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Dumoulin set for Rio despite wrist fracture

July 26, 2016 - 1:44pm

PARIS (AFP) — Dutch time trial gold medal favorite Tom Dumoulin was given the all-clear to go to the Rio Olympics on Tuesday, just four days after fracturing his wrist in a crash at the Tour de France.

Dumoulin’s Giant – Alpecin team said the Dutchman’s injury was healing well following further check-ups and that no surgery would be necessary.

More Olympics news

The 25-year-old crashed out of Friday’s stage 19 of the Tour in pain as he hit the deck after losing control of his bike in the peloton.

“Tom has a distal radius fracture, which is a clean fracture, not in the joint and without any dislocation,” said Giant team physician Anko Boelens. “We hope the progress continues in this way in the coming weeks to be ready in time for both races and to race pain-free, without his brace.”

Dumoulin, who won two stages on this year’s Tour, expressed his relief at the news but still faces a race against time to be fit for Rio.

“I am just really happy to be able to ride the bike again so soon,” he said. “The preparation went a little bit different than planned. However I have a good medical support with now almost two weeks to go, the brace and special exercises. We’ll go for it.”

The Rio Games will be Dumoulin’s first run at the Olympics. One of his biggest rivals will be Tour champ Chris Froome, who won bronze at the London Olympics. Dumoulin won stage 13, beating Froome by over one minute, but the Briton got the better of him in the stage 18 TT, which was predominantly uphill.

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Technical FAQ: Physics and the bike throw

July 26, 2016 - 12:57pm

Dear Lennard,
Per classic Newtonian physics the centre of mass of the bike-rider system will continue moving at the same velocity unless an external force is applied. You’re entirely correct that throwing the rider’s weight rearwards relative to the bike does not apply an external force — only pedaling can do that — but it’s not correct to think that this makes no difference in a sprint finish: Moving a 72kg rider backwards X distance must result in moving an 8kg bike forwards 9x distance; so the centre of the rider will cross the line later but the front of the bike will cross the line earlier.

If we say that Sagan is maybe 2cm behind where he would normally be on the bike he’s gained 18cm on the front wheel. Kristoff looks to me to be 10cm forward to a seated position — if he’d just sat back down he’d have gained 9cm and won the stage; a Sagan-distance throw from where he is would gain him 27cm and make the photo redundant.

The heavier you are compared to your bike the more you can gain with a throw.
— Phil

Dear Phil,
You were one who caught my post early last Tuesday. Thanks for your analysis, which, unlike what I had posted briefly on the subject, is spot on.

Last week, after staring cross-eyed at photo-finish images of riders throwing their bikes at the line into the wee hours of the morning, I started thinking about how the bike throw works. I hadn’t begun digging through my email box for questions to answer for my column until late at night on Monday, and my column goes up on Tuesday morning. I was happy to find the wonderful question about why spokes are curved on photos from photo-finish cameras, and I set about answering it.

In a sleep-deprived state after answering that question, I thought I had come up with a revelation that the bike throw is a myth. I then went on to write out a wild theory regarding last Monday’s defeat by Peter Sagan of Alexander Kristoff by a hair in a photo finish that was attributed to the Slovak throwing his bike forward better than the Norwegian. Ignoring a lesson that I had learned many times before, namely not sending in an article that I work on late at night until I’ve slept on it, I sent it in right then. I awoke late the following morning with a jolt, wondering, “What was I thinking?”

I hoped that when I looked at that it would not have yet been posted, but our web team is very efficient, and it was already up. You were among the many dedicated readers (thank you for your dedication!) who saw it before we chopped the bike-throw part off of the curved-spokes-in-photo-finish explanation. Anyway, the theory I put forward there was totally wrong, but there is still a lot going on with the bike throw that I think is fun to think about.

More Technical FAQ

The reason for doing a “bike throw” at the line is obvious; the rider is trying to push the bicycle out in front of him in order to have the leading edge of the front tire cross the finish line earlier than it otherwise would have, had he not “thrown” it. It is the cycling equivalent of the runner who learns forward in order to break the tape with his or her chest a bit earlier.

Unlike the runner, a bicycle is rolling, and here is where my sleep-deprived mind started veering off into the weeds. I was thinking that as long as its wheels roll on the ground without slipping, the only thing that can get it across the line sooner is by pushing harder on the pedals; the rider cannot generate any other force to cause it to move forward faster. I got excited and wrote on and on in this vein and submitted it for posting while bathed in the soft light of a beautiful full moon. I went to bed with a smile on my face.

My analysis was, of course, wrong. The rider actually stops pedaling for the instant of the bike throw and is coasting. He throws his weight back, pushing against the pedals and the handlebar. The bike moves forward faster than he does for the same reason that a boat on a frictionless lake moves forward if a guy on the boat throws heavy items out the back.

Newton’s first law of motion says that momentum, which is mass times velocity, must be conserved. It gets a little trickier with human-powered bikes moving at this speed, though, because wind resistance is such a massive deterrent to their forward motion. As soon as the rider stops pedaling, the wind is slowing him and the bike down in a big hurry. But ignoring the air for the brief instant of the bike throw, we can say that the combined mass of the bike and rider times their velocity just before the instant of the bike throw must equal the sum of the separate masses of the rider and bike, each times its separate velocity during the bike throw. Or:

(mb + mr)vb+r = mb*vb + mr*vr

Since the bike is so much lighter than the rider, it actually can shoot forward quite rapidly, as Phil describes, if the rider pushes himself back quickly enough. But, in addition to the frictional forces (mainly air resistance) complicating this, the equation is complicated yet more by the fact that the masses and velocities on the right side of the equation are not simple to separate. The “mass of the bike” in this equation is not just the mass of the bike; it also includes the masses of parts of the rider that are moving along at the same speed of the bike, like his hands, forearms, and feet. Consequently, the “mass of the rider” is not his entire mass, and the “velocity of the rider” varies depending on what part of his body you’re talking about; his butt and torso are moving forward the slowest (i.e., moving back relative to the bike the fastest), while his upper arms and lower legs are moving forward closer to the speed of the bike.

