Sergio Henao narrowly holds on to win Paris-Nice as Alberto Contador attacks

The Colombian took a fifth Paris-Nice win for Team Sky with two seconds over Contador

Colombian champion Sergio Henao (Team Sky) narrowly held on to win the 2017 Paris-Nice ahead of Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), after the latter attacked 50km from the finish of stage eight.

>>> Peter Sagan wins Tirreno-Adriatico stage five after aggressive day of racing

Much like last year, when Contador attempted to snatch the yellow jersey from Sky’s Geraint Thomas on the final stage from Nice to Nice, the Spaniard came up narrowly short on Sunday’s 2017 finale, finishing second on the stage as David de la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) won on the day.

At the 2016 Paris-Nice, Contador attacked Thomas and came up four seconds short after Henao helped his leader chase on the descent to the finish in Nice.

This year it was more or less up to Henao on his own as he struggled up the final climb of Col d’Eze, but ate up some between him and Contador after the gap had grown to around 50 seconds with 20km to go, putting the Spaniard in the virtual lead of the race.

But Contador was unable to hold off the circa 30 seconds he needed to secure victory, relying on time bonuses on the line to try and pull him somewhere close.

But after so much work, Contador was unable to beat David de la Cruz in the sprint finish, taking second and narrowly missing out as Henao finished around 21 seconds back amongst a large group, securing the Paris-Nice title.

How it happened

A large 23-man group, containing eventual winner David de la Cruz and third placed Marc Soler (Movistar), formed the day’s main break, establishing a gap of two minutes by 49km into the short 116km stage.

Contador, who may have been looking to get a teammate into the break, instead put his Trek squad to work on the front of the main peloton in an attempt to rid the likes of Henao of teammates.

Once Trek were spent and Jarlinson Pantano had put in a huge turn for his leader, it was up to Contador to attack on the slopes of the Côte de Peille.

After a third dig, he was able to drop race leader Henao, and easily bridged to the now 14-strong group out front.

The gap for that group pushed out to 50 seconds with Contador instigating some pace, and the pressure was on for the race leader behind to close the move down himself.

Contador then shed all but De la Cruz and Soler on the final climb of Col d’Eze, with Soler eventually trying his luck solo with 17km remaining.

De la Cruz appeared happy to try for the stage win and help set the pace, with his team leader Dan Martin sticking to Henao in order to hold onto his third place in GC.

The two Spaniards were able to chase down their compatriot Soler out front, and Henao, who looked in trouble at 1-05 on Col d’Eze, was beginning to bring things back together on the descent.

Soler was soon dropped by Contador in the final 5km, as was De la Cruz before managing to grab the Trek man’s wheel in the final 2km, and it was then up to that pair to sprint it out for stage victory and priceless bonus seconds for Contador (who had grabbed two already on the summit of Col d’Eze).

But Contador was drained, and was only able to follow De la Cruz in to take second and four bonus seconds.

Henao then rolled in 21 seconds back amongst a large group, just holding on to his lead by two seconds.

Results

Paris-Nice 2017 stage eight, Nice – Nice (116km)

1. David de la Cruz (Esp)Quick-Step Floors, in 2-48-53
2. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo
3. Marc Solar (Esp) Movistar, at 5s
4. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 21s
5. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
6. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
7. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE-Team Emirates
8. Gorka Izaguirre (Esp) Movistar Team
9. Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) Fortuneo – Vital Concept
10. Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie, all same time

Others

12. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, at 21s
13. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors
15. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, all same time

Final general classification

1. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, in 29-50-29
2. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 2s
3. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 30s
4. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Movistar, at 1-00
5. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors, at 1-22
6. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1-34
7. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-41
8. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb, at 4-07
9. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 4-39
10. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, at 14-26


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Camden Murphy Clocks 100 Fly State Record at Michigan Lower Peninsula D1 States

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

Agon is the proud sponsor of all high school coverage (recruiting, results, state championships, etc.) on SwimmingWorld.com. For more information about Agon, visit their website AgonSwim.com.

Michigan high school swimming wrapped up this weekend with the boys lower peninsula state championships.

Birmingham Brother Rice won the Division 1 meet with 238 points to Ann Arbor Skyline’s 212 points. Birmingham Brother Rice opened and closed the meet with relay victories.

