Backspin: Smashing return for Hammer Limburg, Dauphiné kicks off road to Le Tour, and more …
Who leads Hammer Series after two rounds? What's next at Dauphiné following Geraint Thomas crash? How did Luxembourg, Korea and Thüringen Ladies Tour pan out? Eurosport's 'Backspin' has the answers ...
Race officials reported more than three million viewers tuned in across various live streams to watch the return of the Hammer Series in Limburg over the weekend. The innovative co-creation of Velon and Infront Sports returned to the Netherlands after debuting in May 2017 when 2.3 million watched the inaugural event online.
“It’s a nice concept because you have to ride, but you have to think at the same time. It’s a really intense three days,” admitted 2012 world champion Philippe Gilbert, who was joined on Quick-Step’s ‘chase’ squad by Kasper Asgreen, Alvaro Hodeg, Yves Lampaert and Enric Mas.
“We started safely today, with a good pace but not too fast, and we tried to speed up every lap. We knew by doing this some guys would come closer, but we sped up on the last lap.”
Limburg runner-up Mitchelton was forced to ‘chase’ its way back to the top of the series leaderboard after falling flat on the ‘climb’ two days earlier.
The Australian WorldTour team started fourth on the road, 1-minute 23-seconds behind Quick-Step, which launched as the first team in the eight-team finalist group after Sunweb had already recorded the top time (40:56) amongst the remaining eight squads in the runner-up field.
Mitchelton’s five-rider pursuit line-up consisting of current Madison world champion Roger Kluge (GER), 2017 New Zealand time trial champion Jack Bauer, former Australian time trial champions Michael Hepburn (2014) and Luke Durbridge (2012, 2013) and 2016 Paris-Roubaix winner Mathew Hayman (AUS) steamrolled past LottoNL-Jumbo and Bahrain-Merida to cross the line 55 seconds behind Quick-Step.
However Mitchelton’s finishing time secured it first on the Day 3 podium, second in Limburg and first on the series overall leaderboard with 181 points.
“We went out really hard like our plan was and we pulled nearly 30 seconds out of Quick-Step straight away on the first lap and then we just maintained the same until the end,” explained Durbridge. “We are really happy to win the ‘Hammer Chase’ today and also continuing our overall lead in the Hammer Series.”
Quick-Step sits second on the table with 153 points, followed by BMC Racing at 108 with the third and final leg of the of the series set to debut at Hammer Hong Kong in October.
“The team was awesome,” said Durbridge. “The boys were super strong and I am super proud of how everyone road today and now we can look forward to trying to win the Hammer Series in Hong Kong.”
Dauphiné: Sky wins prologue despite Thomas crash
With the Tour du Suisse still five days away, the first of two Tour de France lead-ups kicked off with a prologue in Valence, France on Sunday.
“I know where it happened, it was a really fast bend,” explained Kwiatkowski, referring to the crash that sent Thomas to the tarmac at the turnaround of the 6.6km out-and-back course.
“I know [Geraint] can fight for the win in this race. Let’s hope he’s all right and there’s nothing serious.”
A bruised and battered Thomas, who suffered a few minor cuts and abrasions was “annoyed” given his good form, but optimistic with the race ahead.
“It’s super frustrating because I was feeling good,” admitted the 32-year-old from Cardiff. “I guess the positive is that I didn’t lose a massive amount. Compared to the other [general classification] guys, it was OK but it’s easy to think ‘I should have 20-odd seconds on them’, but that’s the way it goes. Annoying.
“Hopefully it’s not too bad,” the 2017 Tour stage winner continued. “Obviously, I’m going to be sore the next few days. Luckily they’re not the hardest days in this race, so I’ve just got to try and put this behind me, look forward and get though it as best we can and hopefully we can do a good TTT together.”
As for the 2014 world road race champion, Kwiatkowski claims he’s unsure of his form following an extensive racing break since his last start at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April.
“After 40 days without racing of course it’s a bit of a surprise, but I know how hard I was training to be in good shape here in the Dauphine, as well as preparing for the Tour,” explained the newly turned 28-year-old (June 2) from Chełmża. “You have to always be at the start thinking about the win, otherwise you are not able to perform well.
“It’s going to be difficult, the transition I have to make from spring and performing in the Classics, to getting ready for the Tour. I was training for more than two weeks at our altitude training camp getting ready for the climbing. Let’s hope I can find my legs, if not here then for the Tour.”
The following day, South African Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) sprinted to a Stage 1 victory while Kwiatkowski remains in the yellow leader’s jersey with a two-second lead over the Mitchelton rider and three seconds over Sky teammate Gianni Moscon, who finished third in the prologue.
Pasqualon dedicates Luxembourg win to daughter
Two-time stage winner Andrea Pasqualon gave Wanty-Groupe Gobert its sixth win of the season after he wrapped up the final general classification and the points jersey at Skoda-Tour de Luxembourg (2.HC) on Sunday.
After finishing 22nd and dropping 14 seconds on the opening 2.3km prologue, the 30-year-old Italian took third on Stage 1 before claiming two straight and taking the overall lead. Pasqualon closed out the five-day UCI European Tour road race with another third-play result, this time behind Spaniard Eduard Prades (Euskadi-Murias) and French stage winner Anthony Perez (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits).
“Today I realised my dream. I hoped that the bunch would arrive all together in the final. But that was not the case,” said Pasqualon after the race. “The first part of the race we were attacked by a lot of teams. We stayed calm and then I put my teammates to work because I heard in the radio that in the breakaway two dangerous guys for the GC were present.
“This is an amazing moment for my team and me because it is my first overall victory in a stage race. I feel fantastic,” continued last month’s Grand Prix de Plumelec-Morbihan (1.1) winner. “This is a victory for my baby daughter Joyel. These efforts were all for her.”
Korea: Tvetcov solos to first stage race victory
UnitedHealthcare’s Serghei Tvetcov lifted the leader’s jersey from Korean-native Hyeong Min Choe (Geumsan Insam Cello) with an impressive solo win on Stage 3 and never looked back as the 29-year-old Romania won the 18th edition of Tour de Korea (UCI 2.1) in Seoul on Sunday.
The victory marks the first UCI stage race win for the 2015 national road race champion, following several podium finishes such as a third on general classification at the USA Pro Challenge in 2014, and a second and third at last year’s Colorado Classic and Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah respectively.
“To be in yellow and win the race today feels very good,” said Tvetcov. “I couldn’t have done this without my team of course and all thanks goes to them.”
Two straight for Brennauer at Thüringen Ladies Tour
In elite women’s action, 29-year-old German Lisa Brennauer picked up her first victories while riding for her new squad Wiggle-High5 after wrapping up her second-straight Thüringen Ladies Tour (2.1) general classification win in Schmölln on Sunday.
Despite beating Brennauer by two seconds in the 18.7km individual time trial final, Dutchwoman Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb) fell to her fellow former world time trial champion by five seconds — 14 more than her loss to Brennauer last year.
“I had a really good day on the bike. It was really cool,” said the former Canyon-SRAM rider. “In the time trial, I felt already on the bike that it’s going well today, and I’m going quite fast.
“Actually, I’m still a bit speechless, but it was just a great week and a great week of teamwork,” she continued. “This also sums up the week in the best way.”