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PCM.daily » PCM Stories & Story Games » PCM 14: Stories
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Penny Pinching [finished]
June 2019: Criterium du Dauphine
**** goal: Stage Win

Race squad: Grande, Kudus, Kuznetsov, Manaia, Morinas, Schössler, Wojtasik, Zilioli

Once more, Howson wore the leader's jersey for a day after winning the prologue. But stage 2 would already belong to the big names. Wojtasik was in a breakaway doomed to fail and like his team mates lost 15 minutes that day. Quintana won 46 seconds ahead of Rui Costa and Betancur with ten riders 1'44' behind. Alaphilippe took stage 3 in an uphill mass sprint, none of the top sprinters signed up for the Dauphine.

The hilly ITT on stage 4 was won by Talansky, just one second ahead of Quintana, who extended his GC lead. Stage 5's mass sprint was won by a young man named Robbie Wielockx (SPR 80), his biggest achievement so far in his career.

Stage 6 was a tough hilly stage, Zilioli got his chance in a strong breakaway. This time our rider made the mistake of attacking too early into a strong headwind only to be reeled back in by the rest of the breakaway. But just before the flamme rouge Quintana and Betancur reached the group and Nairo won the stage.

Kudus was our breakaway rider a day later, lots of climbs of varying sizes and then a big mountaintop finish. Trofimov was leading the KOM rankings and was part of this breakaway. He collected 26 points and took his total to 52, Kudus gained 23. The peloton had no intention of letting the breakaway win. Disgusted, Kudus dropped back from the top group before the final climb even started, and Quintana needed only about 2 km to overtake him and everybody else. He won the stage by brute force, Betancur and Rui Costa could only follow but not catch him and everybody else lost even more time.

But we still had the final stage from Pontcharra to La Toussuire, a short stage with the only HC climb of the race and then a mountaintop finish. Kudus started far back in the peloton and had to catch up to an escape group of 6 riders which had already formed, Trofimov wasn't among them.

The group included the white jersey of Cetin Polat, who is a better climber than Kudus. Merhawi took top honours on the first peak and remained passive on the way to the final 16 km climb. Like Zilioli on stage 6, he tried to drop his opponents with two attacks, but Polat and Cattenao caught up to him again and outsprinted him in the flat final kilometre, with Polat taking the stage and improving his final GC position to 5th. But Kudus collected 31 points, enough to be crowned King of the Mountains.

Quintana once again dropped all his rivals on the final climb and won the Tour de Suisse over 4 minutes ahead of Betancur. He seems to be on form and will hope to finally win the Tour de France, after losing out to Kwiatkowski two years in a row. Another stage win goal missed, another mountain classification won.

Top 10: Quintana, Betancur, Rui Costa, Porte, Polat, Van Garderen, Kiserlovski, Talansky, Herrada, Kruijswijk

June 2019: Tour de Suisse (1/2)
*** goal: Stage Win

Race squad: Davis, De Windt, Foetz, Formolo, Grmay, Köszegi, Cesar Augusto Marrou, McLean

Time to re-introduce the "summer team" which had to wait so long to get into the WT action. We kept our best climbers back for the Tour and Vuelta. At the start of the season we discussed having Grmay or Davis lead the spring team, but the were no mountains in P-N, T-A and Catalunya and the Giro was pretty tame, too. Davis had used the time to improve to MON 77, equalling Grmay's capabilities. He has room for one more stat point and we hope he'll get there soon with our legendary trainer. Köszegi has maxed out his MON at 76, even that's better than anybody from the spring team. There's also Foetz with MON 75, Marrou with MON 74 as well as McLean with MON 72.

Since the team wasn't quite on form yet we also brought a slightly tired Formolo to the Tour de Suisse. He was our choice for the breakaway on the opening stage to Champery, which was tough enough to hope for a breakaway winner. Formolo had little trouble winning top mountain points against El Fares, Cort Nielsen and Lemesle, who are all weaker climbers. He also had no trouble leaving them behind on the penultimate cat. 1 climb.

But descending isn't his strength and Formolo lost two-thirds of his 3-minute advantage to the peloton on the long descent to the final climb and called it a day. We decided to let Noah Davis ride for the GC and were very encouraged to see him finish 4th, only 14 seconds behind Barguil, Olivier and Kwiatkowski.

Stage 2 was flat, though there was a small hill less than 20 km from the finish line. I played the stage in 3D mode to see how well De Windt would do. Since his arrival he's improved to SPR 79 ACC 79, SPR is now maxed out, though he can still gain a point or two in acceleration. He was protected by McLean and pushed as hard as he could on the only hill to stay in contact with the best sprinters. And there were a lot of them. 5 km out he took the rear wheel of Groenewegen (SPR 83) which turned out to be a smart choice, the Dutchman had Demare leading him out. De Windt also had some luck avoiding a late crash which cost other sprinters a better position, he entered the sprinting zone in 5th position behind Demare and Groenewegen while Debusschere and Keukeleire were without lead-out. De Windt couldn't overtake Groenewegen, but he finished right behind him and secured a 2nd place ahead of Keukeleire! This may well be our best result in a proper mass sprint for some time to come.

To check if that wasn't a fluke we also played the next stage, which didn't even contain a late hill. But this time three PCM things happened: De Windt once again took the rear wheel of Groenewegen ‚Äď who would win the stage again ‚Äď but he somehow forgot his order a kilometre later. There was still the Katusha train for Kittel, but despite the order to take the rear wheel De Windt stayed uncomfortably far behind the German. And then a lead-out man from Orica was done for the day ‚Äď and rode right in front of De Windt, blocking and dropping him down to about 50th position with 4 km to go. Oh, how we love it when that happens. He was 18th on the day.

Up next on the menu were 30 km alone against the clock. Reigning world champion Dumoulin won the stage ahead of Durbridge and Dennis. Our best time trialist Marrou (TRR 76) finished a strong 8th, Davis was 16th, 1'25'' behind. He remains 6th in the GC, with the chance to move past Fuglsang and Castroviejo in the mountains. And some of the best climbers are already a few minutes behind... we'll see how it goes. Next is a hilly stage we very much fear, from Hochdorf to Bachtel, with a succession of very steep climbs towards the finish.

June 2019: Tour de Suisse (2/2)

Marrou was our breakaway option for this tough hilly stage and he was joined by 5 riders, none of whom were as good uphill. Still Moyano especially challenged for the points and Marrou let him, concentrating on the finale. And it worked, he attacked on the penultimate climb and got away. None too soon, because the rest were swallowed by the favourites. Sadly, that meant Davis missed the decisive attacks and finished over 2 minutes behind the best. But Marrou won the stage, which was our objective, and he also took the mountain jersey off his team mate Formolo. Davis is now 8th in the GC, realistically he can only move past Fuglsang, but Rolland and Dan Martin have also closed in and it'll be tough to stay ahead of them.

Groenewegen celebrated his third stage win a day later. Stage 7 featured a very long irregular cat. 1 climb and then a very steep HC peak followed by a long descent. Foetz was Aviva's man in the breakaway, his DHI 77 might come in handy. None of the other riders in the breakaway were any good at climbing, which suited him just fine.

The peloton was unwilling to let the group completely out of sight, but the gap still seemed comfortable at the bottom of the HC climb. Foetz knew he couldn't linger and increased his effort bit by bit until he was alone on the road. But the peloton did the same and once more Davis just couldn't hang on as the peak loomed. Foetz's lead was down to two minutes as he reached the peak, but thanks to his daredevil qualities he won the stage by 47 seconds ahead of the favourites. Davis isn't that good downhill and lost more time, he arrived with Dumoulin, 3'35'' behind. Rolland and Martin have overtaken him in the GC, while Fuglsang fell behind him, he's still in the top 10 and if all goes well he'll hold onto his 9th position.

