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AG2R La Mondiale - trying to end French winless streak in the Tour
Finn84
First on the team selection. Overall, I don't want the strongest team but mostly a good team. Secondly, I really like cobbled races so the team should not be just an also-ran there.

In the end, I chose AG2R. It gives a nice target on Tour de France, being a French team with a top rider also being French.

Now the objectives. (attached to the bottom)

On the WT races, my plan is not to participate in three: Abu Dhabi Tour, Eschborn-Frankfurt and Tour of Guangxi.

On the other races, all .HC and .1 races in France are part of the plan. The first race is Tour Down Under, followed by Great Ocean Road Race. Barring injuries, same seven riders are supposed to take part in both.

They are Mickaël Cherel, Mathias Frank, Tony Gallopin, Ben Gastauer, Cyril Gautier, Alexandre Geniez and Clement Venturini.

My team doesn't have Australians or New Zealanders so their national championships were just simulated.

BMC riders celebrated in time trial, as Patrick Bevin won in New Zealand, with only George Bennett within two minutes of him. Australian title was won by Rohan Dennis with Mitchelton-Scott riders in next three positions.

Bennett got his revenge in the road race, where he beat Dion Smith by 16 seconds. Aussie title went to the two-man sprint where Jack Haig had an edge over Richie Porte.
Finn84 attached the following images:
002_1.jpg 001.jpg
 
Finn84
Recap of Tour Down Under

The race is likely familiar so not much explanation on that. First three stages are for sprinters, stages four and five most likely the decisive stages before short circuit racing on stage 6.

I have to say that I will try to get more screenshots in the later races.

Anyway, here are the riders for this race. No wildcards given, just 18 WT teams.

(see attachments, the uploading picture only didn't work as I wanted)

Not much to say about first three stages. Breakaway, which was caught and then ended in a sprint.

It was a domination by Fernando Gaviria who won all three and therefore had a commanding lead. My rider Clement Venturini took part in sprints and got 6th, 5th and 11th.

Major crash on stage 2 took out four riders, including Sky captain Vasil Kiryienka. After three stages, there were 70 riders who had finished in the peloton every time.

Fourth stage, uphill sprint and this time Venturini performed beautifully, getting over the line first! Bauke Mollema was 2nd and Gaviria 3rd, thus retaining his lead.

Fifth stage was the first one where I had a rider in breakaway. It was Mathias Frank who was three minutes down at that point. The break didn't work but the field was heavily reduced through two ascents of Willunga Hill. 11 riders were on the front group and Mollema won the sprint, taking overall lead. Due to importance of the stage, I list them below. Two of my riders ended up in top 10 but their power was not enough to win.

Final stage to go. Most likely there wouldn't be any changes unless crashes occur. And that's exactly what happened early on, and this time my team took the worst of it. Alexandre Geniez and Mathias Frank had to abandon the race and it was especially tough for Geniez who lost likely top 10. This made me to make a small change on strategy. Tony Gallopin went all-in for intermediate sprint and won it. Three bonus seconds elevated him in the standings.

Arnaud DĂ©mare was the strongest in the finale, and also Caleb Ewan was able to beat Gaviria. The good positions gave the Colombian enough bonus seconds to take home 5th place in GC, even if he failed to finish in the front group on stage 5. Mollema was the one who celebrated in the end.

Mollema 19.48.12
G Izagirre +0.10
Vanendert +0.12
Gallopin +0.13
Gaviria +0.15
Vichot +0.16
Woods s.t.
Haas s.t.
Cummings s.t.
van Garderen s.t.

Venturini was 44th (2.54), Gautier 65th (5.00), Chérel 104th (11.21) and Gastauer 113th (15.26). 117 riders finished.

Gaviria unsurprisingly won the points competition, Izagirre took the mountains jersey home and Gaviria was also the best young rider. One more glory to be revealed - AG2R La Mondiale won the teams' competition thanks to two riders on the front on stage 5.

Elsewhere, Tropicale Amissa Bongo was won by Ben Hermans. Andrea Guardini was another big hero by winning four stages.
Finn84 attached the following images:
willunga_hill.png tdu_stage4.jpg tour_down_under_sl.jpg

Edited by Finn84 on 29-07-2018 21:59
 
Infernoss
Good luck! Will try to follow it a bit! Strange that Mitchelton Scott didnt send one of the yates brothers. It was one of mine main sponsor goals.
 
Finn84
The races in Australia continued with Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Mainly easy route despite two hills in the late-race circuit. 16 WT teams participating, Astana and Groupama-FDJ out. Cofidis and Delko-Marseille were in the race.

Nans Peters and Gediminas Bagdonas joined the team to replace injured riders. Clement Venturini was chosen again as the main sprinter, Tony Gallopin the attacking possibility. I tried to run a good pace on the hills, mainly with Chérel and Gautier but I wasn't able to reduce the bunch enough so the race went to the mass sprint. Venturini performed well to take 3rd place. The win went to home team but not the home rider. Luka Mezgec won for Michelton-Scott. Travelling hadn't harmed him, in fact he had visited UAE to race Sharjah Tour between TDU and CEGORR!

On the same day there was another one-day race, Grand Prix La Marseillaise. Not a good result for me, even though I had Oliver Naesen in an escape group few kilometres from home. The group was caught, the race ending in sprint. Matti Breschel won ahead of Pieter Vanspeybrouck and Erik Baska. Naesen was 14th and Jan Bakelants 19th as my best riders.

Elsewhere, three major stage races took place. In Vuelta Ciclista a Mallorca, Daniel Navarro was the strongest. Peter Sagan has shown good early condition by being 2nd ahead of Koen Bouwman.

But the bigger news is concerning Quick Step - Floors, since both Iljo Keisse and Philippe Gilbert were injured. They will be out for the races like Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and undoubtedly the break will harm Gilbert's condition for the bigger classics.

Australians had double celebrations, since Richie Porte won two stages and overall in Vuelta a San Juan, while Damien Howson took the biggest honors in Sharjah Tour.
Finn84 attached the following images:
marseillaise.png cadelevans.png
 
purepasd
Solid work down under. Good luck going to the french and arabian races!
 
