U.S. Synchro Duet of Alvarez, Remati Earns Bronze at China Open

From left, Anita Alvarez, U.S. Assistant Coach Elvira Khasyanova and Ruby Remati. Photo Courtesy: USA Synchro

The U.S. synchronized swimming duet of Anita Alvarez (Buffalo, N.Y.) and Ruby Remati (Andover, Mass.) won another bronze medal Sunday as the China Open concluded in Beijing.

Alvarez, a 2016 Olympian, and Remati scored 82.9667 points in duet free to finish third behind two pairs of sisters for the second time at this Open. China’s Jiang Wenwen and Jiang Tingting (92.8000) won another gold, and Austria’s Anna-Maria Alexandri and Eirini Alexandri (86.8000) earned their second silver. The U.S. duo, who competed for the first time together this weekend, had also won bronze Friday in duet tech.

Alvarez and Remati will compete in duet at the next World Series Artistic Swimming event, the Japan Open in Tokyo, April 28-30.

The U.S. Senior National Synchronized Swimming Team opened its 2018 season by collecting four medals in China, two silvers in the team competition and two bronzes in duet. The U.S. had one of the youngest teams at the Open – every member of the squad who competed, except Alvarez, is also on the U.S. Junior National Team.

“I think the girls did their best at this time of the year. We have to work more on technical elements as they get ready for Junior Worlds,” U.S. Senior National Team Coach Lolli Montico said. “After every competition and after judges’ feedback, we will make some changes in the choreography as well.

“I’m very pleased with the duet performance. This is the first step for this new pair. Overall, it was a successful competition.”

“This was an awesome start to our competitive season and an incredible learning experience,” team captain Emma Tchakmakjian (New Canaan, Conn.) said. “We are even more motivated and ready to improve as we prepare for the Junior World Championships.”

Competing for Team USA in China were Anita Alvarez (Buffalo, N.Y.), Grace Alwan (Andover, Mass.), Paige Areizaga (Palm Coast, Fla.), Yara Elian (Walnut Creek, Calif.), Nicole Goot(San Jose, Calif.), Hannah Heffernan (Las Vegas, Nev.), Cassandra Neeley (Williamsville, N.Y.), Daniella Ramirez (Miami, Fla.), Ruby Remati (Andover, Mass.), Abby Remers (Sugar Land, Texas) and team captain Emma Tchakmakjian (New Canaan, Conn.)

The China Open is one of 10 events in the FINA Artistic Swimming World Series that made its debut last year. The Synchro America Open, sponsored by Orange County, is the U.S. leg of the 2018 World Series and will be held June 7-9 in La Mirada, Calif.

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Five talking points from the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège

What got us talking after the final Classic of the spring, La Doyenne

Jungels goes massive

Bob Jungels at the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunada)

Bob Jungels, for all his talent a bike racer, probably wasn’t top of the list of even most people’s outside favourites for today’s race.

Jungels was riding in support of the in form Julian Alaphilippe at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, with even Philippe Gilbert making way for the Frenchman to ride as the outright leader of Quick-Step Floors after his impressive victory at La Flèche Wallonne last Wednesday.

>>> Bob Jungels makes sensational solo effort to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2018

But Jungels really made the most of not having the eyes of the other race favourites fixed upon him. He made a strong showing on the climb of the Roche-Aux-Faucons, chasing down Sky’s Sergio Henao before setting a pace that put a huge number of riders in trouble.

With just the strongest riders left following him, Jungels was able to simply drift away on the descent just after the climb, with the riders behind all looking to each other to begin the chase.

Little did they know that would be the last they saw of the Luxembourg champion, who capitalised on the flatter sections of the remaining 19 kilometres, using his big time trial engine to amass a huge gap of almost a minute.

That proved to be the most effective tactic for Jungels, whose time gap drifted severely on the next climb of the Saint-Nicolas. But after carrying around 20 seconds over the top of that climb, he once again made the most of the flatter sections into the final climb to extend his time gap and give him enough buffer to deliver a huge victory.

