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"I am not prepared for the general classification but I don’t know, we never know, I do our best every day. It's a long TT, 20km, so it is not my speciality, I am not really good for the TT but we will see uh.”

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim De Waele

TOUR OF CALIFORNIA

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
18.05.2016 @ 14:59 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) continued his love affair with the Tour of California as he continued his string of queen stage wins by riding to a dominant solo victory on the climb up Gibraltar Road. With two hugely impressive accelerations, the Frenchman first dropped his fellow favourites and then distanced lone leader Peter Stetina (Trek) before sprinting up the steep slopes to take both the win and the leader’s jersey. Stetina and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) rounded out the podium.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Alaphilippe plays down GC expectations after dominant queen stage win in California

Unlike the previous years, the queen-stage of the US race was scheduled much earlier at this edition, on the third day of competition, but had an identical outcome with the one of 2015: Julian Alaphilippe – the young rider of Etixx – Quick-Step – came out on top after displaying again his superb climbing skills, this time on the steep Gibraltar Road, a 12-km long ascent averaging 8%, which hosted a finish for the first time since the race was created.

 

The final was an action-packed one, with several riders attacking from the severely reduced peloton once the day's break came to an end. Neilson Powless (Axeon Cycling) was the first to open the hostilities and stayed solo at the front for three kilometers, before being joined by Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) and Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly). Together, the three established a lead of 20 seconds, until Stetina decided he's better by himself and distanced his companions. Once the flamme rouge loomed on the horizon, Julian Alaphilippe – who looked comfortable and confident as the peloton was charging up the climb – made his move and went in pursuit of the riders at the front.

 

After catching and dispatching Morton and Powless with remarkable ease into the business end of the stage, the 23-year-old French rider made contact with Stetina in the last 800 meters, rode alongside the US rider for a couple of seconds and then powered away, taming the 10% ramps of Gibraltar Road and scoring a convincing victory which saw him jump to first place in the general classification, with a 19-second advantage over Peter Stetina and more than half a minute on George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), who sits in third.

 

The 11th Etixx – Quick-Step rider to take a victory since the start of the season, Alaphilippe was delighted with the outcome of Tuesday's tough stage, especially as the Tour of California is his first race since concluding the Ardennes campaign, three weeks ago. To top it off, his performance completed the perfect day of the team, which now leads both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of California.

 

"I'm really happy, because it's my maiden victory of the season. It was a nervous stage, as the tension was building up ahead of the last climb and everyone was waiting for the right moment to try something", said Julian, who last year won on Mount Baldy. "The goal at the start of the day was to be in a good position in the final kilometers and I was there thanks to the hard work of my teammates, who protected me throughout the day. I felt good, left it late to attack and from then on put in a strong effort. Now I'm in yellow, which is great, and I'm prepared to take things day by day.

 

“Today was really hard, everyone waiting the last climb for the big fight, so I was a little bit nervous we arrived here [at the final climb. I wanted to wait until the last moment because I don’t know my condition after the break, so I’m really, really happy to win today.

 

"I am really happy, it is the my first victory of the season.  Today there was a bit of stress in the peloton because everybody knows and everybody waits until the last climb for the final fight so Cannondale did a good job all the day with the control. For me personally, the goal of the team was to be in a really good position for the last climb in the beginning and I was in the first position, thank you to me team for keeping eyes on me all day. I was really surprised to be in a good position in the last two k's and could also make a good effort to take the victory as well so I am happy.

 

“I waited for that moment. Last year on Mt. Baldy I think I went too early, I wanted to go at the right time. I wanted to wait until the last moment.

 

"I am always motivated so motivation is not a problem, it's just that this year is a little bit different. Last year I was in good shape for the general classification but after Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the classics season I did a break so it is my first race after a little break for the second part of the season so it is different."

 

"Last year I lost the Tour of California by two or three seconds, so every day is important. Tomorrow is again a really hard stage, and also the TT is 20km, so it is not going to be easy. So every day we need to full gas.

 

"I am not prepared for the general classification but I don’t know, we never know, I do our best every day. It's a long TT, 20km, so it is not my speciality, I am not really good for the TT but we will see uh.”