The team of Mason WilczewskiAndrew BiskupAlex Margherio, and Jack Grady combined for a 1:31.72 in the 200 medley relay, a win by over a second. Grady, Patrick Olmstead, Wilczewski, and Margherio later teamed up for a 3:04.23 in the 400 freestyle relay.

Saline’s Matt LauJosh WillwerthGreg Wenning, and Daniel Keith turned in a 1:25.01 to claim the 200 freestyle relay.

Hollan West Ottawa senior Spencer Carl was a double winner, posting a 1:37.08 in the 200 freestyle and a dominating 4:26.89 in the 500 freestyle. Keith joined him under 1:40 in the 200 freestyle with a 1:39.31.

Another senior won the 200 IM, Novi’s Camden Murphy in 1:48.99. Ann Arbor Skyline’s David Cleason picked up his first of two runner up honors with a 1:50.18. He went on to snag 500 freestyle silver in 4:34.09.

Murphy also topped the 100 butterfly with a Division I and All Class record of 46.63. The senior will now head to NCSA Junior Nationals where he is the top seed in the event. Margherio swam a 47.51 for second.

FH Central’s Henry Schutte earned the sprint freestyle double with a 20.38 in the 50 and a 45.27 in the 100. He was followed by Zeeland High School teammates Gabriel Trevino (20.62) and Austin Mills (20.91) in the 50. Trevino added a 100 silver, just .02 back in 45.29. Keith finished third (45.36).

Ann Arbor Skyline’s Wm. Henry Schirmer scored 470.15 points to win the one meter diving title.

Margherio returned from his runner up finish in the 100 fly to capture 100 backstroke gold in 48.46. Derek Maas of Holland West Ottawa was second with a 50.38, just three tenths ahead of Wilczewski (50.66).

Full results available here.

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2017 NCAA Division II Nationals: Queens Makes It 3 Straight NCAA Titles

Photo Courtesy: Queens Athletics

The 2017 NCAA Division II National Championships came to a conclusion this Saturday, with Queens University of Charlotte claiming both the men and women’s team championships. That makes three straight NCAA victories for both the men and the women of Queens. You can see the recap of the final night of competition here, and see live results from all sessions here. Recaps from all sessions can also be found on our 2016-2017 Division II Landing Page.

The Queens women had a hard fought battle against Drury throughout the meet, going into the second and third days virtually tied. But the Royals pulled away with a strong third day, ending up grabbing the win 467 points over Drury’s second place 385. Wingate made up some ground on the last day to finish in third with 346 points.

For the men, Queens took control right from day one with a substantial points lead that they only build over the four day meet. They ended up with 563.5 points, more than 200 points ahead of runner-up Drury. Nova Southeastern used a strong last two days to vault themselves into third with 313 points.

Over the course of the four day meet a total of twelve NCAA records were broken, several multiple times between prelims and finals.

Drury was impressive throughout the meet, opening the meet with a new NCAA record in the 200 medley relay, while freshman Bailee Nunn had a record-breaking week herself, setting new marks in the 50 free and 200 breast in addition to her relay contribution.

West Florida senior Theresa Michalak had one of the most impressive meets of anybody, winning four individual NCAA titles in the 50 free, 100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke, and 100 freestyle. Her times in the 100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke, and 100 freestyle also established new NCAA records. Michalak was named Female Swimmer of the Meet for her performance, while her teammate Monica Amaral was named Female Diver of the Meet after winning both boards.

West Chester Georgia Wright broke the first individual record of the meet, opening the first night of finals with a new NCAA record in the 1000 free. In her last race of her collegiate career, Queens senior Hannah Peiffer established a new NCAA record in the 200 back.

Queens sophomore Marius Kusch was a standout on the men’s side, winning the 200 IM, 200 butterfly, and 100 free in addition to joining on record setting 400 medley, 400 free, and 800 free relays. Kusch’s time in the 200 butterfly was also a new NCAA record in the event, erasing former Queens swimmer Matthew Josa’s 2014 record. Kusch was named Male Swimmer of the Meet for his performances, while Brad Dalrymple from Grand valley State University was named Male Diver of the Meet.

The Queens’ men had a record breaking weekend with their relays, establishing new NCAA records in the 200 medley, 400 medley, 400 free, and 800 free relays.