Valverde misses out on his record win

Alejandro Valverde at the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunada)

Much of the talk before Flèche Wallonne was about how predictable the end result would be; ride on to the Mur de Huy, wait for 100m to go, and watch Alejandro Valverde sprint to victory.

But the Spaniard wasn’t able to match Julian Alaphilippe on Wednesday, and so attention turned to whether he could equal Eddy Merckx’s record five wins in La Doyenne on Sunday.

Liège, despite the fact Valverde has four wins, is much less predictable then Flèche, with a much more stacked field of potential favourites that could undermine Valverde’s chances.

And while Valverde still looked like one of the stronger riders out in the chase group today, attacking numerous times to try and bridge to Jungels, he was a closely marked man by Jungels’ team-mate Alaphilippe.

Even the mighty Valverde can’t match the sheer power in numbers Quick-Step had, and with no team-mates left to support him, it never looked like the 37-year-old would be allowed to get away, with the continual attacking and retreating slowing the chase and handing Jungels the victory.

In the end, it looked like he paid for his efforts in trying to get away from the group, unable to follow the move of Romain Bardet and Michael Woods in the final 2.5km, and eventually having to settle for 13th place in the last Ardennes Classic.

No luck for Dan Martin

Dan Martin at the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunada)

Like Valverde, Dan Martin was continually aggressive in trying to push on and chase down the lone escapee Jungels.

The Irishman looked off form in Flèche, although reportedly was caught behind a crash at an inopportune time in the final throws of the race. But he looked potentially back to his best at Liège, and a podium would have been a huge morale boost heading into Grand Tour season, with Martin yet to deliver a significant result for his new UAE Team Emirates squad.

But an untimely front wheel puncture left Martin out of proceedings with 8km to go, and he looked visibly frustrated as he put his hands to his head while he received a wheel change from neutral service. With Astana’s Davide Villella pushing the pace on the chase group at that point, there was no way back for Martin eventually taking 18th place.

He’ll now head to try and put that form to good use at the Tour de Romandie next week, but he’ll have to wait until next year to try and add another Ardennes Classic to his 2013 Liège title.

Another disappointing Classic for Team Sky

Geraint Thomas at the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunada)

After finally breaking their Monument hoodoo at Liège in 2016 through Wout Poels, adding a Milan-San Remo title to that in 2017, it looked like Sky were on the up in the Classics.

But 2018 hasn’t been a spring to remember for the British team, and Liège was much the same as the last couple of months of racing.

On paper, they had a phenomenal looking squad, with the multi-talented Michal Kwiatkowski, climbing star Sergio Henao, the in-form Geraint Thomas making his debut and a former winner in Wout Poels.

While they were visible to the front of the race entering the last 25km, the attacks on the Roche-aux-Faucons, where everyone knew the race would spark in to life, left them with just one rider in Sergio Henao in the key group up the road.

Thomas and Kwiatkowski both seemed to suffer on the penultimate categorised climb, and dropped into a second chase group which never looked like getting back on.

All hope then rested on Henao to deliver a result for the team’s spring campaign, but the Colombian was far from active in the chase group, eventually able to hold on for ninth place.

On the face of it, Sky had as much power as Quick-Step today, but the Belgian squad have become masters of playing their cards right in one-day races to exploit the efforts of rival teams and deliver one of their riders to victory.

It would have been good to see Sky get more riders in the front of affairs and animate the race today, but clearly the attrition took it’s toll. However, it’ll go down as another disappointing spring season for the team.

Van der Breggen queen of the Ardennes

Anna van der Breggen wins the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Because her team-mate Chantal Blaak took victory at Amstel Gold Race, there would be no repeat of Anna van der Breggen’s clean sweep of the Ardennes this year.

Still, two outta three ain’t bad, and the Dutchwoman delivered another assured victory in Liège on Sunday after winning Flèche again on Wednesday.

What’s more, she’s making this look easy. She was able to comfortably drop her two breakaway companions Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Annemiek van Vleuten on the Saint-Nicolas, before riding across to the rider out front Amanda Spratt and leaving her for dead as she simply eased away from her on the final slopes into Ans.