Stage 8 was won by young Jovanovic. We come to the final stage, the only official mountain stage, and it's a big one with four HC climbs, two early in the day and two in the finale. We had saved Grmay for the occasion, who had one serious opponent in the group of six, Herklotz. The peloton rode at a regular pace, until about 25 riders, most of the top 10 bar Davis, were suddenly ahead and sped up. Though there was still a long flat section ahead we didn't want to risk it and with great help by McLean Davis returned to the group. The gap to E1 was only 5 minutes at the top of the second climb.

But E2 slowed down to a crawl and bit by bit the peloton returned, 60, 80, then 120 riders, Davis needn't have panicked. The escapees had an advantage of 11 minutes at the foot of the penultimate climb, which seemed plenty. Grmay took no risks, rode the whole climb from the front, speeding up towards the top, and then recuperated in the smaller group on the way to the final challenge. Herklotz attacked as soon as we hit the bottom of the climb, and twice more, but each time Grmay caught him again, Brambilla and Castroviejo still in tow. But then Herklotz kept behind Brambilla and the Italian couldn't follow Grmay anymore and that was that. Without having to attack Grmay dropped the others and won the stage.

The attacks from the favourites started 15 km from the top. Davis, now protected by Köszegi, just kept a steadily increasing pace. It wasn't much, he lost 4 minutes against the best riders, but he still climbed to 8th in the final GC, moving past Dumoulin.

Top 10: Kwiatkowski, Barguil, Kreuziger, Rolland, Ion Izagirre, Dan Martin, Dennis, Davis, Dumoulin, Chernetckii

So while Quintana won the Dauphine decisively, Kwiatkowski is also on form, will we see another battle between the two at the Tour? Aviva is very happy with the race, of course, we just love the Tour de Suisse. Top 10 result plus three stages, one for our new man Marrou, one for Foetz and one for Grmay. And, naturally, the mountain jersey as well, Grmay only needed the one stage to collect 75 points and beat Herklotz and Cort Nielsen.

Next up: Transfer news.

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July 2019: Transfer talks

Ah, the transfer season, always exciting. We can now offer wages up to 5.5k/month, baby steps, but they can make a difference.

17 contracts are expiring, we can't hold onto our top riders, who are asking for up to 17.5k in wages. So it's the last season for our first ever WT stage race winner Grande, our two best climbers Davis and Grmay and our top puncheur Singh.

Unlike last season there aren't that many interesting young riders on the market. And so (I had forgotten this) I re-used the "cheat" of hiring a rider who was interested in joining our team and ready to sign at less than half his asking price. But this was a slightly different situation: The rider is Ben Hermans and he's already 32 years old at the time he signed this two-year deal, turning 33 before the end of the year. He'll definitely decline in the two years he spends with us. On top of that, despite his AVG 74, he's failed to score a single WT point so far in his career (or at least since 2014).

We were able to extend three contracts: Jason McLean so far always had domestique duties, but he can still reach MON 75, TTR 75. Jani Tewelde still has room to improve, too, though most of that will be STA, he already has STA 76, more than anybody else on the team, and it can reach 82, though we don't know if he can ever utilise it. After weeks of "renegotiating" (offering the same wage over and over again, we were very stubborn) Emile Denis also decided to accept our extension offer.

Having to shop around for some older riders who probably cannot improve anymore we decided to pick up riders who are equally comfortable on hills and mountains, since they have more breakaway options in stage races. We found and signed Natnael Berhane (MON 74 HIL 75) and Ruben Fernandez (MON 75 HIL 74), the latter had already spent a year with our team back in 2016. Pello Bilbao (HIL 76) can't climb that well, but he has a rare combo of HIL and REC so he can fully concentrate on stage racing. Maurits Lammertink (HIL 78) also returns after a quiet year in the PCT with FDJ.

We were happy with our penultimate signing, after considering our offer for over a week a young Danish climber finally agreed to a contract, AVG 72 but MON 77. After still being in negotiations with three riders on the 31st of July, we decided to just sign a U23 rider instead. The current leader of the U23 rankings was still available, David Pozin, and he's only 19 years old. We would have reloaded had he been too good, but his AVG is only 70, the weakest of our whole team, so that seems fair. He'll never be more than a domestique in his three years with our team.

And here are our NC wins, a good haul this year: Colombia (Sebastian Henao), Ethiopia (Grmay), Germany (Schössler), Kazakhstan (I. Sergienko), Poland (Wojtasik), Portugal (Manaia) and Russia (Kuznetsov)

July 2019: Tour de France (1/3)

Race squad: Davis, De Windt, Falkenmayer, Foetz, Grmay, Köszegi, Marrou, McLean, Roinas

Time for the Big Loop. I have to agree with PCMCE's prediction, "it looks like there's only one real favourite for the Tour de France, Quintana." The current wearer of the rainbox jersey and winner of the last two editions of the Tour, Michal Kwiatkowski, is back to defend his title, but this year's edition is brutal and really favours the best climber in the world. On some stages our riders will run out of energy entirely, none will have full freshness after the second rest day with more mountains ahead and only 132 riders will finish the race.

We started with a circuit around Geneva, rated flat though it went up and down the whole time, a gentle rollercoaster ride. Falkenmayer hoped to surprise the sprinters and joined the escape group, but was caught with 10 km to go. We did not expect our sprinter De Windt to have any chance on this terrain and were surprised to see him near the front of the peloton in the finale. He was able to take the rear wheel of Matthews. He finished 8th, a misclick prevented an even better result ‚Äď he was supposed to start his sprint 1500 m out, but my mouseclick missed the button, so he only started 800 m from the line. Sagan took this first stage ahead of Matthews and Degenkolb and will once again be the man to beat to the green jersey.

After a short ITT on stage 2, won by Durbridge ahead of Phinney and Kwiato, PCM managed to frustrate me again. Stage 3 took over 10 minutes to load. It was flat but had a few small steep hills in the finale and we thought Falkenmayer might have a chance. He started from the third row ‚Äď but instead of attacking, he was blocked on the right side and dropped down to 150th position. So we didn't have a man in the breakaway, but it ddn't survive anyway.

The finale was lightning fast, the AI seemed to be aware of the terrain, and Davis was aware of the situation, too. Once more he'll be the man to ride for the GC, though we are prepared to give up on the idea. Ion Izagirre crashed out of the race, one less competitor. Sagan won the stage ahead of Rui Costa and Betancur, Davis was 15th. The first time gap appeared for the 18th rider, Simon Yates, the next one for the 28th rider, most lost 3'10'', our other riders were in the last group, 4'55'' behind. Kwiatkowski has taken the GC lead, Davis is currently 9th and wears the white jersey.

These stages all seem to take extremely long to load. I played the next one, just for the mass sprint, and De Windt was a respectable 6th, though a strong headwind made it easier. Kittel beat Sagan and Coquard. But I simulated the following three flat stages, Kittel took two more, Degenkolb the other one, Sagan was always on the podium and kept the green jersey. De Windt didn't make the top 20 without my help.