Coaching honors went to Brian Reynolds of Drury for the Women’s Coach of the Year and Jeff Dugdale of Queens was named Men’s Coach of the Year.

Top 5 Women’s Team Scores

  1. Queens 467
  2. Drury 385
  3. Wingate 346
  4. Nova S’Eastern 250
  5. Lindenwood 212

Top 5 Men’s Team Scores

  1. Queens 563.5
  2. Drury 350
  3. Nova S’Eastern 313
  4. Florida Southern 265
  5. Grand Valley 255

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Peter Sagan wins Tirreno-Adriatico stage five after aggressive day of racing

Sagan was forced to work hard for victory as the GC contenders pushed hard on the short, sharp climbs in search of victory

World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hangrohe) showed once again his incredible versatility as he won an aggressive day of racing at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Sagan sprinted to victory ahead of Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) as an elite group of riders made it to the finish in Fermo after 209km of tough terrain.

There was no-one to challenge the Slovakian in the final sprint, with the likes of Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in the front group, but he had to dig deep to hold on to the lightweight climbers on some short, steep ascents towards the finish.

After fighting hard to get back on terms ahead of the final climb, Sagan was able to repel attacks from Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) and Pinot, leading the small group around the final corner and gritting his teeth to sprint to victory.

Frenchman Pinot, who moved up to second in GC after Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) abandoned mid-race with illness, was able to sprint in just behind Sagan to take bonus seconds on the line.

How it happened

The day’s first major break looked to be an elite one as the likes of Scott Thwaites and Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step) and Gianni Moscon (Team Sky) got into a big group of riders that established nearly four minutes gap on the group.

They were eventually brought back with 82km remaining, and it wasn’t long before attacks came thick and fast on the lumpy final 50km of the race.

The first major move was from Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) and Mattia Cattaneo (Androni) who were joined by Mikel Landa (Team Sky) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) and established around a minute after attacking with 76km to go.

Movistar worked hard though in service of Quintana, and brought the quartet back at around 44.5km to go.

Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) then started putting in a number of attacks, with nothing really sticking as the GC favourites eyed a stage win and some bonus seconds.

By this time there were only 80 or so riders left in the peloton, with the next purposeful attack coming  from Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) getting away on the circuit around Fermo with 21km to go.

They managed to put 30 seconds into the bunch, but with Kiryienka falling back on one of the steep climbs, Sanchez was forced to ride by himself until Tejay van Garderen bridged over with 9km to go.

That didn’t last too long though with the pair brought back on the approach to the centre of Fermo.

Quintana then tried to make a move on one of the steepest climbs which hit 22 per cent gradient, but wasn’t able to shake the likes of Thomas and Pinot.

Sagan was briefly distanced, but as soon as he made it back into the front group it seemed a sure thing that the rainbow jersey would be celebrating another win at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Monday’s stage six sees the riders take on a 168km stage that should see the sprinters remaining in the race get some opportunity for a stage win.

Result

Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 stage five, Rieti – Fermo (209k):

1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 5-00-05
2. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ
3. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNl-Jumbo
4. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
5. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
6. Rigoberto Urán (Col) Cannondale-Drapac
7. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb
8. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
9. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing
10. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin

General classification after stage five

1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, in 21-34-51
2. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, at 50s
3. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team, at 1-06
4. Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team LottoNl-Jumbo, at 1-15
5. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 1-19
6. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 1-23
7. Rigoberto Urán (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at 1-30
8. Jonathan Castroviejo (Esp) Movistar Team, at 1-32
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-37
10. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1-59


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Demetrius Andrade outpoints Jack Culcay to win the WBA light middeweight title

12/03/2017 07:46

Demetrius Andrade (24-0, 16 KOs) outpointed defending champion Jack Culcay (22-2, 11 KOs) by a 12 round split decision to win the WBA light middleweight title on Saturday night at the Friedrich-Ebert Halle in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

The Judges scored the fight 116-112, 116-112 for Andrade and 115-114 for Culcay.

Andrade won more rounds by being the busier fighter but the Germany-based Ecuadorian Culcay had his moments, and the American was hurt in the 12th from a barrage of punches.

With the win, Andrade captured his second world title having previously won the WBO 154lb belt, which he defended once before he was stripped of the title due to inactivity.