It caps of an amazing spring for her Boels-Dolmans team, and that’s without the presence of former world champion Lizzie Deignan.

The Dutch team have won six of the nine WorldTour races already this season, with Van der Breggen claiming four of those, and with Amy Pieters and world champion Blaak claiming the other two between them.

But while Quick-Step Floors have dominated the men’s Classics with their sheer strength in numbers, van der Breggen looks likes she could do it all by herself.

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Van der Breggen: I love to see the others take initiative

Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) took her fourth UCI Women’s WorldTour victory of the year at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. She caught solo attacker Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) in the final and powered away on the uphill finish.

After the race, van der Breggen gave credit to Spratt’s attack just after the Roche-aux-Faucons climb, breaking free just as two groups had come together. “It was a really good attack from Amanda. I was with Megan in the group, and of course you want to go across, but you don’t want to go too early and spend too much energy. There were some attacks, but I knew the hard climb of Saint-Nicolas was still coming up and waited for that.”

Spratt was aware that there would be attacks on the Saint-Nicolas and said after the race that she tried to maximise her advantage ahead of the climb. “It was a good moment to attack, and the gap kept going up. I knew I needed a fair chunk of time on the second-last climb [Saint-Nicolas, ed.] as people like Ashleigh and Anna would attack there. I was just hoping to hang on to the top.”

Although Spratt did manage to crest the Saint-Nicolas first, she got company soon after. And with van der Breggen bridging to her, the Australian knew that winning the race would be hard. “She is the world number one for a reason. I thought maybe I had a chance to stick with her and get her in the sprint. I knew it was only Ashleigh and Annemiek behind, so I could sit on and hope to stay on her wheel. But she just drilled it up the final climb, and I didn’t have anything left.”

Despite missing out on the victory, the past week was a successful one for Spratt as she also finished third in the Amstel Gold Race and fifth in the Flèche Wallonne. “I was sick during the cobbled classics and missed some races and training. But in the end it was a blessing in disguise as I was fresh going into the Ardennes races, and these were the ones I really wanted to go well in. Last year top-30 was good for me, and now I’m top-five in all three, so I’m super-happy.”

The expectations on van der Breggen were markedly higher going into the week: Having won all three Ardennes races in 2017, she was the rider everyone watched. She acknowledged the challenge in her post-race interview. “It’s difficult to be good when everybody expects you to be good. But I try not to listen too much to it, to enjoy the race and see how it goes. Then the pressure is less in your mind. I knew the training was going well, and I felt better than last year. But I’m not the only one, the whole peloton is improving, and that’s great to see. It was difficult to win today, so I’m happy we could take it.”

Van der Breggen enjoys active racing and was happy to see the other teams taking the fight to Boels Dolmans. But she also remarked on the lack of television coverage for the race. “I love to see the other teams really take initiative. That’s a way of racing which is really exciting, and I’m sad it was not on television today. Hopefully in the future it will be.”

Van der Breggen now takes a break from racing before starting the second part of her season at the Emakumeen Bira in mid-May. The UCI Women’s WorldTour continues from April 26-28 with the Tour of Chongming.

Listen to post-race interviews with van der Breggen and Spratt in the Voxwomen videos below.

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Dan Martin rues more bad luck after costly puncture at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

The Irishman punctured in the final 10 kilometres after showing some attacking riding at La Doyenne

Dan Martin was sanguine after another bout of poor fortune saw him unable to compete for a second Liège-Bastogne-Liège crown on Sunday.

A front wheel puncture in the final 10 kilometres as the chasing group tried to bring back eventual winner Bob Jungels saw him drop out of contention and he was lucky in the end to finish 18th, 2-41 behind the Luxembourgish rider.

“Does anybody know where we can get some luck?” Martin said as he warmed down on the turbo trainer outside the UAE Team Emirates bus. “It’s been the same for the whole team this year.”

Martin and his team have suffered with poor luck all season, the Irishman himself struck down by illness at Paris-Nice and a heavy crash on the final day of the Volta a Catalunya.