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Finn84
Etoile des Bessèges become surprisingly dramatic race. While the profile wasn't too difficult, the racing was hard. Oliver Naesen was chosen to captain my team, with Samuel Dumoulin being the main sprinter. Also participating were Francois Bidard, Nico Denz, Julien Duval, Quentin Jauregui and Matteo Montaguti.

Already by the first stage the peloton broke into several pieces. Only 25 finished on the front group, including Naesen, Dumoulin and Montaguti. Amaury Capiot was quite a surprising winner, giving glory to Belgian ProConti team Sport Vlaanderen–Baloise.

Second stage gave the least action and Luka Mezgec took the win. Third stage ended with only ten riders ahead of all. Rüdiger Selig snatched the win and at that point there were three riders on top with equal times. Stage winners Selig and Mezgec along with Jérémy Lecroq who had 2nd and 3rd place. This, of course was due to bonus seconds available. Naesen had -4 day on stage 3 and couldn't follow to the end, ending in 11th 40 seconds back. Dumoulin was 3rd on stage 3 and his four bonus seconds bumped him to 4th spot after three stages.

Fourth stage saw a breakaway of seven riders. In order to save my top riders a bit, I put Julien Duval there. He was dangerous enough with a minute and 40 seconds from the lead, and the best-placed among his breakaway companions. Surprisingly, they made it to the end. Duval had tried an attack and this affected him enough to not have a power in the final sprint so he was 7th and last. The peloton dropped 1'33" behind so Duval was now only seven seconds from the lead.

Stefan KĂĽng from BMC was very active throughout the race and this was well rewarded with a win in fourth stage. Anthony Maldonado from continental team St Michel - Auber 93 was 2nd and Daniel Teklehaimant was 3rd. KĂĽng would go on to win the mountains' classification in this race.

Final stage was a short but very intense. I wanted to keep Dumoulin, Duval and Naesen near the top and push hard pace with others. Jauregui took the hardest toll and I pulled him from the race after half distance, as he was nine minutes from the lead before the final stage began. Then, few kilometers from the end Duval attacked and the peloton ended in complete shock. Nobody caught him and this short solo effort gave him the stage and overall competition. Timothy Dupont won the peloton sprint ahead of Selig who was able to take 2nd overall. Dumoulin ended in 6th, Naesen 20th. Denz was 37th, Montaguti 71st and Bidard 74th. All the attacking riding gave me also the team competition.

Selig was the points winner and Lecroq the best young rider.

In Colombia, the national titles were decided. Egan Bernal became road race champion, narrowly beating Rigoberto Uran, while Carlos Betancur will wear the jersey in time trials. Another two stage races were contested with Mitchelton-Scott dominating the race in their homeland. Jack Haig was the best ahead of Carlos Verona and Lucas Hamilton. In Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Robert Gesink was the overall winner while not winning a stage. Patrick Konrad was second ahead of Daniel Navarro who followed his Mallorca win with third place.

My February program, which leads to all remaining riders to start their season. Romain Bardet is going to Dubai for his season start and prefers to be in good condition when Paris-Nice will be starting in March.

6th to 10th: Dubai Tour
8th to 10th: Tour la Provence
11th: Trofeo Laigueglia
13th to 18th: Tour of Oman
17th to 18th: Tour International du Haut Var Matin
24th: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
24th: Faun Environnement - Classique d'Ardèche
25th: Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne
25th: Royal Bernard DrĂ´me Classic
27th: Le Samyn
Finn84 attached the following images:
duval_edb2.png duval_edb.png edb_break.png
 
Finn84
Dubai Tour was the start of the season for my captain, Romain Bardet. While not waiting for major result, the team was relatively strong with Pierre Latour and Alexis Vuillermoz also there.

However, Vuillermoz was clearly in bad shape and lost one and half minutes already on the first stage which ended in a sprint and won by Pieter Vanspeybrouck from Wanty. Second stage saw more familiar sprinters on the top with Mark Cavendish winning ahead of Andre Greipel and Sonny Colbrelli. Third stage, thought to be decisive for the race had many incidents. In the final hill two riders were stronger than the rest and those were Vincenzo Nibali and Serge Pauwels who got 15 seconds on the rest of the group which included Bardet.

In the fourth stage I tried to form echelons towards the end but my tactics failed even if some 30 riders got away for a while. This reduced my sprint strength so no one could really contest. Timothy Dupont from Wanty went on to win while nothing really changed in the overall.

Vuillermoz was not feeling well and since there was just one stage to go and nothing for him to ride as an individual he didn't start the fifth stage. In this stage small group escaped and Bardet got top 10 finish in the stage and this helped him in the overall standings. Cavendish netted his second stage win of the race. Nobody could beat Nibali though, so it was a win for Bahrain-Merida in nearby country. Bardet was 8th and Stijn Vandenbergh 9th in overall standings.

1 Vincenzo Nibali Bahrain - Merida 20h04'48
2 Serge Pauwels Team Dimension Data + 4
3 André Greipel Lotto Soudal + 13
4 Timothy Dupont Wanty - Groupe Gobert + 15
5 Daryl Impey Michelton - Scott + 21
6 Giovanni Visconti Bahrain - Merida + 25
7 Ramunas Navardauskas Bahrain - Merida s.t.
8 Romain Bardet AG2R La Mondiale s.t.
9 Stijn Vandenbergh AG2R La Mondiale s.t.
10 Pieter Vanspeybrouck Wanty - Groupe Gobert + 1'31

Tour La Provence got off dramatic start. Several crashes caused multiple riders to abandon and one of those was my rider Matteo Montaguti. I mistimed a sprint badly and couldn't get a good position, although no time was lost for Axel Domont and Tony Gallopin there.

Second stage was another crashfest and six more riders abandoned. Bram Tankink can be mentioned as the most prominent of them. My riders were well in the field and Sylvain Dillier was planned to lead out Clement Venturini to stage victory. This didn't happen since Dillier was stronger of these and won the stage himself! Venturini came fourth with Lemoine and Selig between them.

thumb.ibb.co/hwDp1U/PCM0055.png

Third stage was ran in the torrential rain and this caused many crashes. Only my rider who was virtually unaffected was Domont who therefore was with the overall leaders, climbing up some positions. Aurelien Paret-Peintre crashed three times including twice in same downhill and I pulled him out at that point even if he was fit to ride. Including the withdrawals was Nathan Haas who had been third in GC after two stages. Other notable ones included Gregory Rast and Juraj Sagan. The stage win went to the breakaway which had four riders. Romain Hardy was the winner but that didn't matter much overall. Of the four riders, Mathieu Ladagnous ended the best in GC and he was 16th.