 

Fantastic comeback for Peter Stetina with second place in Califnornia queen stage

Peter Stetina looked comfortable, sitting calmly around sixth wheel on the tough 12-kilometer Gibraltar climb that concluded stage three in the Amgen Tour of California Tuesday. When the first serious attack went – by Lachlan Morton (Team Jelly-Belly) – Stetina answered. 

 

The two riders quickly caught the sole leader on the climb, 19-year old Neilson Powless (Axeon Hagens Berman) who had opened a surprising 30-second lead, and then Stetina pressed the accelerator and left the pair behind. With two kilometers to go he set his sight on the finish, and under the one kilometer to go banner he still held a significant gap.

 

They are always looking after me and to have seven hearts on your side helps you push harder when you don't want to.

 

But the glory of victory was spoiled by Julian Alaphillipe (Etixx-Quick Step), who seemingly came out of nowhere to ruin what would have been a fairy-tale ending for Stetina in his first big goal after a near-career ending injury.

 

"I earmarked the five kilometers to go mark when it pitched up again," explained Stetina. "I knew that if I want any chance in the overall I can't wait until the final explosion, I had to go to put the time trial specialists in trouble. Lachie (Lachlan Morton) was a rider I had earmarked as someone who needed to be aggressive as well, and I worked with him. 

 

"I knew it really pitched up right at the 2k to go mark after a small downhill and I faked being in trouble so that [Lachlan] pulled the downhill and then I hit it hard. Unfortunately, it was around 700 meters too early because it was a bit of a headwind on the top. I just went too deep in oxygen debt and Alaphilippe had a pretty big kick out of the field. I am glad that I could hang on to second, but I was even starting to think about a victory salute. Now that will have to wait," Stetina smiled.

 

Alaphilippe quickly caught Stetina and with 500 meters remaining attacked to take the win and the leader's jersey. Stetina held on for second, 10 seconds ahead of George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) in third.

 

"This is confirmation that I am finally back to my old level," continued Stetina. "I salvaged my career, and making a dream turn into reality is great. I am really happy that I could deliver for the Trek-Segafredo boys, too. The last three stage they have put me in a protective cocoon right at the front and I never had to stress, especially in today's run-in to the climb. They are always looking after me and to have seven hearts on your side helps you push harder when you don't want to."

 

Honorable mentions on the day go to Julian Arredondo, representing the team in the seven-man breakaway that stayed away until just before the final climb, and Haimar Zubeldia, who climbed with the select group up the summit finish for 12th place (+59") and sits in 10th overall.  And, of course, to the rest of the team for safeguarding Stetina for over 150 kilometers.

 

With a few big stages remaining, including a decisive time trial Friday, the GC fight has just begun, but for Stetina, who today silenced any doubts of returning to the top echelons of cycling, he is enjoying the moment.

 

"There are a few more tricky stages," pointed out Stetina. "I have been riding my time trial bike more than ever, but the pressure is on BMC with their TT specialists."  He paused, then added, "I love this."

 

George Bennett surprises himself with third place in California queen stage

George Bennett, with a strong climb to the top of the Gibraltar Road, placed third in the queen stage of the Amgen Tour of California on Tuesday. Only winner Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx - Quick Step) and Peter Stetina (Trek - Segafredo) finished in front of team LottoNL-Jumbo’s climber. Those three riders are the new top three in the general classification, as well.

 

“This was the most important stage for the general classification together with the time trial,” Sports Director Frans Maassen said. “The climb up Gibraltar Road was 12 kilometres long and very tough. It was our target to bring George Bennett and Alexey Vermeulen to the foot of that climb as well as possible. We succeeded with George, but Alexey lost the wheels of our men. George delivered a wonderful climb afterwards. His third place shows his strength.”

 

The performance surprised Bennett somewhat.

 

“I’m happy with my performance today,” the rider from New Zealand added. “I didn’t know how my condition would be because I was sick in the spring classics. I want to thank the boys for their help today and the team for the possibility to train in Colorado to build up again.”

 

The Tour of California continues Wednesday with a tricky fourth stage.