At Flèche Wallonnne only last Wednesday he was caught behind a crash on the penultimate ascent of the Mur de Huy, ruining any opportunity of winning a race he has finished on the podium three times.

On Sunday, after making his own move just before Jungels’ winning effort at the top of the Côte de la Roche-Aux-Faucons, the penultimate climb of the day, Martin was also frustrated by the lack of cohesion in the chase.

“I expected the race to go there, that’s why I made the first move after the top of Faucons and Bob obviously chose the perfect moment.

“I knew the race was going up the road with Bob, especially when there’s no team-mates left,” continued Martin, one of the riders to attempt a pursuit.

Bob Jungels attacks on the Côte de Roche-aux-Faucons at the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunada)

“It was weird because Mitchelton-Scott would chase me down every time and then they would stop working. A couple of times me and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) got a way and then you look behind and there’s a Mitchelton-Scott jersey.

The race played out to a very different script from recent years when a larger group fought out the win on the final climb. The weather too did not read the script; where colder weather has recently accompanied the peloton, this year humidity and 24 degrees took their toll.

“It’s the first heat of the year and made it even more of a war of attrition. It was a brutal day out there. I think seven man teams makes a bit of a difference too.

“Obviously it’s still the strongest riders there at the end, but it was very strange because it wasn’t actually that aggressive, everybody was just empty. It’s probably the slowest we’ve done the Côte d’Ans [the final hill to the line] for a while.”

As opposed to Martin’s UAE Team Emirates outfit, Jungels’ Quick-Step team on the other had have been vastly successful, winning almost at will.

“It comes down to strength in numbers,” said Martin of the team he raced with for the last two seasons.

“They have confidence and team spirit and they’re racing free and without pressure. Our sponsors and our team are doing a great job of holding the pressure off us because obviously we haven’t had a great start to the year.”

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Morozov, Efimova, Kameneva Win on Night 3 of Russian Nationals

Day three of the 2018 Russian Swimming Championships was another fast one.

The meet in Moscow will serve as the selection meet for this year’s European Championships which will be held August 3-12 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Men’s 100 Free

Vladimir Morozov continued to impress, winning the 100 free in 47.75.

Daniel Isotov took second in 48.31, followed by Vladislav Grinev (46.86).

Women’s 100 Breast

There was no surprise in the 100 breast either with Yulia Efimova winning in 1:06.48, nearly a second ahead of Daria Chikunova (1:07.62) and Vitalina Simonov (1:07.69).

Women’s 50 Back

Maria Kameneva won titles on back-to-back days as she followed up her 50 free title by winning the 50 back in 27.84.

Anastasia Fesikova took second in27.91, followed by 16-year-old Daria Vaskina (28.08), setting an age-group mark.

Men’s 200 Fly

Alexander Kudashev won the 200 fly in 1:57.54, holding off Daniel Pakhomov (1:57.63) and Alexander Arrival (1:57.59) in an close finish to conclude the night’s individual finals.

Men’s 4×200 Free Relay

Moscow’s Mikhail Dovhalyuk, Nikolay Snegirev, Peter Zhyharev and Artem Lobozov won’t he 4×200 free relay in 7:15.45.

Monday’s finals will include the men’s 100 back, 200 breast and 200 IM as well as the women’s 200 fly and 200 free.

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Frenchman Levy wins Hassan Trophy to boost Ryder Cup hopes

Alexander Levy

Hassan Trophy, final leaderboard
-8 A Levy (Fra); -7 A Quiros (Sp); -6 M Ilonen (Fin) A Bjork (Swe), A Pavan (Ita) J Lagergren (Swe)
Selected others: -5 A Sullivan (Eng); -4 P Waring (Eng); -2 B Dredge (Wal); +2 J Donaldson (Wal), R Ramsey (Sco)

Frenchman Alexander Levy boosted his chances of qualifying for a Ryder Cup debut on home soil with victory in the Hassan Trophy in Morocco.

The world number 66 finished with a 70 for an eight-under total – one clear of overnight leader Alvaro Quiros.

Levy began the final day a shot behind the Spaniard but had three birdies and a bogey in his first eight holes.