1 Luis León Sánchez Astana Pro Team 14h02'48
2 Fabio Felline Trek - Segafredo + 4
3 Maurits Lammertink Team Katusha Alpecin + 10
4 Petr VakoÄŤ Quick-Step Floors s.t.
5 Robert Gesink Team Lotto NL - Jumbo s.t.
6 Jay McCarthy BORA - hansgrohe s.t.
7 Odd Christian Eiking Wanty - Groupe Gobert s.t.
8 Maxime Vantomme WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic s.t.
9 Anthony Roux Groupama - FDJ s.t.
10 Axel Domont AG2R La Mondiale s.t.

I had no high hopes for Trofeo Laigueglia since I didn't sent very competitive team there. And that's exactly what happened. In the final climb Diego Ulissi and Petr Vakoc escaped. Cyril Gautier came in the next group but was without energy left. Ulissi managed to beat Vakoc in the sprint. Gautier came in 17th and ben Gastauer in 24th. Of my other riders Benoit Cosnefroy dropped in the third big climb and abandoned.

1 Diego Ulissi UAE Team Emirates 4h50'36
2 Petr VakoÄŤ Quick-Step Floors s.t.
3 Fabio Felline Trek - Segafredo + 1'08
4 Dylan Van Baarle Team Sky s.t.
5 Jay McCarthy BORA - hansgrohe s.t.
6 José Gonçalves Team Katusha Alpecin s.t.
7 Ramunas Navardauskas Bahrain - Merida s.t.
8 Dylan Teuns BMC Racing Team s.t.
9 Francesco Gavazzi Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec s.t.
10 Jens Keukeleire Lotto Soudal s.t.


thumb.ibb.co/hA691U/PCM0065.png

Couple of one-day races took place in Spain. In Murcia a surprise result was thrown with Romain Combaud winning the race for Delko-Marseille. No World Tour team rider was on the podium. Clasica de Almeria went to the mass sprint and Jasper Philipsen was the winner ahead of Marcel Kittel and Mark Renshaw.

In Colombia, the stage race Oro y Paz took place. Here Team Sky got 1-2 with David Lopez being better than Kenny Elissonde. South African championships were also held. Louis Meintjes won the time trial and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg the road race.
Edited by Finn84 on 08-08-2018 19:56
 
Finn84
As a random fact, here are the WT riders who haven't raced yet this season:

AG2R: Clément Chevrier
Astana: Pello Bilbao, Jakob Fuglsang, Tanel Kangert
Bahrain-Merida: Ion Izagirre, Domenico Pozzowivo
Bora: Davide Formolo, Daniel Oss
Dimension Data: Igor Anton
EF Education First: Sacha Modolo, Sep Vanmarcke
Groupama-FDJ: Daniel Hoelgaard, Thibaut Pinot, Romain Seigle
Katusha-Alpecin: Simon Spilak
LottoNL-Jumbo: Primoz Roglic
Mitchelton-Scott: Michael Albasini, Roman Kreuziger, Adam Yates, Simon Yates
Movistar: Andrey Amador, Richard Carapaz, Mikel Landa
Quick Step-Floors: Julian Alaphilippe, Yves Lampaert, Niki Terpstra, Elia Viviani
Sky: Chris Froome, Michal Kwiatkowski, Wout Poels, Geraint Thomas
Sunweb: Tom Dumoulin, Martijn Tusweld
Trek-Segafredo: Mads Pedersen, Jasper Stuyven
UAE Team Emirates: Ben Swift

All riders from BMC and Lotto-Soudal have started their seasons.
 
Finn84
Oliver Naesen was my destined leader for Tour of Oman. Rudy Barbier, Mickaël Chérel, Clement Chevrier, Nico Denz, Hubert Dupont and Nans Peters were the other riders.

The start list was very strong. Eight WT teams fielded riders like Peter Sagan, Vincenzo Nibali, Michal Kwiatkowski, Chris Froome, Greg van Avermaet and Jakob Fuglsang.

Three early stages were dominated by sprinters and Sagan took first two stages. Towards the end of second stage, my team kept pace over the hill and I got 1-2-3 there. This had more effect on later stage. Jan Barta (Elkov) was extremely active throughout to get into breaks. However, on the third stage I put Peters on the break in order to get mountain points and take the jersey. The early attacking was too much for him so I rolled the break back and Dupont took the second place in the mountain sprint - allowing him into the mountains jersey.

preview.ibb.co/bQcQ1U/PCM0073.png

Uphill sprint on stage was won by Jurgen Roelandts who moved up to 2nd place. Fourth stage was known as the most difficult in this stage. There was a crash and I tried the best to create echelons. In the end about 50 riders were on the top group before final climb. Fuglsang was really explosive here and took the stage by two minutes. Naesen was able to take second. Froome was involved in crash but he came back to around 15th. Igor Anton and Ion Izagirre had to abandon due to crash.

preview.ibb.co/dtMUT9/PCM0077.png

Fifth stage had more drama. Early in the stage, 11 riders seemed to escape. The group was so big that I feld the need to bring there one rider, which was Denz. Mid-stage crash forced one rider to abandon...it was Fuglsang! I changed a little bit tactic after that, Denz stopped riding in the front since he wasn't the best out there. Unfortunately I placed Naesen wrong in the narrow sections so he dropped from the top riders. Among the attackers were Froome, Nibali and Pierre Rolland. A loss of two minutes and 16 seconds dropped him down to 8th in the standings. Nibali won the stage and Rolland took the overall lead as 13 riders finished on top.

The last stage didn't change anything on the top, but it gave me one unexpected thing. I had mountain jersey equal on points but somehow lost that to Huub Duyn, still equal on points.

