnerT-Mobile+ 59
4Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling+ 1'04
5Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step+ 1'24
6Simon YatesQantas+ 1'46
7Lucas AraucoISS+ 2'24
8Ivan SosaTeam Ridley+ 2'30
9Miguel Angel LopezTAP Portugal+ 2'46
10Tadej PogacarGCN Racing+ 2'48

Stage 5

i.imgur.com/7Hl4V3e.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/aD2aSuP.jpg

Summary: Bizarre situation unfolding with 45kms to go. SEG - Quick Step has broken off the front of the peloton and created a 15-cyclist lead group chasing down the 14-rider morning breakaway.

SEG - Quick Step has six riders in this group with a 1'20" gap over the peloton. GC contenders Diamond and Zuurman are here with teammates Vogel, Garner-Diamond, Van Der Poel and Sivakov, along with rivals:

Kudus (2nd overall)
S. Yates (6th)
Dominguez (11th)
Hindley (12th)

i.imgur.com/9IZjiNs.jpg

It takes 20kms of hard chasing, but eventually the other GC favourites get back on level ground with the two final climbs still ahead.

i.imgur.com/DctG78v.jpg

We hit the minor slopes of the first climb and another major split. Race leader Soler is in difficulty, as is 4th overall McNulty and Sosa.

i.imgur.com/o2qdHTq.jpg

Sensing blood in the water, attack from S. Yates at the front! He is followed by Dominguez, Diamond, Kudus and Hindley. It's all the GC guys that stayed alert earlier in the day. Looks like they are the only ones with energy left to burn.

i.imgur.com/qNXD2hg.jpg

Kudus appears to be the strongest, while Hindley the weakest.

i.imgur.com/Q4oflGm.jpg

Kudus caught on the downhill. These four have a 1'30" gap back to Hindley with 5kms left. It's another two minutes to M.A. Lopez and Foss.

We are getting reports that Soler, McNulty and Sosa are around five minutes back. This crazy stage is going to be remembered for a long time. But, who wins it?

i.imgur.com/spQUjLs.jpg

After being incredibly patient all day, Diamond wants the glory!

Only Kudus can hang onto this acceleration. Head-to-head showdown!

i.imgur.com/xLdox8m.jpg

The gradient hits a staggering 17% and Kudus is now paying for his earlier attack on the previous climb. Diamond has been set free to fly!

i.imgur.com/YIDIS0s.jpg

Bang the barriers! Scream his name! Absolutely Incredible!

i.imgur.com/R8XiDm1.jpg

Your Stage Winner & New GC Leader: MARCUS DIAMOND!

i.imgur.com/i3xn9ka.jpg

As Diamond celebrates on the podium, the former leader of the race, Soler, has finally crossed the finish line. He looks up and can only shake his head: 6'20" behind Diamond. Then, 12 seconds later, a defeated McNulty rolls over the line. Game. Set. Match.

Result: 1st, 1st GC, 4th Points, 9th KoM, 1st Team - Can't thank my teammates enough for blowing up the race. They made this happened. We tried something similar on Stage 3 & 4, but today it worked better than we could have ever imagined. This is surreal. But, I can't celebrate too much. I know I'm not the best climber and Kudus is still only 33 seconds behind me. This is far from over.

1Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step5h16'07
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 1'08
3Urtzi DominguezLiquigas+ 1'29
4Simon YatesQantas+ 1'45
5Jai HindleyTeam Sunweb+ 4'08
General Classification
1Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step19h09'25
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 33
3Simon YatesQantas+ 2'17
4Urtzi DominguezLiquigas+ 3'03
5Marc SolerOrbea+ 5'06
6Jai HindleyTeam Sunweb+ 5'56
7Felix GrosschartnerT-Mobile+ 6'17
8Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling+ 6'22
9Miguel Angel LopezTAP Portugal+ 6'30
10Lucas AraucoISS+ 8'43

Stage 6

i.imgur.com/anLwNRw.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/FRHRvL1.jpg

Summary: In a move to catch GC leader Diamond off guard, Simon Yates attacks over the summit of the final climb with 10kms to go.

i.imgur.com/wjT3fhW.jpg

When that doesn't work, his twin brother Adam Yates goes on the offensive. And, unsurprisingly, that doesn't work either. We will head to a reduced bunch sprint after a 7km downhill to the finish line.

i.imgur.com/pE3Ycqx.jpg

The fastest man left in the pack is former French NC Thomas Boudat. The red jersey is right behind him, as Diamond just misses out on back-to-back stage wins. He will certainly take the six bonus seconds regardless.

