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PCM.daily » Pro Cycling Manager 2014 » PCM 14: Stories
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Penny Pinching 2018: A New Hope
July 2018: Tour de France (3/4)

Stage 13 was reserved for Damuseau, after six peaks of varying sizes the final 15 km were more or less flat and our Frenchman has a suprisingly decent SPR 70. But it was never likely that he'd get to show off his sprinting skills, the group of 13 riders included guys like Spilak, Herrada and Bouet. But even worse, it included Barguil (MON 81), 14th in the GC, though over 19 minutes behind. Barguil received no support from the other riders and pretty much had to ride the whole stage from the front. Damuseau sacrificied himself a bit for Grmay's polkadot jersey, claiming top points on the first three climbs. Spilak and Bouet went for the rest and that spelled doom for Damuseau, who was dropped every time. But he really did Grmay a favour, who remained in the lead with 27 points, while Barguil, Spilak and Bouet all collected 26.

Barguil shook off his other opponents and won the stage ahead of Bouet and Herrada, Damaseau was 5th. With 50 km to go the GC fight started and once more Kwiatkowksi came out top, 70 seconds ahead of Quintana, his lead has grown to 3'29''. Froome arrived with Dan Martin and Betancur another minute behind. Barguil's ride was 12 minutes faster than any of them and he's now representing Sky in 4th place, just behind Astana's Froome.

Grmay was able to strike again the following day, a stage to Font-Romeu across two HC peaks and then up a final 10 km climb. When he attacked from the front of the peloton the first rider to make the jump with him was Cancellara who set a blistering pace and the other 8 riders who joined the escape group had to work hard to catch up. The group included four riders who are as good at climbing as Grmay, old Nibali, Bennett, Rubiano and Coppel as well as the also respectable Serry, Silin, Ormad and Zardini. Grmay set a high tempo in the final 5 km of the first HC climb and dropped everybody except Silin and Bennett. On the next cat. 1 the others decided to sprint for the points, too, and Grmay was only 3rd.

The speed of the E1 group was low between that climb and the next big one, Cancellara had no trouble staying with the rest and even took turns at the front. Pretty much the whole HC climb was into a 48 kmph headwind ‚Äď have I mentioned before that it seems to be windy on just about every stage this season? Grmay hid behind the others and had to dig deep in the final 4 km to win top points. Nibali then attacked on the way to the final climb, but into the headwind it was a useless endevour.

Grmay decided to follow Nibali's second and last attack, but it went nowhere quickly. The final km was pretty flat and knowing how badly Aviva riders sprint Grmay had to force a decision sooner. He attacked as much as he dared with the energy he had left, 4 km from the top, creating a gap of 15 seconds and prayed the others wouldn't work together in the headwind. They didn't, it was all up to Rubiano and he was unable to close the small gap, Grmay won his second stage by 13 seconds, Bennett was 3rd. We had dawdled so much that the favourites arrived less than 4 minutes behind, Kwiatek showed a little weakness and the others gained all of 19 seconds on him. Barguil was up there after his near-solo ride the day before. Grmay added 61 points on the day and increased his total to 88, Bennett is now 2nd with 40 points. The Ethiopean will wait for stage 19 for his third and final attack to secure the polkadot jersey. Also worth noting, Silin's 4th place was rewarded with 4 WT points, the first points for Garmin all season.

Stage 15 was officially flat but featured a few nice unclassified lumps in the finale. De Vreese, finally getting his turn, was in a strong group of riders but felt this one would be up to the right tactic. The peloton was closing in, but those bumps should slow it down sufficiently... and then Sagan himself attacked with 10 km to go. With 62 more riders in tow he closed the gap with one long attack and then even had the energy to win the stage ahead of Matthews and Betancur.

After the final rest day came what could be called an easy mountain stage, the hardest climb was still a long way from the finish and followed by three climbs which barely broke the 5%. Manaia was going to go to bat for us, but he was poorly positioned while Foetz was there to follow the attacks. He tried his best to manage his energy, set a high pace up the steepest climb, recovered well on the descent, easily following the others. But he still had too much energy left for the finale and so would his opponents. He attacked with 5 km to go but this time Rubiano closed the gap again. The final kilometre was so flat, Foetz should have tried to win from the front, instead he let three riders overtake him, having seen a small kick inside 100 metres on the map, but there was a tight corner of 90 degrees first and Foetz was only 5th, Meintjes won ahead of Rubiano and Dennis.