Anyway, I had fun thinking about all of this, and I hope you enjoyed it, too, especially those of you who saw the original post this morning and thought what an idiot that Lennard Zinn must be! Below are a few other good responses regarding it, but I got so many that I can’t possibly put them all in here. Have a great recovery from Tour de France withdrawal!
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
I see you pulled that one … No doubt you will discuss that in a future column… I thought it through a bit more and have I think a cleaner way of describing it … You’re probably close to being right that you can’t speed up or slow down the CENTER OF GRAVITY of the human/bike package… but you can move the parts of that package IN RELATION TO the CG… so you can “rotate” the bike forward by “rotating” the person backwards.
— Jay

Alexander Kristoff was so close to winning stage 16, but he didn’t throw his bike to the line in time. Photo: ASO

Dear Lennard,
I agree in part that you need to put force on the pedals to accelerate the bike (F=ma). However, velocity in a moving body is a center of mass proposition. When you throw your bike you are keeping your velocity the same but putting your center of mass further back by putting your wheel forward. OK I even think after reading this I have proven nothing … What about this, an experiment with a motored road bike, constant speed through constant distance throwing and not throwing to see if there is in fact a “marginal” gain in the time over the distance.
— Dean

Dear Lennard,
About that bike throw: What the rider is really doing by pushing the bike forward is moving his center of gravity back relative to the bike. The center of gravity is what moves consistently up the road so moving this point back relative to the bike puts the front wheel a little further forward of the center of gravity giving the rider’s front wheel a few extra inches at the end of the throw. We are all familiar with this effect in reverse when riding a pace line and the rider in front of you stands up moving his center of gravity forward relative to the bike. You see this as a rapid movement of the leading bike back toward you a few inches. This rapid movement of the center of gravity thus contributes to winning tight bike races and occasional crashes for unwary paceline riders.
— Rodger

Dear Lennard,
Thanks for your great explanation of how photo finishes work. I found it very informative and easy to follow.

As you predicted many would, I am writing to say that I think you’ve made a mistake regarding bike throws. Perhaps you’ve realized this as it seems that this section of the post has been edited out since I read it yesterday. There was a physical impossibility presented in the post involving Sagan’s body moving backward without the bike moving forward (the only thing Sagan can push on to make himself go back is the bike, so the bike must go forward), but physics aren’t necessary to prove that it works. If you are coasting (this is easiest to hear at a slow pace) and keep the pedals stationary and then throw the bike forward (while leaving the wheels on the ground), you can hear the clicking of the cassette momentarily speed up. This means the rear wheel sped up and therefore that the bike is moving faster. If you do the opposite and pull yourself back forward, the cassette clicking slows, proving that the opposite of a bike throw is also true.
— Dave

Dear Lennard,
I was kind of shocked to read the nonsense (sorry!) you wrote about the bike-throw. It not only works in the minds of the people who practice it. It really works and the reason is simple physics. When you’re neither propelling or decelerating the bike you do not create any force that the tires have to transfer to the road. That’s right. So the whole system of rider and bike cannot accelerate just because you do a bike-throw. That’s a consequence of the conservation of momentum. But that does apply to the center of gravity of the system. And if the rider “throws” his bike forward he changes the mass distribution within that system. Both his body and the bike move further away from the COG of the system they’re forming. With the bike being the much lighter part of the system the rider benefits from his body’s inertia. In comparison to the same rider that does not throw his bike and continues to ride parallel to him as a thought experiment the body of the rider throwing his bike only moves slightly backwards but the bike moves considerably forward. Once the bike throw is executed and the rider’s arms are stretched to the max, that movement within the system stops and there is no further “acceleration” of the bike.

Were the bike much heavier than the rider then you were partially right. The bike throw would not be able to move the bike much forward. Only the rider’s body would move backward.

The same effect can be felt when riding closely behind a rider. When that rider goes out of the saddle and does that without taking care of the rider behind him he will push his bike backwards into the following rider’s front wheel. I’m certain you experimented that effect yourself several times. It’s the proof that the bike throw works.
— Horst

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Who will win the 2017 Tour de France?

July 26, 2016 - 9:58am

MILAN (VN) — Chris Froome dominated the 2016 Tour de France over the last three weeks and rode into Paris on Sunday with a 4:05 winning margin over his nearest rival. Will victory be his again in 2017, and if not, who will challenge him?

The Sky rider took his third title in what many critics called a boring edition of the Tour. What bodes well though is that only 1:12 separated second place from fifth place. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Adam Yates (Orica – BikeExchange), and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) — who finished second through fifth, respectively — all had a shot at the podium and all showed promise for the 2017 edition.

More Tour de France news

“I’ve won it three times, I can’t say the novelty has worn off,” said Froome, confirming his plans to return for next year’s edition. “It’s such a big dream to have the yellow jersey. It’s an honor, the biggest in our sport. I hope to be back next year to fight again.”

It is not just Froome, but the Froome/Sky combination that makes the possibility of a fourth title appear likely. Froome, in many key moments, had two to three helpers by his side when his rivals had none.

Colombian Nairo Quintana appears most likely to take Froome’s crown. He has been knocking on the door since his debut in 2013, and after 2015 he appeared ready to step up and win the race after two second-place finishes. He pedaled anonymously through this Tour and only his steady, defensive riding earned him a third place.

Quintana’s Spanish WorldTour team Movistar may need to make changes. It could start with the results of expected medical tests because at the Tour, Quintana said, “my legs are not working as they normally do.” The team may decide to tweak his training and racing so that he spends more time in Europe instead of Colombia.

Just as Froome has done with his Tour titles, Richie Porte clearly won the right to lead BMC Racing in the future. American Tejay van Garderen struggled to hang on in the third week and had no explanation why.

“It does give me confidence [for the future],” Porte said of his fifth-place result. “A few times, I had a bit of bad luck, but it’s exciting for next year. I hope to come back and give it another crack and see what I can do.”

Had Porte not punctured in stage 2 or crashed in stage 19, a podium place would have been likely. Along with Bardet, he sparked the race when it smoldered. He attacked on the Finhaut-Emosson summit finish and time trialed like a grand tour winner. If BMC reinforces its team, it could have its second Australian Tour winner after Cadel Evans in 2011.