Result: 2nd, 1st GC, 1st Points, 4th KoM, 1st Team - Another win would have been fun, but the runner-up finish moves me into the lead of the points competition and gained me half a dozen seconds on Kudus.

1Thomas BoudatAEGON4h33'16
2Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Steps.t.
3Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cyclings.t.
4Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channels.t.
5Miguel Angel LopezTAP Portugals.t.
General Classification
1Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step23h42'35
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 39
3Simon YatesQantas+ 2'23
4Urtzi DominguezLiquigas+ 3'09
5Marc SolerOrbea+ 5'12
6Jai HindleyTeam Sunweb+ 6'02
7Felix GrosschartnerT-Mobile+ 6'23
8Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling+ 6'24
9Miguel Angel LopezTAP Portugal+ 6'36
10Lucas AraucoISS+ 8'49

Stage 7

i.imgur.com/4rRJiZ9.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/aRNKLJH.jpg

Summary: After a pair of agonizing second place finishes on Stage 2 and 3, Jasper Philipsen finally gets his first stage win of this tour and becomes the new points leader (65 to Diamond's 60).

Result: 12th, 1st GC, 2nd Points, 4th KoM, 1st Team - Spent a little energy to get four sprint points. Probably not worth it, but I'm feeling energized right now by wearing the leader's jersey. This first week goes to show the importance of having a good team around you.

Lot of work left to do, but I'm confident we have the talent to bring this red jersey all the way to Madrid. Wouldn't that be quite the story?

1Jasper PhilipsenCofidis, Solutions Crédits4h36'20
2Mikel AristiISSs.t.
3Jose Alfredo RodriguezMcLaren - Bahrains.t.
4Tjeu OrieTeam Sunwebs.t.
5Thomas BoudatAEGONs.t.
General Classification
1Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step28h18'55
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 39
3Simon YatesQantas+ 2'23
4Urtzi DominguezLiquigas+ 3'09
5Marc SolerOrbea+ 5'12
6Jai HindleyTeam Sunweb+ 6'02
7Felix GrosschartnerT-Mobile+ 6'23
8Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling+ 6'24
9Miguel Angel LopezTAP Portugal+ 6'36
10Lucas AraucoISS+ 8'49

Stay Tuned For Vuelta a Espana Review (Part 2)

Edited by Mresuperstar on 14-08-2022 12:39
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https://twitter.com/Mresuperstar
jandal7
Wow, simply stunning stuff from Marcus, what an amazing stage that was and a legendary ride, especially if he can defend this deep into the race. Love it! Banana
24/02/21 - kandesbunzler said “I don't drink famous people."
22/07/21 - quadsas said "I admire you [jandal] so much as a manager, squad builder and a person"
15/08/22 - SotD said "Your [jandal's] humour is overrated"

[ICL] Santos-Euskadi | The Life And Times | [PCT] i.imgur.com/c85NSl6.png Xero Racing

i.imgur.com/PdCbs9I.png
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4x i.imgur.com/wM6Wok5.png x4
i.imgur.com/olRsxdu.pngpcmdaily.com/images/mg/Awards2021/funniest21.png
 
Fabianski
Really fantastic work by Marcus - and by his team! Wouldn't have been possible to destroy everyone on that stage without his teammates literally breaking everyone there - and especially nice for Grace to be part of this in her career's final race!
 