There were attacks from the favourites and, surprisingly considering earlier stages, Quintana came out top, closing the gap to Kwiatkowski by over a minute, it's now 2'06'', not that comfortable anymore.
July 2018: Tour de France (4/4)

On stage 17 we tried our luck with Damuseau. It was nominally a flat stage, but with a very long irregular climb in the middle followed by a long descent and 20 km flat roads. Nominally the Frenchman was the best sprinter in the group, but a guy like Ignatiev might easily distance him earlier. But it wasn't to be, the group was caught and Degenkolb won ahead of Matthews, another German was on the podium, not Kittel, who disappointed again as 13th, but Ciolek. Maybe the escapees would have stood a chance if not once again a strong headwind up to 70 kmph was blowing, that really cramps my style. Damuseau was hoping to lead all the way up the climb as the best climber in the group, tire everyone out and keep a nice gap to the peloton, but it would have been a waste. Roman Kreuziger got dropped in the end, he wasn't on top form in the Giro and he isn't here, he's just 9th in the GC, over 19 minutes behind.

The next stage was supposed to be hilly, but the final climb was over 8 km long, so De Vreese may not have been the wisest choice for the breakaway. And indeed, Mohoric and Serry dropped him easily on that final climb. The favourites were approaching fast, too, and swallowed De Vreese. Mohoric survived and won the stage just as Kwiatkowski was about to overtake him, Serry was 5th.

Grmay secured the polkadot jersey on stage 19, adding 65 points on a stage with two cat. 1 climbs followed by two HC climbs followed by a long descent and then 8 km up to Auron. A PCM nuisance prevented him from finishing better than 4th, though. He was squeezed out on the descent, suddenly three riders got a slight gap, Grmay tried to take no chances, attacked to close it but it just wouldn't happen even though the three were riding side by side. At the foot of the final climb he was still 20 seconds behind and mostly exhausted and ended 2 minutes behind Ion Izagirre, who won ahead of Kelderman and Zoidl. None of them great downhill, by the way, no idea why Grmay just couldn't close that gap.

The GC battle was on, and Quintana proved irresistable. However, Kwiato was able to hang onto Froome, another great achievement, distancing the rest of the top 10. Quintana didn't gain enough time to take the lead, he was still 48 seconds behind. So the GC would be decided on stage 20, a mountain time trial. Quintana is fastest and finally wins a stage, ahead of Betancur and Froome. And Kwiatkowksi? Is a good sixth, only 28 seconds behind. So he does it again, he defends his title, by just 20 seconds ahead of Quintana.

Thierry Hupond wins the final stage with a solo breakaway, Mezgec wins the bunch sprint ahead of Sagan and Matthews. This was not totally irrelevant, though Sagan had won four stages and Matthews just one the gap between them was only 15 points before the final stage. But it's another green jersey for Sagan, Degenkolb is third in the points ranking. The white jersey goes to neo-pro Albiol, who finishes a good 18th overall. Sky is the best team despite the disappointing performances by two of the three captains. Barguil at least ends 5th thanks to that breakaway appearance, behind Froome and Betancur.

1Michal KwiatkowskiTeam Giant - Shimano
2Nairo QuintanaOmega Pharma - QuickStep Team+00'20''
3Chris FroomeAstana Pro Team+07'04''
4Carlos Alberto BetancurTrek Factory Racing+10'03''
5Warren BarguilTeam Sky+12'12''
6Daniel MartinTeam Katusha+12'35''
7Thibaut PinotMovistar Team+14'44''
8Rui CostaLotto - Belisol+16'11''
9Roman KreuzigerOrica - GreenEDGE+21'23''
10Pierre RollandAg2r La Mondiale+24'59''

Another great TdF for Aviva, three stages in the most important race of the season, that's more WT stages than the spring stage racing team collected in total. And the polkadot jersey for Grmay. His reputation reached stardom with that performance and the sponsor loves him, after not liking anybody at the start of the season. We're very happy that Grmay will stay with us for another season.