1 Pierre Rolland EFD 22h54'20
2 Vincenzo Nibali TBM + 7
3 Enrico Gasparotto TBM + 18
4 Chris Froome SKY + 36
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen DDD + 39
6 Nicolas Roche BMC + 59
7 Peter Sagan BOH + 1'18
8 Oliver Naesen ALM + 1'34
9 Michael Valgren AST + 1'48
10 Serghei Tvetcov UHC + 3'44

Well, the race gave me also this screenshot. Talk about being the biggest rival for yourself!

image.ibb.co/iRXEvp/PCM0068.png

Two-stage Tour du Haut Var included Romain Bardet and Pierre Latour for me. The route was selective and 21 riders finished on the front on the first stage, including my two top guys. The second stage gave pretty much similar results, with this time there being 22 guys with the favourites. 19 of them were on both groups so the results were being ordered by stage positions since no bonus seconds were available. This gave a win for Arthur Vichot who was 2nd in first stage and 10th in second stage (where nine riders on the breakaway were ahead). Bardet was 4th and Latour 7th overall. The stages itself were won by Mikel Nieve and Floris Gerts.

preview.ibb.co/kb89T9/PCM0080.png

1 Arthur Vichot FDJ 9h25'21
2 Jay McCarthy BOH s.t.
3 Michael Albasini MTS s.t.
4 Romain Bardet ALM s.t.
5 Jonathan Hivert TDE s.t.
6 Mikel Nieve MTS s.t.
7 Pierre-Roger Latour ALM s.t.
8 Warren Barguil FST s.t.
9 Maurits Lammertink TKA s.t.
10 Enric Mas QST s.t.


In Ruta del Sol, Richie Porte continued his good season so far, taking overall and points competition. Carlos Betancur was victorious in Algarve. Four of five stages were won by LottoNL-Jumbo with Dylan Groenewegen taking three sprints and Steven Kruijswijk getting one. It wasn't enough for the overall though.
 
Finn84
I thought I put this one up already, but then noticed I didn't, so here's two updates very in a very quick succession.

Since I decided against participating in Abu Dhabi Tour, mainly because I had plans on first cobbled races as well as some minor races in France, this update is about five one-day races.

Classic Sud-Ardèche was closely matched race. Six riders attacked towards the end, Pierre Latour among them. But Latour ended last in the sprint with Imanol Erviti claiming the victory. Cyril Gautier and Romain Bardet came in next group 24th and 25th.

1 Imanol Erviti MOV 5h04'21
2 Michael Albasini MTS s.t.
3 Lars Boom TLJ s.t.
4 Thibaut Pinot FDJ s.t.
5 Jelle Wallays LTS s.t.
6 Pierre-Roger Latour ALM s.t.

preview.ibb.co/jhvAXe/PCM0094.png

La DrĂ´me Classic was next and again Latour and Bardet were destined to lead the team. They were in the late attack but ended in 4th and 5th. Aurelien Petit-Peintre was injured and will be sidelined for a month.

1 Pieter Serry QST 5h10'45
2 Alessandro De Marchi BMC s.t.
3 Maximilian Schachmann QST s.t.
4 Romain Bardet ALM s.t.
5 Pierre-Roger Latour ALM s.t.
6 Thibaut Pinot FDJ + 48

preview.ibb.co/iJPb5z/PCM0102.png

Belgium had three cobbled races in quick succession. My main cobblestone team includes four riders: Oliver Naesen, Stijn Vandenbergh, Gediminas Bagdonas and Silvan Dillier. They are planned to ride most of cobbled races with rotation on remaining spots.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad opened it. From my perspective I used too much energy early on and therefore failed to make the last selection. Dillier was 12th and Vandenbergh and Naesen were also in top 20. In the process I burned Alexis Gougeard completely so he did not finish. By the way, Movistar was only WT team not present.

1 Jurgen Roelandts BMC
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen DDD
3 Greg van Avermaet BMC
4 Dylan van Baarle SKY
5 Dylan Groenewegen TLJ
6 Fernando Gaviria QST

Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne doesn't include that much cobbles so apart from the usual guys I had hopes for Clement Venturini. But again I failed to make the final selection, so in the end my best rider Venturini was 21st.

1 Edvald Boasson Hagen DDD 5h12'02
2 Zdenek Stybar QST s.t.
3 Peter Sagan BOH s.t.
4 Sean De Bie VWC s.t.
5 Edward Theuns SUN s.t.
6 Amaury Capiot SVB s.t.

On to next week and Le Samyn. This time I was better and had two riders in the 35-rider group to fight for the victory. Well positioned, but not enough. Naesen ended up in 3rd with Jelle Wallays taking the glory.

1 Jelle Wallays LTS 5h05'25
2 Maximilian Schachmann QST s.t.
3 Oliver Naesen ALM s.t.
4 José Gonçalves TKA s.t.
5 Alex Kirsch WBA s.t.
6 André Looij MCT s.t.

Nelson Oliveira won the final stage of Abu Dhabi Tour and claimed also the overall victory. Giovanni Visconti and Fabio Felline rounded up the podium.

March program
3rd Strade Bianche
4th GP Industria & Artigianato
4th-11th Paris-Nice
7th-13th Tirreno-Adriatico
17th Milano-Sanremo
18th Grand Prix de Denain
19th-25th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya
23rd E3 Harelbeke
24th Classic Loire Atlantique
25th Cholet - Pays de la Loire
25th Gent-Wevelgem
28th Dwars door Vlaanderen
30th Route Adélie de Vitré
 
Finn84
Strade Bianche is pretty modern race, but it has soon become one of the most characteristic races. With now WT status, Dimension Data was missing but 17 teams were in, among a number of wildcards. I fielded Gediminas Bagdonas, Francois Bidard, Clément Chevrier, Silvan Dillier, Quentin Jaurégui, Oliver Naesen and Stijn Vandenbergh.

The day was rainy in Siena, but the rest of the route was mostly dry. Early drama had a crash which took out three Wilier Triestina riders. At that point, a daily break had been formed with Moreno Hofland, Simone Velasco, Iuri Filosi, Etienne van Empel and Marco Minnaard. Five riders, four from wildcard teams and only Hofland representing WT team.

