Dunbar goes close to stage victory on Giro d'Italia debut
Fri, 24 May 2019 00:06:00 +0000

For a Grand Tour debutant, the midpoint of the race can be the most daunting of all. By the second week, he has already raced for longer than ever before, but he must cover the same distance again just to make it to the finish. After wading this far into the deep end, it's a case of sink or swim.

At the start of stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia in Carpi on Wednesday, Eddie Dunbar (Team Ineos) ran the rule over the opening half of his maiden Grand Tour and saw encouraging signs.

"The level is quite high here but I think at the moment my body is coping quite well," he said. "The harder stages are coming and I'm looking forward to them, which is a good sign."


Those words were prescient. Stage 12 of the Giro saw the race enter the mountains for the first time, and Dunbar showcased his abilities as a climber and his powers of endurance by placing third on a stage won by Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe) in a five-up sprint.

"I'm a bit disappointed really," Dunbar said after rolling to a halt past the finish line in Pinerolo. "I felt like I was one of the strongest there. I knew I wasn't the quickest, but I was certainly one of the strongest."

The Corkman had set out from Cuneo seeking to grab any opportunity that arose. He was swiftly aboard the break of 25 riders that forged clear after 15km and he proceeded to attack on the first category 1 climb of the race, the Montoso.

Team Ineos

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Lopez and Landa find common cause to begin fightback at Giro d'Italia
Thu, 23 May 2019 19:55:00 +0000

Giuseppe Martinelli's absence from the finish of stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia in Novi Ligure was a quiet statement of intent. Rather than watch Wednesday's inevitable bunch finish, the Astana directeur sportif opted to drive a day ahead of the race to reconnoitre the new climb of Montoso and the finale of stage 12 to Pinerolo.

With Miguel Angel Lopez languishing some 4:29 down on Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) after a calamitous display in the San Martino time trial, it was not a question of whether Astana would go on the offensive, but when.

In Thursday morning's La Gazzetta dello Sport, mind, Martinelli was quoted as saying that nothing much would happen on the Giro's first mountain stage, even if the newspaper warned its readers to take those words with a grain of salt. "This is a pure bluff from Martinelli," it wrote. "It won't be surprising if his riders make a move."


So it proved. Dario Cataldo and Manuele Boaro were delegated to enter the day's early break of 25 riders, which at one point established a lead of 15 minutes over the peloton. Once the bunch hit the Montoso, the first category 1 ascent of the Giro, Astana moved swiftly to the front.

Jan Hirt surged forcefully on the lower slopes of the climb with the clear aim of teeing up an attack from Lopez. The Colombian duly obliged with a rasping acceleration of his own that only Richard Carapaz (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) could follow.

After that move petered out, Mikel Landa (Movistar) – another man with acres of ground to recoup – launched his offensive. Lopez responded immediately, and this duo quickly established a sizeable advantage over a dwindling group of favourites that included Nibali and Roglic.

Podium ambitions

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Roglic keeps his poker face as Giro d'Italia mountains loom large
Thu, 23 May 2019 19:54:00 +0000

While Vincenzo Nibali was venting his frustrations about Primoz Roglic in a truck stop car park on the outskirts of Pinerolo after stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia, the Slovenian rider continued to keep his emotions, his real state of form and his race tactics hidden away like a world class poker player.

Roglic and his Jumbo-Visma team perhaps lack Nibali's Grand Tour experience but they are ready for a fight in the mountains that begin in earnest on Friday. Thursday's stage to Pinerolo and the late Montoso climb were just a warm-up for the next three days.

After finishing 24th in Pinerolo, one place ahead of Nibali in the group of overall contenders, Roglic rode alone to the Jumbo-Visma team bus. He opted not to warm down on the rollers and took a shower before talking about his day.


He was evasive as ever, often looking away from the camera to gather his thoughts. Perhaps even playing a tactic game of fake on his rivals, Roglic revealed he did not have a good day on the first climb of this year's Giro d'Italia.