The 8th stage took us from Chambery to Bellegarde-Sur-Valserine. The first stage that isn't flat, and it's quite a beast, with an HC climb in the middle. Köszegi (MON 76) was the first rider to attack and attracted a fair following, though not everybody made contact on the early steep cat. 2 climb, in fact, a couple of riders remained alone on the road as the E2 for most of the day. Köszegi's biggest worries were Taaramae and Wellens. The Belgian showed weaknesses early on, while Taaramae fought hard against Köszegi for the mountain points. Our man came out top and secured the jersey, though possibly just for a day, because tomorrow's stage is similarly tough.

The peloton splintered into pieces several times, getting smaller and smaller. Soon, Davis only had McLean and Grmay for company, then only McLean and then he was alone in a group of about 20 riders. The favourites rode away on the last climb. Köszegi had finally shaken off Taaramae on the climb, it needed a last attack going into the final descent, and the Austrian celebrates his first WT win, and it's a TdF stage to boot! 2'52'' behind the favourites arrive: Dan Martin, Barguil, Kwiato, Froome, Pinot, Costa, Quintana and Betancur as well as Majka, who'll probably have to work for Froome. Davis was best of the rest and keeps his GC position, so we'll continue to protect him.

July 2019: Tour de France (2/3)

Stage 9 to (Saint-)Veran featured about as much climbing as the previous day, but this time the top of the HC climb was just a few kilometres from the finish line in the most elevated village in France. We chose our best climber for the breakaway, Tsgabu Grmay. Once more our man was the first to attack and easily took top points on the first cat. 2 climb. He was joined by a number of decent climbers, though none as good as him, and everybody was over 20 minutes behind in the GC. Kwiatkowski's Katusha took it easy, though the final climb was 25 km long and pretty tough. Grmay dropped his breakaway companions 10 km from the top and had no trouble winning the stage by over three minutes. Two in a row for Aviva, perfect! As predicted, the polkadot jersey also changed hands, internally from Köszegi to Grmay.

Further back Davis was struggling, he just can't keep up with the best climbers. He finished in a group of strong lieutenants - Betancur, Majka, Van Garderen ‚Äď and two captains, Kreuziger and Rolland, who possibly aren't on form. He dropped down to 10th in the GC, though. Barguil was the only man to keep up with Quintana, Pinot lost 30 seconds, race leader Kwiatkowski, Rui Costa, Dan Martin and Froome over 90 seconds. The Colombian has taken the yellow jersey and will be tough to dislodge. Pinot has also overtaken Kwiatkowski, who slipped to 3rd.

Kwiatkowski also slipped behind Pinot into 3rd, but moved up a place a day later. He won the ITT on stage 10, 26.4 flat kilometres, just ahead of Van Garderen. Quintana was 3rd, only 11 seconds behind. We had hoped our best time triallist Marrou could get a top 10 results, but he was only 13th. But Davis rode a strong ITT for his skill level (71), losing only 1'21'', and he moved back up to 9th in the GC, overtaking Betancur.

The following two flat stages were won by Degenkolb and the man in green, Sagan. Stage 13 to Larrau was another real beast. Nominally hilly, but with very steep long climbs. We selected Marrou for this breakaway, he's equally happy on hills and mountains. However, he'd never really stand a chance to win the stage. The chase by the peloton was brutal in the first quarter of the stage and even after it gave up, the pace in the small group remained extremely high and Marrou never recovered more than about a quarter of his energy reserves throughout the day. Schmäh was the main driving force, but Bakelandts and Bennett weren't taking it much easier, either. Even on the descents the speed could be brutal, Marrou has a decent DHI and always stuck to the back of the group, and still he couldn't recuperate much and the next climb was never far away. Schmäh won the stage well ahead of Bakelandts, Marrou had to settle for 4th behind Bennett.

The stage caused GC action, too. The biggest winner was Rui Costa, taking time off everybody else, while Pinot had a terrible day. Even Davis was faster, though still just 20th on the day. Sadly, De Windt, Roinas and Falkenmayer all missed the time cut. Falkenmayer crashed and was in pain and couldn't even keep up with the sprinters. The gruppetto was simply too slow and included wonderkid Jovanovic. Foetz had also crashed and was also having problems, he was the last rider to make the time cut, but he looked much better the next day.

But that was nothing compared to the next two brutal stages. Grmay attacked and pulled Porte along, plus half a dozen more riders. None were threatening much in the GC, but despite that, the speed in the peloton was brutal, and it splintered into small group. It took Davis enormous effort to make it back to the favourites and by that time the escapees were caught, too. Grmay now tried to support Davis, but it was only enough for the white jersey to finish 12th, running out of energy entirely. More riders missed the time cut, including sprinters like Bouhanni, Demare and Zabel. The peloton was down to 143 riders already.

The next day had some good and some bad news. The bad news was that Davis lost a lot of time, he dropped to 11th in the GC and is already over 4 minutes behind the top 10. The good news was that K√∂szegi slipped back into the polkadot jersey, Quintana had taken the lead the day before. And in what must have been the slowest slomo ever, K√∂szegi also won the stage, despite having totally run out of energy ‚Äď the slow motion of the final kilometre honestly took minutes.

He was late to the botd party, lost a lot of energy to catch up with the escapees, and like Marrou previously he never fully recovered because the pace was constantly high. Pantano, the slightly better climber, had attacked twice, on the penultimate climb and again on the final climb. Heroically, Köszegi caught up to him again and Pantano ran out of his main energy reserves just before the Austrian did. It was enough for a gap of 45 seconds which remained till the end.

The other winner that day was the man in yellow, Quintana. He was able to make use of his superior climbing skill and distanced his rivals by 2 minutes. He's now 4'13'' ahead of Kwiatkowski and 6'20'' ahead of Rui Costa, with only Froome still in striking distance to the podium. Davis finished 18th on the day, 6 minutes behind most of the top 10, 3'30'' behind Kreuziger and Van Garderen, the only top 10 riders who are still within striking distance, but both of them are much stronger than him. 11 more riders failed to arrive in time, Coquard was among the victims. That leaves Sagan, Degenkolb, Kittel and Matthews left in the fight for green, with Sagan currently 42 points ahead.

July 2019: Tour de France (3/3)

We desperately needed the final rest day, though still none of our riders have full freshness afterwards, with more mountains looming ahead. Stage 16 was fairly easygoing. Two medium sized climbs early on and a large one in the final third, but followed by a long descent and gradually flattening out to the finish line. Foetz got his chance in the breakaway, with Bardet in the group he could forget about winning the stage. He didn't even put up much of a fight when the attack came and crossed the line in 4th place. Nothing happened further back, no attacks from anybody. However, Rui Costa somehow managed to lose 3 minutes and lost his podium spot to Froome.

The following stage was hilly, with a medium sized, irregular final climb. Marrou was the man for the job, the breakaway companions weren't very threatening, except for Sepulveda. But teams like BMC, who had nobody in the GC or breakaway, were pulling the peloton, hoping to get something out of the stage. Though the gap fell under 3 minutes with 40 km to go, the breakaway was too strong to let it decrease any further, and eventually only Astana was at the front of the peloton with no intention of challenging for the stage.

Marrou attacked up the final climb and only Sepulveda managed to catch up to him again. Marrou was still looking good and he is the best sprinter of our TdF riders, but we were caught off guard. The sprint didn't start 1.5 km out, but 3 km out, and just as Davis was trying to follow the GC attacks, Sepulveda started the sprint and Marrou couldn't catch him again, damnit. Davis lost more time against the top 10 and Rolland is still threating to overtake him as well.