Stage by stage
1Michal KwiatkowskiMichal KwiatkowskiMichal KwiatkowskiMichal KwiatkowskiPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
2Zdenek StybarMichal KwiatkowskiMichal KwiatkowskiVyacheslav KuznetsovDenny van der Woude
3Peter SaganPeter SaganMichal KwiatkowskiVyacheslav KuznetsovDenny van der Woude
4Michal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganMichal KwiatkowskiVyacheslav KuznetsovHugues Piton
5Peter SaganPeter SaganPeter SaganVyacheslav KuznetsovHugues Piton
6Roland FiedlerPeter SaganPeter SaganBob JungelsHugues Piton
7Tsgabu GrmayPeter SaganPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
8Peter SaganPeter SaganPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
9Peter VelitsMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
10Fabian CancellaraMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
11Michael MatthewsMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
12Niki TerpstraMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
13Warren BarguilMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
14Tsgabu GrmayMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
15Peter SaganMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
16Louis MeintjesMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
17John DegenkolbMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
18Matej MohoricMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
19Ion IzagirreMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
20Nairo QuintanaMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
21Thierry HupondMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol

July 2018: Tour of Austria
** goal: Stage Win

Race squad: Bugge, Formolo, Koloda, Köszegi, Skujins, Thys

Since it is a goal race we left Köszegi out of the TdF squad so he can participate in his home race and hopefully fulfil the objective for us. However, the two mountaintop finishes come in the first two stages, we can't expect the breakaway to survive on either.

On stage 1 to K√ľhtai we did not send anybody into the breakaway and the five team mates protected K√∂szegi. With Kruijswijk there was one MON 78 rider in the peloton, with any luck he wouldn't be on form, already having raced 53 days. Nobody else had more than MON 76 and K√∂szegi was in as good a form as anybody ever is in our team.

It was a long final climb into a moderate headwind and Köszegi's confidence grew as he could stay behind the Movistar riders leading the race without losing much energy. With 8 km to go he increased his effort and went into the lead himself without any of the favourites directly on his wheel. His ACC is pretty poor, but 6 km from the finish line he dared an attack.

There was no immediate reaction, Nerz was still leading the main group, apparently working for the nominally weaker Kirchmair. Though we know how good he is, having won three stages and the KOM rankings in last year's Vuelta for us. When the gap reached 30 seconds, victory became certain, Köszegi could keep up the speed until the end. Trofimov attacked, but too late, Köszegi won by 20 seconds, a group of 26 riders finished 31 seconds behind, Kirchmair was 3rd, another Austrian, Denifl, 4th.

So we already fulfilled our 2-star goal, but K√∂szegi lost the leader's jersey a day later. For once, it was up to Aviva to control the breakaway, we used three of our six riders but the gap grew to nearly 8 minutes as we neared the final climb up to the Kitzb√ľheler Horn. We were caught by surprise when a group of 8 riders including Trofimov and Kirchmair jumped away before even reaching the climb. It was survival of the fittest, only one rider, young Toni Focardi, from the breakway survived to win the stage by 38 seconds ahead of Trofimov , who had left the rest behind. K√∂szegi didn't quite catch up to the next group, he's now 2nd in the GC, 1'18'' behind Trofimov and 18'' ahead of Kirchmair.

Frustration for Formolo a day later: The nominally hilly stage featured a huge HC climb in the middle and even without good fitness Formolo dropped everybody, built up a nice lead, but then crashed on the descent. Though he kept up with his breakaway companions he was unable to win the stage. Trofimov gained a few more seconds on Köszegi.

I restarted stage 5 due to one of PCM's quirks. Koloda made the breakaway, that was good, but then it was time to fetch drinks in the peloton, Skujins was tasked with the job. But he takes forever and ever and then everybody decides to get his own drinks. Sure, why not? Oops, all my five riders magically drop behind the peloton as a group, nobody is doing anything and within seconds (at 4x speed) they have lost 5 minutes. Maybe they could have made it back with a hard relay, but I deemed it inacceptable and quit.

Second time's the charm: Koloda iniated a 6-man breakaway, all were far back in the GC except for Russian champion Firsanov, but even he was 8 minutes behind. Once again they were riding into a 48 kmph headwind, just like nearly every day this season. Koloda wasn't very cooperative in the first half of the stage and may have been a reason for the constant attacks among breakaway riders at that point, though others happily brought back attackers, too.

It was looking very good for the uphill finale, Koloda clearly being the strongest. There were more attacks, but thankfully, Koloda had support reeling them back in and the six men were back together at the foot of the final 4 km climb. Koloda reaped the rewards, winning by a minute. Trofimov again gained time on Köszegi.

Köszegi beat Trofimov in the ITT, in fact, he was an excellent 3rd only behind Haga and Ludvigsson. We hadn't expected that. But Trofimov wasn't far behind, 10th on the day, and comfortably wins the Tour of Austria, 1'49'' ahead of Köszegi, Kruijswijk completes the podium. With Denifl and Konrad two more Austrians finished in the top ten, while Kirchmair faded to 14th.