France is looking for its first grand tour victory since 1985. It hinges its hopes on Bardet after this year’s stage win at Le Bettex and second overall. Bardet, however, will need to improve his time trialing if he hopes to win one day.

Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador would normally sit higher up the favorites list, but next season he will be 34 years old and adjusting to his new Trek – Segafredo team. The American WorldTour team will likely support the Spaniard from Madrid, who already counts seven grand tour wins, over Dutchman Bauke Mollema. Mollema sat second overall in this Tour, but cracked and slipped to 11th.

Italian Vincenzo Nibali will likely lead his new Bahrain team in the 2017 Tour. He has one Tour, one Vuelta, and two Giro titles on his palmarès.

Going deeper, fans have reason to be excited with Yates, Esteban Chaves (Orica), Fabio Aru (Astana), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo), and Tom Dumoulin (Giant – Alpecin) all improving.

The bad news is that American fans will have to wait some years before they celebrate another Tour win, without an obvious challenger in sight.

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Unserious questions: Paris finale

July 26, 2016 - 8:56am

Lawson Craddock stopped halfway down the Champs-Élysées on Sunday, about 100 meters from the Tour’s final finish line. He got off his bike, jumped a fence, and went running to fans and family behind the barriers. Hugs ensued. Then he walked back, picked up his bike, held it over his head, and let out a bellow worthy of finishing his first Tour de France.

The Tour is the Tour. There’s nothing else like it. We caught up with four American riders on Monday for a final round of “Unserious questions” about their serious accomplishment.

What was your first thought when you got up this morning?

Brent Bookwalter (BMC): “Brilliant call on not having ‘one more beer’ last night.”

Lawson Craddock (Cannondale – Drapac): “Can’t wait to eat some rice.”

Alex Howes (Cannondale – Drapac): “Why 12 budwizers?” [Sic]

Peter Stetina (Trek – Segafredo): “Don’t miss this flight, Pete.”

More Unserious Questions Describe your mood today in one word

Bookwalter: “Splendid.”

Craddock: “Hurt.”

Howes: “Tourist.”

Stetina: “Antsy (to get home)”

Who was the first person you called/texted/hugged (if present in Paris) after finishing on the Champs-Élysées?

Bookwalter: “My wife, Jamie … I had to climb over two sets of barriers in a speed suit and cycling shoes to get to her, but it was worth it.”

Craddock: “My wonderful fiancée, Chelsie.”

Howes: “Astronaut Jess.”

[Technically, you talked to me first, but I can see how she might be more important.]

Stetina: “Texted the wife. High-fived Walker Savidge outside the team bus.”

What are you doing this weekend?

Bookwalter: “Team USA — Rio.”

Craddock: “I walked 10 miles around Paris the day after the Tour with my family. My body hurts more now than it ever did during the race.”

Howes: “Paris by boat.”

Stetina: “Buddy’s bachelor party, then hopping on a plane to Utah the next morning. Packing electrolytes.”

Rank in order of importance: Advil, a large burrito, your own bed

Bookwalter: “Burrito in bed. I ran out of Advil after stage 3.” [Sounds messy but we like the concept.]

Craddock: “Coffee.”

Howes: “ATM, coffee, crêpe.”

Stetina: “Burrito: Al pastor, smothered. Horchata grande.”

[Points deducted from all respondents for not answering the question. Points then re-added for honesty.] What will you remember about this Tour de France?

Bookwalter: “Sunshine, rainbows, and croissants.”

Craddock: “Being sultry.” [Or was it paltry?]

Howes: “Nice.”

Stetina: “Sweating on the trainer before the start too often. So many uphill starts.”

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Yellow jersey, gold medal, red jersey — is it possible?

July 26, 2016 - 6:28am

LONDON (AFP) — Three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome will attempt to become the first rider to achieve a Tour and Vuelta a Espana double in the same season, in the modern era, his Sky team said Tuesday.

The 31-year-old Briton, who cruised to the 2016 Tour de France crown in Paris on Sunday, broke a bone in his foot in last year’s Vuelta attempting to pull off the feat.

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However, even with his next goals taking him to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics for the road race and the time trial, Sky chief Dave Brailsford said the Vuelta is still on the schedule for Froome, who has twice finished runner-up in the Spanish grand tour.

Two Frenchmen have won the Tour and the Vuelta in the same season: Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault. However, they both achieved the feat in an era when the Spanish tour was held in the spring. Since 1995, the race has been held in its current late-summer spot on the schedule.

In the modern, post-1995 era, three riders have won the Tour and the Vuelta but not in the same season: Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador, and Jan Ullrich.

“That’s the plan at the minute. The season-long plan was Tour, on to the Olympics, and on after that to the Vuelta, and that’s still the outline at the minute,” Brailsford told Sky Sports.

“As we go through the next phase with the Olympics, we will assess it as we go along. All being well, that’s what we will be doing.”

The 2016 Vuelta begins in Ourense, Spain on August 20, 10 days after the Olympic time trial takes place. The race finishes September 11 in Madrid.

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Dombrowski returns to Utah to defend title

July 25, 2016 - 2:57pm

After the biggest win of his young career in the 2015 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, Joe Dombrowski will be back in the Beehive State next week to defend his title.

Cannondale – Drapac’s 25-year-old climber is keen to return to the race, and will use it as a stepping-stone to the Vuelta a España, as he did last season. “I’m looking forward to coming back to the Tour of Utah and hopefully successfully defending my title. It’s a beautiful state and a beautiful race, and I have fond memories there,” he said.

The 705-mile, seven day race — a climber-friendly route, as usual — will welcome a number of challengers as well.

Also hailing from a U.S.-registered WorldTour team, Darwin Atapuma of BMC Racing may pose a threat to Dombrowski this year. His Colombian compatriot, Julian Arredondo, riding for the third American WorldTour team, Trek – Segafredo, is also a top climber to watch.

Beyond those top favorites from the big teams, an interesting mix of veterans and new talent should liven up the race.

Italian Damiano Cunego is a renowned climber and winner of the 2004 Giro d’Italia. This will be his first go at the Tour of Utah, making it hard to predict how the 34-year-old veteran on Nippo – Vini Fantini will handle the high altitude.