"It was the first big climb. I didn't feel really good, so I wasn't going to attack and go solo, but in the end it was okay. We've had quite a lot of rest days and it's hard to start racing again but today we (finally) started," he said without a drop of emotion.

"But I was good enough to stay with the other guys. It was nice to do a climb, to warm up for the bigger climbs."

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Nibali irritated by Roglic's defensive Giro d'Italia tactics
Thu, 23 May 2019 19:35:00 +0000

The wait for the showdown between Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) at the Giro d'Italia continued on the road to Pinerolo, but the first signs of a rivalry emerged after the finish, with the Italian clearly irritated by Roglic's defensive riding and his refusal to help chase down attackers and potential overall contenders Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana).

"We all worked, except Roglic," Nibali said with disapproval while at the Bahrain-Merida bus post stage. "I worked, Yates did turns, all the big guys in the move worked except him."

Nibali acknowledged that Roglic has the right to race defensively but hinted Friday's mountain stage up to Lago Serru will be a very different day in the saddle.


"He can do that because he's got a decent lead. He knows he's got the final time trial, too, and so he's defending his lead but tomorrow will be more of a direct race off," the Italian promised.

Subtle racing rather than Coppi heroics

Stage 12 from Cuneo to Pinerolo was never going to see the heroics Fausto Coppi produced in 1949 because the 158km stage included just the Montoso climb with 32km to race rather the legendary climbs of the Alps into France and then back into Italy.

The racing was more subtle, like the early round in a title fight. It was the antipasto to the main meal in the high mountains coming up in the next three days.

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Polanc: I'm proud to be Slovenian
Thu, 23 May 2019 19:25:00 +0000

Before Jan Polanc could think about defending his maglia rosa, he was called upon to defend Slovenian cycling. The UAE Team Emirates rider moved into the overall lead of the Giro d'Italia following stage 12 from Cuneo to Pinerolo, leaving him more than four minutes ahead of fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), but their achievements have been overshadowed by the implication of some compatriots in the Operation Aderlass blood doping inquiry.

Last week, the UCI announced that Bahrain-Merida rider Kristijan Koren and directeur sportif Borut Bozic had been provisionally suspended for potential anti-doping rule violations uncovered by the investigation, which is centred on the activities of German-based doctor Mark Schmidt. Croatian rider Kristijan Durasek of UAE Team Emirates was also provisionally suspended by the UCI on the basis of information gleaned from the inquiry.

On Wednesday, the UCI confirmed to Cyclingnews that it has been following the activities of several Slovenian individuals since 2015, with Milan Eržen, the managing director at Bahrain-Merida, at the centre of their attention. Speaking via Bahrain-Merida, Eržen said that allegations of his involvement in Operation Aderlass were "absolutely false and unfounded."


"I think it's really sad this situation in Slovenia, especially with the good results we've had in the last few years," Polanc said in Pinerolo on Thursday. "Since I was a kid, I've been in the team of my father, so I was never in contact with the team of the other guys. I'm proud to be Slovenian. I'm happy to be Slovenian. I'm happy to live in Slovenia. I can say it's sad. I can't tell you any more."

Polanc began racing at age 12 under the tutelage of his father, Marko, who was a prominent rider in the former Yugoslavia. As an amateur, Polanc raced for the Radenska Continental squad (now Ljubljana Gusto Santic), where his father was among the coaching staff. The team's recent alumni include Tour of California winner Tadej Pogacar, also of UAE Team Emirates.

Eržen was involved with the rival Adria Mobil Continental team, and Polanc said that he had never had any connection the man who was recently described by Il Corriere della Sera as the Dominus of Slovenian cycling. Eržen later helped to establish the Bahrain-Merida team after serving as a triathlon coach to Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

Jumbo-Visma deny links between Roglic and Eržen

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Giro d'Italia stage 12 highlights - Video
Thu, 23 May 2019 18:34:00 +0000

A domestique turned stage winner Thursday at the 2019 Giro d'Italia, when Bora-Hansgrohe's loyal worker Cesare Benedetti parlayed his day off the front into a stage win during stage 12. Benedetti joined a large group of 25 riders off the front that also included Jan Polanc, who would ride the move into the pink jersey, taking over the race from UAE Team Emirates teammate Valerio Conti.