Stage 18 was a long MTT, 63.2 km up the Glacier Pic d'Lory. I just simulated it, as I simulate all TTs, I'm sure the time gaps would have been much larger had I played the stage in 3D mode. But the order seemed fair enough: Quintana won 8 seconds ahead of Kwiatkowski, then came Van Garderen, Froome, Barguil, Betancur, Rolland, Rui Costa, Dan Martin and Kiserlovski. Grmay and Davis were 16th and 17th, 1'16'' and 1'21'' behind. PCM randomly lets some riders have a bad day and this time Kreuziger was thrown under the bus, he lost 4 minutes. He's now 10th in the GC, but we don't see Davis overtaking him.

No mountain points in the MTT, so Köszegi still leads Quintana by a mere 16 points. Stages 19 and 20 both offer a lot of points, it's probably best for Köszegi to wait till stage 20, with two HC climbs in the middle of the stage. So instead Grmay attacked on stage 19. He was happy to see that this didn't cause a reaction in the peloton, theoretically he was threatening two GC positions, Qhubeka's Bongiorno in 14th and Tinkoff's Taaramae in 15th. He was also happy that no strong climber made the group, in fact, he couldn't go quite as fast as he would have liked to not drop anybody.

The gap was never very comfortable, 8 minutes at best, and down to 5 minutes at the foot of the long final climb, the Col de Estaris. Would it be enough? Yes it would, Grmay wins his second stage at this year's Tour, a minute ahead of the favourites. Froome cracked on the climb, while the other top 5 riders arrived together, the Brit lost 4 minutes and Rui Costa is back on the podium. A bit further back Kreuziger had attacked, Davis was able to catch him again, he even had a bit of sprint energy left but didn't get a time gap.

Köszegi was back to full freshness ahead of the final mountain stage. Surprisingly, the peloton chased the breakaway hard, Köszegi dropped back into the peloton and waited for it to slow down again before attacking once more. It took some time, he had to bridge a gap of 3 minutes to turn the breakaway into a baker's dozen. There were a number of good riders in the group, though Köszegi, with good form and freshness, felt quite confident about his chances to win the stage. But it wasn't to be, he ran out of energy completely before making it over the final peak and was only 6th. But he did more than enough to secure the polkadot jersey.

Davis was 22nd on the day, he lost a minute against Kreuziger, so he'll end 11th in the GC. Grmay overtook Taaramae but was himself overtaken by Porte, he finishes 16th. I simulated the final stage, the prestigious victory goes to breakaway rider De Greef. Sagan won the mass sprint from the peloton and convincingly wins yet another green jersey ahead of Kittel and Matthews.

Aviva takes home two jerseys, polkadots for Köszegi, white for Davis. We were also an excellent 2nd in the team rankings, only behind Sky. And of course we took four stages, two each by Köszegi and Grmay, brilliant. A tiny disappointment is Davis finishing just outside the top 10, 11th, less than three minutes behind Kreuziger. But realistically speaking that's a damn good result, too.

1Nairo QuintanaAstana Pro Team
2Michal KwiatkowskiTeam Katusha+05'35''
3Carlos Alberto BetancurTeam Katusha+11'50''
4Rui CostaLotto - Belisol+12'01''
5Chris FroomeTeam Sky+14'52''
6Daniel MartinBMC Racing Team+16'10''
7Thibaut PinotMovistar Team+16'44''
8Warren BarguilTrek Factory Racing+17'16''
9Tejay Van GarderenTeam Sky+25'13''
10Roman KreuzigerOrica - GreenEDGE+31'24''
11Noah DavisAviva Cycling+34'05''

Stage by stage:
1Peter SaganPeter SaganMichael MatthewsPeter SaganDavey Syx
2Luke DurbridgeLuke DurbridgePeter SaganMichal KwiatkowskiCésar Augusto Marrou
3Peter SaganMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganSimon GeschkeNoah Davis
4Marcel KittelMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganSimon GeschkeNoah Davis
5John DegenkolbMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganSimon GeschkeNoah Davis
6Marcel KittelMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganSimon GeschkeNoah Davis
7Marcel KittelMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganSimon GeschkeNoah Davis
8Hannes KöszegiMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganHannes KöszegiNoah Davis
9Tsgabu GrmayNairo QuintanaPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayNoah Davis
10Michal KwiatkowskiNairo QuintanaPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayNoah Davis
11John DegenkolbNairo QuintanaPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayNoah Davis
12Peter SaganNairo QuintanaPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayNoah Davis
13Elias SchmähNairo QuintanaPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayNoah Davis
14Nairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaPeter SaganNairo QuintanaNoah Davis
15Hannes KöszegiNairo QuintanaPeter SaganHannes KöszegiNoah Davis
16Romain BardetNairo QuintanaPeter SaganHannes KöszegiNoah Davis
17Eduardo SepulvedaNairo QuintanaPeter SaganHannes KöszegiNoah Davis
18Nairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaPeter SaganHannes KöszegiNoah Davis
19Tsgabu GrmayNairo QuintanaPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayNoah Davis
20Sergey ChernetckiiNairo QuintanaPeter SaganHannes KöszegiNoah Davis
21Francis De GreefNairo QuintanaPeter SaganHannes KöszegiNoah Davis


August 2019: Clasica San Sebastian
** goal: Top 10

Race squad: Denis, Falkenmayer, Koloda, Sequeiros, Sergienko, Singh, Tewelde, Wojtasik

After some long race reports, I'll keep this one short and sweet. Ivan Singh has improved to HIL 79 and was named as an outside candidate for the win before the race. Once more we faced the old course with only very small lumps in the final 30 km. Just about every one of our riders tried a late attack in the hope of creating a rivalry, but it didn't work.

We had 7 riders left in a group of 17 and once again formed a sprint train, but without much success. Rui Costa's sprint was so decisive that he won by 28 seconds ahead of the rest. Slagter was next, followed by the rainbow jersey and Dan Martin. Singh sprinted to a solid 5th place, Koloda was 7th. Goal completed.

Top 10: Rui Costa, Slagter, Kwiatkowski, Dan Martin, Singh, Stybar, Koloda, Polanc, Bakelandts, Cancellara.

August 2019: Tour de Pologne (1/2)

Race squad: Biello, Davis, De Windt, Grande, Grmay, Schössler

Instead of a hilly course, which we prefer to make use of our puncheurs, this year's Tour de Pologne featured a very long ITT, four flat stages and two smallish mountaintop finishes. So we brought Davis and Grmay with Grande and Schössler in support as well as our best sprinter De Windt (now SPR 79 ACC 80) with Biello (77/75) leading him out.

The race started with the time trial, 52 km from Gdansk to Krynica Morska, obviously a very important stage. Not many specialists turned up and some of them had a low fitness level. The stage went to the 23-year old Australian Clint Fowler (TTR 79). It's his second full season, his second victory, and his first WT win. He beat Quaade and De Gendt. Dumoulin, Dennis and Jungels disappointed a little, finishing between 34 seconds and a minute behind. Davis (TTR 71) had a very good day, he was 8th, losing just 1'03''. The best climbers in the race, Adam Yates, Pinot and Bardet, probably lost too much time to challenge for overall victory.

De Windt may not have been among the pre-stage favourites, but he was only beaten by Kittel in the mass sprint on stage 2. Biello provided a great lead-out, everybody else was behind Kittel on the left-hand side of the road, Biello started sprinting with 3 km to go on the other side and quickly overtook everybody and De Windt could launch his sprint 1500 metres out. Kittel wasn't the only faster sprinter, but the rest had to cover too much ground to catch our man.