Mresuperstar
i.imgur.com/w8qo3hA.jpg

Vuelta a Espana Review (Part 2)

The media wants to play up the drama between myself and Kudus, but don't underestimate the likes of Soler, McNulty and Sosa. They have the legs to pull back one to two minutes when the road starts going up. I'll need every ounce of energy from my teammates to keep them close to me.

But, after a fast first week, how much do my teammates still have left in the tank? Grace is already complaining that her legs are feeling like Jell-o. At a certain point, I know I'm going to have to defend this red jersey using my own merits.

Everything has gone right so far. Can it continue, or is it too good to be true?

Race Day #33-39 at Vuelta a Espana
September 1-8, 2026
Second Week: Five climbing stages, one flat and one 42km ITT.

Stage 8

i.imgur.com/f90WNdr.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/wRa2tIs.jpg

Summary: This has to be Marcus Diamond's worst nightmare. He is completely isolated with 35kms to go. His team is nowhere to be found after a high tempo from the other GC teams today. Fatigue is no joke.

Diamond will have to defend red against a 33-cyclist lead group.

i.imgur.com/q6SnN7c.jpg

You knew it was coming.

The last climb of the day is the launch point for S. Yates. Kudus jumps straight on that and Diamond is quick to react as well.

i.imgur.com/RFGWq1P.jpg

When that move goes nowhere, another trio is off. Outsiders Pogacar (14th overall), A. Yates (11th) and Sosa (16th) get a small gap with nobody quite sure who should chase them.

After a moment of hesitation, Liquigas takes up the chase.

i.imgur.com/pE3dvFa.jpg

Liquigas make the catch and sets up the springboard for McNulty and Kudus. Diamond does his best to match, but can't stay on Kudus' wheel.

We could have a new GC leader tonight!

i.imgur.com/grF8xCP.jpg

But, no, Liquigas p/b Foss brings the dangerous duo back to the red jersey group. Leaving us with 11 cyclists on the downhill to the finish. On paper, you'd have to say Diamond is the favourite for the stage win now.

i.imgur.com/dlUCfxy.jpg

Kudus, however, digs deep to capture his first stage win of the tour! Dominguez second and Diamond third, which gives Kudus the six bonus seconds back that he lost on Stage 6.

Diamond now anxiously waits to see if all his teammates can cross the finish line under the time limit... Six of them do.

Van Der Poel is forced to withdraw.

Result: 3rd, 1st GC, 1st Points, 8th KoM, 5th Team - The team self-destructed today. You could sense it coming. Everyone worked so hard the first week and this is the consequence. Recovery is key now because I don't know if I can do this by myself.

1Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel5h22'59
2Urtzi DominguezLiquigass.t.
3Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Steps.t.
4Miguel Angel LopezTAP Portugals.t.
5Marc SolerOrbeas.t.
General Classification
1Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step33h41'50
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 33
3Simon YatesQantas+ 2'27
4Urtzi DominguezLiquigas+ 3'07
5Marc SolerOrbea+ 5'16
6Jai HindleyTeam Sunweb+ 6'06
7Felix GrosschartnerT-Mobile+ 6'27
8Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling+ 6'28
9Miguel Angel LopezTAP Portugal+ 6'40
10Lucas AraucoISS+ 8'53

Stage 9

i.imgur.com/vrcQ4Sc.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/bfeum8P.jpg

Summary: Only 10kms left up the final climb today of La Covatilla. The 14-cyclist morning breakaway can look back and see the dwindling peloton of about 40 riders being led by Grace Garner-Diamond.

i.imgur.com/bB90taZ.jpg

The first attack comes from Soler (5th overall) and A. Yates. Considering Soler is over 5 minutes back in the GC standings, Diamond decides not to pursue this move. His wife, Grace, is also looking exhausted and should be dropping behind the favourites any second now.

i.imgur.com/m0M3j8m.jpg

It's McNulty left to do the chasing as Soler and Yates weave their way in-and-out of the remaining breakaway riders up the road.

i.imgur.com/W7sW6aN.jpg

McNulty with a great effort to make the catch of not only the two attacks, but the rest of the BOTD as well. Diamond quickly gets to the front and waits, non-verbally asking the question, "Who dares to attack me now?"