The peloton stayed intact for most of the race. With about 20 kilometres to go, a little over 20 riders were able to escape from the peloton. Naesen was instrumental in that move, but once the group was formed he didn't make any pulls - being only AG2R rider in the group meant he wasn't able to use that much energy. While the front group was in sight, it stayed ahead for long time, and was still ahead when riders started the final climb.

preview.ibb.co/jhtqYK/PCM0106.png

And the front group stayed away so Iuri Filosi claimed the greatest victory of his career! Hofland and van Empel got podium positions while Enrico Battaglin won the sprint in the next group - which gave him 6th place. Naesen ended up 12th. Six of my riders finished - the only exception was Vandenbergh who had a difficult race and therefore it was wiser to pull out.

1 Iuri Filosi DMP 4h41'00
2 Moreno Hofland LTS s.t.
3 Etienne Van Empel RNL s.t.
4 Marco Minnaard WGG s.t.
5 Simone Velasco WIL s.t.
6 Enrico Battaglin TLJ s.t.
7 Diego Ulissi UAD s.t.
8 Primoz Roglic TLJ s.t.
9 Dylan Teuns BMC s.t.
10 Rudy Molard FDJ s.t.

GP Industria & Artigianato was the next race in Italy. Late injury to Benoit Cosnefroy meant that I fielded only six riders. Good news was that Matteo Montaguti was back in the line-up after the crash in Tour La Provence. Clément Chevrier, Axel Domont, Hubert Dupont, Alexis Gougeard and Alexis Vuillermoz completed my team.

Early breakaway of course, but it was done when the major climb was done for penultimate time. At that point, three riders had been eliminated due to crash, including Montaguti who has to go to sidelines again. I was planning to get him one day of racing before going to Tirreno-Adriatico, but then this happened. Domont was struggling badly and he also abandoned.

On the final climb, Diego Ulissi, Fabio Felline and Ivan Sosa escaped but the trio was almost caught when the sprint began. Almost in this case meant that one rider was able to sprint past them to win the race and it was Maurits Lammertink. Dupont was my best rider in 13th. Vuillermoz was 19th as 26 riders finished with the front group.

1 Maurits Lammertink TKA 4h45'57
2 Diego Ulissi UAD s.t.
3 Fabio Felline TFS s.t.
4 Ivan Sosa ANS s.t.
5 José Gonçalves TKA s.t.
6 Mikel Nieve MTS s.t.

Dwars door West-Vlaanderen was won by Timothy Dupont ahead of Nikolas Maes and Dimitri Claeys.

Of the eight stages in Paris-Nice, the most decisive is probably seventh which ends on heavy climb. But several others may have surprises. The field has some great riders, but no team is fielding a team full of strong riders.

preview.ibb.co/gfAXfz/PCM0109.png
 
Finn84
Paris-Nice got to start with mass start stage with uphill finish. Otherwise the stage wasn't too tough, so it was rather the stage where the main factor was to avoid losses.

The field of 140 was reduced by two as Victor Campenaerts and Romain Seigle had to abandon due to crash. The crash happened late in the stage and made some gaps. The early part saw a breakaway and Cofidis was eager to get in. After missing the initial one, they reeled the bunch close enough so Anthony Perez could join them. Yves Lampaert, Gijs Van Hoecke, Jay McCarthy and Salvatore Puccio were eventually caught by Perez and Michael Valgren.

preview.ibb.co/bJH1ce/PCM0110.png

Valgren took the mountain jersey after stage 1. That was the greatest honor for the escapees since it was caught. Late stages saw 20 riders finishing in top group. Michael Matthews was the fastest in the sprint, edging Julian Alaphilippe and Tim Wellens. Tony Gallopin and Romain Bardet represented AG2R there, with Pierre Latour 21st 45 seconds back.

I accidentally simulated stage 2 which was won by Marcel Kittel ahead of Matthews and Mark Cavendish. Therefore Matthews increased his lead to 12 seconds on Alaphilippe. At this point, Jurgen Roelandts was also out of the race due to tendinitis.

Third stage was another uphill finish. This time there were less gaps. Gallopin was very strong and his late attack gave him the stage win. This was first noteworthy result mentioned by the sponsor. However, it's still far from the overall win which sponsor has noted before the season.

preview.ibb.co/fWbuxe/PCM0115.png

Matthews was second and kept the overall lead. Gallopin was now second 14 seconds behind. Alaphilippe, Wellens also had bonus seconds ahead of big bunch.

Fourth stage was time trial, strangely enough the first I had this season. For that reason it seemed pretty good that Mikaël Cherel and Julien Duval were outside of top 100 and therefore helped with pacing.

Tough hill in the first half, then downhill and smaller hill before the finish. Some places which allowed better to win time over others.

Nairo Quintana was very surprising rider and held the lead in the intermediate split once he reached it. It was certainly not bluff because he ended up in fourth place. Vincenzo Nibali was much more expected to go well, taking second place. Bardet was performing very well and was placed between these two. But no one could answer Tom Dumoulin who won the stage.

Gallopin was going fast in the early parts but this was clearly too fast start and he ended outside of top 50 in the stage. Bakelants and Latour were 25th and 26th respectively.

GC after 4/8 stages:
1 Tom Dumoulin SUN 13h19'20
2 Romain Bardet ALM + 15
3 Julian Alaphilippe QST + 25
4 Michael Matthews SUN + 27
5 Tim Wellens LTS + 28
6 Tanel Kangert AST + 29
7 Bob Jungels QST + 31
8 Ilnur Zakarin TKA + 35
9 Bauke Mollema TFS + 45
10 Rigoberto Urán EFD s.t.
---
17 Tony Gallopin + 1'28
18 Pierre-Roger Latour + 1'48
35 Jan Bakelants + 3'11
71 Nans Peters + 4'28
112 Mikaël Chérel + 10'16
123 Julien Duval + 11'55

Tirreno-Adriatico traditionally overlaps with Paris-Nice so teams have multiple riders working during the week. Chris Froome being in but notably not having team's first bib - indeed getting #13. Will it be unlucky for him.

preview.ibb.co/mzJ7He/PCM0117.png

As of note, to avoid putting second image, Riccardo Stacchiotti (for some reason he is in the roster even if he's in the different team right now) and Marco Tizza were remaining Nippo riders.
 
