OPQS has announced the selection that will participate in Tour de Wallonie, a 870.6km stage race from July 26th until July 30th. Tour de Wallonie is a Belgian stage race, with each less than 200km and the longest being Stage 2, at 193.1 kilometers in total distance.
"The course this year is a bit harder than past years," Sport Director Rik van Slycke said. "There is more demanding parts in the Ardennes. But we have a good team going there, with guys coming back for the first time after a period of rest from competition. Guys like Zdenek Stybar, a guy that is known to train well at home. Wout Poels is another rider who be there. He is also using this as an important step toward Tour de Pologne."
Tom Boonen will not participate, and will be replaced by Guillame Van Keirsbulck. Boonen had an accident at home 15 days ago that caused a small fissure on the sacrum just above the coccyx (tailbone). The injury causes him pain when out of the saddle.
"It was really a banal fall at home," Boonen said "But sometimes stuff like that happens. It's a small fissure, but it causes me a lot of pain when I try to get out of the saddle and accelerate on climbs. After five days off the bike I started training again. Yesterday I made a long training in the Ardennes, but when I go uphill it's still painful. So I decided with the medical staff to skip this race and continue to train and let this injury heal 100% to be ready to start at Eneco Tour."
OPQS rider Jan Bakelants took yet another chance in a breakaway at the 101st edition of the Tour de France on Thursday. Bakelants finished 32nd after entering into an original breakaway of 20 riders, which eventually split up on HC Col de Tourmalet (17.1km, 7.3%).
Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) and Blel Kadri (AG2R - La Mondiale) went ahead after catching and dropping the first attacker out of the group on the climb, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling). The group behind them split up for a time, but Bakelants and others were able to catch back on to three riders and formed a six rider chase group with 29.2km left in the stage.
Bakelants remained in the first group until the summit finish on HC Hautacam (13.6km, 7.8% average gradient). That group was caught by the peloton on that climb, while Nieve went ahead of Kadri wiith about 11.5km to go in the stage.
Yellow jersey wearer Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) eventually passed Nieve to go on and win the stage solo — his 4th stage win of the Tour de France. He initially followed the wheel of an attacking Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida), but dropped him with 9.4km to go in the stage. He passed Nieve to go on for the victory with 8km to go.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.FR) finished 2nd out of a small chase group behind. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) was 3rd.
OPQS and the Tour de France peloton move on from the Pyrenees stages and look next to 208.5km Stage 19 on Friday, which is flat, with a Category 4 climb before the finish. There is also the Stage 20 Individual Time Trial. Three-time UCI World TT Champion Tony Martin will no doubt do his best for a good result. The stage is hilly, though it includes no categorized climbs. There is a descent that leads into the slightly uphill finish.
"This morning it was planned to go into the breakaway," Bakelants said. "I had good legs at the beginning but then we had to go full gas because Astana didn't let us go. Probably they aimed for the stage victory. The breakaway exploded a bit too early on the Tourmalet, but we never really had enough of a gap to begin with due to the pace of the peloton. I managed to stay with the group on the climb and then we went full gas on the downhill. When we rode through the valley to hit Hautacam there was a full headwind, and the group was chasing hard behind us still, so our destiny was already decided. I felt ok today, though there were occasions in my career where I felt better. But it is what it is. Even today I tried my best. I tried to be active during the Tour de France. I tried to enter the breakaway and attack and shake things up. Unfortunately the actions never succeeded. This year's parcours wasn't exactly suited for my skills, but we have to live with it as it's the same for everybody. Until now I didn't have my victory ,but I can't complain about the fact that I tried every day to be in the action. Tomorrow it will probably be my last chance for a breakaway, as we have the time trial and then Paris. Stage 19 it will be difficult for me after a long breakaway today in the Pyrenees, but we will see."
The Pyrenees continued to wreak havoc on the peloton — this time, at Tour de France Stage 17, a 124.5km stage from Saint-Gaudens to Saint-Lary-Soulan on Wednesday. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) went on to win solo out of an original breakaway of more than 20 riders after catching an attacking Giovani Visconto (Movistar), and dropping him in the final kilometers of the HC summit finish on Saint-Lary Pla d'Adet (10.2km, 8.3%).
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) attacked what was left of a select chase group, and caught the leftover breakaway riders on the final climb before finishing 3rd.
Jan Bakelants of OPQS was the top finisher, in 33rd place.
The short, but agonizing stage featured three Category 1 climbs in addition to the HC finish, which shed riders in both the peloton and the breakaway with each passing kilometer. Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky) made a solo attack earlier in the race, but his former break mates including Majka eventually brought him back.
OPQS looks next to the final stage in the Pyrenees on Thursday. The 145.5km Stage 18 includes HC Col du Tourmalet (17.1km, 7.3%) with a summit at the 95.5km mark, and a finale on HC Hautacam (13.6km, 7.8%).more information
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team wasted no time getting into the action of the Pyrenees stages. Jan Bakelants and Michal Kwiatkowski finally entered a 21-rider escape group of Tour de France Stage 16 on Tuesday, which went away after about 75km. Kwiatkowski and OPQS worked tirelessly to make sure at least one rider made the day's escape group.