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Morning Splash: Embracing the Finality and Intensity of the NCAA Championships

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By David Rieder.

Exactly seven months ago, a teary-eyed Katie Ledecky stood in the mixed zone in Rio after winning her fourth gold medal at the Olympic Games. After a long but wildly successful week, the 19-year-old was reflective as her four-year journey to those Games had come to an end.

After a few minutes, one reporter asked Ledecky to comment on her future.

“I can’t wait to be part of the Stanford team, set some team goals and some individual goals and have a lot of fun,” she responded.

Getting back in the present, that’s exactly what has happened. Ledecky has already broken more records—four short course yards American records, to be exact—and the Cardinal team has already won a Pac-12 team championship. But the biggest goals for Stanford and every other Division I team in the country involve one of two upcoming meets in Indianapolis.

That would be the NCAA championships, March 15-18 for the women and March 22-25 for the men. The meets each begin with a Wednesday night cameo before three intense and emotional days of racing that can include up to 14 total races for some swimmers. And these championship meets have a sense of finality to them that nearly all other swim meets lack.

Well, you might argue, three-quarters of the swimmers competing are not seniors and will be back for another season. Yes, that’s true, and a small minority of the seniors will keep on competing through this summer’s long course season and beyond.

But that’s not the point. Almost every swim meet, even a championship meet, is a lead-up to something else. Not NCAAs.

In college swimming, that’s dual meet season, the mid-season invitationals and the conference championships, where athletes are focused on attaining for NCAA qualifying times. In long course swimming, anything aside from the Olympics—even a national championship or a World Championships—can be seen as a preparation meet for something.

Think back to the last significant meet held in Indianapolis—which took place all of eight days ago. At the arena Pro Swim Series event at the same IUPUI Natatorium, the places hardly mattered. Sure, prize money and series points were at stake, but history will have little room for who made the podium at a meet that didn’t even hand out awards.

Vladimir Morozov and Marcelo Cherighini missed the A-final of the 100 free? Okay, well they still had a shot to swim in the B-final, and they each finished in 49.56, a perfectly respectable effort for early March.

At the NCAA championships, second chances exist, but the consolation finals are not so forgiving. At the women’s meet last year, Olivia Smoliga finished tenth in the prelims of the 100 back, and that meant there was no way she could score more than nine points in the event. If she had made the A-final, anything aside from a disqualification would have resulted in 11 or more points.

Sure enough, Smoliga won the B-final in 50.58, faster than any swimmer in the A-final aside from Rachel Bootsma. Instead of the 17 points she would have received as the runner-up, she picked up nine.

That miss didn’t end up coming back to bite Smoliga’s Georgia Bulldogs, who went on to finish 19 points ahead of Stanford to win the national championship, the program’s third title in four years.

But it could have—in 2010, the Florida women won the national title by a mere 2.5 points.

Obviously, plenty of us analysts out there will put time and energy into trying to figure out how so-and-so’s short course yards time will translate into the long course pool, but that’s a conversation for much later.

During the meet, records are great—and undoubtedly, plenty will be broken over the next two weeks in Indy—but ultimately meaningless to the ultimate goal: the team race.

For the first time since the Olympic Games, the results—the places, that is—will matter above all for every single swimmer. Even during conference championships, this wasn’t the case, as plenty of swimmers were aiming for their NCAA qualifying times, and some teams (think Georgia and Missouri) deliberately held back on their tapers.

Stanford coach Greg Meehan even admitted that Ledecky swam a 400 IM-200 free double at Pac-12s with the future in mind, considering she might be placed into such uncomfortable situations at the World Championships.

No such chances taken at NCAAs. Ledecky broke the American record in the 400 IM at Pac-12s and would be seeded first in that event by almost three seconds at NCAAs. But instrad, she is entered in the 200, 500 and 1650 free, the events that Meehan believed would optimize the Cardinal’s point totals.

What the NCAA meets have that so many others lack is a sense of finality—no one is working for some other meet down the pipe. That was the case even last season, when Canadian swimmers were mere weeks away from the Olympic Trials. Just ask Brittany MacLean how much it meant to her to win the NCAA title in the 200 free or to lead Georgia to a team championship as a senior. (Answer: a lot.)