Finn84
A big break took headline on stage 5. Serge Pauwels went to win the stage while top riders finished on the same group so basically nothing changed.

Sixth stage wasn't much different. The remains of the break won, Michael Valgren soloing to victory ahead of Gianni Moscon and Stefan KĂĽng. This time there was much smaller group including favourites but not major change. There was now 13 riders within a minute of the leader Tom Dumoulin as Valgren had moved to 11th spot.

Seventh stage was the only one to include real mountaintop finish in the race and therefore could be considered decisive beforehand. After big break was reeled in the favourites battled for the stage. Romain Bardet placed an attack which dropped Dumoulin and many others. With him were Simon Yates, Nairo Quintana, Tejay van Garderen, Michael Woods and Thibaut Pinot. Yates was the strongest but Bardet came home 2nd. Yates got 18 seconds gap and was now 11 seconds behind new leader Bardet in GC. Julian Alaphilippe stayed 3rd but now the gap to the front was nearly two minutes so it seemed two-horse race for the final stage.

Overall hilly stage was ran hard and even if I had prepared Julien Duval and Nans Peters to do the work, it was almost not needed as other teams helped. Jan Bakelants was working as protective rider for Bardet and Tony Gallopin and Pierre Latour just riding in the bunch. I had lost Mikaël Chérel in the crash on stage 6.

Yates was the rider to look out for entire stage and when he finally attacked, Latour was going to catch bringing Bardet with him. Fourth rider joined and it was Alaphilippe. It was the Quick-Step rider who took the stage win but as Yates and Bardet came along him, nothing was changed in the top three except of gaps due to bonus seconds. Latour's effort gave him young riders' jersey which he had temporarily lost to Tao Geoghegan Hart.

preview.ibb.co/b2dzOU/PCM0140.png
The finish on the last stage - Bardet in yellow clearly close enough to Yates

Final GC
1 Romain Bardet ALM 30h59'15
2 Simon Yates MTS + 9
3 Julian Alaphilippe QST + 1'45
4 Bauke Mollema TSF + 2'51
5 Rigoberto Urán EFD s.t.
6 Nairo Quintana MOV + 2'52
7 Tom Dumoulin SUN + 3'10
8 Thibaut Pinot FDJ + 3'32
9 Tony Gallopin ALM + 3'34
10 Tanel Kangert AST + 3'39
-
14 Pierre Latour + 5'34
39 Jan Bakelants + 13'06
91 Nans Peters + 32'52
120 Julian Duval + 51'05
DNF Mikaël Chérel

Tirreno-Adriatico started with team time trial. Not surprising to see Sky dominating, being 17 seconds faster than BMC. LottoNL-Jumbo was 3rd 26 seconds back but the rest was well bunched. AG2R ended 14th, 52 seconds slower than Sky.

Second stage was for the sprinters - Arnaud Démare won ahead of André Greipel and Fernando Gaviria. Rudy Barbier was 6th.

Third stage ended in a hill and Sky was the strongest team, taking 1-2 with Chris Froome and Michal Kwiatkowski. Alexandre Geniez battled with Kwia ending up in 3rd. In the overall, this moved him to 6th.

But fourth stage the action started too early in my mind and Geniez didn't follow and this mistake dropped him down few minutes. Pello Bilbao was in the break and ended up winning, being only rider who stayed ahead of favourites group which had ten riders. At this point, Froome had opened up over a minute on Stephen Cummings who was holding second place.

preview.ibb.co/kkYAV9/PCM0133.png
Everyone just side-by-side going on the final hill, with Bilbao ahead

GC after 4/7 stages
1 Chris Froome SKY 17h24'58
2 Stephen Cummings DDD + 1'08
3 Primoz Roglic TLJ + 1'10
4 Sam Oomen SUN + 1'33
5 Alejandro Valverde MOV + 1'35
6 Mikel Nieve MTS s.t.
7 Domenico Pozzovivo TBM + 1'39
8 Davide Formolo BOH + 1'55
9 Brent Bookwalter BMC + 3'59
10 Enrico Battaglin TLJ + 4'06
-
12 Alexandre Geniez + 4'44
42 Ben Gastauer + 15'55
49 Axel Domont + 18'20
74 Alexis Gougeard + 24'38
102 Rudy Barbier + 30'16
118 Alexis Vuillermoz + 35'37
127 Clement Venturini + 40'29
 
Finn84
Fifth stage was again a hilly one. Alexandre Geniez couldn't get back some of the time he lost on the previous stage, it went a bit to opposite direction and he was a minute further after the stage. A number of riders crashed during the stage and that included Chris Froome and Primoz Roglic, but they were able to come back with the other favourites. For me the crash was a turn to worse as Alexis Gougeard had to abandon. The stage went to Serge Pauwels from the breakaway. Alexis Vuillermoz had been up there but couldn't stay to the end. He's still building his condition towards Ardennes Classics where he is supposed to be in top form.

Sixth stage was mostly flat so the sprint was expected and it did happen. However, one of key sprinters was missing as Arnaud DĂ©mare, who was leading the points competition crashed out. The victory went to the Pro-Conti level as Jakub Mareczko was the best.

Final stage was time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto. With Froome leading by a minute he didn't need to get through very fast and this was pretty much what happened. He was 19th on the stage, but mostly the riders ahead of him were not overall contenders. The big change was to see 2nd and 3rd placed riders to swap positions with Roglic ending up ahead of Stephen Cummings. Manuele Boaro took the final stage.