Top 10: Trofimov, Köszegi, Kruijswijk, Ruben Fernandez, Haga, Berhane, Mestre, Denifl, Konrad, Edet
Good work, even though you just missed out on the win in Austria...
@croatia: Winning the stage from the pack and 2nd overall is fantastic, HIL 71 prevented Köszegi from beating Trofimov.

July 2018: Prueba Villafranca de Ordizia

Race squad: de Jong, Koloda, M. Lammertink, Singh, Skujins, Tewelde, Valgren, Wojtasik

I don't normally report on (or play) minor races. We often have trouble booking races ahead of San Sebastian to get our riders into rhythm, but this season we were able to book two one-day races in the Basque Country.

Wojtasik was once again our man for the breakaway, he was the strongest puncheur in the group and dropped the others in the finale, but the peloton was already closing in. Our other riders missed an attack by four men and relayed hard to catch up with them ‚Äď which they did just before they had reached Wojtasik, the gap was down to 20 seconds. And since the others now expected our riders to work, we didn't, and allowed Wojtasik to win the race, despite his tank being empty.

Movistar's Egoitz Garcia won the sprint for 2nd place ahead of Skujins, all our 8 riders made the top 13, looking good for the upcoming races. But I'm writing this to celebrate Wojtasik once again, AVG 71 and yet currently our best rider in the CQ rankings, 48th with 487 points. HIL 76, he can't climb or ride a time trial, but all his other stats are ok, FLA 70 and the rest just below 70. He's an excellent choice for breakaways and he can do well in hilly one-day races from the peloton, too.

Here is his full palmares so far, he's in his third professional season, all of them riding for Aviva:

1stGeneral classification Poland championships
1stGeneral classification Tour International du Haut Var-matin
1stGeneral classification Prueba Villafranca-Ordiziako Klasika
1stMountain classification Tour de Pologne
1stYoung classification Tour de Pologne
1stStage Tour de Pologne
1stPoint classification Tour Cycliste International du Haut Var-matin
1stStage Tour Cycliste International du Haut Var-matin
2ndGeneral classification Vattenfall Cyclassics
2ndYoung classification Eneco Tour
3rdGeneral classification Poland championships
4thGeneral classification Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal
4thGeneral classification Tour de Pologne
4thGeneral classification Poland championships
4thGeneral classification De Brabantse Pijl
4thStage Paris - Nice
4thStage Tour Cycliste International du Haut Var-matin
5thGeneral classification Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal
5thGeneral classification Tre Valli Varesine
5thGeneral classification GP du canton d'Argovie
5thGeneral classification GP Industria & Commercio di Prato
5thStage Eneco Tour
5thStage Tour of Beijing
6thGeneral classification G.P. Camaiore
6thGeneral classification Memorial Marco Pantani
6thGeneral classification Roma Maxima
7thGeneral classification Clasica de Almeria
7thGeneral classification De Brabantse Pijl
7thGeneral classification Roma Maxima
8thGeneral classification GP Ouest France - Plouay
10thGeneral classification Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields
10thGeneral classification Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec
11thGeneral classification Milano - Torino
14thGeneral classification Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields
14thGeneral classification Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec
15thGeneral classification Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian
16thGeneral classification E3 Harelbeke
17thGeneral classification Ronde van Vlaanderen
17thGeneral classification Amstel Gold Race
18thGeneral classification La Flèche Wallonne
18thGeneral classification Paris - Nice
20thGeneral classification Eneco Tour
21stGeneral classification Milano - Sanremo
22ndGeneral classification Ronde van Vlaanderen

August 2018: Clasica San Sebastian

Race squad: de Jong, De Vreese, Fiedler, Lammertink, Skujins, Tewelde, Valgren, Wojtasik

We decided to make Singh our captain for the Tour de Pologne, which is why he missed San Sebastian. But apart from him we have brought our best riders for this terrain. However, it was the classical route which usually ends in a reduced bunch sprint and the competition couldn't have been stronger, the whole TdF top 10 was in attendance. Fraile, Boswell and a young British rider formed the break of the day which was never likely to succeed. We kept all our riders near the front of the peloton, taking the lead going into the Jaizkabel to use as little energy as possible up the climb as the speed increased.