The points race even takes utmost importance for the Olympians that will be in action, and there will be many. Nine U.S. Olympians from 2016 will compete at the women’s meet, while 11 men will be in Indy a week later (up from the two male American Olympians that returned to the NCAA meet in 2013).

With the intensity, drama and level of competition of the NCAA championships, it figures to be a fun two-week stretch coming up in Indianapolis.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Paris-Nice 2017 queen stage ‘too hard’ and ‘unnecessary’

Team bosses question the need for a 177km mountain stage with a 16km summit finish so early in the season

After being battered by crosswinds on the opening two stages, the riders of Paris-Nice 2017 could have been forgiven for looking forward to three final days in the sun in the south of France.

However a three tough final stages included no fewer than five categorised climbs, with Saturday’s queen stage including a summit finish atop the 16km Col de la Couillole at the end of 177km in the saddle.

Dan Martin took third on the stage, joking after he crossed the line that the stage was “too hard for March”, a sentiment that seemed to be shared by many at the start line of the final stage.

“I think that stage was a bit unnecessary,” said Allan Peiper, the sporting manager of BMC Racing, the team that took victory on the stage thanks to Richie Porte.

“Paris-Nice is always hard,” Peiper continued, “but this one has been really hard.”

“Whether it’s because of the first flat stages with the crosswinds and cold weather, and then the hard hilly stages.

“And this one’s got a 1700m final climb on the second last day, with 4000m of climbing which is pretty much unprecedented for Paris-Nice.”

>>> Watch: Paris-Nice 2017 stage seven highlights

Peiper said that he hoped other organisers would not follow the lead of Paris-Nice organisers ASO and try and make their races progressively more difficult.

“If every organisers wants to make their race the hardest, and create the suspense by making it hard, then every season it just gets harder and harder.”

Peiper’s opinions were shared by Lorenzo Lapage, directeur sportif for Orica-Scott.

“It was such a hard stage, and very long. Probably too hard and too long,” Lapage said.

“It’s very early in the season, and I think the winner would have been the same if they’d have had one climb less and 20km less as well.”


Watch: Paris-Nice stage seven highlights


Lapage also criticised the choice of finishing location, with the remote summit finish and narrow mountain roads back meaning that some teams did not get back to their hotels until 9 or 10pm.

“At the finish there was a problem with the transfer. It was really badly organised in my opinion. Coming back to the hotel we didn’t get much information from the organisers.

“Thankfully we put the riders in the cars, but the bus wasn’t back at the hotel until 9.30.”

Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates) was one of fifty riders to roll in with the gruppetto more than half an hour after Porte had crossed the line, suffering after having been in the breakaway on the previous stage to Fayence.

“My legs were pretty nailed because I was in the breakaway the day before,” Swift said.

“I really paid for that effort. I felt OK on that final climb, but it was such a hard stage.

“It’s definitely been the hardest Paris-Nice I’ve ever done. It’s been so much harder than the last couple of years.”

>>> Ben Swift: ‘Leaving Team Sky was a now or never. I have a massive opportunity to perform across the year’

Although agreeing that this has been a difficult week for the riders, Swift said that in his opinion this was more down to the conditions and the style of racing than the parcours.

“The conditions have made the riders race hard every day. With the weather at the start of the week, it made those stages much tougher than they should have been.

“I don’t think the parcours has been any harder than any other year, it’s just been that we’ve had the wind. That creates so much stress so everyone fights for position, which means it’s a hard day every day.”


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Nairo Quintana: ‘Tirreno win has little meaning ahead of the Giro’

Despite blowing his rivals away on the Monte Terminillo, Quintana says he’s still not in full shape ahead of the Giro d’Italia

Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) says that his Terminillo summit stage win in Tirreno-Adriatico yesterday, which brought him the overall lead, means little ahead of the Giro d’Italia.

>>> Geraint Thomas: ‘That was bloody hard, but encouraging’ (video)

He stormed away solo with two kilometres remaining on the 16.1km climb north of Rome. He left behind Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas, Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) and other rivals he will face in two months in the Giro d’Italia.

“There’s little meaning, the Giro d’Italia will be different,” Quintana said bundled in blue and green team kit.

“I think my rivals are going well and arriving on time too. I have to prepare for them, they are hard rivals. I’m not going to under-evaluate them.”