1 Chris Froome SKY 25h50'23
2 Primoz Roglic TLJ + 55
3 Stephen Cummings DDD + 1'00
4 Sam Oomen SUN + 1'21
5 Davide Formolo BOH + 1'52
6 Alejandro Valverde MOV + 1'54
7 Domenico Pozzovivo TBM + 1'58
8 Mikel Nieve MTS + 3'46
9 Brent Bookwalter BMC + 3'56
10 Wout Poels SKY + 4'57
-
13 Alexandre Geniez + 6'24
43 Ben Gastauer + 18'50
61 Axel Domont + 24'50
108 Alexis Vuillermoz + 38'51
113 Rudy Barbier + 41'07
127 Clément Venturini + 50'59
DNF Alexis Gougeard
 
Finn84
As usual, Milano-Sanremo opened the season of monuments. Early on there was a breakaway. Six riders were in it, with Tirreno-Adriatico stage winner Manuele Boaro from Bahrain, Bardiani duo Nicola Boem and Luca Wackermann as well as Guillaume Van Keirsbulck from Wanty, Imerio Cima from Nippo and Marco Frapporti from Androni. This wasn't looking dangerous at all but as usual, kept the peloton cool.

preview.ibb.co/dm61zp/PCM0145.png

There were number of crashes early, with Mark Cavendish, Filippo Pozzato and Primoz Roglic hitting the deck, but continuing. At the top of Turchino, breakaway was four and half minutes clear but the gap was starting to go down. Those involved in crash caught the peloton when riders came to the coast. Axel Domont went out in one of those crashes, therefore I had six riders left.

preview.ibb.co/dL8gzp/PCM0147.png

With 45 kilometres to go, only three were remaining in front, namely Boaro, van Keirsbulck and Frapporti. The peloton was calm until 33 kilometres, when Matteo Trentin attacked, followed by Greg van Avermaet. This didn't lead to anything special, neither did Zdenek Stybar's attack on Cipressa.

On the final hill was my first move. Not attacking but Tony Gallopin held frantic speed, trying to drop others. Well, the front group was reduced to 24 but some of top sprinters were still there. And it was Marcel Kittel who was first over the line with Andre Greipel and Peter Sagan following. Gallopin was 13th just ahead of Oliver Naesen, so the sponsor target of top 10 didn't come through. Five of my riders finished - Ben Gastauer did some pacing sacrificing himself.

preview.ibb.co/fuGqs9/PCM0151.png

1 Marcel Kittel TKA 6h58'23
2 André Greipel LTS s.t.
3 Peter Sagan BOH s.t.
4 Alexander Kristoff UAD s.t.
5 Fernando Gaviria QST s.t.
6 Michael Matthews SUN s.t.
7 Michał Kwiatkowski SKY s.t.
8 Julian Alaphilippe QST s.t.
9 Giacomo Nizzolo TFS s.t.
10 Greg Van Avermaet BMC s.t.
---
13 Tony Gallopin s.t.
14 Oliver Naesen s.t.
36 Clément Venturini +1'02
94 Rudy Barbier +3'17
125 Quentin Jauregui +6'15
 
Timmsoski
Really enjoyed reading through this!
 
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Croatia14
Just to let you know I'm a silent reader so far as well! And I like what I read a lot Smile
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Finn84
I took a long break from the game and just recently returned. I'm going to explain quickly some of the races, planning to do Paris-Roubaix soon.

Volta a Catalunya was a chaotic one. Eight riders were above everyone and Nibali took the win. I wasn't close to the front but Gautier managed to get 10th. Bakelants had one 2nd place on stage.

1 Vincenzo Nibali TBM 28h22'26
2 Esteban Chaves MTS + 10
3 Egan Arley Bernal SKY + 14
4 Nairo Quintana MOV + 16
5 Jakob Fuglsang AST + 20
6 Thibaut Pinot FDJ s.t.
7 Richie Porte BMC + 47
8 Pierre Rolland EFD + 56
9 Davide Formolo BOH + 5'08
10 Cyril Gautier ALM + 5'16

Why chaotic? The list of DNFs was impressive: S.Yates, T.Dumoulin, Landa, Fraile, T. de Gendt, Wellens, Thomas, van Garderen and several others who miss some racing time.

E3 Harelbeke ended with a surprising group taking advantage over others. I wasn't in it and 21st place from Naesen was my best result at that race.

1 Edward Theuns SUN 5h13'10
2 Daniel Oss BOH s.t.
3 Bert De Backer VCC s.t.
4 Ian Stannard SKY s.t.
5 Mads Pedersen TFS s.t.
6 Gorka Izagirre TBM s.t.
7 Florian Sénéchal QST s.t.
8 Ramon Sinkeldam FDJ s.t.
9 Nelson Oliveira MOV s.t.
10 Imanol Erviti MOV s.t.

At Gent-Wevelgem I was able to make the final selection of six riders. The end result was third.

1 Zdenek Stybar QST 5h53'12
2 Jasper Stuyven TFS s.t.
3 Tony Gallopin ALM s.t.
4 Tiesj Benoot LTS s.t.
5 Niki Terpstra QST s.t.
6 Luke Durbridge MTS s.t.
7 Sonny Colbrelli TBM + 1'05
8 Nacer Bouhanni COF s.t.
9 Marcel Kittel TKA + 1'39
10 Fernando Gaviria QST s.t.

Route Adelie de Vitre, a smaller race was won by Thomas Joly of Roubaix - Lille Metropole. Nans Peters was 6th as my best rider. I then got better in La Roue Tourangelle as Rudy Barbier won the sprint ahead of Matteo Pelucchi. Gallopin was 3rd.

The second monument of the season was of course Ronde van Vlaanderen. I was near the front but I couldn't stay among the strongest. Sagan took the win while there were many familiar cobbled classics specialist in top ten.

1 Peter Sagan BOH 6h46'26
2 Greg Van Avermaet BMC s.t.
3 Tiesj Benoot LTS s.t.
4 Jasper Stuyven TFS s.t.
5 Silvan Dillier ALM + 45
6 Niki Terpstra QST s.t.
7 Zdenek Stybar QST s.t.
8 Gianni Moscon SKY + 1'37
9 Yves Lampaert QST s.t.
10 John Degenkolb TFS + 1'56

In the Basque Country I didn't have much hopes. Frank was my set leader. He battled for top ten but didn't quite make it. Michal Kwiatkowski was leading going into final stage but he cracked on the final climb, leaving Thibaut Pinot to take the win.