He bogeyed the 16th but birdied the 17th to secure his fifth European Tour title.

Quiros birdied the 18th to finish second on his own, with Italy’s Andrea Pavan, Finland’s Mikko Ilonen and the Swedish pair of Joakim Lagergren and Alexander Bjork a further shot back.

Levy will head straight to Beijing to defend his China Open title.

The Ryder Cup takes place at Le Golf National near Paris from 28-30 September.

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Bob Jungels makes sensational solo effort to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2018

The Luxembourg champion got away just after the Côte de Roche-aux-Faucons and held on for victory

Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) left all the favourites in his wake with a long-range solo attack to win the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The Luxembourg champion broke off the front of the lead group just after they had climbed the Côte de Roche-aux-Faucons with 18.6km to go, with no-one immediately following him.

>>>  Anna van der Breggen continues Ardennes dominance with Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory

He quickly gained a lead of 30 seconds on the flat run towards the final classified climb of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas, and had just over 50 seconds when he hit the bottom of the climb.

A chase group behind containing many of the favourites like Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Jungels’ team-mate Julian Alaphilippe and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), among others, failed to make a cohesive effort to chase him down.

It wasn’t until Wellens’ team-mate Jelle Vanendert attacked from the group on the Saint-Nicolas that Jungels began to look under threat, with his gap dropping to 20 seconds on the climb.

But in the end no-one was able to do anything about the 25-year-old out front as he powered up the final climb to Ans, with Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) attacking in the final 2.5km and having to settle for third and second respectively.

The Liège win is the biggest of Jungels’ career so far and his first victory in a Monument, capping off an extremely successful Classics campaign for Quick-Step Floors which saw them take victories including Tour of Flanders, Flèche Wallonne and now the oldest Monument, La Doyenne.

Bob Jungels rides solo over the Côte de Saint-Nicolas at Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2018 (Sunada)

How it happened

The riders were welcomed with an unseasonably hot day in Liège for the start of the 258.5km race, where Alejandro Valverde was looking for a record-equalling fifth victory.

As usual, an early break was allowed to get away, with nine riders – Florian Vachon (Fortuneo-Samsic), Jérôme Baugnies (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (BMC), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Mark Christian, Casper Pedersen (Aqua Blue Sport), Paul Ourselin (Direct Énergie), Antoine Warnier (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic) and Mathias Van Gompel (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) – allowed to build a maximum gap of 6-30.

As the peloton conserved energy en route to Bastogne and over the initial climbs of the day, that advantage gradually dropped, but the attrition was quickly beginning to show for the riders out front.

With 67km to go the surviving breakers of Jérôme Baugnies, Loïc Vliegen, Anthony Perez, Mark Christian and Paul Ourselin hit the Col du Rosier with a lead of 3-20 over the reduced peloton.

That was whittled down to just four in Perez, Baugnies, Christian and Ourselin with 60km to go, but they still carried three minutes advantage as they began the final 50km.

With the fearsome Côte de La Redoute approaching, the peloton had began to up the pace, and the escapees’ gap had dropped to 1-20 over the top La Redoute, where at 36km to go, Baugnies left his fellow riders behind and went solo.

The Belgian never looked like having the energy to make it stick though with such a long day in the legs already, and was caught with 23km to go.

Bahrain-Merida then began to push the pace towards the climb of the Roche-aux-Faucons, perhaps hoping to deliver Vincenzo Nibali to his second Monument victory of the season.

But that pace wasn’t able to stop attacks when the peloton hit the climb, with Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step) the first to hit out with 20.5km to go.

That was short lived as the 2011 winner was chased down by Sergio Henao (Team Sky) and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb).

Henao counter-attacked immediately after catching Gilbert but he was brought back by Bob Jungels, working in service of Julian Alaphilippe, with Michael Woods and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) among the riders to jump on his wheel.

The leading riders were all together in a group as they crested the climb, but on the immediate descent with 18.6km to go, Jungels drifted of the front with Valverde initially making chase.