With a little under 4kms to the top, not much time for a massive move.

i.imgur.com/F0NczaT.jpg

It will be Pogacar (13th) and Arauco (10th). But then the green jersey of Kudus (2nd) sneaks up and sticks to Arauco's wheel. Diamond now has to switch gears and match this.

i.imgur.com/nC3uC9J.jpg

It's a very long acceleration by Pogacar, but the main players hang on. Under the banner, Kudus gives one last kick and hopes of shaking the red jersey off his wheel and put red onto his back if given a substantially gap.

i.imgur.com/O4cMbn2.jpg

Around the last bend, McNulty goes around the outside to pass Kudus.

i.imgur.com/2JPDa3I.jpg

It's going to be a stage win for McNulty! Kudus across in the second and starts the clock against Diamond. With the six bonus seconds, Kudus needs a gap of 27 seconds or more to become the next leader of this Vuelta a Espana.

i.imgur.com/wL0b8Sy.jpg

Soler and Diamond across for 3rd and 4th, respectively. It's going to be 25 seconds behind McNulty, and 14 seconds after Kudus.

Diamond holds red for another day.

Result: 4th (+25"), 1st GC, 2nd Points, 7th KoM - Even with good daily form and the help of Grace, Kudus still managed to cut my lead down to 13 seconds. Hopefully I can regain some sort of buffer in the ITT tomorrow. Never thought I'd be able to say that before.

1Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling4h49'34
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 11
3Marc SolerOrbea+ 25
4Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Steps.t.
5Lucas AraucoISS+ 34
General Classification
1Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step38h31'49
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 13
3Simon YatesQantas+ 3'15
4Urtzi DominguezLiquigas+ 4'30
5Marc SolerOrbea+ 5'12
6Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling+ 5'53
7Jai HindleyTeam Sunweb+ 6'15
8Miguel Angel LopezTAP Portugal+ 7'28
9Felix GrosschartnerT-Mobile+ 8'05
10Lucas AraucoISS+ 9'02

Stage 10

i.imgur.com/LxFmAAh.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/v7G5RVd.jpg

Summary: A long 42kms ITT could make the difference in separating GC leader Marcus Diamond and his African challenger Merhawi Kudus. The gap currently stands at 13 seconds, and that's all the media pundits wanted to talk about on yesterday's rest stage.

While these two have emerged as the possibly winners, there is still another spot on the podium that is up for grabs as well. A lot still at play as we near the halfway point of this year's edition of the Vuelta a Espana.

Add to all of that, heavy rain has started to come down as the GC riders hit the road. That's great news for current leader in the clubhouse: Dygert-Owen with a time of 50'24".

i.imgur.com/zsyNISS.jpg

Diamond is through the first time check with the 21st fastest time, 42 seconds off the pace of Arauco, who is absolutely flying on the course right now and is expected to beat Dygert-Owen's time at the finish.

But, that's not what everybody is watching. It's the time splits between Diamond and Kudus. At the first check: Diamond is up 15 seconds!

i.imgur.com/owso17F.jpg

Despite the downpour, Arauco delivers a 49'48" to sit on the hot seat. He nearly passes Pogacar and A. Yates before crossing the finish line. Now we head back out to the second checkpoint where Kudus and Diamond are getting ready to cross.

i.imgur.com/0tBGLpD.jpg

No time to sit down and have lunch...

After Kudus posted a 35'27", nearly two minutes slower than Arauco, Diamond comes zooming through with a 34'53". It's good for 22nd best but he is gaining time on Kudus with still 13kms left to ride.

i.imgur.com/cuMCg24.jpg

Diamond has found another gear and can nearly make out Kudus in the fog as he rounds the corner and sees the 1km to go banner. Is this going to be a similar ride to what he remarkably did at the Tour of California earlier this year?

i.imgur.com/lSx88ri.jpg

Through the fog comes a red bullet.

i.imgur.com/3RlPkGo.jpg

Wow! Diamond passes Kudus right before the finish line to stamp his authority on this race. But, is this an incredible ride by Diamond or just a complete collapse by Kudus? The clock tells the full story...