 

 “It’s a long day and a breakaway may have a chance to make it until the end,” Maassen said. “The wind could play a role, but the expectations are that it’s going to be headwind, so that makes it less exciting.”

 

Disappointing day for formidable BMC team in California queen stage

A gruelling final climb on Amgen Tour of California Stage 3 saw Brent Bookwalter show off his climbing strength to cross the line in fourth place on the summit finish in Santa Barbara County.

 

There was also top ten performances from BMC Racing Team's Rohan Dennis and Samuel Sánchez who finished 8th and 9th respectively on the 167.5km stage. 

 

Sport director Jackson Stewart said: “The day was pretty straight forward for us with the other teams controlling the race and then we came in to the final climb without to much effort. We really did a great effort getting our guys up there and ready for the climb. [Michael] Schär, Danilo [Wyss] and Greg [van Avermaet] put a bit of pace on a bottom of the climb and quickly it was whittled down to a select group of riders.

 

“Attacks started to flow in the last 6 - 8 kilometers of racing and we lost a little bit more time than I think we expected to, especially with the bonus, but everyone gave it everything that they had so I am happy about that. We’re in a competitive position on the GC and to have three guys, Brent [4th]. Rohan [8th] and Samuel [9th], all up there in contention is super ideal for us moving forward into the rest of the race.”

 

Brent Bookwalter said: “The final climb definitely played out as we had anticipated. Cannondale were riding at the front all day and then it got pretty hectic going into the bottom of the finishing climb and we were really well positioned and thankfully away from crashes.

 

“Taylor [Phinney] and Jempy [Drucker] were up there doing an awesome lead out ahead of the climb for us. As soon as we hit the bottom of the climb I had Danilo, Greg and Michael asking me ‘should we make it harder?’ so they were really good and took some really strong turns at the front. It was great to have those guys there to put some pressure on and keep the group strung out along the road. Towards the top some of the more explosive climbers attacked and Samu [Samuel] did a great job to keep the gap to the guys who got away as close as possible but then in the last kilometer the climb got really steep and it became every man for himself.

 

“Ideally you never want to give away any time as every second you give away you have to make up later in the race, but I think looking at the team we have here and the decisive stages that are still to come, especially with TT, I definitely think we are in a good place going forward.”

 

Breakthrough performance by American climbing talent in California queen stage

Neilson Powless finished fifth and donned the "best young rider" jersey Tuesday at the Amgen Tour of California while his Axeon Hagens Berman teammate Greg Daniel earned Amgen Breakaway from Cancer® "most courageous rider" honors.

Daniel, and later Powless, animated the 167.5-kilometer race from Thousand Oaks north to Santa Barbara County by attacking up the final climb of Mount Gibraltar Road. Powless, the youngest rider in the race, is now in fifth place overall, 40 seconds off the lead, with five stages to go.

"A day like today makes it all worth it," Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team General Manager Axel Merckx said. "We go through a lot of emotions - not only before the season, but also year in and year out. You are trying to find partners and sponsors and try to give them the most support you can so you can hire guys and give them a shot. When some guys get a shot - like they did today - they are able to prove it and prove just how good they are."

Daniel and teammate Krists Neilands, the Latvian Under 23 national road champion, were part of a seven-rider breakaway that formed early on. The group also included an Axeon alumnus, Tanner Putt (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team). Not long after the escapees stretched their lead out to four minutes, the peloton gave serious chase. 

"Coming into the final climb, a lot of riders were not always taking their pulls," Daniel said. "Tanner decided to hit it on the first little climb and that got it down to a group of four. Then Tanner attacked and I followed immediately. I didn't really attack so much as Tanner was no longer there. At that point, I started to ride a tempo I could easily hold to the top. But I wasn't fast enough to hold off the guys coming behind."

The chase group coming up included a passenger in the form of Powless. Not long thereafter, the leader of the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour and winner of five races this year found himself solo off the front.

"I saw that the group was getting smaller and smaller," the 19-year-old from Roseville, California, said. "Swiss champion Danilo Wyss was right in front of me and riding a perfect pace. He started to peel off and then I looked back and we had a massive gap - maybe 30 meters. So I figured I would stay at a comfortable pace and the gap grew to 30 seconds. That surprised me quite a bit, but I was happy to have the buffer for sure."