His rivals in Tirreno-Adriatico are mostly the same that he will face May 5 to 28 when he tries to win his second Giro d’Italia title.

Foto LaPresse/ Gian Mattia D’Alberto

Thomas placed second at 18 seconds, Yates third at 24 seconds, and others – Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) – were scattered down the road in central Italy.

The “Quintana Show” – as Italy’s sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport headlined its article on Sunday morning – saw the most talented Grand Tour cyclists behind Sky’s Chris Froome do his thing.

He surged two or three times, the third finally broke Thomas, who said, “Quintana’s acceleration is phenomenal.”

With the win, Quintana took the overall lead by 33 seconds with three days to race. He must survive Sunday’s undulating stage through Le Marche to Fermo and the final time trial stage on Tuesday along Italy’s east coast.

Quintana, however, explained that it “means little” with the deck of cards to be slightly reshuffled before the Giro begins in Sardinia on May 5.



“My team-mates did well and brought me to the climb all together. Castroviejo was ahead and Amador and Moreno closed all the gaps. It helped me save my energy for the final attack,” Quintana said.

He added ominously that his “condition was not at its best” because he has been suffering from a cold.

Thomas and Yates will continue to race the Vuelta a Catalunya. Quintana will unplug back home in Colombia.

After the Vuelta a Valenciana win and the Tirreno-Adriatico’s Terminillo show, he will rest and train at altitude before returning to Europe just ahead of Giro.

He reflected over the last two years since he stormed away on the Terminillo and won the eventual Tirreno-Adriatico title. He said, “I have more experience now.”


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Andy Murray loses to Vasek Pospisil in Indian Wells second round

Vasek Pospisil and Andy Murray

World number one Andy Murray made a shock second-round exit at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, losing 6-4 7-6 (7-5) to qualifier Vasek Pospisil.

The Briton, who had a first-round bye, was sluggish throughout the match against the Canadian world number 129.

Murray, 29, was broken four times as he struggled with Pospisil’s serve-and-volley style.

It was the first victory for Pospisil, 26, in five meetings with Murray.

Although he is a qualifier here, Pospisil has been ranked as high as 25th in the world and beat both Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans in Britain’s Davis Cup victory over Canada in February.

After Murray took a 4-2 lead early on, the Canadian hit back to win six successive games, claiming the first set before finally winning the second 7-5 in a tie-break, hitting a cross-court winner on his fourth match point.

“It was obviously a disappointing one as I had opportunities in the first set but I didn’t serve well enough,” Murray told BBC Sport.

“I served a few double faults, especially in the first set at important moments, which didn’t help things.

“He definitely started to play better in the second set, he was being aggressive and coming to the net and played some great reflex volleys at important moments and deserved to win.”

Murray claimed his maiden Dubai Championships title last week, but defeat here continues a poor run for the Scot at Indian Wells, having lost in the third round last year. His best result at the tournament was when he was runner-up to Rafael Nadal in 2009.

However, he remains in this year’s doubles alongside fellow Briton Evans as they face Dutchman Jean-Julien Rojer and Romanian Horia Tecau in round two.

Evans plays Japanese fourth seed Kei Nishikori in the singles later on Sunday. Listen to the match live on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and online from 18:00 GMT.

Pospisil faces Dusan Lajovic in the third round of the singles after the Serbian qualifier upset 30th seed Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-2 4-6 7-6.

Elsewhere, French seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was beaten by Italy’s Fabio Fognini but there were wins for third seed Stan Wawrinka, 10th seed Gael Monfils and 11th seed David Goffin.

Analysis

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller in Indian Wells

World number one or not, Murray has often struggled in the desert. His serve let him down – he hit seven double faults and was broken four times in a row – and was ultimately second best to a man who is having a great year against the Brits.

Pospisil may be a qualifier ranked 129 in the world but his serve-and-volley game is mightily effective, as Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund learned to their cost in last month’s Davis Cup tie with Canada.

Unusually for Murray, he is now out of the singles but still in the doubles so he will stay in Indian Wells to partner Evans and to spend “lots of time” on the practice courts.

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‘Leaving Team Sky was a now or never. I have a massive opportunity to perform across the year’

CW sits down with Ben Swift as he heads through his first season since leaving Team Sky, with an eye on a Monument win

Ben Swift‘s life changed drastically over the last few months. He left behind seven years in Team Sky to lead UAE Team Emirates and became a father. It all bodes well for Swift as he aims to win Milan-San Remo and to return to the Tour de France.

