Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:
Elia Viviani won a fourth stage at the Giro d’Italia and locked up the points classification. Simon Yates is one day closer to winning a Grand Tour, as the GC contenders face three decisive days in the mountains. Specialized, Oakley, and Shimano all announce new gear. Two 2019 Middle East gran fondo events are announced.
Quote of the day
“I hope everyone is tired, because I’m tired.”
— Giro d’Italia race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) after Stage 17
Dispatches from the Giro d’Italia
Viviani takes a fourth stage win, seals maglia ciclamino title
In the end, Stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia was a day for the sprinters — the last before the final stage in Rome, on Sunday. And while the winner of that stage is to be determined, there’s no longer a question of who will win the points classification, which Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) sealed by winning a fourth stage in the rain in Iseo ahead of Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida).
As expected, the 10km climb at the start wreaked havoc on the shortish 155km day, with three GC contenders, Chris Froome (Team Sky), Rohan Dennis (BMC), and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) dropped from the front group. as Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) led an initial, doomed breakaway attempt. With Bora-Hansgrohe chasing, that move was negated, and Froome, Dennis, and Lopez eventually regained contact.
“That was like junior racing out there — from the gun to the finish it was non-stop,” Froome said. “It was a really full-on day at the Giro even though on paper it looked to be quite a straightforward day.”
Several other breakaway groups formed, including a 22-rider move, and another featuring Sanchez, Wout Poels (Team Sky), Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy), and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing) that finally formed after 100km of racing. With Bora and LottoNL-Jumbo chasing for their sprinters, however, the race was back together with 10km remaining, just in time for a heavy downpour in Iseo. Danny Van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) opened up the sprint early, but Viviani timed his finish to perfection, crossing the line with four fingers aloft, one for each stage win of this Giro d’Italia.
“We knew this could be a very hard stage, and it was indeed,” Viviani said. “There were very strong breakaway riders, but Bora controlled. We played a little bit with them. We did it right because it was the second-last stage for sprinters and Bennett could have put my maglia ciclamino in danger. Once it came down to a bunch sprint, I asked my guys to lead me out. When Van Poppel anticipated the sprint, I knew it was too early. It was actually perfect for me.”
Yates one day closer to Giro victory
Given the preocessional sprint stage into Rome on Sunday, there are now only three big mountain stages between British rider Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and his first Grand Tour victory. He leads Tom Dumoulin by 56 seconds, and has been consistently been better than Dumoulin on climbs at this race.
Yates admitted that Stage 17 was much more difficult than he’d anticipated.
“I was expecting a much easier day today,” Yates said. “It’s been a very fast stage. Everybody was looking for a breakaway. There were also candidates for a sprint finish. We didn’t make the race difficult but other teams did because they were never happy with the composition of the breakaways. We were happy for the breakaways to stay away but other teams were not, so it came down to a sprint.
“In the coming three days, I’ll watch Tom [Dumoulin] mostly and the other GC guys. I’m getting closer to the end. As the days tick down, I feel that I’m getting closer to the overall victory but I also feel that difficult days are coming so I’ll be careful. Tomorrow is the only day that I know the final climb but I expect a breakaway to finally succeed.”
Velon sprint power data: Van Poppel strongest, Bennett fastest
Velon has released power data from the final 400 metres of Stage 17, a 155km rolling stage from Riva del Garda to Iseo. While they didn’t send out Viviani’s data, they did provide data of the second-, third-, and fourth-placed sprinters. Interesting to note that while Danny van Poppel had the highest average power and highest max power, he finished lowest of the three riders. It’s true what they say — timing is everything. Instead, look to Bennett for the highest average speed and highest top speed.
Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Top speed: 67.7km/h
Average power: 970W
Max power: 1390W
Niccolò Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida)
Top speed: 65.7km/h
Average power: 940W
Max power: 1300W
Danny van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo)
Top speed: 65.7km/h
Average power: 990W
Max power: 1490W
Some statistics from Stage 17
• Stage 17 was the fourth stage win for Elia Viviani in this Giro, equaling his teammate Fernando Gaviria in 2017. The last Italian sprinter to win four stages in a single Giro was Alessandro Petacchi, in 2005
• Stage 17 marked the third time Niccolò Bonifazio finished third on a stage in this year’s Giro. Bonifazio did the same in stage 7 to Praia a Mare, and stage 12 to Imola.
• Stage 18 will mark the 12th day in the maglia rosa for Simon Yates. Among the currently active riders, only Vincenzo Nibali (21) and Tom Dumoulin (17) have led the Giro d’Italia for more days. It’s the 18th maglia rosa for British riders – equaling Irish riders – and they sit in 11th place in the countries’ tally.
• If Yates retains the maglia rosa into Rome (16 days in the lead), it’ll be the longest reign since Tony Rominger, who led the Giro for 21 days (from stage 2 to 22) in 1995, when there was only one rest day. The record belongs to Eddy Merckx with 36 in a row from stage 7 in 1972 to the last one in 1973, the year he led from start to finish.