It was looking much worse the next day. The last escapee still had to be caught, the wind came from behind, and Biello and De Windt must have been around 40th position at the 3 km mark. But incredibly, Biello overtook rider after rider, and so did De Windt after he started to sprint. Kittel won again, Vangronsveld was next, but De Windt was 3rd and and on top Biello was 4th, what a great sprint by our duo (and weak competition).

De Windt could have won the stage 4 had he not been trapped briefly behind an opponent. The escapees were still ahead as we hit the final 3 km and Kittel was panicking and started his sprint immediately, while De Windt could follow Biello again. But then an early escapee blocked him in the final kilometre and Ewan managed to overtake him and win the stage. What an unusual experience to play these flat stages. On the last flat stage the breakaway got the better of us, but at least De Windt won the mass sprint for 7th.

And so we head to the mountains for the final two stages. We won't place a rider in the breakaway for once, with only 6 riders available everybody was helping Davis, who has a shot at a really good result.

August 2019: Tour de Pologne (2/2)

Stage 6 only featured a few small hills before the steep final climb, Biello helped the peloton control the small breakaway which was caught easily. The final ascent to Smielec was 8.4 km long with an average gradient of over 10%. Quickly the top group was down to 10 riders, Grmay was supporting Davis. The best climber in the race, Pinot, was starting to pull away, but our duo had no problem remaining with the rest. Pinot won the stage 47 seconds ahead of Bardet and Davis, the other seven men arrived a few seconds behind.

De Gendt became the new GC leader, thanks to his strong time trial, but Davis moved up to 2nd, 30 seconds behind - he is a better climber than De Gendt and the final stage is a tough queen stage. But the time differences among the top 6 are very small, so it could still go either way. Grmay is 8th and should also make the top 10.

So, how did the final stage go? First, we retired our sprinters to use them again in the Eneco Tour with full freshness. Then we made a late change to our plans and decided to place Grande in the breakaway, maybe he can win the stage or maybe he can protect Davis in the finale. By accident Grande won enough KOM points on the day to win the classification, adding to our long list of mountain jerseys, I believe we've won that jersey in every WT stage race so far this year!

Grande dropped his breakaway companions and started the steep final climb (7.5 km at 11.4%) first, but it wasn't long before he was caught. Bardet was the first favourite to attack, on the penultimate ramp, followed by Caruso, but both had lost so much time in the ITT that they were of little threat. Both were reeled in again anyway. De Gendt seemed to have found any ally in König, who was often prepared to lead the group. Adam Yates attacked early on the final climb and went on to win the stage, but he was of no GC concern to Davis and Grmay, either.

Soon De Gendt and König attacked and gained 30 seconds on Davis, while also catching Grande. But Davis, again protected by Grmay, was riding faster and soon saw the trio ahead. Grande eased up a bit and became a link between the two duos, he still had a healthy amount of energy left. The five riders reached the flamme rouge together and then De Gendt and König started to tire. Our trio pushed on and dropped our opponents, opening up a serious gap. Davis was 2nd on the day, 1'40'' behind Yates, Grande was 3rd, Grmay was 4th, Caruso 5th. And De Gendt and König lost over a minute in that steep final kilometre.

Which means we've won our second WT stage race! And this time not thanks to a successful breakaway but in a real GC fight. Obviously, several factors contributed to this glorious success, a fairly weak startlist without any good stage racers, that long ITT, some opponents with low fitness. Nonetheless, the finest result of this career so far. Grmay nearly made the podium as well.

Top 10: Davis, De Gendt, Dennis, Grmay, Jungels, König, Dumoulin, Meyer, Adam Yates, Pinot

August 2019: Eneco Tour

Race squad: Biello, De Windt, Koloda, Marrou, McLean, Singh

You might be surprised that we didn't nominate any of our cobblestone specialists for the Eneco Tour. But this year's variant featured a TTT, an ITT and a hilly stage to Geraadsbergen with only a few short cobbled sectors. Also, Veiby has a stomach bug, otherwise he would have been here leading the team. Instead, for the first time Cesar Augusto Marrou is captaining a race, his TTR 76 is the best our squad has to offer. He is joined by McLean (TTR 74), Singh (70), Koloda (69) as well as Biello (68) and De Windt (61).

I played all stages (except for the time trials) in 3D mode. Plenty of good sprinters signed up, but on stage 1 our duo Biello/De Windt worked perfectly. De Windt was only beaten by Declercq and Modolo but stayed ahead of Bennett, Nizzolo, Groenewegen, Jovanovic, Demare, Sagan, Degenkolb and more fast men. We couldn't replicate the result though, in the other mass sprints De Windt was 6th, 9th and 7th. Still, that's far from bad. Modolo took a second stage and Demare won the other two.

But how would we perform against the clock? In the TTT we were only beaten by Belkin by 4 seconds, IAM and BMC followed another 7 seconds behind, but the other teams lost at least 30 seconds. With that performance De Windt took the leader's jersey for a day before losing it again to Modolo.

Stage 6 was the indiviudal time trial, 17.8 flat km around Ardooie. Phinney won the stage ahead of Thomas and IAM's Clint Fowler. Marrou was 8th, 18 seconds behind, McLean 20th, Singh 22nd, Biello 26th. We were still looking good in the GC, our riders were 4th, 7th, 8th and 11th before the final stage. The time gaps were small, though, and we'd now face the cobblestones. I wasn't feeling confident, I feared we might end up without a top 10 result to our name.

A closer look at the stage on the day made me feel more positive, COB really shouldn't play much of a role, the sectors were very short. Koloda was sent into the early breakaway, in case the peloton forgets to chase. Then we missed an important detail: The peloton had split into two groups, one of just 32 riders, the rest simple gave up ‚Äď and Singh and De Windt were in the larger group despite being close to the front a few minutes earlier. Singh made his way across alone, which cost him a lot of energy, thankfully, the E2 wasn't riding too fast and he could recover. But in the meantime the breakaway had been caught and Koloda was back with the rest.

The stage would be decided with the solo attack by Sagan 12 km out. But Sagan was 7'20'' behind in the GC, he must have been involved in a crash on an earlier stage. We managed to hold off all other attacks and our 5 remaining riders were at the front of the group going into the last hill. Biello was dropped immediately, McLean couldn't quite hang on, either, but the other three managed to leave the rest of the group behind at the top with just 5 km to go. Koloda pulled Singh and Marrou, going at full speed, and the trio managed to keep their gap to the rest.

Sagan won the stage, Koloda, Singh and Marrou arrived 59 seconds later. How large was the gap to the next group of 16 riders? 24 seconds. And that means Cesar Augusto Marrou won the Eneco Tour 2019 by 2 seconds ahead of Phinney, plus Singh completes the podium, 4 seconds ahead of Thomas! Woohoo! We feared we might drop out of the top 10 entirely and then we win the race and get another rider on the podium and two more into the top 10! Simply fantastic, back-to-back victories in two WT stage races. No KOM this time, but that's because the Eneco Tour doesn't offer that classification.

Top 10: Marrou, Phinney, Singh, Thomas, Bobridge, McLean, Biello, Jovanovic, Boom, Cancellara

August 2019: Vattenfall Cyclassics
* goal: Top 10

Race squad: De Windt, Falkenmayer, Kuznetsov, Roinas, Sequeiros, Sergienko, Singh, Veiby

A top 10 in the easiest race of the year? Ok, no shennanigans this time, with De Windt we have a SPR 79 sprinter and we'll try to get a result "fair and square". We sent Biello to the Vuelta so his lead-out will be Veiby and Roinas, the latter doesn't quite have the class of Biello.