By 78.2km into the longest stage of the Tour, the big group had a 1'05" advantage. But the advantage eventually ballooned to more than 10 minutes. With 38.5km to go in the stage the gap of the 21 riders including Baki and Kwiato was as high as 12'39" But the breakaway broke apart on HC Port de Bales (11.7km, 7.7%) which had a summit at the 216km mark of 237.5 kilometers.
Kwiatkowski and Bakelants were unable to maintain contact while Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) eventually attacked what was left of the escape group to win the stage.Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) was 2nd out of the group that he dropped. Vasili Kiryienka (Team Sky) was 3rd. Kwiatkowski finished 7th, just 36" back as he worked hard on the descent of the HC climb to try and catch back on. Bakelants finished 11th (+3'33").
Kwiatkowski moved up to 9th in the GC with his hard work.
OPQS looks next to 124.5km Stage 17. The distance is deceiving, as there are three consecutive Cat. 1 ascents and an HC summit finish.
"The whole team was in all of the early actions trying to make the breakaway," Kwiatkowski said. "We were very motivated for that. It was decided this morning that today was the biggest possibility for the breakaway. The GC guys could gain or lose time at the end, and we saw it. They lost it at the end, as it was not easy to control for 240 kilometers. We tried to take advantage of that. I was in three breakaways and I finally made it into the one that stuck. Thanks to Mark Renshaw who led me out to get there. We were like 12 riders at that point, Garmin-Sharp was trying to split the peloton at the time. Then Baki went across on the second climb of the day, the 4th category climb. From that moment it was much easier to be in the breakaway. Everyone worked well."
Kwiatkowski and Bakelants also had crucial support in the team car.
"We had Davide Bramati in the team car with Mark Cavendish," Kwiatkowski said. "Cav told me to try to smash it and win a stage. It was nice to have them in the car. Then on a HC climb of 12 kilometers for sure it would come down to simply the strongest guy winning, and I have to congratulate Rogers for being that guy today. I was trying to hang on there, but I just couldn't accelerate like they did. For the moment I'm not climbing the way I want to, but today it didn't matter. I set my own tempo until the top and I was trying to catch the front group on the last descent. I almost made it, but that's bike racing. They were pushing hard. Baki and I tried our best today and we have to be satisfied that we gave 100 percent. This is where I am discovering myself, in a long breakaway and a tough climb after a lot of kilometers. It's important experience I need and I still have high morale. As for tomorrow, it will be difficult for sure. We all can feel two weeks of the Tour in our legs, but the Pyrenees are very hard,. After 200 kilometers in the breakaway I will feel it in my own legs, but I will do my best and see where I can arrive."
"We had a big breakaway of 21 riders, the cooperation was good," Bakelants said. "It was clear the winner would come from that breakaway. Everyone did their share and as long as everyone does their job I don't mind doing my share of the work. In the end it would come down to the climb of Port de Bales. I missed the legs in a specific moment. At the beginning I felt good. I was on the wheel of Kiryienka. Who made a very strong rhythm. But I faded. It was a shame because I directly felt it would be over for me. I exploded completely. But, I know this is the way I can win races. I am good enough in the start to get into the good breakaways. But today was not the day for me to take advantage of that. I'm disappointed but know there can be more chances in the next days."
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Mark Cavendish, who withdrew from the 2014 Tour de France due to a crash in Stage 1, visited his teammates during the second rest day on Monday. Cavendish was also present when the team announced it is secured until 2017, and will be named Etixx - Quick-Step starting in 2015.
"Now that I've been at home I realize how much I miss the OPQS guys and the Tour de France," Cavendish said. "It's been incredible watching them. I've watched some stages when my rehab and recovery didn't interfere and it's been really impressive, especially seeing them win the way they did with Matteo Trentin and Tony Martin. You can see the strength, the desire, and I still feel part of that even when I'm in my home watching them on the television. I'm super proud of them. We came here as a sprint team and to lose your sprinter in the first day, it can almost throw you into a situation of 'what to do now.' But all eight riders still racing the Tour are super strong. It's easy to see how they've got along without me there with them. I'm still part of the team when I'm not here, and to see them pull it off the way they have makes me so happy. As for me, I had to make sure I was on top of my recovery and my rehab first before I could spend a couple days with the guys. I want to get back to racing for Omega Pharma - Quick-Step as soon as physically possible, and my days are full doing everything I can to optimize that. Yesterday I went out with my bike on the road for the first time after the injury, but as of now I can't really say when I will be racing again. I will discuss it with the team in the next days. I just want to be here with my team right now and let them know how proud I am of they way they're conducting themselves at the Tour de France, the biggest race in the world and one I love dearly."