The Spaniard didn’t hold that effort for long with more of an eye on Alaphilippe, and eventually formed a chasing group which contained Alaphilippe as well as Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), Tom Dumoulin, Romain Bardet, Roman Kreuziger (Mitchelton-Scott), Sergio Henao, Jakob Fuglsang, Tim Wellens, Jelle Vanendert and Michael Woods, among others.

With Jungels gaining a gap of over 40 seconds on the flat run towards the final categorised climb of Saint-Nicolas, Valverde was one of many riders to try and go across the gap, with Dan Martin trying numerous times.

But the presence of Jungels’ team-mate Alaphilippe meant nothing was sticking, and it was Astana who eventually took up the chase with Davide Villella working in service of Fuglsang.

Martin, who had been so active in trying to get away from the group, then suffered a stroke of bad luck with 8km remaining as he punctured, looking visibly frustrated as the chase group rode into the distance.

Jungels had powered on to extend his gap to 50 seconds at the foot of the Saint-Nicolas, but that dropped very quickly to 32 as riders behind attacked on the climb.

Again, nothing was sticking for the named favourites, with Jelle Vanendert the rider to eventually get away after taking off once his team-mate Wellens had upped the pace on the front.

That attack brought the gap down to 19 seconds as Jungels crested the climb with 5km remaining, but Vanendert couldn’t capitalise on it with Jungels extending it back out as the road descended and then flattened in the final kilometres towards the final ascent to Ans.

At 4km to go Alaphilippe tried to bridge to Vanendert to bring him back, with Davide Formolo (Bora-Hangrohe) following and then Valverde.

But again that move was shut down, allowing Jungels gap to grow back out again, with Vanendert beginning to fade behind.

Bardet was the next to attack after bringing the Alaphilippe group back, with Michael Woods sitting on his wheel as Vanendert slipped to 25 seconds down on Jungels, the race leader then able to push that out to 35 seconds ahead of the final climb to the finish in Ans.

Bardet and Woods were able to close down Vanendert on the final rise to the finish, but there was nothing they could do to stop Jungels riding home for a surprise victory.

Bardet, who had led most of the way up the final climb, was unable to stop Woods from rounding him in the final hundred metres and sprinting in for second place. The Frenchman claimed third, with Jungels’ team-mate Alaphilippe taking fourth in the chasing group at two seconds back. Defending champion Valverde finished at the back of the chasing group to claim 13th place.

Michael Woods, Bob Jungels and Romain Bardet on the podium of the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunada)

Result

Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2018 (258.5km)

1 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors 6-24-44
2 Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac, at 37s
3 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
4 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors, at 39s
5 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
6 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
7 Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
8 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Mitchelton-Scott
9 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team, all same time

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Anna van der Breggen continues Ardennes dominance with Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory

The Dutchwoman won her second Liège title in a trademark solo victory

Anna van der Breggen made it a clean sweep of Boels-Dolmans victories in the Ardennes races, winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège for the second time on Sunday. The Dutchwoman, who also won Flèche Wallonne last week, ground her opponents into the ground, winning by six seconds ahead of Amanda Spratt and nearly a minute from Annemiek van Vleuten (both Mitchelton-Scott).

Having attacked after the Côte del Roche-aux-Faucons, Spratt had been off the front coming into the city, and van der Breggen set off in pursuit with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) and Spratt’s team mate Annemiek van Vleuten.

But after Olympic champion van de Breggen dropped her two companions on the Côte Saint Nicolas, she then caught Spratt before the final ascent to the line in the Liège suburb of Ans.

As the pair climbed towards the finish, van der Breggen distanced the Australian to win alone.

How it happened

A peloton of 130 riders rolled out of Bastogne to take on the 136km race which covered much of the second half of the men’s event. It included the final three classified climbs, La Redoute, Roche-aux-Faucons and the Côte St Nicolas, which were preceded by the Côte de la Vecquée.

As soon as the flag dropped Louise Norman Hansen (Team Virtu) attacked, quickly gaining a lead of 25 seconds, as was soon joined by Rachel Nelylan (Movistar) and Maaike Boogaard (BTC City Ljubljana).

