Having taken over the Team Sky leadership following Chris Froome's exit from the Vuelta a Espana, Mikel Nieve has gone from strength to strength in the high mountains moving up the overall classification one day at a time. 13th place in the 'queen stage' of the race lifted the 31-year-old climber from seventh to fifth overall, just under one minute from the third place of Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Along with the top ten riders on GC, Nieve was escorted from Ermita de Alba to Burgos where the riders will enjoy a rest day before the decisive 38.7km time trial on Tuesday which the Spaniard believes is the final chance for reshuffling the GC.
"It's a long time trial at 38 kilometres and obviously it is difficult for me. I'll obviously give it my all to try and maintain a strong position on the GC," Nieve said. "Most of the hard mountain stages are behind us now. There are only really two climbing days left, so I don't see the GC changing too much after the time trial on Wednesday. That is what makes it so important."
Nieve's previous best Grand Tour performances are three tenth places finishes from the 2011 and 2012 Giro d'Italia's and 2011 Vuelta and is on track for his first result well and truly inside the top ten overall in a three week race.
Bad day out for LottoNL-Jumbo at Tour of Britain
Day 2 of the Tour of Britain proved to be a disaster for LottoNL-Jumbo as the team lost half of its riders on the 159.3km stage from Clitheroe to Colne. The team lost Brian Bulgac and Nick van der Lijke to crashes while there was no happy return to Great Britain for Tour de Yorkshire stage winner, Moreno Hofland, as he withdrew from the race due to lingering effects of a back injury.
"Nick broke his left collarbone and his right shoulder got dislocated," sport director Nico Verhoeven said of the team's day to forget. "Furthermore, he has deep wounds on his chin, forehead, elbow and shoulder. He'll probably need some stitches. Brian's arm is pretty banged up. He still needs to be checked, but it doesn't appear fractured."
Stagiaire Koen Bouwman proved a brief highlight for the team on the day as he attempted a long-range solo attack before the race winning move got away. Bram Tankink explained Bouwman played an important role in the stage, won by Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep), and set a template for how the team will race for the remaining six stages.
"I wasn't entirely fresh anymore during the final kilometres," Tankink said. "I didn't have the legs to follow on the last uphill sprint to the line. Our trainee Koen Bouwman did a good job by attacking 60 kilometres from the line. The race exploded again that way."
"We'll take it from day-to-day now. We are still with three strong men. It's going to be hard to control the race, but we're going to try and show ourselves."
Guarnier extends with Boels Dolmans
American national road race champion Megan Guarnier has extended her contract with Boels-Dolmans into a third year for season 2016. The 30-year-old has won stages at Euskal Emakumeen Bira, Giro Rosa and the Ladies Tour of Norway which she also won overall. Guarnier also took victory in Strade Bianchi back in March along with a handful of top three places across the season.
"I had no doubts at all in renewing my contract with Boels-Dolmans, because I feel completely at home here, not just on the bike, but also with the team as a whole," Guarnier said. "Every team member can count on one another for one hundred per cent, and we help each other to win wherever we can. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given and want to contribute to the team's successes in 2016."
Team manager Danny Stam explained Guarnier is an important member of the team that also includes World Cup winner Lizzie Armitstead and former world time trial champion Ellen van Dijk who have also both extended with the team for next season.
"Megan is an important link within our team, a trump card for both the Classics and stage races like the Giro Rosa. She has made tremendous progress this past year and has been fundamental to the team as a real winner, but also in a supporting role where necessary," Stam said.
Van Keirsbulck with Etixx-Quick Step for 2016
Guillaume Van Keirsbulck is the latest rider to commit to another season with Etixx-Quick Step as the Belgian has put pen to paper on a deal that sees him remains with the team he joined in 2010. After a breakthrough 2014 season in which Van Keirsbulck won Three Days of De Panne and a stage of the Eneco Tour, the 2015 season has been an interrupted one for the 24-year-old who hasn't raced since June.
"I'm really happy about the renewal of my contract," Van Keirsbulck said. "It was a hard period in June with two surgeries in a row, one for a hernia in my back and one for my stomach. The team was always around me and they gave me all the support necessary to rehab well and come back. I am working a lot in rehabilitation.
Van Keirsbulck added he is getting closer to making a comeback to racing and is excited for the upcoming season with the team.
I've recently been able to ride my bike for two or two and a half hours. Everything is going as planned. It would be nice to have the possibility to still ride this year, maybe at the end of September or early October," he added. "We will see what is possible. But the most important thing is that my physical problems are behind me. I have the trust of the team, and I can't wait to be ready for next season."
Etixx-Quick Step CEO Patrick Lefevere explained the team values Van Keirsbulck qualities as a rider and it was therefore important to ensure his ailments where treated correctly for him to return to winning ways.
"It was a difficult year for Guillaume," Lefevere said. "He started with a good part of the season, but then he had back problems, which affected the second part of the year. He underwent surgery in agreement with the team medical staff. This surgery was necessary to avoid future problems. We know Guillaume is working hard now to come back. We really hope that next year can be the first time we see the true value of Guillaume, without any physical problems."