In the finale, attacks came from all the big guns, Betancur, Quintana, Gilbert, Kwiato, but only three riders eventually got a gap 10 km out: Dan Martin, Rui Costa and Bob Jungels. We lined up our riders in a long sprint train which has often proven useful. Sadly, the last three somhow lost contact in the line, including the only two who have some kind of sprint, de Jong and Valgren. De Vreese sacrificed himself, starting the sprint as soon as we hit the 3 km mark.

It was enough for Tewelde to win the sprint from the second group, finishing 4th behind Dan Martin, Rui Costa and Bob Jungels, who managed to stay ahead. And directly behind Jesus Herrada we placed four more riders, Fiedler, Wojtasik, Lammertink and Skujins.

Top 10: Dan Martin, Rui Costa, Bob Jungels, Tewelde, Jesus Herrada, Fiedler, Wojtasik, Maurits Lammertink, Skujins, Egoitz Garcia

What a result. Rafael Silva was 5th in 2016, Hoem, Silva and Lammertink were 8th, 9th and 10th last year and now we have five riders in the top 10. Beating riders like Kwiatkowski, Quintana and Gilbert. A bit too easy, I guess.
August 2018: Tour de Pologne

Race squad: de Jong, De Vos, Singh, Skujins, Tewelde, Wojtasik

The 2018 Tour de Pologne consists of 4 flat stages, 2 hilly stages and a mountain stage on day 5 up to the vowelly challenged Szczyrk. As readers will know, this isn't ideal for our lazy season planning, all our climbers are currently resting. We activated Gertjan De Vos (MON 73 HIL 73) who didn't get a chance to show himself in the TdF. Ivan Singh (MON 69 HIL 78) is the nominal captain, we'd have to see how much he suffers on the mountain stage. The other four riders come from San Sebastian, lacking a little freshness.

Jetse Bol won the first two stages. Wojtasik got his chance to repeat last year's stage win on day 3, a fairly simple hilly stage to Jakuszyce. He won top points on the first two climbs, but the favourites easily caught him on the final ramp. Pinot won ahead of Porte, Ion Izagirre and Mollema were 36 seconds behind, Singh finished with Zoidl, their gap was 1'27''. Only 35 riders were within 5'30'' of the stage winner, the rest lost around 12 minutes. This included De Vos, our man for the mountain stage two days later.

Stuyven beat Bol on stage 4, then it was time for De Vos to make his breakaway appearance. He started stage 5 near the front of the pack and his attack provoked 9 riders to follow him. A nice, big group plus none of them are as good on hills let alone mountains. But that came with bad news, too. De Vos had to go slower than he wanted to to not drop everybody and so the distance to the peloton never became comfortable. The situation turned gloomy when Porte attacked. De Vos was alone by then and he started the final climb with only 2 minutes to spare.

But thankfully, Pinot caught Porte, the Frechman was ahead in the GC by 2 seconds and that produced a temporary stalemate. Porte attacked once more on this short climb, but De Vos survived and won the stage by 25 seconds. Nicely done, that didn't seem likely at the foot of the climb. Pinot caught Porte again and took 2nd, increasing his gap to 4 seconds.

Sadly, I was too focussed on De Vos and wasn't watching what was happening further back. Singh completely missed the attacks by the rest of the top 15 and finished 18th, 9 minutes behind. That was the end of our top 10 bid. But we got our stage win, so we shan't complain.

And the next chance would be a day later, the last hilly stage was waiting. We selected Skujins for the breakaway, but the group just wouldn't get away, even after a prolonged fight. So we played another card, Tim de Jong.

The main threat in the escape group seemed to be De Gendt, but it became clear that he has no fitness, he was really struggling uphill. It was a good fight between breakaway and peloton, but de Jong is a decent puncheur and kept the gap high enough. He won the stage 49 seconds ahead of Faucon and 1'15'' ahead of the group of favourites led by Izagirre.

We gave the final flat stage a try, the circuit included a small steep hill, and Wojtasik still really wanted to win a stage in his home country. He left the rest of the breakaway behind with 25 km to go and fought well, but the peloton was stronger. Five Belgians took the top 5 on the day, Quickstep's young Vangronsveld won the stage. Aviva takes home two stage wins and two jerseys, De Vos was king of the mountains and Singh the best young rider. Pinot beat Porte by 4 seconds.

Top 10: Pinot, Porte, Ion Izagirre, Mollema, Zoidl, Ulissi, Majka, Duarte, Machado, Ligthart
August 2018: Eneco Tour

Race squad: Bugge, Kuznetsov, Singh, Thy, Valgren, Wojtasik

Lars goes Boom and beat Cancellara by a hair in the prologue of the Eneco Tour. Matthews won stage 2, Sagan stage 3, which put him in the leader's jersey.