50'28" ... For Diamond. It's the sixth fastest time. He will lose 40 seconds to stage winner Arauco, but only four seconds to eventual stage runner-up McNulty, who had a quietly good afternoon.

A decent ITT by Dominguez sees him past S. Yates for a podium spot. While Diamond grows his lead to 2'27" over Kudus. Will that be enough to capture his first Grand Tour triumph?

Result: 6th (+40"), 1st GC, 1st Points, 7th KoM - Not quite Tour of California caliber, but passing Kudus is going to go down as a career highlight for sure. Not many better feelings you can have on a road bike.

1Lucas AraucoISS49'48
2Chloe Dygert-OwenTeam CSC+ 36
3Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling+ 37
4Andres BubT-Mobile+ 38
5Mikkel BjergAEGON+ 39
General Classification
1Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step39h22'17
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 2'27
3Urtzi DominguezLiquigas+ 5'05
4Simon YatesQantas+ 5'19
5Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling+ 5'50
6Marc SolerOrbea+ 6'20
7Felix GrosschartnerT-Mobile+ 8'16
8Lucas AraucoISS+ 8'22
9Jai HindleyTeam Sunweb+ 10'36
10Adam YatesAstana Pro Team+ 10'58

Stage 11

i.imgur.com/5bIpbxq.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/Q6klCxh.jpg

Summary: The observant viewers will notice this wasn't the scheduled route for today's stage. A recent landslide (corrupt stage file) on the finishing climb of the Manzaneda has re-routed the race a little south.

The organizers scrambled to put together a similar route, but it is noticeably shorter from 162kms to 116kms but does have steeper climbs. The riders will finish today on the famous ascent up the L'Angliru.

We will race up the Alto de L'Angliru again on Stage 15.

One thing that has followed us south is the rain.

i.imgur.com/NdEwHAp.jpg

At one point, there 40 cyclists up the road in front of the peloton. By the time we get to 5kms to go, only six remaining. Diamond is taking the challenge upon himself to lead the chase.

i.imgur.com/rtcK0Uf.jpg

Kudus raises the tempo with an attack!

i.imgur.com/epNwRWr.jpg

McNulty matches and goes past. Everyone is struggling for air with snow flurries dancing in the wind.

i.imgur.com/1ZvEwEI.jpg

Another win for McNulty, who looks poised to win the King of Mountain competition as a consolation prize after giving away his GC chances on Stage 5. Although, the American has regained his spot on the podium.

Kudus comes in 24 seconds later for second. Soler and Diamond once again finish 3rd and 4th, losing 20 more seconds to Kudus.

Result: 4th (+44"), 1st GC, 1st Points, 7th KoM - Basically a repeat of Stage 9. Got to give props to McNulty and Kudus, they aren't going down without a fight. Every second remains important.

Some might question why I decided to pace the favourites up climb, well I wasn't really. I was just riding my own tempo and everybody just waited behind me. I was left on my own halfway up the final climb when Grace's legs finally gave way. She did all she could. I'm proud of her.

1Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling3h41'30
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 24
3Marc SolerOrbea+ 44
4Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Steps.t.
5Tim WellensMcLaren - Bahrain+ 1'17
General Classification
1Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step43h04'31
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 2'01
3Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling+ 4'56
4Marc SolerOrbea+ 6'16
5Urtzi DominguezLiquigas+ 6'30
6Simon YatesQantas+ 8'07
7Felix GrosschartnerT-Mobile+ 10'02
8Lucas AraucoISS+ 11'10
9Adam YatesAstana Pro Team+ 11'44
10Jai HindleyTeam Sunweb+ 12'22

Stage 12

i.imgur.com/jyMDfjR.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/Ik3Qmka.jpg

Summary: The GC favourites do well to avoid any weird splits today as SEG - Quick Step cranked the tempo up at various points.