The peloton seemed happy to let the trio have their head, and they soon led by 40 seconds , with Cylance the team monitoring the front of the pack.

Shortly after, however, Boogaard was dropped on a small climb and the gap came down to just 20 seconds. Just as Dutch rider Boogaard was caught, Norwegian champion Vita Heine (Hitec Products) jumped from the peloton to the leaders and the day’s break was formed, soon leading by 1.05.

The first classified climb came after 74.5km and caused havoc in the bunch, with a number of riders dropped. At the same time the break was caught, though on the descent Claudia Koster (Team Virtu) managed to escape breifly.

With the race approaching the Côte de La Redoute, Boels-Dolmans set off in pursuit, closing the gap and leading the peloton onto the ascent.

Over the top, however, Canyon-SRAM played a one-two, first with Alena Amialiusik, then 2014 world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, who gained a nearly 50-second lead as she headed to the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons.

It was here the race exploded, Van der Breggen, team-mate Megan Guarnier, Moolman-Pasio and Van Vleuten escaping only to be caught when they began finessing, but their attack had torn the group to shreds and only a 15 woman group remained to contest the final.

It has been another remarkable spring for Boels-Dolmans. The Dutch team have won six of the season’s nine Women’s WorldTour events, with Van der Breggen bagging four wins and Amy Pieters and world champion Chantal Blaak taking one each.

However, the team will not be competing at the series’ next event, the the three day Tour of Chongming Island beginning in China on Thursday, April 26.

Result

Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes (136km)

1.Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels-Dolmans 3-34-23
2. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott at 06
3. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Mitchelton-Scott at 58
4. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) Cervélo-Bigla at 1-00
5. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Sunweb at 1-13
6. Sabrina Stultiens (Ned) Waowdeals
7. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Fra) Canyon-SRAM
8. Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels-Dolmans
9. Shara Gillow (FDJ- Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
10. Rossella Ratto (Ita) Cylance, all at same time

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Time for Michael Andrew to Take the Next Step

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Morning Splash by David Rieder.

Michael Andrew celebrated his 19th birthday. It might seem like Andrew should be older than 19, since he became a professional swimmer almost five years ago, but remember: He was only 14 at the time.

At that point, Andrew had already set his share of national age group records, and he ended up breaking more than 100. Since 2015, he has set world junior records in five different long course events and won four gold medals at the FINA World Junior Championships.

But he has never qualified for a senior U.S. national team, an Olympics, World Championships or Pan Pacific championships. (That doesn’t count the 2016 Short Course World Championships in 2016, which Andrew swam at—and won gold in the 100 IM—after many Olympians and NCAA swimmers declined invitations.)

The past three years, there has always been a junior-level meet to fall back on. Not anymore. In the summer of 2018, it’s Pan Pacs or bust. Andrew, understandably, would rather be headed to Tokyo as one of the 52 swimmers that will swim for the United States.

The full selection criteria for Pan Pacs have yet to be released, but typically, the top three finishers in every Olympic event at U.S. Nationals (July 25-29 in Irvine, Calif.) are likely to be selected—and, based on how the math works out, possibly even some fourth-place finishers. The team for the 2019 World Championships would then be picked from the results of Nationals and Pan Pacs combined.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Andrew made finals in five events at U.S. Nationals last year, the 50-meter events of all four strokes plus the 100 breast. Those non-freestyle 50s, of course, are still not Olympic events, so only the winners are selected for Pan Pacs and for Worlds.

50 fly? Hard to see Andrew—or anyone beating Caeleb Dressel. 50 back? Better chance there, but beating Justin Ress, Matt Grevers and Ryan Murphy will be extremely tough. 50 breast? Maybe, but you’d have to think Kevin Cordes is the favorite there.

But even if Andrew does win a 50, none of those events are going to get him to the Olympics, the standard by which all elite swimming careers are judged. So that leaves the 50 free and 100 breast. Andrew has plenty of history with the 200 IM as well, but he has moved away from that event over the past year and indicated a shift in focus to other events.