Two UCI Continental teams may have the opportunity to spoil the party for the big squads as well. Jelly Belly brings ace climber Lachlan Morton, who won his first GC title earlier this season at Tour of the Gila. Jamis will ride for Janier Acevedo, another Colombian climber, who was third at the 2013 Tour of Utah.

Plus, the race will also include stage winners from previous editions of the Tour of Utah, such as: Logan Owen (Axeon Hagens Berman), Eric Young (Rally), and Kiel Reijnen (Trek – Segafredo).

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TDF roundtable: Does Sky’s dominance warrant a rule change?

July 25, 2016 - 12:57pm

The 2016 Tour de France is done and dusted. Chris Froome and his Sky teammates dropped a tombstone piledriver on the other GC contenders, leading to plenty of hand wringing by fans, pundits, and even rival team management. Has the Tour become boring? Do we need to change the rules to promote competitive balance? Should Chris Froome be forced to jog the entire route next year? Let’s roundtable!

What’s the lasting image from this year’s Tour?

Caley Fretz @caleyfretz: Froome running on Ventoux. It’s the easy, obvious answer, but that’s because it truly was something spectacular. We won’t see that kind of mayhem again anytime soon (we hope).

Personally, I’ll also remember a few smaller moments. Pierre Rolland with a possibly broken hand, jumping in breakaways until the end; Pete Stetina, in his first Tour back since his horrific knee injury, pulling toward Le Bettex for Bauke Mollema; Lawson Craddock holding his bike over his head and bellowing happiness on the Champs-Élysées after finishing his first Tour; Peter Sagan’s life coaching advice, “Tour is Tour, was like was.”

Fred Dreier @freddreier: Wout Poels, Sergio Henao, Mikel Landa, Mikel Nieve, and Geraint Thomas pulling Chris Froome and a diminished peloton up the biggest climbs.

Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegs: For the sake of variety, the 1km to go banner collapsing on Adam Yates in stage 7 was pretty memorable.

Andrew Hood @eurohoody: For me, the moment that captured the intensity and determination to win the Tour was Froome’s attack down the Peyresourde. Completely unexpected, totally effective — Froome proved he wasn’t afraid to rewrite the script, and won the stage and took the yellow jersey for good — BOOM!

Biggest disappointment from this year’s Tour

Caley: Nobody could take it to Sky. Contador crashed and Quintana wasn’t himself. I got the sense that Froome could have won this Tour by 10 minutes if he wanted to — he never really attacked going uphill. That’s weird.

Fred: (sigh) I expected more out of Tejay van Garderen. He’s my guy, and I just don’t know what his future is now as a grand tour contender.

Spencer: The Alps. Man, there was so much craziness for the first two-ish weeks, from the spectator punch to the collapsing 1km to go arch, to Froome’s crosswind attack with Sagan, to Ventoux, and on and on. But then, we reached the final week, and things just fizzled. There was little in the way of GC battles. We had some interesting fights for stage wins, but even those were kind of tepid. Sure, the second- and third-place positions shuffled, but that always seems to happen late in a grand tour.

Andy: Quintana and the attacks that never came. When Quintana didn’t budge on Arcalis, and misfired on Ventoux, it was obvious something was not right. It seemed like Quintana began to believe the hype, and perhaps bought into the idea that destiny was on his side. Three podiums in three Tour starts is impressive by any measure, but Quintana may never be able to beat Froome one-on-one. That’s the cruel reality.

And the biggest surprise?

Caley: Adam Yates, and I think he’d agree. I like the guy. He’s a firecracker after each stage. You may not see it on TV, where he tends to roll out a few well-worn answers, but off camera he’s a fiery guy, and the sport needs a bit more of that.

Fred: Jarlinson Pantano. That guy was relentless in the mountains. I’m not sure whether to root for him to become a stager racer, or to target the hilly classics.

Spencer: If you’d asked me on July 1 if I thought Mark Cavendish would win any more Tour stages in his career, I would have pegged the odds at about 50-50. He had a new, relatively unproven team that just made the move up to WorldTour. His sprinting has looked fairly pedestrian in the last few grand tours, and face it, sprinters don’t age gracefully. Boy was I wrong, but I love being surprised.

Andy: Bardet and his tenacity. The Frenchman was the only rider to break the GC deadlock that Sky imposed on the race. A few factors tilted in his favor, and Froome didn’t have to follow when he attacked, but at least he did. And he had the motor to finish off the job. Chapeau for the panache — he earned plenty of ink in L’Equipe — but he proved he’s the real deal.

Team Sky dominated again. Does ASO need to change the rules to level the playing field?

Caley: The sport is self-correcting, for the most part. No rider and no team will dominate forever, though sometimes it feels as if nothing will ever change. So I’m not sure ASO needs to do anything; the Tour is unpredictable enough on its own.

Fred: No. I think as Americans we get locked into our dreams for parity in sports. The rest of the world doesn’t think that way — just look at European soccer. I’m all for super teams, because it puts pressure on the other teams to find a way to beat them. If and when another team finally topples Sky, we can really hold up that achievement.

Spencer: No — that’s on Sky’s rival teams to make the race less predictable. And furthermore, there are so many “X” factors that go into a Tour win (or loss in Contador’s case) that it’s silly to think that ASO can adjust a few levels on its mixing board and play back a different race.

Andy: Well, the Tour can only alter the route to favor a certain type of rider. ASO delivered two Tour routes that on paper favored Quintana, and he couldn’t deliver the win, so it’s unfair to hoist all the blame on Froome and Sky for a “boring” race. Also, Contador crashed in stage 1, Porte punctured, and Quintana was off his best, meaning three of the strongest GC riders were out of the frame in the first week.

What’s the best way to create parity at the Tour de France?

Caley: Ask Jonathan Vaughters and he’ll say salary cap or budget cap. But even with a cap there would still be rich teams and poor teams. The quickest way to a chaotic Tour is to simply shrink the teams. Good luck trying to control like Sky did with seven men, and only six domestiques. I’m not convinced this is necessary, but if we want the racing to be less predictable it seems the quickest route. Plus it would shrink the peloton, thus making the racing safer.