1 Thibaut Pinot FDJ 21h14'07
2 Julian Alaphilippe QST + 35
3 Alejandro Valverde MOV + 38
4 Daniel Martin UAD + 1'03
5 Tanel Kangert AST + 1'28
6 Chris Froome SKY + 1'38
7 Wilco Kelderman SUN + 1'46
8 Michał Kwiatkowski SKY + 1'56
9 Vincenzo Nibali TBM + 3'10
10 PrimoĹľ RogliÄŤ TLJ + 3'28

At the same time, I got another victory in strange circumstances. On the second stage of Circuit a crash occurred and only three riders was ahead of it, including my duo of Chevrier and Dumoulin. Dumoulin won the stage while Chevrier was the best of the trio in the following time trial, leaving him at the front in the end as I controlled the race.

1 Clément Chevrier ALM 15h41'48
2 Nicolas Dougall DDD + 7
3 Samuel Dumoulin ALM + 11
4 Jonathan Hivert TDE + 39
5 Matthieu Ladagnous FDJ + 47
6 Sylvain Chavanel TDE + 48
7 Daniele Bennati MOV + 51
8 Laurent Pichon FST + 58
9 Kevin Reza VCC + 1'00
10 Nikias Arndt SUN + 1'02
 
Finn84
This time it was time for wet Paris-Roubaix so the conditions gave riders an extra headache.

The initial break got off easily, concluding of Haas (Katusha), Mori (Emirates), Bole (Bahrain-Merida), Pichon (Fortuneo) and Meurisse (Wanty). It was five minutes ahead at best before the race reached cobbles.

i.ibb.co/D4H0ZHX/P-R1-2.png

Soon a group of some strong classics got away. Lars Boom and Edvald Boasson Hagen were in so I decided to put one rider in there, and it wsa Gougeard who went. Soon after he punctured and had to return to ever-reducing peloton while I started to take pulls there, mainly with Bagdonas.

i.ibb.co/SsT9xXy/P-R2.png

Jens Keukeleire made a solo attempt from aforementioned group with a group of 14 riders chasing him. Naesen was the only one of my riders left in the battle. Keukeleire stayed alone for about 20 kilometres but was then caught and couldn't follow the group. A string of attacks reduced the group and with seven kilometres to go, there were six: Terpstra, Naesen, Vanmarcke, Van Avermaet, Benoot and Teunissen. Sagan was in the next group having crashed earlier and perhaps riding with some sort of injury.

i.ibb.co/bJZG0Qy/P-R3.png


Going into velodrome it was easier to find out that Terpstra was the weakest while the rest battled it out. Vanmarcke started the sprint ahead and the race had taken so much out of everyone that nobody could pass him. Naesen got 2nd place, therefore filling the sponsor ambitions of a podium. Teunissen got third.

i.ibb.co/6tynw0y/P-R4.png

1 Sep Vanmarcke EFD 6h37'27
2 Oliver Naesen ALM s.t.
3 Mike Teunissen SUN s.t.
4 Tiesj Benoot LTS s.t.
5 Greg Van Avermaet BMC s.t.
6 Niki Terpstra QST s.t.
7 Peter Sagan BOH + 32
8 Jasper Stuyven TFS s.t.
9 Damien Gaudin TDE + 55
10 Heinrich Haussler TBM + 1'34
-
17 Stijn Vandenbergh +5'30
25 Alexis Gougeard +7'11
26 Silvan Dillier +7'11
48 Jan Bakelants +10'56
DNF Nico Benz, Gediminas Bagnodas
 
Finn84
First through a couple of smaller races.

In Paris-Camembert, the front group got smaller and smaller towards the end, but it came out of reduced sprint with little over 20 riders in the front. Bagdonas was my best rider there even though I had hopes for Dumoulin who ended up only 14th.

1 Mauro Finetto DMP 4h57'51
2 Lilian Calmejane TDE s.t.
3 Tom-Jelte Slagter DDD s.t.
4 Gediminas Bagdonas ALM s.t.
5 Davide Cimolai FDJ s.t.
6 Aleksejs Saramotins BOH s.t.

Brabantse Pijl ended with late attacks. It was Stybar who went alone and while I had Dillier catching him, nothing could be done.

1 Zdenek Stybar QST 5h21'31
2 Silvan Dillier ALM + 23
3 Salvatore Puccio SKY + 1'05
4 Alberto Bettiol BMC + 1'23
5 Pim Ligthart RNL + 1'34
6 Floris Gerts RNL s.t.

Tour du Finistère was similar to Paris-Camembert. 39 riders in the peloton at the end. I timed sprint well but not enough to win.

1 Lilian Calmejane TDE 4h40'17
2 Samuel Dumoulin ALM s.t.
3 Guillaume Martin WGG s.t.
4 Giulio Ciccone BRD s.t.
5 Jonathan Hivert TDE s.t.
6 Georg Preidler FDJ s.t.

A streak of second places continued in Tro-Bro Leon. While the times are similar it was more a line that came in to the finish.

1 Pim Ligthart RNL 4h57'10
2 Jan Bakelants ALM s.t.
3 Alvaro Hodeg QST s.t.
4 Amaury Capiot SVB s.t.
5 Marco Marcato UAD s.t.
6 Davide Cimolai FDJ s.t.

And the main race in this update which obviously is Amstel Gold Race. Early breakaway sent five riders on top. The group of favourites came smaller and smaller and unfortunately I wasn't able to stay there despite best efforts from Gallopin and Bardet. Alaphilippe went alone and later Kwiatkowski joined him, leaving them to battle for the win. It was the Sky rider who took the glory.

1 Michał Kwiatkowski SKY 6h49'27
2 Julian Alaphilippe QST s.t.
3 Daniel Martin UAD + 20
4 Michael Woods EFD s.t.
5 Nathan Haas TKA s.t.
6 Alejandro Valverde MOV s.t.
7 Michael Matthews SUN s.t.
8 Jelle Vanendert LTS s.t.
9 Michael Albasini MTS s.t.
10 SĂ©rgio Luis Henao SKY s.t.
-
13 Romain Bardet ALM + 58
27 Tony Gallopin ALM s.t.
28 Alexander Geniez ALM s.t.
43 Silvan Dillier ALM +4'08
55 Matteo Montaguti ALM s.t.

Frank and Vuillermoz abandoned, Vuillermoz after making his job and Frank after a crash, no injury but at that point it didn't feel sensible to use extra effort to come back.

i.ibb.co/mcGHpZf/PCM0227.png
 
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