Stage 4, starting and finishing in Ronse, was the cobblestone stage this year. Our first choice for the breakaway was, of course, Wojtasik. But it wasn't to be, his group was caught, and so Bugge got his chance, riding with a trio of riders who hate cobblestones, so Bugge would be the man to beat.

He gave it a good shot, but eventually he was caught by group of 20 riders 8 km out. The group contained all his team mates, for once we had everybody riding for the GC, if they survive today they all have a chance at a top 10 finish.

The group was reduced to 14 riders after Sagan slipped in a corner and went down with 5 km to go. Our riders managed to avoid the crash and barely hung onto the group to finish in the same time as Demare, who won the stage. Sagan lost 2'54'' and is out of contention for overall victory.

The pancake flat stage 5 went to Matthews and he is the new leader, separated by less than a second from Demare and Boom. How would the decisive hilly stage go? Aviva stayed unusually passive, no attempt to join the breakaway, just keeping near the front, even taking turns pulling the pack and so the escapees didn't stand a chance.

Our tactic negated many late attacks from the favourites, except for Rui Costa's with just 7 km to go, including the steep final climb. It worked out for him, he won the stage by 20 seconds. Behind him we tried to time our sprints, but Stybar was 2nd, Simon Yates 3rd. Then Matthews and De Clerq, Singh was 6th. Would there be time gaps, because there certainly were some small gaps? No, the jury decided, the next 18 riders were all awarded the same time as Stybar. That includes all our riders except for Thys, who faltered and lost 4 minutes.

Matthews secures overaqll victory by winning the final stage ahead of the Quickstep duo Demare and Rick Zabel, he also wins the points classification. Boom and Cancellara complete the podium, then come Stybar, Van Avermaet and Degenkolb. The top 6 look realistic, but they are followed by a bunch of Aviva riders. If Sagan hadn't crashed and taken a few riders down with him (or our riders) we might not have had anybody in the top 10, so there was definitely some luck involved.

Top 10: Matthews, Boom, Cancellara, Stybar, Van Avermaet, Degenkolb, Valgren, Kuznetsov, Singh, Wojtasik
August 2018: Hamburg Cyclassics

Race squad: Damuseau, De Vreese, Fiedler, Inacio, Kuznetsov, Lammertink, Skujins, Thys

You've all been dreading this, I'm sure, I'll keep it short. All we wanted was to win from the breakaway with Inacio or, after his group was caught, Damuseau, our SPR 70 climber. He was riding with Howes, Keizer, Guillemois and neo-pro Gert Kemph.

One rider tried a lone late attack after the second and final climb of the Waseberg with 12 km to go, Jan Bakelandts. All our riders except for Inacio followed, trying to quench the attack. But Bakelandts couldn't be deterred, he stubbornly pulled our guys along, caught the breakaway, and attacked again to win the race. Our men were 2nd through to 7th. And the peloton? Arrived 3'25'' behind. What a joke! Zabel won the sprint for 13th.

Top 10: Bakelandts, Damuseau, Lammertink, De Vreese, Fiedler, Kuznetsov, Skujins, Howes, Keizer, Thys

August 2018: GP Quest

Race squad: Damuseau, de Jong, De Vreese, Fiedler, Lammertink, Singh, Skujins, Tewelde

While the GP Quest wasn't as easy or weird as Hamburg, the result was very similar. Despite a very high effort our men weren't quite at the front of the peloton when we hit the last climb, Stybar and Gilbert were working hard.

We dared the briefest of team attacks, which nearly emptied the sprint bar, and lined up our riders for the final sprint. Sagan was right behind our men but even he doesn't have unlimited energy reserves. I could have sworn Skujins crossed the line first, but victory went to Sagan. His 24th win of the season. The other sprinters had suffered too much, so Aviva placed six riders in the top 10.

Top 10: Sagan, Skujins, Lammertink, Singh, De Vreese, de Jong, Vallee, Fiedler, Kwiatkowski, Gilbert

With that result Aviva overtook Belkin and is now 12th in the WT team rankings. Thanks to Sagan BMC leads the table, just two points ahead of Sky, while Giant-Shimano and Quickstep are currently battling for 3rd position.
August 2018: Vuelta a Espana (1/2)

Race squad: Bugge, Foetz, Grmay, Köszegi, Manaia, McLean, Valgren, Waeytens, Wojtasik

This year we faced what must be the most boring Vuelta variant of them all, with few hilly or mountainous stages. There probably wouldn't be much GC action until the final week and breakaways will be closely watched until stage 16 or 17.

