Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) endured three punctures and needed two bike changes when stage 9 of the 2018 Tour de France took in a number of cobbled sectors used by the Paris-Roubaix one-day Classic, fortunately losing only seven seconds to his overall rivals after a final chase in the team cars.
Bardet seemed perplexed as to why he suffered so many punctures, recalling that he didn't puncture even once during a reconnaissance ride of the stage. L'Equipe has suggested that a technical mix-up left Bardet on the wrong tyres for the key stage.
L'Equipe suggests that the AG2R La Mondiale team did not have enough special tyres for the cobbles, and so Bardet was given other tyres. Silvan Dillier also had normal tyres, and he, too, punctured while trying to help Bardet.
However AG2R La Mondiale team manager Vincent Lavenu has hit back at the report, insisting that Bardet was riding 28mm tyres during the race.
Tour de France peloton reduced to 146 riders
With the abandon of Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) after his crash on stage 16, the Tour de France is down to 146 riders with five more stages to go.
The race lost Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) to a crash on stage 15 before Monday's rest day. The Belgian finished the stage, but was diagnosed with a broken elbow and required surgery to fix the break. Damien Howson (Mitchelton-Scott) also finished stage 15 after a crash but was a non-starter for stage 16 due to a broken wrist.
Although they could celebrate after Julian Alaphilippe's stage win on Tuesday, in addition to losing Gilbert, Quick-Step also had to say good-bye to Tim Declercq. The big Belgian was suffering from stomach problems, he said on Twitter.
"No words to describe how disappointed I am to leave this year's Tour with stomach problems. Could eat barely a thing since yesterday noon so I had no chance starting empty and sick in today's brutal stage," he wrote, before wishing Gilbert well and congratulating Alaphilippe.
Bianchi extends sponsorship with LottoNL-Jumbo
Italian bike brand Bianchi has extended its sponsorship of the LottoNL-Jumbo team, securing the marque's presence in the WorldTour under riders of the calibre of double stage winner Dylan Groenewegen and Grand Tour contenders Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk, who currently lie fourth and seventh overall, respectively, at the Tour de France.
Bianchi first teamed up with LottoNL-Jumbo in 2014, and have extended their sponsorship for an unspecified time. It's likely to be at least until 2020, when cyclo-cross and Classics talent Wout van Aert is set to join the Dutch team.
Bianchi, founded in 1885, is one of the oldest bike brands in the peloton, with former greats such as Fausto Coppi, Felice Gimondi and Marco Pantani famously riding the celeste-coloured bikes at the height of their careers.
Flares banned from Tour de France
Flares, of the kind used by spectators on the slopes of Alpe d'Huez during stage 12 of this year's Tour, have been outlawed at the Tour de France.
Police warn that anyone caught using them could face a fine and even a year's imprisonment, with the news distributed via Twitter by the Tour de France organisers.
Bahrain-Merida's Vincenzo Nibali crashed after he appeared to hook his handlebars on a spectator's camera strap during dramatic scenes on Alpe d'Huez last Thursday, when chaos reined as fans impeded the riders' paths and police motorbikes were forced to a standstill to a backdrop of – and reduced visibility from – the smoke from roadside flares.
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