Here is Alex Vogel doing her best trying to drag back the final three breakaway riders with 3.8kms to go.

Also, good to see the sun rejoining us today.

i.imgur.com/hjN8vw1.jpg

SEG - Quickstep has one more trick. Vogel suddenly pulls up from chasing and Diamond is surprising the field with a powerful attack!

i.imgur.com/XMfokg0.jpg

Diamond isn't going to catch today's stage winner from the breakaway, Pedersen, or second place, Ludvik. But, it will be enough to fool the sprinters and take a third place.

Result: 3rd (+24"), 1st GC, 1st Points, 7th KoM - Vogel and I have perfected that tactic over the years. Awesome that it kind of paid off here. I'll take the four bonus seconds and the added sprint points, buffering my lead over Kudus (130 to 114).

1Mads PedersenPanasonic4h05'51
2Holstad LudvikTeam Ridleys.t.
3Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step+ 24
4Dylan GroenewegenTeam CSCs.t.
5Jasper PhilipsenCofidis, Solutions Créditss.t.
General Classification
1Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step47h10'42
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 2'05
3Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling+ 5'00
4Marc SolerOrbea+ 6'20
5Urtzi DominguezLiquigas+ 6'34
6Simon YatesQantas+ 8'11
7Felix GrosschartnerT-Mobile+ 10'06
8Lucas AraucoISS+ 11'14
9Adam YatesAstana Pro Team+ 11'48
10Jai HindleyTeam Sunweb+ 12'26

Stage 13

i.imgur.com/b2YcSqH.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/UTI6PUH.jpg

Summary: A day for the breakaway. Stage win for Teuns, while all the GC favourites ride across the finish line over four minutes later.

Result: 20th (+4'24"), 1st GC, 1st Points - What was a pretty easy day turned stressful when I heard Grace had crashed over the team radio. The cameras didn't catch her fall on the downhill of today's main climb.

I waited at the finish for her arrival. I could see the pain on her face.

"I'm okay," she insisted, over and over again.

The team doctor looked her over and diagnosed a bruised hip.

"Hey," Grace said to me. "We are in this together. I'm not quitting."

We will see how she is doing tomorrow, but I hate that this happened.

1Dylan TeunsBretagne4h25'56
2Tim WellensMcLaren - Bahrains.t.
3Julen AmezquetaISSs.t.
4Dinmukhammed UlysbayevTeam Novo Nordisks.t.
5Valentin MadouasGroupama - FDJs.t.
General Classification
1Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step51h41'02
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 2'05
3Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling+ 5'00
4Marc SolerOrbea+ 6'20
5Urtzi DominguezLiquigas+ 6'34
6Simon YatesQantas+ 8'11
7Felix GrosschartnerT-Mobile+ 10'06
8Lucas AraucoISS+ 11'14
9Adam YatesAstana Pro Team+ 11'48
10Jai HindleyTeam Sunweb+ 12'26

Stage 14

i.imgur.com/BI0wCYe.jpg

Spoiler
i.imgur.com/MTiWwPT.jpg

Summary: Rumors swirled all morning around the SEG - Quick Step camp. There was some speculation that Grace Garner-Diamond was withdrawing from the race due to the aftermath of a crash yesterday.

Then, the Vuelta leader Marcus Diamond wasn't made available to the media prior to the roll-out. The team claim it was a pre-cautionary measure to a possible illness because Diamond wasn't feeling too good.

Yet, the husband and wife duo both find themselves on the start line for Stage 14. You can run from the press, but they won't be able to hide in the peloton with three challenging climbs ahead.

i.imgur.com/AeHhyT9.jpg

SEG - Quickstep had no interest in doing a bulk of the pace making today and let a 35-cyclist morning breakaway get 15 minutes up the road. The two men trying to take advantage of such a situation were 15th overall Roglic (+20'29") and 17th overall Antonio Nibali (+21'52").

With 20kms left, the front group still has over 11 minutes on the peloton but Zuurman is now putting in work for Diamond, who still has his wife by his side as well.

