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The finish of the Vuelta a Espana was a tear-jerker as Michael Woods shared a deeply personal story after winning the stage. The race as a whole felt a bit magical, with the peloton riding high into the mist of the mountains in the Basque region of Spain. While the breakaway fought for the stage win, the GC contenders set the road alight with countless attacks. The 2018 Vuelta a Espana is coming down to the final stages and the race got even closer today.
Story of the day: La Vuelta is a saving grace for EF-Drapac
Cross-country runner turned professional cyclist Michael Woods, climbed to an emphatic victory at the Vuelta a Espana on stage 17. It was the second stage victory at La Vuelta for EF Education First-Drapac.
The Slipstream Sports program has consistently been near the bottom of the WorldTour rankings last couple years and 2018 has been no different. The squad entered the Spanish Grand Tour with a mere four wins, none of which were at the WorldTour level. The Tour de France went off script when GC favourite Rigoberto Uran abandoned due to injuries, and the highlight was Lawson Craddock’s fight to finish the race after a horrible crash on the opening stage.
Uran’s GC ambitions at La Vuelta may have washed away, but the team has found success in stage hunting. Simon Clarke ended the team’s WorldTour winless streak by taking La Vuelta’s fifth stage out of the breakaway. Then came Woods’ win today.
🔥 Cuando llegas al límite para ganar… | When you reach the limit for win…
— La Vuelta (@lavuelta) September 12, 2018
With Direct Energie applying to go to the WorldTour level in 2019, 19 teams will be vying for 18 spots. Furthermore, UCI President David Lappartient has been making waves in the media of late about reducing the number of WorldTour teams to 15 for the 2020 season. UCI points will become key in securing a license, something EF-Drapac has struggled to do the last couple of season. The is ranked 16th out of 18.
EF-Drapac looks safe to be in the WorldTour for another year, but the team will most certainly have to find a way to win more if cycling’s top-tier is indeed reduced to just 15 teams.
The Beauty of Cycling
In the post-stage interview, Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) revealed a very personal and heartbreaking tragedy that happened to his family earlier this year. The moment shows there is much more to life than the sport of cycling, but it also shows how the sport can help us to heal in the toughest of times.
Michael Woods on his emotional win in stage 17 of the Vuelta. 'I wanted to win so bad for him, and I did.' pic.twitter.com/lUdRlAOpo6
— FloBikes (@flobikes) September 12, 2018
Valverde closes in on Yates, as Quintana falters
While Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) took the stage win over Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) on the terribly steep finishing climb to Balcón de Bizkaia, the general classification saw a major shake-up.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was able to power through the final few hundred metres to gap race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and close his deficit to a mere 25 seconds with two key climbing stages in Andorra remaining. Meanwhile, Nairo Quintana had a day to forget. The Colombian suffered on the final climb and dropped from fourth overall to sixth, 2:11 behind. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) also lost time and dropped out of the top three.
Young sensations Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) and Miguel Ángel López (Astana), 23 and 24 years old respectively, are set for a battle royale for the final podium spot. The two are separated by just 14 seconds. Both have climbed strongly throughout this Vuelta, but have played different tactics. López has consistently attacked on the summit finishes, while Mas has fought to survive and follow wheels. The Astana rider’s urge to attack cost him on stage 17, as he fell away in the finale to concede four seconds to Mas. Four seconds may not sound like much, but at this year’s race, it very much could be the difference.
EF-Drapac van vandalized overnight
EF-Education First-Drapac directeur sportif Juanma Garate posted a photo on Twitter Wednesday morning of a team van vandalized at the Vuelta a Espana. The message roughly translates to “La Vuelta out of here.”
The Vuelta a Espana is in the Basque Country and the race has had a troubled history with the region. Political protesters blocked the passage of the race in 1978 and the Spanish Grand Tour didn’t return to the region until 2011. According to Cyclingnews, many vehicles were in fact vandalized with team and official race vehicles among the damaged cars.
Oraindik horrela gaude?
¿Todavía estamos así?
Are we still like this? pic.twitter.com/9XfTeLCuIB
— Juanma Garate (@GarateJuanma) September 12, 2018
Italian Letizia Paternoster will join the new Trek-Segafredo women’s team next season. The 19-year-old is a multiple Junior European and World Champion on the track and claimed the bronze medal in the junior road race at the world road championships in Bergen, Norway last year.
Despite her young age and being a first-year elite rider, Paternoster has shown impressive results. She captured top ten finishes at the WorldTour-level Gent-Wevelgem and Crescent Vårgårdas. She will continue to balance road and track racing with an eye on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Exciting news today – a new adventure’s about to begin!
I am happy to announce that I will be joining #TrekFactoryRacing Team in 2019!
— Letizia Paternoster (@LetyPaternoster) September 11, 2018
WNT–ROTOR also announced the signing of 27-year old Austrian road race champion Sarah Rijkes. The 27-year-old will be a key asset in helping the team’s sprinters Lisa Brennauer and Kirsten Wild.
The squad is looking mighty strong for next season. The team recently confirmed the re-signing of U23 European Champion Aafke Soet and Austrian Anna Badegruber. Furthermore, Lin Teutenberg, whose aunt is Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, will be going into her second year of a two-year contract. Ane Santesteban is also joining the squad in 2019. She placed ninth overall at the Giro Rosa in July.
Krista Doebel-Hickok will join the American Rally Cycling program in 2019, coming from Cylance. The American, who turned professional in 2013, will add climbing depth to Rally’s roster. Doebel-Hickok has spent the last three seasons racing in Europe, where she competed at many of the races on the Women’s WorldTour. Her European experience will greatly benefit the young Rally squad.
Lastly, Marc Hirschi and Casper Pedersen have signed three-year contracts with Team Sunweb until the end of 2021.
Race to the Rock update
The third edition of the Race to the Rock is rolling toward the Northern Territory, with Sarah Hammond again forging ahead out the front. The two-time winner has managed to carve out a handy gap in windy conditions while riding the remote reaches of South Australia.
It seems unlikely that anyone will be able to catch the ultra-endurance powerhouse now, given there are just few hundred kilometres left in the 3,569-kilometre ultra-endurance race from Tasmania to the Northern Territory’s red rock of Uluru. Second-place rider Adam Lana was about two hundred kilometres back at the time of writing. Single-speed rider Nick Skarajew in third at more than 500 kilometres behind as he worked his way past Lake Torrens.
To follow the race as it unfolds in real time you can see the live tracking dots here.
#MTBgirls – go out and ride your bike
When it comes to empowering and fun women’s ride videos, mountain biking set the bar high with the Ferda Girls Humble parody last year. It was with great anticipation that we clicked play on the latest star-packed offering, “#MTBgirls – go out and ride your bike”. Great sentiment, fantastic voices and, based on a quick straw poll of the Ella crew, it did the trick of making us all want to hit the trails. Though, has it just gone that bit too far over the line into cheesy territory? Have a look and see what you think.