Powless said he gained confidence when he figured out he had ridden the climb about six years ago while attending a USA Triathlon camp.

"I thought that was pretty cool and I knew what to expect later on," he said. "Axel was in my ear the whole way up, telling me the distance to go and time gap and that I was doing great.

 

“On the final climb I felt really good. I was in the top three riders getting into the climb. After maybe 2K [kilometers] on the climb I looked back and noticed that there was a really large gap. I just decided to keep it steady and see how long I could go, and it turned out to be a really successful ride, and gave me a lot of confidence just to know that I can climb like that, because in the past I haven’t seen myself as a top, top climber. So, yeah, I have a lot of confidence going into the next couple days.”


With three kilometers to go, Powless was caught by Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly presented by Maxxis) and Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) and eventually by Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) with George Bennett (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) in tow. Alaphilippe, the overall runner-up in California a year ago, soloed to the win.

For his efforts, Powless was rewarded with a jump up the overall standings to fifth overall, 40 seconds back from Alaphilippe. Stetina was runner-up on the stage, at 25 seconds, and Bennett, who also previously rode in the Axeon program, finished third at 25 seconds.

Daniel donned the light blue jersey of "most courageous rider" fewer than 24 hours after another of his teammates, Will Barta, earned the same honor on Monday.  Ruben Guerreiro's 14th-place finish was next best for Axeon Hagens Berman after Powless. The 21-year-old from Portugal arrived 78 seconds after the stage winner and is in 14th overall, 1:28 off the lead.

Merckx credited the support of the team's sponsors and hard work by staffers behind the scenes for contributing to the team's successes that has also included a seventh-place finish by Guerreiro on Sunday's opening stage in San Diego.

"Here we are, a small team that is kind of fighting with the big league teams," Merckx said. "We are standing second in the team standings and doing pretty well. But this is not a team where one guy does it all. It is really a bunch of people all working well together."

 

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Laurens Ten Dam back at his best level in California queen stage

The 167.5km queen stage always looked likely to reshape the overall classification and Team Giant-Alpecin did a good job at the front in the closing stages of the race.

 

 

On the final climb of the day, it was every man for himself fighting a way up to the finish line. Laurens ten Dam was able to follow the main group and climbed to an impressive 6th place at today’s stage.

 

Lauren ten Dam is now 6th in the general classification, 43″ behind the leader.

 

Laurens ten Dam said: “Its been a long time since I was fighting for a victory or Top 3. So I am delighted that I managed to be there with the best eight riders in the end. The team was incredible today, they kept me out of trouble and positioned me well on the final climb.”

 

Coach Aike Visbeek added: “Today we rode for Laurens. I am happy that he managed to secure the 6th place. The team was great in supporting him. We will keep looking for opportunities to improve his GC position.”

 

Lachlan Morton blames Stetina for failed attack in California queen stage

"I attacked with about 5km to go, just to see what would happen," Lachlan Morton told Cyclingnews."Pete Stetina came with me but he didn't really want to ride. He sort of sat on and attacked. I got back on him and he didn't want to ride. He attacked again, which probably ended up costing him the stage. If we had worked together it could have been a different story, you know.

 

"But that's his loss and my loss as well."

 

Disappointment for Lawson Craddock in California queen stage

Andrew Talansky was the top Cannondale finisher atop Gibraltar in Santa Barbara on Tuesday. He crossed the finish line 59-seconds behind stage winner and new Amgen Tour of California race leader Julian Alaphilippe (EQS). Lawson Craddock finished three seconds later in 13th place on the stage. The pair now sits 12th (Talanksy) and 13th (Craddock) overall. Overnight race leader Ben King enjoyed his day in yellow before suffering an untimely mechanic as the peloton hit the stage three final climb.

 

Asked to assess the day, DS Juanma Garate had this to say:

 

“Everybody did a nice job today. We were a bit unlucky with a crash in the feed zone, and then Ben had a mechanical at the worst moment of the day, 500 metres from the bottom of the climb.