The final summit climb of La Farrapona has begun.

i.imgur.com/VVgXfoG.jpg

The slow, grinding tempo of Zuurman is snapped by Soler on the attack with 7.4kms left to go. McNulty looks keen to follow this.

i.imgur.com/wgVbzX8.jpg

That's exactly the move Garner-Diamond was looking for to increase the pace. She quickly puts Soler and McNulty back in their place.

And the tempo drops again...

i.imgur.com/MEXkRKE.jpg

Soler resets and goes again! This time McNulty goes to the front.

i.imgur.com/LnNf8Nb.jpg

McNulty makes the catch and then Garner-Diamond starts setting a harder tempo to discourage any more attacks with 4.3kms remaining.

If they look up, they can see the finish line lurking above them. Along with a few breakaway riders laughing in their faces.

i.imgur.com/X2TuwIg.jpg

Soler is persistent, got to give him credit for that.

This time he has a gap and some company with McNulty, A. Yates, Arauco and Hindley. Diamond looks a little concerned, but waits to do anything with Kudus still riding his rear wheel.

i.imgur.com/U2M9Ipo.jpg

The green jersey of Kudus now recognizes that this is his opportunity and tries to bridge the gap. Diamond looks to be in some trouble, his wife Grace has been dropped for good. 2.4kms to the top.

i.imgur.com/CQv762E.jpg

Not for these two. Liquigas with a phenomenal double from the breakaway! Stage win for Carboni and second for Foss, who moves up to 12th overall because of this result. Nibali crosses right behind them for third on the stage and also moves up to 11th overall.

i.imgur.com/w9lsrVz.jpg

Nearly six minutes later, the first GC contender to finish is Arauco, followed by Soler and McNulty just 15 seconds later. The pure climbers gaining a little bit of time back today. That includes the next group to cross with A. Yates, Mas and Hindley.

But, it won't be a lot of time because here comes Kudus and Diamond.

i.imgur.com/pc9jEcn.jpg

Diamond goes conservative and does well to keep his composure.

He marks Kudus up the entire climb, and even saved some gas to sprint the final meters to earn an eight-second gap over his main rival.

Result: 23rd (+6'58"), 1st GC, 1st Points - I didn't panic and it probably saved me multiple minutes. Had I followed the elite climbers, I think I would have blown up. McNulty ends up gaining 52 seconds, but the gap to Kudus grows just slightly.

I'm starting to believe... Could this be? Am I going to win the Vuelta?

*cough* *cough* ... I gotta run.

1Giovanni CarboniLiquigas5h17'52
2Tobias FossLiquigas+ 18
3Antonio NibaliTeam Novo Nordisks.t.
4José Manuel DiazMcLaren - Bahrain+ 1'52
5Sergey ChernetskiyPanasonics.t.
General Classification
1Marcus DiamondSEG - Quick Step57h05'52
2Merhawi KudusDiscovery Channel+ 2'13
3Brandon McNultyZwift Pro Cycling+ 4'08
4Marc SolerOrbea+ 5'28
5Urtzi DominguezLiquigas+ 7'29
6Simon YatesQantas+ 8'42
7Lucas AraucoISS+ 10'07
8Felix GrosschartnerT-Mobile+ 11'01
9Adam YatesAstana Pro Team+ 11'16
10Jai HindleyTeam Sunweb+ 12'18

Stay Tuned For Vuelta a Espana Review (Part 3)

i.imgur.com/W00JdbM.png
i.imgur.com/wOuhm5A.jpg
i.imgur.com/g5J7yBi.jpg
i.imgur.com/qT9E02v.png
i.imgur.com/cDJTKrt.png
 
https://twitter.com/Mresuperstar
Fabianski
Told you guys training TT would eventually pay off Pfft
Stunning performance by Marcus so far! And there's just one true mountain stage left - if he survives that one, he'll hopefully be able to make use of his way superior sprint and attacking spirit to seal that GT win!
 
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