Fred: The best way is for the other teams to find more sponsorship cash to create a more competitive salary market, or to find ways to develop riders and attract talent. If you can’t beat Sky, then hire away Henao, Poels, and Nieve and promise them riches and grand tour greatness.

Spencer: Cycling teams already struggle so much with sponsorship that a salary cap seems anathema to what they really need: more support. Smaller teams could help, but that could be really hard on domestiques who live and die by grand tour starts in order to scare up the next season’s contract. Shorter courses seem like the best solution. The Vuelta and Giro are both successful in promoting unpredictable racing, and I think that’s partly due to shorter, more unpredictable stages. Look at it this way: When have you ever been glad that a Tour stage was 210+ kilometers?

Andy: It’s important to remember that without Froome, Sky would not be dominating the Tour like it has. Put Geraint Thomas or Wout Poels in the same position, and Sky wouldn’t be winning Tours on the trot. Froome is that type of generational rider who dominates the Tour (we’ve had one rider per decade since the 1960s control the Tour). Reducing team sizes wouldn’t change the dynamic that much, and would end up putting even more pressure on individual riders. It’s up to Froome’s rivals to beat him on the road. Knee-jerk reactions would only create unintentional consequences, but not likely change the outcome.

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Gallery: Hosking wins La Course 2016

July 25, 2016 - 12:30pm

Tour’s 2016 vintage will get better with age

July 25, 2016 - 11:59am

PARIS (VN) — Was this Tour a good Tour? And, by extension, was its winner a good winner? Can we even know, now, with our hindsight still so young?

Let’s try.

British journalist Daniel Friebe rates and ranks each Tour in glasses of wine. The scale is roughly correlated to the effect of each glass on a person. One glass, boring. Five, a party. Like most Friday nights, most Tours fall somewhere in the middle.

Friebe ranked the 2016 Tour as two out of five verres, right alongside 2002, a race subjugated by Lance Armstrong and Postal, 2012, a Sky-dominated year, and 2014, a strange Tour where most of the favorites fell down and Vincenzo Nibali had little real competition.

More Tour de France news

I like the wine-glass rating system. It feels apropos for cycling, so simple and yet quite complicated. And as I sit at a Parisian café less than 24 hours after the conclusion of this year’s Tour and consider the last three weeks, two glasses seems about right. This Tour de France was not a stirring spectacle. There was no great battle for yellow. It felt processional from the end of the first week, and the loaded, much-lauded third week gave us only one good stage (and that only thanks to bad weather). The race was smothered — yes, that is the right word — by a Sky team that utilized tactics that are clearly more conducive to winning than to entertaining us.

But was 2016 really that bad? And, more importantly, will it be remembered as such?

I don’t believe it will. The 2016 Tour de France is a young wine. A bit objectionable now, yes. But it will age well.

Mediocre Tours are defined at first by what they lack — an exciting GC battle, big attacks and overall suspense — rather than what they include. And by this measure, the 2016 Tour was sleepy indeed.

The two-glass Tours, it seems, are those where the victor is established early and rarely challenged. Was Froome ever going to lose this Tour? No. In fact, I gained the distinct impression that he could have won by quite a lot more. He never really punched the accelerator on a climb, did he? It’s an odd feeling to get to the end of a Tour and feel as if we may not have seen what the winner was truly capable of. Metronomic efficiency is good for winning Tours and bad for those watching.

But the stature of Tours won in such a manner tends to improve as they recede to history. Our collective memory of great riders often forgets the way in which they won. At a certain point, the winner’s panache matters less than where the victory fits in context of the sport as a whole. As evidence, pointed out by l’Equipe journalist Philippe Bouvet in Monday’s paper, most of the Tours won by Merckx and Hinault were complete snoozers. Yet now what do we call them? The Cannibal and the Badger. Capital C, capital B.

There were fine moments. Chris Froome’s attack down the Peyresourde brought the pressroom to its feet. I imagine many of you were standing too, shouting for or against Sky’s marmite leader.

Froome’s run up Ventoux was a spectacle. The collapse of the 1km to go arch falls into the same category. And what of Romain Bardet’s daring move on stage 19, a piece of bike racing as fine as any in recent memory, in which he attacked through a storm, which sent three of his rivals to the ground, then lost just seconds to the leader’s group across the massive climb to Le Bettex, earning a stage win for France and his first Tour podium.

There’s more. We witnessed the formation of a new grand tour contender in Adam Yates, the resurgence of the sport’s best sprinter in Mark Cavendish, and the tightest top-10 in the history of the Tour. The yellow jersey broke two different bikes in the same Tour, and rode to the Bettex finish on a teammate’s. Still, he lost just a few seconds.

Less than 24 hours after the peloton took its final lap of the Champs-Élysées these moments remain submerged in the lackluster narrative surrounding the yellow jersey. This two-glass Tour, for now, deserves no more than what Friebe gave it. Even the most exciting Froome we’ve ever seen wasn’t enough to pull it out of mediocrity.

But the dusty lenses of time and nostalgia change our interpretation and our memory. Like a good wine, this Tour will get better with age.

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Froome to tune up in London for Rio Olympics

July 25, 2016 - 8:59am

LONDON (AFP) — Britain’s newly-crowned three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome will return to the saddle next Sunday for a final tune-up for the Olympics in Rio.

The 31-year-old Kenyan-born cyclist — who eased to a remarkable third win in the world’s greatest and toughest professional cycling race in Paris on Sunday — will take part in next weekend’s RideLondon-Surrey Classic, the organizers announced on Monday.

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Froome will ride in the road race and the time trial in Rio and try to emulate compatriot Bradley Wiggins’s Tour and Olympic double from four years ago.

Mick Bennett, the race director, said the rare sighting of Froome on British roads — his last appearance was in the 2014 Tour de France when England hosted the first three stages — would ensure a host of people would pour out of their homes and line the course.

“We are thrilled to have Tour de France champion Chris Froome riding for Team Sky at this year’s RideLondon-Surrey Classic,” purred Bennett. “His performance over the last three weeks has enthralled the country and we are proud Chris has chosen the Classic as his last race before Rio.