The baby-faced cyclist from Yorkshire sat back on a couch outside the Viceroy hotel in Abu Dhabi in the midst of the whirlwind to speak with Cycling Weekly.

Ahead of the Abu Dhabi Tour, the team welcomed new mega-sponsor Emirates Airlines. Swift, one of the team’s stars and one of two native English speakers, was pulled left and right for local television interviews. The next day, he began supporting Rui Costa to his eventual overall win.

The 2013 world champion Costa won the summit finish stage to Jebel Hafeet and kept the lead in the flat final stage on Abu Dhabi’s formula one circuit. It was a dream scenario for the UAE’s first professional team to win on home soil after announcing the Emirates deal.

Swift had little time to celebrate. He received a call from his partner after the stage saying she was on her way to the hospital to give birth.

Arthur Swift, just like dad, is fast. He arrived before Swift could travel home. He has his hands full and with a smile emoticon, he wrote a few days later saying he is looking forward to race again in Paris-Nice just so he can have a full night’s sleep.

Times truly have changed for Swift, who at 22-years-old in 2010, left team Katusha to join Sky in their debut year.

Ben Swift riding for Katusha at the 2009 Giro d’Italia (Watson)

“Everyone in the UAE team has been good to me, but it’s always going to be different to Sky because I was with my childhood friends there,” Swift says.

Swift grew through the British Cycling Academy and raced the track. He had a trainee period with Barloworld in 2007, the year Geraint Thomas was in the team, and turned professional with Katusha at 21 years old.

Talk of a new British WorldTour team proved true and for 2010, Swift left his contract to ride with his home team and childhood friends. He had his chances to sprint and race the Tour de France in 2011, but the focus changed quickly to Grand Tours with impressive helpers and star leaders.

Swift found some space. He placed third in Milan-San Remo in 2014 and second in it in 2016. Opportunities were limited, though. And as he began to climb better, the team needed him more and more to help its classification leaders.

“I was so fatigued, I didn’t have the power left [when the stages suited me] or I’d have to work for the leader to protect him. If I have the capability now to be in those 20-30 man groups and not have to ride for someone else, then it opens the doors up,” Swift continues.

“Regrets? I don’t think so. I had a lot of opportunities, but it started to change. It comes with the territory, that’s what Sky was all about, and you know that. I loved it, but when this opportunity came about, it was hard to miss. It was time to go full gas for myself.”

Ben Swift celebrates becoming a world track champion in 2012. Swift was one of a highly successful generation to come through the British Cycling academy

Swift recalls the cooling vests, the warm downs and training camps. Some said that going to a race after a training camp was almost a relief given how much effort that they invested in their build up.

“Sky made it much more scientific, much more attention to detail. They were innovators of the sport, everything from cooling down… Everyone looked at diets before, but the way that Sky did it so rigorously, eating this for that training or eating this for that training.

“I don’t think other teams ever went into that detail. Now, it’s across the board. When we wore our skin suits or aero helmets on the road, they laughed at us, but now others do it too.

“Sky learned as they were starting. When a new rider came to the team, they couldn’t believe how intense the training camps were. From what you heard, the other teams just rolled around in camps!

“That definitely got tapered off over the years, in the first couple of years, it was incredible the amount of training. With the innovation that they brought to the sport, they learned that sometimes less is better.”

Swift laughed because he didn’t know any better at the time. He had come from British Cycling’s Academy where they were training similarly. The same programme included professionals like Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard – Sky team-mates, and childhood friends, left behind.

He began looking with his agent in the summer of 2016 for a new team. Several teams were interested given his placings and WorldTour points, but UAE Team Emirates – or Lampre-Merida as it was then – kept calling back to convince Swift.

The opportunity to lead more, and to select and target specific stages from a Tour de France road book was too much to pass.

“It’s looking through the road book and picking the stages for myself. I’m able to plan my race days,” adds Swift.

“It was a now or never. I have a massive opportunity to perform across the year.”

‘They listen to what I want.”

Ben Swift wins stage five of the 2014 Tour of the Basque Country. Leadership opportunities would be harder to come by at Sky for Swift.