Of course Aviva riders escaped whenever there was a chance. Waeytens got pretty far on stage 6, he was able to drop Zeits and made it over the last hill ahead of the pack. But Slagter had jumped away from the rest, caught Waeytens 4 km out and easily outsprinted him. A day earlier Manaia crashed and was out of the race with a fractured coccyx (or tailbone, as we commonly call it).

Stage 8 was a 42 km long ITT. Quintana, who has reached TTR 76 along with MON 85 in this career, was a great 6th, only 17 seconds behind Phinney, who beat Dowsett by a second. He was 3rd in the GC after that, well ahead of his main competitors. Navardauskas was still in the lead, thanks to a successful breakaway on the (simulated) flat stage 3. He'll spend 10 days in the red jersey.

Stage 9 was mostly flat except for a small climb which needed to be tackled twice. Bugge made the breakaway of six riders, but the group contained Ignatiev. As we feared, he attacked with 25 km to go and despite the rest working together, he just couldn't be caught again. Bugge left the other behind to claim a good 2nd place. 152 riders were still within 10 minutes of Navardauskas. Points leader Matthews had to abandon on the first rest day after catching a virus.

Stages 10 and 11 were completely flat and Kittel, after a disappointing Tour de France, won his third stage of this Vuelta and with Matthews out of the race he has an excellent chance to win the points classification. Grmay had a sinusitis but we kept our captain in the race and he was able to recover on these flat stages.

Stage 12 was officially flat, but going from Sevilla to Marbella it contained a late, long irregular climb, a fast descent and then just 10 flat kilometres. It seemed like a chance for our top descender Foetz, but he started in the very last position in the peloton and so instead Wojtasik became part of the breakaway. He wouldn't win in a sprint, so he tried everything to drop his opponents on the climb and again on the descent, but Vandousselaere couldn't be dropped and despite Wojtasik forcing him to lead in the final flat part he had enough energy left to win the sprint from the front. So three second places so far from Waeytens, Bugge and Wojtasik. No changes in the GC, except for Köszegi losing 15 minutes and now carrying the latern rouge. He should safely be allowed into the breakaway on the first mountain stage, though the chances of the breakaway making it should be very close to zero.

Not only would that prediction turn true, the riders who escaped with Köszegi were too strong anyway, like Mohoric and Dyachenko. So Köszegi pretty much refused to share the work load, it wouldn't have helped anyway, Mohoric was the best from the breakaway as 31st, 4'21'' behind the winner, who could only be Quintana. König, Majka and Ulissi were only 27 seconds behind.

The GC had cleared up, Quintana had taken the lead, 1'14'' ahead of König and 1'35'' ahead of Kelderman. Grmay decided to fight for the GC, a top 10 finish might be possibly. He was 12th on the stage, 2'47'' behind, and moved up to 21st overall.

We didn't like the profile of stage 16 and our doubts were confirmed. Wojtasik was in the breakaway, a good rider for hills, but the competition was tough and the finale a flat section leading to a final climb just 1 km long and we never get those sprints right. Wojtasik was 6th out of 6 riders, Finello won. There were some late attacks from the favourites Grmay didn't follow. Others were not attentive enough, either, Quintana was a big winner on the day, more than a minute faster than Kelderman, nearly 90 seconds faster than König, Majka also lost time. An easy way to increase the gap, now nearly 3 minutes.
September 2018: Vuelta a Espana (2/2)

Stage 17 was the 4th time that we had to settle for 2nd place: Foetz was in the breakaway and he mostly feared Rubiano, a slightly better climber. But the stage was pretty flat until hitting a HC climb, a fast descent and then a shorter climb to the finish. The breakaway didn't have a convincing advantage on the HC climb, on which the favourites attacked.

At the very top, Quintana alone caught Foetz, while Rubiano and Volchok were slightly ahead. Foetz could recover a fair bit in Quintana's slipstream. The man in red attacked at the foot of the final climb, the rest of the favourites weren't far behind. But to our surprise Foetz held them off, he overtook Rubiano and Volchok and finished 2'05'' behind Quintana and 15 seconds ahead of König, Ulissi and Arredondo. Majka wasn't far behind and moved past Kelderman in the GC into 4th position. Quintana's lead is up to 5 minutes, the Vuelta victory seems certain.