Stage 18 preview: Flat, flat, flat — and then up, up, up
Stage 18, a 196km route from Abbiategrasso to the summit of Prato Nevoso, will deliver a total elevation gain of 2,000 metres. It’s essentially a flat stage with a sharp final climb. The route runs across the Po Plain, from the outskirts of Milan to the southern Cuneo area, passeing through several urban areas, with roundabouts, traffic islands and speed bumps being the main obstacles. There is a short categorised climb in Novello, then the route levels out again until it reaches the foot of the Category 1 Prato Nevoso. The final 15km run entirely uphill. The gradient is constantly around 7%, and steeper along the hairpins leading to the finish. The road is wide and well paved with a 200-metre home stretch.
Greipel takes opening stage at Baloise Belgium Tour
After winning two stages at 4 Jours de Dunkerque, André Greipel continued his winning streak in the Baloise Belgium Tour. On the opening stage in Buggenhout, the “Gorilla” finished off a team effort, beating out Italian Ricardo Minali and Belgian Tim Merlier.
“I have to thank the whole team, everybody played its part in today’s victory, especially Jelle Wallays did an amazing effort today,” Greipel said. “During the sprint preparations, I could stay on the wheels of De Buyst, Maes and Sieberg. There was some headwind at the finish so we had to time our effort really well, which we did. A sprinter is only as good as the team in front of him. We have to use every race now to practice our sprint train and to trust each other heading into the Tour de France.”
Shimano goes camo-tastic with new limited-edition XC5 gravel shoes
Shimano has released a flashy new pseudo-camouflage version of its versatile XC5 mountain bike and gravel shoes. Limited to a total of 1000 pairs, these XC5 shoes feature carbon fiber-reinforced nylon midsoles, laced uppers for an even fit, a fully treaded outsole with a grippy rubber compound made by Michelin, and a trim profile. Pricing is unchanged at US$150 / AU$199.
As it turns out, CyclingTips tech writer Dave Rome just finished his full review of the standard-finish XC5 shoes, which you can find here.
Specialized announces a TT disc and some Tarmac trickle down
Specialized has formally launched a wheel that’s been in its pro rotation for over a year, a time trial disc wheel called the 321 (like a countdown timer, get it?), as well as a two trickle-down Tarmacs.
The disc weighs just 1,005 grams (claimed) and is highly asymmetrical, with an drive-side indent to make space for the rear derailleur and a wide, lenticular shape on the non-drive side. Retail cost is $2,500, no UK or EU pricing yet. It is available in rim brake and disc brake (a disc disc, how confusing) version.
Specialized also announced its new 9R and 10R Tarmacs. The new Tarmac was first launched as an S-Works-only bike, with nothing at a lower price point. The 9R will retail for about $3,000 and the 10R will be $2,500. They use lower-grade carbon, so they’re a bit heavier, and they feature standard round seatposts. But otherwise, they should ride much like the S-Works model.
Oakley debuts Jawbreaker Signature Cavendish Edition sunglasses
As Oakley is often wont to do, the iconic eyewear company has just announced its latest athlete-inspired sunglass model. The new Jawbreaker Signature Cavendish Edition features metallic green frames — seemingly the favorite of the Manx sprinter based on previous iterations — and Oakley’s detail-enhancing Prizm Road lens with a matching green mirrored coating. Otherwise, they’re identical to other Jawbreakers, including the distinctive oversized lens shape, adjustable-length earpieces, and the slick clamshell-like frame design for easy lens swaps.
Retail price is US$233 / AU$295, and more information can be found at oakley.com.
Gran fondos… in the Middle East?
Two new mass-participant cycling events that take place in the Middle East have been announced for 2019.
Haute Route has announced a Haute Route Oman, to be held March 1-3, 2019. Designed to highlight Oman’s natural beauty, Haute Route Oman will take riders approximately 370kms with 6,500+ metres of vertical gain on a course laced with long, high-altitude mountain climbs and sweeping descents. The centrepiece of the Haute Route Oman experience is the magnificent Al Hajar mountain range and the iconic Jebel Akhdar (the Green Mountain), one of the country’s most spectacular locations. Full course information will be announced in the coming months, but the event will include two classic mass start stages and an individual time trial. The event will be managed by event organiser Oman Sail. For more information, visit Haute Route Oman.
Just days later, the inaugural seven-stage Middle East Tour will be held, March 8-14, from Amman to Jerusalem. With stages in Jordan, Israel, and Palestine, the Middle East Tour is the first cross-border sport event in the world, and is sanctioned by the UCI in their Cycling for All calendar. The event has been in the planning, negotiating, and preparing for five years, with a test event in 2017 ridden by Mitchelton-Scott pro Annemiek van Vleuten.
The concept for the new seven-day event arose in a discussion between Austrian Gerhard Schönbacher, a former Tour de France rider and organizer of the Crocodile Trophy MTB, and Israeli Ido Eindor, an international UCI commissaire.
“It is our goal to promote peace through the participation of cyclists from all over the world as well as from local participants from the Middle East,” Schönbacher said. “It makes us happy that all participating authorities are behind our idea. Sport, more than anything else, goes far beyond politics. It has the power to achieve global unity.”
The Middle East Tour will start in Jordan with a circuit race in the old City of Amman, followed by stage finishes in the historical city of Petra and Aqaba at the Red Sea. After a rest day in Eilat, the Middle East Tour continues with the longest stage to the unique Mitzpe Ramon crater. After a long descent in stage 5, the race will arrive at Neve Zohar at the Dead Sea. On the final day riders travel to Jericho, where they finish the first half-stage. Part two of that stage goes from Jericho to Jerusalem. Fore more information, visit the Middle East Tour website.