Swift debuted in Sky’s black colours in the Tour Down Under in 2010. Greg Henderson took the team’s first win in the opening criterium.

He helped in those early wins and then made his mark. In Sky’s long list of stage race titles – from the Tour de France to Paris-Nice to the Critérium du Dauphiné – Swift claimed the first one in the 2010 Tour de Picardie. He also took stage victories in the Tour Down Under, the Tour of California, the Tour de Romandie, Poland and País Vasco.

As Swift began to climb better, he helped his Sky team-mates defend their classification leads and limited his chances to only a handful of days.

In Sky, Swift’s one big appointment of the season became Milan-San Remo. He collected points everywhere else in 2016, for example, but his second place on Via Roma behind Arnaud Démare (FDJ) is what ‘Swifty’ supporters remember most.

The UAE Team Emirates team may seem an unlikely match, but with its Italian structure, after 20-plus years racing as Lampre, it knows races like Milan-San Remo well. That extends to manager Giuseppe Saronni. In addition to the Giro d’Italia and the Worlds in Goodwood, he won on San Remo’s Via Roma in 1983.

“They helped me focus on it and on the surrounding races, giving me the opportunity. They listen to what I want and then make decisions. I was able to do that in the past, but sometimes, it was spur of the moment, being pulled off to a race. Now we have a plan and we are sticking to it,” Swift says.

“The emphasis is on San Remo, but I can name 20 or 30 guys who have that on their list too. We are not under any illusions. I don’t like making a big song and dance, saying, ‘That’s the one I want to target.’ You’ll never hear me say, ‘That’s the one I’m going to win.’

“That aside, you have to have goals and ambitions. For me, I’ve proved in the past that Milan-San Remo is a race that suits me. It’s just a logical race that I can target. It opens up many other opportunities when I start to build for that race.”

Swift is racing in Paris-Nice ahead of Milan-San Remo and continuing to País Vasco and to the Amstel Gold Race. The Amstel Gold Race, with a hard parcours and new flat finish could be one of those opportunities.

Swift has had a decent record at La Primavera, but will be looking to one better in 2017 (Watson)

He says that he does not want to think too far ahead, but “with 90 per cent certainty” he will race the 2017 Tour de France. It would be the first time in six years, since 2011, for Swift. Even in 2014, he was not there when the Sheffield stage finished eight kilometres from his door step.

UAE Team Emirates has South African star Louis Meintjes, who placed eighth in 2016, to support. Swift explains that it will be much different, though, as the team will not be lined out on the front each day for its leader as Sky would for Chris Froome. It leaves Swift to thumb through the road book and pinpoint days.

“I haven’t looked in detail, but I heard that there are many intermediate transitional stages this year. There could be many opportunities.”

Opportunities ahead

Swift puts his hand on his knee. It still gives him a few “niggles” occasionally and reminds him how he almost fractured it last year in the Tour de Romandie. Doctors say that will pass in the next year.

He pays more attention to his shoulders and if needed, he visits British Cycling’s physiotherapists for help.

“I hope I won’t need that any more,” he says. “I’ve done both of my shoulders in twice. It’s a little genetic in that my shoulders aren’t completely round, but more oval that we’ve seen on the MRIs. If I crash on the wrong spot at high speeds, my shoulder dislocates straight out the back and does a lot of damage on the way out.”

The Barloworld period passed and so did the years in Katusha and Sky. Even though he has been professional for eight years, he is still only 29. “I’m coming into my prime,” he adds. He signed a two-year contract with Saronni and UAE to make the most of the period.

Swift rides alongside former Sky teammates Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas. Swift will be looking to take bigger opportunities at UAE Team Emirates (Sunada)

“The years are going by fast now, they tick by, and you have to focus on the now, but also with an eye on the next objective,” he adds.

“For the next couple of years, I’m going to be targeting those harder stages and those reduced bunch sprints. I may not be as fast as I was when I was younger, as I used to win bunch sprints in the past.”

At the 2012 worlds in Melbourne, Swift won the scratch gold medal and with Geraint Thomas, took a Madison silver medal.

“My training changed some without being on the track, but I’ve substituted that with climbing, looking for opportunities in harder stages,” he continues.

“That’s the direction that I need to keep pushing and pursuing.”


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