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Mikel Landa (Movistar) attacked over the only categorised climb of the day and gained 30 seconds on their GC rivals, but the day belonged to the opportunists as Benedetti had to fight his way back into contention several times as the finished neared, finally regaining the front group in the final kilometres and then winning a five-up sprint at the end of another long day in Pinerolo.


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Giro d'Italia 2019: Stage 12 finish line quotes
Thu, 23 May 2019 16:27:00 +0000

Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) - new race leader

"It's always a dream to wear the pink jersey. For me after two stage wins at the Giro I think this was a dream for us.

"Today the team boss says you need to go in the break, I said 'Fucker!'. I was focused to get in the breakaway and at one point I was thinking of the stage victory for sure but when we got the gap everyone started saying you need to pull now so I think I did what I needed to do today.

"For the stage tomorrow it will be big for the team. We didn't come here with GC ambitions but we've had Valerio [Conti] in pink for quite a few days and now for me it's also really nice."


Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe) - stage 12 winner

"I've been working so hard for the others during this Giro and today I had the opportunity to get in the break. We said in the meeting if it was a big break I should sneak in and it wasn't my first time in the break but stayed in it until the end, riding 100 percent.

"I'm not a talent, I'm not a winner. I would've been happy with a high placing and I wasn't with the guys in the climb but I made it back on and I did the same on the final hill. I knew the three guys on the front would look at each other and hesitate a bit. I used everything I had to get back on and sat on the wheel and got the win."

Eddie Dunbar (Team Ineos) - third on stage 12

"I'm a bit disappointed really, I wasn't the quickest but I was certainly one of the strongest. At the finish I had [Gianluca] Brambilla and Eros [Capecchi] there and I knew them being Italian they'd be a bit more keen to get to the finish than me so I gambled a bit and then got caught by the two guys behind but that's bike racing I guess. You live and learn.

Hugh Carthy (EF Education First) - best young rider

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No California stage wins for Skujins but plenty of kilometres
Thu, 23 May 2019 15:29:00 +0000

Toms Skujins has made himself a regular feature on Tour of California podiums in recent years, taking his first big career win there in 2015 with Hincapie Racing, adding another in 2016 with Cannondale-Drapac and collecting a third last year with Trek-Segafredo – his current team – while also earning the final polka-dot mountains jersey.

California has been good to the 27-year-old Latvian, but he came up empty this year after several tries to make something happen from breakaways. His best chance from a big escape group on stage 5 fell short as the tailwind blew the peloton up to the break and then into the finish in Ventura.

"This has definitely been a hard edition," said Skujins, speaking about the 20,725 metres of climbing over 1,251 kilometres and seven stages, four of which were more than 200km. "We did get unlucky on a few days, like the Morro Bay day, where it was just a headwind the whole day and it made for kind of boring racing.


"But I enjoyed it," Skujins told Cyclingnews before the final stage. "It was definitely a hard edition just because of the kilometres, and because the peloton just gets stronger and stronger each year. Even if I go away from this race without a stage win, I'm just happy to be alive, because it's been either winning or not finishing, so just to finish and feel the way I feel, and contributing to the team – contributing yesterday and contributing in the sprints – then I'm still going to be pretty, pretty happy about it."

Skujins has taken all three of his California wins from breakaways. In 2015, he escaped over Mt. Hamilton and soloed to the uphill finish at a motorcycle park outside of San Jose. In 2016, Skujins made the move to South Lake Tahoe and then won a three-up sprint at Heavenly Resort to take the top stage prize. Skujins was on the attack again in 2017 on Mt. Hamilton when he crashed hard and left the race with a concussion. He returned triumphantly last year, winning from a two-up sprint at Laguna Seca Raceway with enough time to treat fans to a dancing celebration on the way to the line.