 

“We did a good tempo on the climb. It was good for Lawson. He was telling Andrew which speed was best. Also Phil Gaimon played that role. We decided this was the way to do it this morning. Lawson prefers to go with a high tempo that isn’t changing all the time.

 

“It was going well until 2 kilometers to go, and Lawson didn’t have any more energy. We need to analyze that, to speak about it and understand why that happened. He was sweating a lot today. Maybe he didn’t drink so much? We need to see.

 

“Of course Lawson is disappointed with his performance. He saw everybody was doing a really nice job for him, and he could close the day in the way we expected. Right now the most important is to recover the morale. The team has good legs, and we know we will do something more between now and the finish.

 

“We have five stages in front of us. We have the TT, which is a goal for Lawson. We have Andrew with good legs. We have stages where the break can go to the finish. Bevin is a good guy for us on some days. Ben has good condition and good morale. Toms won a stage here, so he knows how to do it. Sacramento is good for Wippert. There are still many opportunities. With Lawson, we keep the same plan. We wait for the TT to see how he arrives.”

 

"The next couple of days are still really challenging, with Laguna Seca tomorrow and then Tahoe," Craddock told Cyclingnews. "I mean Tahoe is raced for almost 80km above 8,000 feet, so that can be challenging for a lot of guys.

 

"So the race isn't over, but it's going to make it a little harder on us."

 

"We'll get together tonight and come up with a good solution. I trust the guys. They did a phenomenal job. I'm really bummed and disappointed in myself that I wasn't able to finish it off for them. But the race is far from over."

 

Novo Nordisk Spaniard eyes top 10 in California

Team Novo Nordisk’s Javier Megias laid down a solid performance on Tuesday’s Queen Stage of the Tour of California, moving up six places in the overall classification to 16thposition. The Spaniard stands 1:33 behind new race leader Julian Alaphilippe with five stages remaining.

 

“The stage went according to plan. My teammates were really, really fantastic. They kept me at the front all day and placed me up front for the final climb,” Megias said. “The final kilometer was good and I passed a few guys. The top 10 is less than 30 seconds away, so it could be possible. I’m still just taking it day-by-day.”

 

Jurgen Van den Broeck comes up short in California queen stage

It was time for some serious climbing in the 2016 Amgen Tour of California on Tuesday. Stage 3 brought the hilltop finish on Gilbraltar, a challenging 12km closing climb at 8% which topped out at 1062m for an HC rating. The best finisher for Team KATUSHA was Jurgen Van den Broeck, taking a place in the top twenty and seeing the race crowning a third leader in as many days.  

 

”The boys fought very hard today, I was proud of what I saw on the Gibraltar climb. Of course we did not win, others were just better than us, but I saw full support from the team for our climbers and I know everyone was giving everything they had today,” said director Torsten Schmidt.

 

“I want to congratulate the organizers for including this climb in the race. It was a very good decision and I know our riders are getting good kilometers in their legs for the weeks ahead of the Dauphine and the Tour de France. The good weather, the incredible atmosphere and the good stages make us very happy to be here,” added team director Torsten Schmidt.

 

”Of course we are looking forward to more sprint stages where we hope to have some results. But in the meantime, I have to say we are enjoying this race and very happy to be racing in the USA for the first time,”  concluded Schmidt.

 

Van Rensburg disappointed after California queen stage

Jacques Janse van Rensburg (pictured above) was Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s best place finisher.

 

This 12 kilometer long new addition to the Amgen Tour of California offered an average gradient of 8 percent. And these proved to be decisive. The group of favorites also saw Janse van Rensburg, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Nathan Haas being in the mix for a good part of the climb. With the finale looming 3 riders had gone clear. Stetina was one of them and seemed to be the winner of the day. Alaphilippe did have other plans, though, and chased the American down. He went on to take the stage honors as well as the overall lead. Janse van Rensburg crossed the line 2:38 minutes later in 22nd place, Teklehaimanot came home in 24th position.

