Head-butting at the Tour; Van Vleuten conquers the Zoncolan: Daily News Digest

Head-butting at the Tour; Van Vleuten conquers the Zoncolan: Daily News Digest

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Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:

First off, Happy Bastille Day to everyone. On the eve of the most anticipated stage of this year’s Tour de France, the jaunt across the cobblestones, the riders had a calm stage for most of the day. But, remember the Tour is unlike any other race. The final kilometres served up the drama only the Grande Boucle can with Dan Martin crashing and losing over a minute to the overall contenders, and Fernando Gaviria using his head in an interesting way.

Quote of the day:

“We pay him a lot of money, but he is only interested in himself.” — Katusha-Alpecin director sportif Dimitri Konyschew slammed Marcel Kittel in Saturday’s edition of L’Equipe for having too big of an ego.

Story of the day: History of the head-butt

A bunch sprint at the Tour de France is unlike any other throughout the year. Tensions are higher and riders are willing to risk that little bit more to try to cross the line first. A win at the Tour de France can alter a career.

In taking these extra risks, we’ve seen riders go to the extreme to create more space for themselves in the sprint — head-butting.

On stage eight, Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) was pinched along the barriers in the final few hundred metres of the stage and was so desperate to get out and sprint that he resorted to forcefully creating room for himself.

A few hand shoves didn’t work, so Gaviria switched to using his entire upper body, head included. The receiver of these moves was none other than the rider nicknamed “The Gorilla,” Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal). For his part, Greipel gave Gaviria a few shoves back, and had moved off his line closer to the barrier. Both riders were relegated on the stage after finishing second and third.

This isn’t the first time head-butting has become the centre of attention to a Tour finish. Mark Renshaw was disqualified from the Tour in 2010 when he head-butted Julian Dean during the lead-out of a stage. The Australian claimed Dean had moved off his line and he had to create room for himself or he would have crashed alongside the barrier. The race jury had none of it and sent him home from the Tour.

There’s a history of Australians using their heads at the Tour. Three-time green jersey winner Robbie McEwen famously head-butted Stuart O’Grady in the finale of a sprint in 2005. The race jury relegated McEwen on that occasion and, as with Renshaw, McEwen’s defence was that he had to do so in order to not crash.

Robbie and Stuey fighting it out in stage 3 of the 2005 Tour de France. Boonen won the stage, but Robbie won the photograph

Dispatches from the Tour de France

Groenewegen nabs second consecutive win on Stage 8 of the Tour de France

Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) drew on his strong form and burgeoning confidence to clock up his third career victory in the Tour de France in Amiens Métropole on stage eight.

“The last two days were very good,” said Groenewegen. “I am really proud of that. Tomorrow is a hard day, also for the general classification riders, but we will try.”

Race leader Greg Van Avermaet defended his yellow jersey for another day, as he boosted his advantage when he took third in the day’s bonus sprint. First and second went to the day’s two breakaway riders Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie).

Van Avermaet is seven seconds clear of Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), with Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) nine seconds back. The rider who had been in fourth, Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep Floors) was caught up in a crash and lost over a minute. Stage six winner Dan Martin was involved in that same crash and lost time as well

Click through to read our full report of Groenewegen’s second stage win of this year’s Tour.

Tomorrow’s Tour stage

Start: Arras Citadelle
Finish: Roubaix
Length: 156.5km

The Tour will tackle the brutal cobblestones of northern France. The route includes 15 cobbled sectors for a total of 21.7 kilometres across the stones. One of the sectors is the brutal five-star Camphin-en-Pévèle (1,8 km) sector. The Tour may not be able to be won on this day, but it can certainly be lost. This stage will be full of fireworks and excitement.

Race Radio

Van Vleuten poised to win Giro Rosa after conquering the Zoncolan

Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) took a solo victory on top of Monte Zoncolan wearing the maglia rosa and, thus, extended her lead in the general classification with one stage remaining. The victory is Mitchelton-Scott’s fifth stage win of the race, guaranteeing the team will leave Italy having won 50-percent of the stages at this year’s Giro Rosa.

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla) finished second on the stage, 40 seconds down, to move up to second overall. However, she is 3:35 behind van Vleuten. Van Vleuten’s teammate, Amanda Spratt, rounded out the podium on the stage and is also third overall.

American Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) finished fifth on the stage and sits fifth overall.

“Today was epic on the Zoncolan, but I loved it,” van Vleuten said. “I was looking forward to this day and of course defending the GC and the Maglia Rosa was my primary objective, but I also wanted to win this stage really, really badly.”

“It’s awesome that the Queen Stage was organised on such a famous climb like Monte Zoncolan, it’s really good for women’s cycling and makes the day unforgettable. It is such a hard climb, so steep that it was difficult to put pressure on the front wheel.

Tomorrow’s Giro Rosa stage

Start: Cividale del Friuli
Finish: Cividale del Friuli
Length: 120.3km

The final stage of the Giro Rosa is flat, except for a final cat. 1 climb in the final 20 kilometres of the stage. There will be many tired riders in the peloton after nine hard days of racing, so that final climb could surprise some. Van Vleuten looks set to take the overall title, but there could still be a reshuffling in the top 10.

Biver’s goal of creating new team comes to abrupt end

Marc Biver, a former manager at Team Astana, revealed a few weeks ago he was working on a new WorldTour team for 2019, but that has come to a sudden end due to financial reasons, according to a report in L’Equipe.

Biver’s team was due to have the finacial backing of the Belgian businessman Serge Golstein with an estimated budget of 40 million euros, but Goldstein never delivered on his promise and is now under investigation for tax evasion.

Moving pictures

Tour de France stage 8 highlights

On-board footage of late-stage crash

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