But we still had to send Kuznetsov into the breakaway, in case the peloton is unable to catch it, which we've seen happen before. But not this time, the group was caught with 30 km to go. A couple of solo attacks went nowhere before Ian Stannard made his move and as always, it worked, he won the Cyclassics by a minute. Falkenmayer, Sequeiros, Sergienko and Singh would surely have loved to have joined the move...

Instead those riders took it easy and we only concentrated on our small sprint train. We looked in good shape at the 3 km mark, our train was right next to IAM's train for Jovanovic. But while the neo-pro wonderkid took 2nd, De Windt only finished 8th. A slight disappointment, he was beaten by some sprinters who aren't any faster than him. But we did complete the final goal of the season with a result from a real mass sprint, we are proud of that.

Top 10: Stannard, Jovanovic, Modolo, Cristofaro Naldi, Ewan, Thomasz Dasovic, Blythe, De Windt, Kristoff, Colbrelli

August 2019: GP Quest

Race squad: Denis, Falkenmayer, Koloda, Kuznetsov, Sequeiros, Sergienko, Singh, Veiby

This race ended with another unpopular result, but it wasn't entirely our fault, I mostly blame Kwiatkowski. Our plan was to launch Singh on the final hill so he has a chance to solo to victory, thanks to his high HIL as well as good FLA and SPR. We executed it, but maybe too perfectly.

Kwiatkowski made the race too hard for the sprinters in the final 20 km. He was pulling the pack at extremely high speed, stretching out the peloton. Our men were close behind him and took the lead up the final ramp. Singh attacked at the top, got away, and won by a minute. However, his team mates had also left the peloton behind without an attack. Their plan had been to find a rear wheel and maybe sprint into the top 10. But the peloton took so long to reconfigure itself, we would have had to stall on purpose to let them catch up. Instead, our guys rode on, without sprinting, and still arrived well ahead of the pack.

Top 10: Singh, Sergienko, Denis, Falkenmayer, Kuznetsov, Veiby, Sequeiros, Koloda, Demare, Sagan

Next up: The Vuelta, which ‚Äď spoiler alert! - won't be won by an Aviva rider. Smile

August 2019: Vuelta a Espana (1/3)

Race squad: Biello, Davis, Foetz, Grmay, Köszegi, McLean, Marrou, Tewelde, Wojtasik

The Vuelta 2019 started with a prologue won by Howson ahead of Dowsett and GVK. Stage 2 ended with a short and steep uphill finish in Benalmadena. The pace was very high throughout the day, Orica kept the breakaway in check. We were at the front of the peloton with our two captains, Davis and Grmay, as well as our two puncheurs, Wojtasik and Tewelde, going into the final climb. Slagter, Quintana and Matthews attacked before the sprint started and finished in that order, 25 seconds ahead. Grmay and Wojtasik were 4th and 5th, picking up a few WT points, leading the next group across the line which included the rest of the favourites.

Quintana once again is riding Tour and Vuelta and is obviously the odds-on favourite to win the race. Betancur will look to get on the podium again, apart from that it's difficult to judge the competition.

Oss beat Bennett and Kittel on stage 3, Alaphilippe won a day later with a simulated late attack. Once again we couldn't quite win a TTT and were runner-up behind Ag2r on stage 5, 7 seconds slower. Orica was 3rd and that put Michael Matthews in red for a day.

Next up was a difficult hilly stage to Alcoy in very windy conditions. McLean finally got a chance to join a breakaway. The group of a dozen riders seemed way too strong for him, it included riders like Meintjes and Geniez, and McLean had a hard time keeping up and so did the rest of our team in the chasing peloton.

But half-way through the stage, with four climbs still ahead, the outlook changed. McLean suddenly broke away from the rest of the group and quickly gained about a minute. He secured a cat. 2 and cat. 3 that way and when the gap didn't shrink, he tried to solo to a stage win.


Oh look, a screenshot. Taken out of frustration, this is the peloton on the last classified climb, Grmay got stuck behind BMC riders and within seconds dropped 27 places (counted from the screenshot Smile). Starting next season you can expect around 5 screenshots ‚Äď per year.

Once more, a narrow road on the steep, final classified hill caused a little frustration. Davis and Grmay were riding next to each other nicely near the front of the peloton ‚Äď but then Grmay got stuck and only made it back to the front after Betancur had launched an attack together with Kelderman and Rolland.

Our two captains were a little late to the party but managed to join the Quintana group before the big man launched his attack and our captains would ride as a duo the rest of the stage. Betancur overtook McLean 5 km out, and so did Rolland, Kelderman and eventually Quintana as well. McLean was 5th and secured the mountain jersey for now. Chernetckii and Herrada were also ahead of Grmay and Davis, but our guys gained time on a few GC contenders, too. They are now 5th and 6th in the GC, behind Betancur, Quintana, Rolland and Kelderman. We are seriously tempted to try and get them both into the top 10, but that means they can't compete for stage wins.

Nizzolo and Kittel won the next two stages. The last stage before the first rest day was a mountain stage with a mountaintop finish in Port Aine. We had selected Foetz for the breakaway and he was up against Pantano and Nerz, clearly better climbers, but they aren't on form for this race, Foetz dropped them on the penultimate climb, let them catch up again only to drop them once more on the long final climb, but by then peloton was closing in and soon his day's work was over.

Grmay was protected by Marrou, Davis had Köszegi with him. The latter had some trouble, couldn't keep up with his team mate and dropped back a group, but he had used up less energy so he was able to set a higher pace later on the climb. Quintana won in a sprint against Betancur. Grmay had briefly attacked but was caught by Van Garderen under the flamme rouge and arrived behind him, 38 seconds down on Quintana. Rolland, Dombrowski and Herrada were a few seconds behind, Davis was in the next group, 67 seconds behind the winner. Grmay and Davis moved up to 4th and 5th in the GC because Kelderman had a bad day.

September 2019: Vuelta a Espana (2/3)

After the rest day we lined up for a stage leading across five decent sized peaks before a descent to the finish in Bielsa. At first we tried to get Köszegi into the escape group, but there was a strong chase, Sky wanted to place a rider into the breakaway as well. Once that was settled and Polanc made his move, we sent Foetz and his DHI 77 to join the escapees. He collected more mountain points than anybody else and has moved into the lead in the classification. He was nearly distanced on the penultimate climb by Herklotz and Taaramae, but was able to recover on the next descent.

He was then at the front nearing the final peak, with only Herklotz right behind him, and attacked in the hope his descending skill would drop the German. But he returned, Foetz had just enough left for another attack... but Herklotz returned again, took Foetz's rear wheel and outsprinted him for the stage win.

The attacks from the peloton started early on that final climb, as always, our captains rode a steady pace. Just as we caught the Betancur group the next round of attacks came, and once more near the peak, but with a counter attack and help by Van Garderen we returned to the top 10 group. The only rider to miss out was Kelderman, who lost another 90 seconds and dropped another couple of places in the GC. Betancur now leads Quintana by 30 seconds, those two will surely decide the GC. Rolland is 1'32'' behind, our boys 2'27'' and 2'36'', Chernetckii 3'02'', Van Garderen 3'37'', Herrada 3'53'' and Kelderman, Poels and more riders are already 5 to 6 minutes in arrear. Two riders in the top 10 of a Grand Tour was becoming more and more feasible, another first for our team.