 

Van Rensburg said:

 

”The race nearly went as we had planned it. There was an early breakaway and Cannondale controlled the gap for their race leader Ben King. It was our goal to keep me up there for the final and I was feeling really well all day. The team helped me getting in a good position for the last climb. I went into Gibraltar road near the front, but then somehow lost the legs. I’m a bit disappointed at the moment that I couldn’t end up with a really good result today after all the work the team put in for me. But that’s how it goes sometimes.”

 

Peter Kennaugh suffers broken collarbone on bad day for Sky in California

Peter Kennaugh suffered a broken collarbone after a heavy crash in the closing stages of stage three at the Tour of California.

 

The British road race champion fell in the peloton 17 kilometres from the finish after a gruelling day in America and was taken straight to hospital.

 

Kennaugh's crash came just before the start of the first summit finish of the race in the Golden State, atop the 12km Gibraltar Road, where Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx - Quick-Step) powered to a fine solo victory and moved into the race lead.

 

Speaking after the stage Sport Director Gabriel Rasch said: "We were looking all good until Pete crashed. When he crashed the guys waited for him and pretty quickly we saw he couldn't carry on.

 

"But by then it was almost too late so the guys just went in the grupetto from there. The crash came at the worst possible time, just before the final climb."

 

Despite the team losing time on the GC, Rasch remains upbeat and believes there will be stage win opportunities during the coming week.

 

He added: "We still have some good chances this week, with Danny [van Poppel] in the sprints and we will see how Lars Petter [Nordhaug] is. There are a couple of stages with some pretty hard finals so we will see how he goes there."

 

Later Team Sky Doctor Derick Macleod gave us the update on Kennaugh, adding: "Pete attended the Santa Barbara Hospital and X-Ray's confirmed his right clavicle is fractured. He lost some skin from his shoulder and elbow, but sustained no other injuries. He is now in a sling and getting pain relief and the plan is for him to return to the UK on Wednesday, with a view to seeing a shoulder specialist as soon as possible."

 

Neilson Powless (Axeon-Hagens Berman) had stayed clear for the vast majority of the final climb but he was eventually swept up by Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) 5km from home and the American continued on alone up the climb.

 

But behind Alaphilippe wasn't finished and he produced a stunning final 2km to catch and then distance Stetina to take the leader's yellow jersey, while Lars Petter Nordhaug was the first Team Sky rider over the line, four minutes and 14 seconds down on the Frenchman.

 

No title defence for Peter Sagan in California

The third stage of the Amgen Tour of California was always going to cause the first real shake up on GC, with its 12km finishing climb of Gibraltar Road, and it did just this. With the early breakaway reeled in, the climbers came to the fore and had their day on the tough slopes under blazing sunshine, while behind the Tinkoff team limited their losses.

 

Stage 1 winner Peter Sagan went into the race in the green jersey and in third overall but it was not going to be a day for the UCI World Champion to move up the classification as he lost contact with the lead group on the lower slopes of the final climb. He was however to hold onto his green jersey of leader of the points classification, a consolation for the day.


 “It wasn’t a super stage for us but we knew that it was going to be hard to do something with the final climb,” explained Sport Director Patxi Vila after the stage. “This morning we just wanted to see how Peter was feeling and see what he could do but the pace was high and so we decided to take it easy and concentrate on the stages to come.”

 

Tinkoff was not represented in this front group, and having had the job of controlling the stage on day two, it came as welcome relief to be able to slide back into the peloton and just concentrate on keeping out of trouble.

 

Vila explained the plan for Sagan’s  teammates on the stage, saying:

 

“The other guys went really hard already yesterday so they were out to try and recover a bit and to take the final climb easy. Michael Gogl did push on to test himself but he couldn’t stick with the front group for too long. He’s young and it’s good for him to try in these situations to learn so that was nice to see.”

 

After the queen stage comes the longest day of the race tomorrow on stage 4 from Morro Bay to Monterey County, over 217km. The race follows the Pacific coast taking in two third category climbs between 70-80km, and another at 142km before a rolling route into the day’s final difficulties. The day will likely be decided by the final two climbs in the last 15km of racing, as Vila explained.

 

“We will see tomorrow how the early part of the race goes but I think the last two climbs will be on the limit for us – the second climb is a kilometre at over 10% so this will be tough but we will try.”

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