“Now British fans have the chance to watch him in action and cheer on the man who has achieved the incredible feat of three Tour de France wins. We expect thousands to come out and line the streets of London and Surrey.”

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Americans Abroad: How the Yanks fared at the TDF

July 25, 2016 - 8:42am

Welcome to Americans Abroad, our weekly check-in with the American pros in the European peloton. VeloNews will publish these updates every Monday throughout the season.

With another Tour de France in the books, let’s take a look at how the race’s five Americans fared. Their final GC results are below, but that doesn’t tell the entire story.

One of the biggest highlights is Pete Stetina’s return to the world’s biggest race. Though the 28-year-old was racing for his Trek – Segafredo leader Bauke Mollema, rather than individual glory, finishing the Tour is a huge milestone for Stetina who suffered a traumatic crash and injury at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in 2015.

Americans Abroad

Cannondale – Drapac likely leaves France a bit disappointed after pocketing zero stage wins and seeing GC hope Pierre Rolland fall short of a top finish, but Alex Howes and Lawson Craddock both had solid rides. Howes figured in a few notable breakaways. He looks to be a stage-hunter in the making. Craddock, 24, was racing his first career Tour, and to ride all the way to Paris is an achievement for the Texan.

Tejay van Garderen and Brent Bookwalter have a bit less to crow about, in terms of individual results. However, they should be happy to see BMC teammate Richie Porte gut out a hard-fought fifth-place overall finish after some bad luck early in the race. Plus, Greg Van Avermaet won stage 5.

Brent Bookwalter (BMC)

The 32-year-old finished 117th overall in the Tour.

Lawson Craddock (Cannondale – Drapac)

In his first career Tour, Craddock finished 124th overall.

Lauren Hall (Tibco – SVB)

At La Course on Sunday, Hall finished 58th.

Alex Howes (Cannondale – Drapac)

Riding his second career Tour de France, Howes ended up 131st overall.

Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare)

Rivera, a top sprinter, was likely disappointed to finish 92nd at La Course. She did, however, win the final stage of Thüringen Rundfahrt on Thursday.

Alexis Ryan (Canyon – SRAM)

Ryan, 21, finished 39th at La Course.

Lauren Stephens (Tibco – SVB)

After featuring in a dangerous late-race breakaway of three women, Stephens finished 80th at La Course.

Pete Stetina (Trek – Segafredo)

Stetina rode to 46th overall at the Tour.

Tejay van Garderen (BMC)

Van Garderen, twice fifth-place overall at the Tour, was likely disappointed to finish just 29th overall in Paris.

Tayler Wiles (Orica – AIS)

Wiles finished 93rd at La Course.

La Course DNFs

La Course was marred by several large crashes in the final 10km of racing. Five Americans did not finish the race: Brianna Walle and Kendall Ryan (Tibco), Lauren Tamayo and Katie Hall (UnitedHealthcare), and Alison Tetrick (Cylance).

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American Joe Dombrowski to race Leadville 100

July 25, 2016 - 7:06am

PARIS (VN) — In two weeks time, Cannondale – Drapac’s Joe Dombrowski will step up to a chilly early-morning start line at 10,000 feet and take on some of the world’s best marathon mountain bikers. About six hours later, he’ll find out if he has what it takes to win the Leadville Trail 100.

“I think it suits me pretty well, and I’d like to go there and contest for the win,” the 25-year-old American said of the decision to jump into the high-profile mountain bike race. “But it’s a bit different from my day job.”

Dombrowski’s day job will send him to the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and the Vuelta a Espana in August. His own curiosity led him to add Leadville between the two. Entering the 103-mile mountain bike race is a chance to try something different, he said, and go back to the discipline where he got his start. And he’ll race for a cause, raising money for World Bicycle Relief.

It’s also a way to take a momentary step, mentally and physically, out of the pro road scene.

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“You can be on this razor edge all season and be super focused, but, honestly, I don’t know that the results are any different than if you have a bit of fun along the way,” he said. “And I think its good for having a long, healthy career to have breaks and mix it up.

“This is an instance of something that is, honestly, a good marketing opportunity for the team and Cannondale and myself. And it’ll be fun.”

The idea sprouted while Dombrowski was still at the Giro d’Italia, as he cast about for something to fill the gap between the Tour of Utah and the Vuelta.

“I think it was Matt [Beaudin, Cannondale communications director] and I were talking at the Giro,” he said. “Not even really seriously. Just kinda like, ‘Oh, it might be kinda fun. If I can get Cannondale to get me a mountain bike, I’ll do Leadville on it.’

“I didn’t imagine that [team CEO Jonathan Vaughters] and the team and Cannondale would be as receptive to it, but they all loved the idea.”

Dombrowski started his racing life as a mountain biker, but he hasn’t touched flat bars much since he started his pro road career. The last few weeks have been used to regain some of his old mountain bike handling skills.

“Since I’ve been back home, about three weeks, I’ve gotten out on the mountain bike a few times, even jumped into a local Wednesday night race,” he said. “When you haven’t been on the mountain bike in a while you feel like a fish out of water. You’re always bobbling around and unclipping. It comes back quick, but you definitely lose that.”

Leadville is the perfect mountain bike race for a road racer prone to such bobbles. It contains very little singletrack, mostly just fire roads. There are high-speed descents that require skill to navigate quickly but has few of the technical difficulties found in most mountain bike races. Time differences are mostly made across the day’s 14,000 feet of climbing, almost all of which takes place above 10,000 feet.

The race has previously been contested (and won) by road racers. Most famously, Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer both raced it multiple times.

For a rider like Dombrowski, the mountainous course offers plenty of opportunity to put distance between himself and the rest of the field. The Columbine climb, found at the race’s halfway point, reaches up to 12,500 feet. The ride back to Leadville from the turnaround point at the top of Columbine is peppered with steep, difficult climbs.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to win or not. You know, it is a fun thing for me, just kind of a cool challenge. I thought it would just be fun to do,” he said. “But I also want to take it kind of seriously. I think in terms of mountain bike races, it’s probably one of the best ones for me.”

But winning would just be icing on the cake, really. Like most who race Leadville, Dombrowski has other motives.