We sent Wojtasik ahead on the following flat stage in case it'd be a runaway breakaway. But no, the sprinter teams definitely wanted this one and caught everybody inside the final 10 km. So our young up-and-comer Biello got a chance to test himself in a real mass sprint. He was clever and fortunate enough to find the best rear wheel, Matthews went on to win the stage. Biello faded a bit, he was 7th, a really good effort.

Then we faced a hilly stage, Tewelde had waited for this opportunity, though he would have preferred an uphill finish. Most members of the breakaway were climbers, but there was also Wyss, who is better than Tewelde in every regard. And he attacked with 15 km and a small hill to go. Tewelde nearly caught him back, had the stage been 1000 metres longer he might have, but once more we have to settle for a 2nd place.

Though I'm used to it from previous careers, it's been a long while since I had to keep an eye on both the breakaway and the peloton. We were ready for the attacks from the favourites, but possibly misjudged the situation. Quintana went first, pulling about a dozen riders along, together with the red jersey of Betancur we waited and clung onto the end of the group. But Quintana attacked again and only Herrada, Slagter and Chernetckii followed, we were sure Betancur would react. But he decided to wait for his team mates. Our group lost over 90 seconds against Quintana, who takes the GC lead, and 45 seconds against the other three riders who'd followed him, Herrada, Slagter and Chernetckii.

I simulated stages 13 and 14, Nizzolo won a mass sprint and Kevin Raza won the other stage from the breakaway. Stage 15 was brutal, with successively harder climbs, three of them of the highest category. Köszegi faced tough competition in the breakaway, especially from Taaramae, who sprinted hard for the many mountain points and was rewarded with the jersey. He also jumped away on the long final climb. But Köszegi felt he had his opponent under control, caught him again, took the lead, Wellens and the rest had given up. Köszegi launched a brief attack when Taaramae was already struggling and rode away to victory. Despite a gap of nearly 20 minutes in the middle of the stage, Quintana swallowed everybody including Taaramae and finished 2nd, just 1'11'' behind.

Our captains struggled and couldn't keep up with the rest of the top 10. I have to admit we could have protected them better, but we had another difficult stage ahead and needed to manage the energy reserves. Our duo dropped to 7th and 8th in the GC.

September 2019: Vuelta a Espana (3/3)

One rider still had excellent freshness ahead of the tough 16th stage, this was to be his day in the breakaway: Eneco Tour winner Marrou, who recently graduated to MON 76, his maximum. There was plenty of competition in the escape group, but the peloton never let up, either. Quintana's Astana set a brisk pace throughout the day, the gap only ever reached 8 minutes. Marrou was first over the final climb, but Quintana overtook him soon on the final bumpy 20 km to the finish. Thinking he couldn't get a good stage result now, we told him to wait for either of his captains. (Well, I thought I had set him to 32 effort.) But as Quintana crossed the line, Marrou had only been overtaken by Betancur and Zoidl, whom he had distanced earlier. And he didn't get to help his captains and was 4th on the day.

But our captains weren't that far back, surprisingly enough, despite having very little energy left for the last 20 km. Herrada and Rolland were only slightly ahead, Grmay finished with Van Garderen, Davis was 90 seconds behind. But lots of other riders lost considerably more time. The GC has thinned out considerably with this stage: Quintana now leads Betancur by 5'18'' and Rolland in 3rd is already 9'44'' back.

The final week is pretty straightforward. There is a MTT, Alto de EL Morredero, directly after the rest day, then two flat stages, then the last mountain stage, but not a mountaintop finish, and then a final ITT of 32.6 km.

The mountain time trial saw a good ride by Grmay, who was 9th, and an ok performance by Davis, he was 15th. Quintana won ahead of Betancur, Van Garderen was faster than Herrada and both were faster than Rolland, so the final podium spot is still in play. Even Grmay has a highly theoretical shot, but he'll suffer in the final ITT.

Nizzolo won stage 18, stage 19 was also flat but there was a late cat. 3 and so Tewelde joined the breakaway in the hope of foiling the sprinters. However, his attempts to form a breakaway just didn't succeed and eventually we had to go with option B, Wojtasik. But he was distanced on the climb by Van Baarle, and in any case, the peloton caught both of them in the final kilometres. Nizzolo took his 4th stage and has taken the lead in the points classification, though Quintana isn't far behind.

The last mountain stage features three increasingly bigger climbs, but not many points, they are just rated cat. 2, cat. 2 and cat. 1. So Taaramae's jersey is already secure, the first KOM jersey all season which won't end up in our hands. It turned out it wasn't a stage for a breakaway anyway. Marrou was supposed to make the group, but he was too far back in the peloton. Which didn't really matter, Tinkoff rode hard, though it was unclear why. Marrou eventually attacked near the second peak and caught up to De Gendt, but the gap to the peloton was less than 2 minutes going into the final climb.

The first of the top 10 riders to attack was Chernetckii, Quintana immediately followed. Our protected captains rode a slightly slower pace but caught back everybody bar Quintana. Near the top of the climb Betancur and Rolland rode away. Our men gave a downhill attack a chance, pulling Herrada and Van Garderen along, Grmay and Davis relayed hard, because now Chernetckii was behind us, he was 7th in the GC and not far ahead of Davis. Herrada and Van Garderen were happy to follow in the slipstream and outsprinted our men. But Chernetckii lost nearly two minutes and dropped behind our captains in the GC.

And we have the result from the final ITT: Howson wins ahead just Van Garderen and Quintana. The Colombian superclimber thus completes the double, winning TdF and Vuelta. As the game puts it: "He thus joins a very select band of riders, made up of: Jaques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Chris Froome and Chris Froome." (Not a mistake on my part.) On top of that he also takes home the points jersey. Davis was 34th, Grmay 56th and they both keep their positions in the GC. Rolland holds onto the podium spot by just 20 seconds ahead of Herrada. Chernetckii lost another position after a disappointing time trial, Poels overtook him. While Kelderman overtook Dombrowski and Aru and made the top 10 after all.

Final Top 10: Quintana, Betancur, Rolland, Jesus Herrada, Van Garderen, Grmay, Davis, Poels, Chernetckii, Kelderman

Stage by stage:
StageGCPointsKOM U25
1Damien HowsonDamien HowsonDamien HowsonDamien HowsonCésar Augusto Marrou
2Tom Jelte SlagterNairo QuintanaDamien HowsonWesley De SaegerNoah Davis
3Daniel OssNairo QuintanaMichael MatthewsWesley De SaegerNoah Davis
4Julian AlaphilippeNairo QuintanaMichael MatthewsWesley De SaegerNoah Davis
5Tony GallopinMichael MatthewsMichael MatthewsWesley De SaegerNoah Davis
6Carlos Alberto BetancurCarlos Alberto BetancurMichael MatthewsJason McLeanNoah Davis
7Giacomo NizzoloCarlos Alberto BetancurMichael MatthewsJason McLeanNoah Davis
8Marcel KittelCarlos Alberto BetancurMarcel KittelJason McLeanNoah Davis
9Nairo QuintanaCarlos Alberto BetancurMarcel KittelJason McLeanNoah Davis
10Silvio HerklotzCarlos Alberto BetancurMarcel KittelRoland FoetzNoah Davis
11Michael MatthewsCarlos Alberto BetancurGiacomo NizzoloRoland FoetzNoah Davis
12Marcel WyssNairo QuintanaGiacomo NizzoloRoland FoetzNoah Davis
13Giacomo NizzoloNairo QuintanaGiacomo NizzoloRoland FoetzNoah Davis
14Kevin RezaNairo QuintanaGiacomo NizzoloRoland FoetzNoah Davis
15Hannes KöszegiNairo QuintanaGiacomo NizzoloRein TaaramaeNoah Davis
16Nairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaRein TaaramaeNoah Davis
17Nairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaRein TaaramaeNoah Davis
18Giacomo NizzoloNairo QuintanaGiacomo NizzoloRein TaaramaeNoah Davis
19Giacomo NizzoloNairo QuintanaGiacomo NizzoloRein TaaramaeNoah Davis
20Nairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaRein TaaramaeNoah Davis
21Damien HowsonNairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaRein TaaramaeNoah Davis

A slight disappointment for Aviva is missing out on the mountain jersey, which goes to Taaramae. That was the price we had to pay for getting two riders into the top 10. Köszegi won a stage for our colours, Davis wins the white jersey, over half an hour ahead of Herklotz. And we've kept the best for last: Aviva handily wins the team rankings, 30'08'' ahead of Katusha. That's something we didn't imagine was possible.