We reached the queen stage of this year's Vuelta. Grmay donned the mountain jersey after the stage. Surprisingly (or not, knowing the game), there was no contest for the mountain points. However, his margin is quite small because one rider had to pull the group all on his own and was second on every climb: Dan Martin. He was 17th in the GC before the stage, 17 minutes behind Quintana, he'd make it all the way onto the podium only to drop off again with the final ITT. The gap became quite comfortable, but Quintana himself attacked on the penultimate, HC, climb and had reduced the gap from 10 minutes to 2 minutes when the escapees crossed the summit, an impressive solo ride.

Dan Martin attacked as the group reached the bottom of the climb to Luz Ardiden and eventually won the stage. Grmay was 5th, behind Silin and ex-Aviva rider Schmäh as well as Quintana. Kittel just managed to stay inside the time limit, unlike Groenewegen and 26 other riders.

By the time I realised how stage 20 would turn out, it was already too late. Köszegi would have won the stage had the breakaway survived, but the gap always looked too small considering the Angliru waited at the end. After a flurry of attacks on the previous climb had been negated, Quintana attacked once again at the foot of the Angliru and the first rider to follow him was, sadly, Dan Martin.

Grmay picked the highest pace he could, under the flamme rouge he had caught up to the trio Aru, Olivier and König and was hoping he could leave them behind, but they had saved up energy for a sprint Grmay couldn't follow. Quintana won easily ahead of Martin, Majka was third, Köszegi crossed the line in fourth. He should have come to a standstill and let Grmay overtake him, that would have been enough to secure the jersey but I hadn't done the maths. Grmay lost the mountain jersey by a single point to Dan Martin.

The final GC was decided with a time trial slightly over 40 km long. Phinney won again, ahead of Cancellara, Quintana was third. Three stages and overall victory for the 28-year old Colombian. Once again beaten by Kwiatkowkski and the TdF, once again consoled with a Vuelta victory. Dan Martin was the big loser of the day, slipping back off the podium into 5th position. Majka was runner-up, König failed to knock Ulissi off the podium, the Italian rode a decent enough time trial to hang on. Grmay ends 11th, he had made it into the top 10 on the Angliru but his TTR 63 wasn't good enough to keep the position. A slightly disappointing Vuelta, no stage win, not the GT mountain jersey triple, and not a top 10 finish, either.

Top 10: Quintana, Majka, Ulissi, König, Dan Martin, Kelderman, Olivier, Arredondo, Simon Yates, Silin

Stage by stage:
1Alex DowsettAlex DowsettAlex DowsettAlex DowsettOliver Reynolds
2Michael MatthewsAlex DowsettMichael MatthewsMarcel KittelOliver Reynolds
3Michael M√łrk√łvRamunas NavardauskasRamunas NavardauskasCl√©ment KoretzkyOliver Reynolds
4Tom Jelte SlagterRamunas NavardauskasRamunas NavardauskasTom Jelte SlagterOliver Reynolds
5Marcel KittelRamunas NavardauskasRamunas NavardauskasTom Jelte SlagterOliver Reynolds
6Tom Jelte SlagterRamunas NavardauskasMichael MatthewsTom Jelte SlagterAlexis Gougeard
7Marcel KittelRamunas NavardauskasMichael MatthewsTom Jelte SlagterAlexis Gougeard
8Taylor PhinneyRamunas NavardauskasMichael MatthewsTom Jelte SlagterAlexis Gougeard
9Mikhail IgnatievRamunas NavardauskasMichael MatthewsTom Jelte SlagterAlexis Gougeard
10Marcel KittelRamunas NavardauskasMarcel KittelTom Jelte SlagterAlexis Gougeard
11Kevin RezaRamunas NavardauskasMarcel KittelTom Jelte SlagterAlexis Gougeard
12Sven VandousselaereRamunas NavardauskasMarcel KittelSven VandousselaereAlexis Gougeard
13Nairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelNairo QuintanaMatej Mohoric
14Prparin FernandesNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelNairo QuintanaMatej Mohoric
15Marcel KittelNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelNairo QuintanaMatej Mohoric
16Mauro FinettoNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelNairo QuintanaMatej Mohoric
17Nairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelNairo QuintanaMatej Mohoric
18Daniel MartinNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelTsgabu GrmayMatej Mohoric
19Johan Esteban Ch√°vesNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelTsgabu GrmayMatej Mohoric
20Nairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelDaniel MartinMatej Mohoric
21Taylor PhinneyNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelDaniel MartinMatej Mohoric

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