In the splash-and-dash, the teenager has a real opportunity to break through. Certainly, Dressel will be the overwhelming favorite at U.S. Nationals after winning last year’s World title in 21.15. Behind him are veterans Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin behind him, but neither has had much 50-meter success since the Olympics.

Even in what was a good year all-around for Adrian in 2017, he didn’t make the 50 free final at the World Championships. His best time on the year was 21.83, No. 3 among Americans—and the guy who was No. 2 was Andrew.

Already this year, Andrew out-dueled Adrian in the 50 free when the two met at the TYR Pro Swim Series meet in Atlanta, and Andrew’s time of 21.93 from that meet made him the only American to break 22 so far this season. So, yes, he has a chance there—and also in the 100 breast.

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Back before the 2016 Olympic Trials, the majority of the attention Andrew received was for his status as the youngest professional swimmer in history. Few actually considered him a legitimate threat to make an Olympic team. And then, in the very first session of the meet, the then-17-year-old broke 1:00 for the first time in the 100 breast.

No, Andrew still ended up not making the Olympic team. But he swam as fast as 59.82 in the 100 breast final, good enough to finish fourth—a lot higher than most people realistically expected.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Later in that meet, Andrew finished sixth in the 200 IM semi-finals (he scratched the final) and also qualified for the semi-finals in the 50 free and 100 fly. Overall, a disappointing performance? Some might have thought so, given Andrew’s notoriety, but compared to realistic expectations for someone like that at his first Olympic Trials, it was a fantastic effort.

Andrew’s breaststroke wasn’t at that level for most of 2017, but so far this year, he’s already swum 1:00.07 in Atlanta and then 1:00.16 at the TYR Pro Swim Series stop in Mesa last weekend. In Mesa, despite extremely windy conditions, Andrew won the race by more than a second over a field that included Cordes, the American record-holder in the event, and Olympic bronze medalist Cody Miller.

So, yes, Andrew has chances—plural—to make Pan Pacs this summer.

“It’s exciting. At the same time, nerve-wracking. I feel really blessed because I have a lot of experience racing at high-stress level meets,” Andrew said in Atlanta. “At (Nationals), it’s going to be another meet. It’s going to be a big meet, and selection is going to be intense for the next two years, but you have to race and let it happen.”

Remember, this shouldn’t be seen as an “about time” situation for Andrew. Yes, you might have known his name for a long time, but even if he does make Pan Pacs, it’s not like he will have a lot of contemporaries on the team, at least on the men’s side. Only three teenage men qualified for last year’s Worlds team: Ress and the two milers, True Sweetser and Robert Finke.

And Andrew acknowledges that he’s young and still learning. At both the Atlanta and Mesa Pro Series stops, he pointed out without prompt something he particularly respected about a veteran on deck. As he raced Adrian, 10 years his senior, Andrew pointed out that he admired Adrian’s year-by-year consistency and his minute-by-minute routine to make sure he was primed for each race.

But a swimmer can only be an up-and-comer for so long. In July, it will be time for Michael Andrew to prove he belongs. No more junior this or age group that—the real thing.

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Georgia HS State Champ Jade Foelske Verbally Commits to Arizona State

Photo Courtesy: Dynamo Swim Club Twitter (@DynamoSwimClub)

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NEW COMMIT: Arizona State University has added their second women’s 200 butterflier of the week to the Class of 2023. After National Junior Teamer Lindsay Looney verbally committed, German Junior National Teamer Jade Foelske has given her verbal commitment to the Sun Devils. Foelske lives in Brookhaven, Georgia. She trains with Dynamo Swim Club and is a junior at Chamblee Charter School.

While Foelske pulls in her highest USA Swimming power points score in the 200 butterfly, she’s very versatile. Her best SCY times include:

  • 200 Fly 1:56.88
  • 100 Fly 54.08
  • 200 IM 2:01.27
  • 400 IM 4:20.74
  • 100 Breast 1:04.14
  • 200 Breast 2:19.84
  • 200 Free 1:50.04

At Georgia’s 4A-5A High School state championships earlier this winter Foelske won the 200 IM (2:01.27) and the 100 fly (54.36).

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