Dombrowski has relished the independence the project has provided him. It’s a dramatic departure from the world of pro road racing, where rider’s lives are tightly controlled. They’re told where to be, what to eat, when to sleep. But for Leadville, he’ll have the same level of support as most of his amateur competitors. He’ll prepare himself, cook for himself, and line up on the day with no team at his side.

“When I started thinking about how I was going to do it, it made me realize that in road racing I don’t do anything for myself,” he said. “You don’t have to think about tires, gearing, pressure, what am I doing to do for the feed zones. There’s all these aspects I don’t usually have to deal with.

“It’s a good challenge in that it’s a different type of racing. There’s the physical side that’s different, but also the prep side. Just from the standpoint of having your own gear and your own food and really having to take care of yourself.”

“It’s a cool story and something different,” he said. “I’m pumped.”

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Five things we learned from the Tour de France

July 25, 2016 - 6:39am

PARIS (AFP) — Five things we learned from the Tour de France, which ended Sunday in Paris with Chris Froome winning his third title:


Just as others before him such as Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain, or even the disgraced Lance Armstrong, Froome proved this year that when one rider is simply better than the others, nothing can stop him. It’s true that Froome had the strongest team, but he was individually the strongest climber, time trialer, descender, and flats rider. No one managed to take time out of Froome in any domain. When the best rider is simply superior, he almost always wins.

Sky’s suffocating armada

In its three previous Tour victories, Sky had the best team. This year, the British outfit brought perhaps the best team the Tour has ever seen — notwithstanding the super-charged US Postal and Discovery Channel teams of the Armstrong years. But when a team is that strong — Froome himself acknowledged this was the strongest team ever fielded by Sky — it kills the race. The tempo set by Froome’s teammates prevented any rider from even thinking about attacking, particularly in the mountains. Cycling may be a team game, but sometimes the team can take the fun out of cycling. Tour organizer ASO is now looking at the possibility of reducing team rosters from nine to eight riders.

More Tour de France A step too far

Since his Tour debut in 2013, Nairo Quintana has been feted as a future winner. Widely proclaimed as the best climber in the world, he was not even second best to Froome at this Tour. Perhaps it was simply not his year, but Quintana looked to be a shadow of the rider he was in 2015. Is Tour success a step too far for the Movistar rider? Certainly he was below his best this year but while he’s won the Giro d’Italia before and proved he’s capable of succeeding in a three-week race, perhaps the stress and pressure of riding the biggest race of all is simply too much. Quintana himself insists that at 26 he’s still young and has many more chances to win the Tour, but the next generation of riders is also young. And his satisfaction at finishing third, despite claims he was affected by an allergy, was discouraging for his future prospects.

British future secured

First there was Bradley Wiggins and now it’s Chris Froome, but does the future belong to Adam Yates? The Tour de France has had a decidedly British feel these last few years and it could remain that way for another generation, given the performance of Yates. The 23-year-old Orica – BikeExchange rider came into the race looking to win a stage, but he quickly realized he was able to match the very best when the Tour’s gradients started increasing. He finished fourth overall, winning the best young rider’s white jersey, and proved he’s a grand tour winner in the making despite his relative weakness in time trials. What makes his emergence even more daunting for the non-Brits in the peloton is that he has a twin brother Simon, who until this year had arguably out-performed him.

Breath of fresh air

Froome may have no peers when it comes to three-week stage racing, but Peter Sagan is simply untouchable as an all-round rider. The world champion can do everything — except challenge the best climbers in the high mountains. And he’s getting better every year. He claimed the world title last September, won his first Monument in April, and then proved the alternative dominant force to Froome at the Tour. With three stage wins, sprinting with the best on flat finishes and short uphill ones, escaping in breakaways, and attacking in cross-winds, Sagan was a whirlwind of activity at the Tour and deservedly won the most combative rider award. He won a fifth straight green points jersey and even halfway through the Tour when Mark Cavendish was wearing it, Cavendish himself admitted he had no chance of holding onto it until Paris. Sagan will likely never win the Tour but there aren’t too many other titles in cycling that are beyond his reach. He’ll even be going for Olympic mountain bike gold at the upcoming Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

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Sky boss Brailsford vows to win Tour again in 2017

July 24, 2016 - 7:23pm

PARIS (AFP) — Sky’s team principal Dave Brailsford vowed to come back to the Tour and win it again next year following a fourth success in five years.

Chris Froome secured his third win in four years to add to the 2012 success of his then-Sky-teammate Bradley Wiggins — the first for Sky and first ever for a Briton in the world’s greatest bike race.

But just minutes after the 103rd edition of the Grand Boucle ended, Brailsford already had his mind on next year.

“It’s very satisfying, we’re very happy, this was by far the most enjoyable Tour that we’ve done,” he told Britain’s Sky Sports.

“We raced differently [this year], we used a more offensive set of tactics and it was fun, it was racing.

“As always, you get to this point, you get to Paris, you see the Union Jacks and you just feel proud.

“It’s a British success story I’d like to think. The team was perfect, it was the best team performance we’ve put together. Chris was brilliant so overall it’s been a great three weeks and we’ll come back to do it all over again next year.”

Froome dedicated his win to his young child before remembering those who died in the Nice terror attack two weeks ago, during the Tour.

“My son, Kellan, I dedicate this victory to you,” said Froome. “This Tour has obviously taken place against the backdrop of terrible events in Nice and we pay tribute to those who have lost their lives.

“These events put sport into perspective but it also shows the value of sport to free society.”

And he once again praised his Sky outfit which despite not winning the team award, had proved they were the strongest throughout the last tree weeks. “To my team-mates and support team. This is your yellow jersey too,” he said “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for your sacrifice. This is one special team and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

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Gotcha! The five keys to Froome’s Tour triumph

July 24, 2016 - 6:38pm

PARIS (VN) — Chris Froome (Sky) pedaled into the City of Light as the unchallenged king of the Tour de France Sunday.

In a race when many expected him to fold, Froome confounded his rivals at every turn. Surprise attacks in unexpected places, complete control in the mountains, and domination in the time trials delivered the African-born British rider his third yellow jersey.