This year, Skujins is happy to come away from the race having helped team leader Richie Porte into fourth on Mt. Baldy and fifth overall, all the while putting needed kilometres and intensity into his legs to set up the second half of his season.

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D’hoore wins Emakumeen Bira stage after collarbone injury
Thu, 23 May 2019 14:43:00 +0000

After a broken collarbone disrupted the start of the season, Jolien D’hoore (Boels-Dolmans) took her first victory of the 2019 season on Thursday when she won the opening stage of the Emakumeen Bira. The stage saw several attacks, but the work of D’hoore’s Boels-Dolmans teammates meant that it all came down to a sprint.

D’hoore fractured her collarbone in March in a crash at the Drentse 8 van Westerveld, just her second race of the season, putting her out of action for much of the spring classics. While she returned to racing at the Tour of Flanders and Healthy Ageing Tour, D’hoore was yet to raise her arms at the finish line, the moment every sprinter lives for.

Back on the top step of the rostrum, she said that she is completely recovered from her injury and looking forward to racing – and winning – again.


“I am fresh as I haven’t raced much yet. Many others have taken a break after the spring classics, but I kept on training and working hard to come back. I’m happy I’m on this level already, so now I will race as much as I can the next couple of weeks, and I hope to win as much as I can.”

Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) went off the front on the second climb of the day and built an advantage that threatened to foil Boels-Dolmans’ sprint plans. This was part of a deliberate race strategy by Trek-Segafredo who had also provided the day’s early breakaway.

“First Anna Plichta was in the front, then Tayler Wiles tried something,” Longo Borgini explained. “I countered when they caught her, and in the end, there was this duo going out with me and Amanda. I just went all-out. And you never know, sometimes you can make it to the finish. I’m happy with my performance, and the team rode well too. I’m taking it day by day now. I will go with the flow this week, and when I have a chance, I will take it with both hands.”

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More damaging questions as links uncovered between Erzen and Aderlass doping doctor
Thu, 23 May 2019 11:30:00 +0000

Further reports in Le Monde and Corriere della Sera have implicated Milan Erzen with the doctor at the center of the Operation Aderlass doping investigation.

Erzen is already under investigation with the UCI, with Cyclingnews confirming on Wednesday that the sport’s governing body were looking into the Bahrain-Merida managing director. Erzen has denied any contact between himself and the UCI and on Wednesday told Cyclingnews that “all and any implications regarding my involvement in Aderlass are absolutely false and unfounded.”

However, on Thursday Le Monde reported that information provided to them showed that the investigators at the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF) – the anti-doping arm of the UCI – had documentation that Erzen made contact with Mark Schmidt, via a Croatian intermediary, to purchase a centrifuge - a piece of equipment used in blood transfusions to separate red cells from plasma. Bahrain-Merida had no comment this morning in relation to the fresh allegations. The UCI have also not responded.


Schmidt was arrested in February at his office in Germany having been accused of running a blood doping network that stretched across Nordic skiing, cycling and other sports. Several of the athletes implicated came from Slovenia and Croatia, as well as a number of other countries, with a total of 21 athletes identified as part of the doping ring.

Erzen was instrumental in setting up the Bahrain-Merida team, and although he is not listed as a member of staff on the squad’s website, he is regarded as the key figure behind the scenes and regularly signs his emails as the managing director. He trained the founder of the team - Prince Nasser ben Hamed Al-Khalifa – for a triathlon and has worked closely with the Prince in training his horses.

In total there are six Slovenian riders on the Bahrain-Merida team, plus head sports director and former rider Goradz Stangelj, sports director and former rider Borut Bozic, team doctor Marjan Korsic, and other staff. Earlier this month the UCI moved quickly to suspend Bozic and current Bahrain-Merida rider Kristijan Koren, along with Kristijan Durasek and Alessandro Petacchi, for their links to Operation Aderlass after details of the Europol police investigation were published by Corriere della Sera and Le Monde.

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