Two riders finishing fairly comfortably in the top 10, that's a pretty big deal for a team like ours. Our men used to be able to take it easy until their day in the breakaway came, then even with one captain most riders had a free role. But in this Vuelta, just about the whole team had to work every day to protect the two captains. Well done, lads!

September 2019: GP Quebec

Race squad: Falkenmayer, Sebastian Henao, Koloda, Kuznetsov, Schössler, Sergienko, Singh, Veiby

Depite some of our puncheurs racing the Tour of Britain we were able to bring a very good team centered around our captain Singh. We faced the variant with the two hills in quick succession separated by hairpin bends and leading to an uphill finish.

We again tried a realistic tactic, no attacks and the best protection for Singh. First from Schössler, then Kuznetsov, then Veiby, then Falkenmayer. Sebastian Henao hit the deck with 30 km to go and was out of contention.

Setting a high pace we didn't allow any late attacks to succeed, not even from Rui Costa. And suddenly, it was all too easy, our last 5 riders simply dropped the rest of the reduced peloton on the way to the final two hills without an attack. The gap reached 20 seconds, Kwiatkowski used up most of his energy reserves to catch us again. But soon after that Singh started his sprint preparation, with Falkenmayer's help he left his two remaining team mates behind. He easily won, Sergienko was the runner-up ahead of Mollema, Kolada was 4th, followed by Dan Martin and Rui Costa, the exhausted Falkenmayer was still 7th, ahead of Kwiatek, with Bardet and Porte completing the top 10, a minute behind. Another fantastic result.

Top 10: Singh, Sergienko, Mollema, Koloda, Dan Martin, Rui Costa, Falkenmayer, Kwiatkowski, Bardet, Porte

September 2019: GP Montreal

Race squad: Falkenmayer, Sebastian Henao, Koloda, Kuznetsov, Schössler, Sergienko, Singh, Veiby

No change to the line-up nor to the tactics. As we went into the penultimate lap our team took to the front for good and set a pace high enough that no attacks succeeded. Again Falkenmayer was the last man to protect Singh, who had three team mates in tow. Our captain may have mistimed his sprint a little and Mollema surged past him on the inside to take the win. But Singh was 2nd and the riders in free roles were 3rd, 5th and 6th. So even Sebastian Henao beat some of the big names despite severely lacking in ACC and SPR, but they all started their sprint too soon.

Top 10: Mollema, Singh, Sergienko, Rui Costa, Koloda, Sebastian Henao, Kwiatkowski, Stybar, Skujins, Dan Martin

In the meantime, we also claimed two podium spots in the Tour of Britain, Denis was 2nd, Oughton was 3rd. Victory, surprisingly enough, went to an ex-Aviva rider and one we never judged very highly: Salvatore Puccio. He did win two GT stages for us, but this was his finest hour, he won three stages, the points jersey and overall.

September 2019: World Championships in Verona

ITT: Tom Dumoulin was able to defend his title and hold off the Australian challengers. Howson took the silver medal, Durbridge bronze. Aviva rider Marrou just misses the top 25, our best man against the clock was 26th, 3'52'' behind, his team mate McLean was 27th, Köszegi 37th.

RR: Despite the steep hill on the course, which had to be tackled ten times, the prediction was a victory from a mass sprint. Controlling Britain I thought I wouldn't interfere much with the race, but I was wrong. We had made it up and down the hill the last time when Boasson Hagen attacked against the strong Italian train. A little later, with less than 8 km to go, Vanmarcke launched his attack. Surely this wouldn't go anywhere?

Britain's good-but-not-top sprinter tried to to find a rear wheel but anybody who's anybody had already taken the rear wheel of Matthews. Sagan, Degenkolb, Demare, Oss... ducks in a row. So instead Swift rode to the front to latch onto anybody sprinting past him ‚Äď but he dropped the whole peloton without accelerating. Now he was going to go for it. Vanmarcke had overtaken EBH, Swift still had a sprint in him, he was too late to catch either of them, but it was good enough for bronze. Behind him: Sagan, Matthews, Degenkolb, Demare, Oss, Vanbilsen and Hagenaars.

Last season we had a record number of 13 Aviva riders in the WC road race, this time the number dwindled, puncheurs and climbers weren't in high demand. Our best rider was Singh, he finished 33rd. Falkenmayer was 41st, Wojtasik 87th, Sergienko 88th, Koloda 97th, Kuznetsov 99th and Marrou 122nd.

October 2019: Il Lombardia

Race squad: Denis, Falkenmayer, Sebastian Henao, Koloda, Sequeiros, Sergienko, Singh, Tewelde

Singh was named an outside favourite for the Giro di Lombardia, his final WT race for Aviva. We were a bit sceptical. Yes, he has just reached and maxed out his HIL 80 and climbed to AVG 76, but the starting list included many fine riders. To name but a few: Quintana, Betancur, Dan Martin, Kwiatkowski, Rui Costa, Rolland, Mollema, Bardet, Slagter and, of course, five time winner Philippe Gilbert.

And it was Gilbert himself who launched the first serious attack, on the penultimate climb with still nearly 50 km to go. Maybe it was just a test, he was caught in the descent. But then it became clear, he isn't allowed to pursue victory for himself but is tasked with setting up Kwiatkowski. Gilbert was among the riders who made the flat section towards the final hill fast. Singh came to the front at the foot of the last climb, but the protection of Denis wouldn't last long, the speed was brutal and there were attacks left and right. Kwiatkowski was the first to go, followed by Rui Costa and then a group of four riders, Slagter, Bardet, Adam Yates and Aru.

Singh was overtaken by more riders but clawed his way back to the front of his group at the top of the hill. He decided to use his last energy reserves for a downhill attack, he'd have no sprint left in him. It was a good move, he got a gap and neither Pinot nor young Toralf Mendez (HIL 83) were able to catch him. They faded and finished outside the top 10, like Gilbert.

An exhausted but happy Singh crossed the line as 7th, our best result so far in this race. Just behind him were Moser, Mollema and Brambilla ‚Äď the first WT points this season for the two Italians.

Kwiatkowski wins the Race of the Falling Leaves 24 seconds ahead of Rui Costa. While Quintana, Dan Martin, Rolland, our ex-rider Hoem (now HIL 82) missed the top 10 by a large margin, Betancur was only 58th.

Top 10: Kwiatkowski, Rui Costa, Slagter, Bardet, Adam Yates, Aru, Singh, Moser, Mollema, Brambilla

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