Here are the key moments of Froome’s victory:

Gotcha! Attack on the descent

If one moment defines Sky’s approach to this Tour it’s Froome’s daring downhill attack off the Col de Peyresourde in stage 8. With the first major summit finale at Arcalis the next day, the peloton seemed content to tap down GC aggression throughout the four-climb stage. Froome had something else in mind, and attacked over the top of the first-category climb just as Quintana was reaching for a water bottle. Putting his descending skills on display, Froome tucked in under the hoods, and pedaled his way down the mountain in an awkward but highly effective attack. By the time Movistar and the others began chasing, it was too late. Froome won the stage, took important seconds to Quintana, and captured the yellow jersey for good.

Froome: “The one I enjoyed the most was winning on the descent down to Luchon,” Froome said. “That epitomizes what racing is all about. I really did feel like a kid again.”

Crosswinds! Attack on the flats

Three days later, Froome delivered another stunning surprise, following world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) in a daring, late-stage attack as crosswinds buffeted the peloton on the road to Montpellier. Each with one teammate, the world champion and yellow jersey poured everything into the pedals in a Merckxian-style attack that exhilarated just as much as it confounded. Despite a determined chase by a peloton full of sprinters and GC contenders, the two strongest riders in the peloton made it to the line. Add up the time differences and bonuses, Froome had already taken 35 seconds out of Quintana, nearly half of his winning margin from 2015.

Froome: “That moment was about being ready to take advantage of any opportunity. It was important to be at the front in the crosswinds, and when I saw Sagan jump, my instinct said to follow. It was important to take the time, even if were just a few seconds, because the Tour could be decided in seconds.”

Running man! Chaos on Ventoux

It’s an indelible image that will forever be part of Tour lore. And it was one that no one had ever seen before in the Tour’s 100-year history: the yellow jersey running up the road on cycling’s most famous climb. Mont Ventoux was a decisive rematch between Froome and Quintana, and the outcome would go a long way toward determining who won yellow. After not attacking in the Pyrenees and losing valuable seconds to Froome in his surprise sorties, pressure was on Quintana to attack. Four days of hammering crosswinds, however, took the wind out of Quintana’s sails. He surged twice lower on the truncated Ventoux climb, and Froome countered over the top, gapping a struggling Quintana. Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Bauke Mollema (Trek – Segafredo) linked up, and the trio were powering away, opening up a gap of 30 seconds.

Chaos soon descended on the race; Porte ran into the back of a TV motorcycle that was jammed up by fans and other motorcycles, knocking all three to the ground. Froome’s frame was broken, and rather than panicking, Froome simply took to foot. Froome’s snap decision to run up the side of Ventoux while he waited for spare bikes to make it through the tangle of humanity revealed his ability to react in a sea of chaos. The subsequent jury decision neutralized his losses, throwing the race into controversy. Froome kept his head, and kept his maillot jaune.

Froome: “It was a very exceptional circumstance, with no precedence to go by. It was a race motorbike that basically stopped us from racing, and the jury based their decision on that. It was a pretty stressful situation at the time. I decided the best thing to do was to keep moving.”

Threshold! Sky’s pain train smothers rivals

Another key element to Froome’s victory was the overall strength of Team Sky. “Fortress Froome” was loaded with quality riders who would be leaders on other teams. Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe, and world time trial champion Vasil Kiryienka protected his flanks on the flats. Mikel Nieve, Sergio Henao, Wout Poels and Mikel Landa set a wicked tempo on the climbs. Geraint Thomas was the utility player.

In the mountains, Sky’s “pain train” rode at near threshold levels, putting Froome’s rivals on the rivet, and all but smothering the race on the decisive climbs. The pace defanged Quintana, and none of Froome’s direct rivals could take major gains in the mountains, as his helpers neutralized the most dangerous part of the Tour. More than a few called it boring, but it was so effective that Froome could mark his rivals, and then attack if he needed to. With such a big lead, he didn’t have to attack.

Froome: “By far, this has been our strongest lineup at this Tour. We brought a team loaded with climbers. It was imperative for this Tour route, given that the race would be decided in the climbs.”

Against the clock! TT gains secure victory

The combination of Froome’s chip-away tactic that kept his rivals off-balance throughout the Tour, and his overall team’s strength laid the foundation for his decisive time gains that came against the clock. Even the lumpy course in stage 13 and the climber’s course in stage 19 couldn’t dampen Froome’s dominance in the TTs. The lion’s share of his winning margin came thanks to those two key stages. Tom Dumoulin (Giant – Alpecin) won stage 13, but Froome took nearly two minutes on all of his major podium rivals (except Mollema, who was closest at 51 seconds slower).

Froome won at Megève to take another half-minute on his podium rivals, all but securing yellow, and leaving the remainder of the race a scramble for the podium. His decision to race a full TT set-up proved decisive, and helped give him a comfortable margin for the final mountain stages. Even a high-speed crash the next day couldn’t derail the unstoppable Froome.

Froome: “A big part of my success was selecting the right equipment. When I saw the course, I thought I’d ride with the road bike, but after the team analyzed it, we opted for a full TT set up. The Pinarello TT bike isn’t 9kg anymore. The other aspect was pacing. For all those who started too fast, it was easy to get carried away. I didn’t. I had some targets in my head with the numbers. I’ve had to adjust them more or less on the way but pretty much it went all according to the plan.”

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No Rio for Quintana

July 24, 2016 - 11:23am

PARIS (AFP) — Colombia’s Nairo Quintana will miss the Olympic Games in Rio next month, Colombian media reported on Sunday, citing the country’s cycling coach Carlo Mario Jaramillo.

The 26-year-old Movistar rider finished the Tour de France Sunday in third overall, but had been complaining for days of a mystery allergy that he said prevented him from truly challenging champion Chris Froome.

“I’ve spoken several times to [Movistar sports director] Eusebio Unzué,” said Jaramillo.

According to Colombian media, Quintana will undergo medical tests to try to establish exactly what has been wrong with him.

IAM Cycling’s Jarlinson Pantano, who won the Tour’s 15th stage and was highly visible in the race’s final week by regularly getting into breakaways, is likely to be called up as a replacement, Jaramillo said.

If not, Quintana’s Movistar teammate Winner Anacona could be called up.

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