Greg Van Avermaet found himself back on winning form just days after resuming racing following a well-deserved break after his enormously successful Spring Classics campaign. The BMC rider won the sprint on stage 2 of the Tour de Luxembourg, moving to within one second of the race lead currently held by his teammate Jempy Drucker.
"It's always good to come back to racing with a victory," Van Avermaet said. "My spring was amazing, and I'm happy that I've started back again with some good results. Winning is always difficult, so every victory I can take, I'm happy with."
Van Avermaet, the winner of Paris-Roubaix and Gent-Wevelgem, said he was strong enough to follow the race on a series of climbs toward the end of the stage, and then unleash his sprint.
"In the end, I know I have a good sprint also, so it was a good stage for me. It was pretty hard with the climbs in the end, and only the strong guys survive. I'm one of the fastest of this group."
He was also able to play off the fact that Drucker was in the leader's jersey, and he could hang back while the Luxembourger went with the attacks. He kicked out early in the sprint, but held on to win.
"I went from pretty far but I was able to keep it. And, then I saw that Jempy Drucker was also second in the end. It was not really the plan to go for the win with me. The race went, and I still felt fresh. I was waiting a little bit until they caught Jempy's group back and I came in a good position. I started to sprint from far, and nobody came over me."
The race continues on Saturday with an uphill finish, then concludes on Sunday with another hilly finishing circuit.
Trek-Segafredo on the back foot in Hammer Sportszone Limburg
The Trek-Segafredo team missed an important opportunity in the first race of the Hammer Series Sportszone Limburg on Friday. The squad failed to make the breakaway and got no points in the Hammer Climb.
"We had 40kms of neutral before we arrived to a small village where we were to start," Trek-Segafredo director Luc Meersman said. "Before we arrived to the village they asked five teams to come to the front, the ones with all the big names, and then there should have been 1km neutral after that, and that did not happen."
Instead, the attacks began in earnest when all of Trek's riders were out of position.
"It was hilly and hard, and the race exploded," Meersman said. "After 2kms some guys were dropped already! After 5K there were 20 guys in the front, and we were not there.
"The peloton was chasing, some guys in front were dropped, and at the end, there were 12 guys in the front. We never were there, and we took no points. That's it. Not a good day."
The racing continues on Saturday with a race for the sprinters, where Meersman hopes the team can move back into contention.
"Tomorrow with the guys we have here, for sure we take points. The first 10 guys take points across the line, so we will do our best to take some points back. I won’t say that we will take back everything, but it will be much different than today."
Fast men Giacomo Nizzolo, Jasper Stuyven, and Boy van Poppel will need to score maximum points in order for the team to be in the first wave of riders in Sunday's team time trial chase event.
"With all these teams on the same track with all the follow cars they will split the teams into two groups on Sunday for safety reasons," Meersman said. "If you are the 9th team on Sunday, you will have no chance to win the overall. Today was a bad day for us, and we will do our best to recover some points tomorrow."
Talansky leads Cannondale-Drapac in the Dauphiné
Andrew Talansky will look to parlay his good form - evidenced by his win atop Mt. Baldy and third place overall in the Tour of California - into success for the Cannondale-Drapac team at the Critérium du Dauphiné. Talansky won the overall classification in the Dauphiné in 2014
"I think the team has opportunities to win stages and end up with a nice overall GC result," Talansky said. "I'll do the best race I can, same as at California. I have always enjoyed Dauphiné. It fits nicely in the build up towards July, but really it's a great race in its own right. I think it's always an exciting week and I'm looking forward to heading back."
Talansky's result in the Tour of California helped to turn around the American team's fortunes this season, and he hopes to carry the momentum into the Dauphiné.
"Baldy and the Tour of California, in general, was a great week for the team. We really enjoyed the race and built some positive momentum heading into the summer," Talansky said. "Baldy confirmed that everything is progressing smoothly. If we can carry that mentality, that way of racing into the remainder of the season, I have no doubt we will be successful. I'm feeling good physically and mentally."
Cannondale-Drapac for 2017 Criterium du Dauphiné: Alberto Bettiol, Nate Brown, Brendan Canty, Simon Clarke, Davide Formolo, Sebastian Langeveld, Andrew Talansky, and Dylan Van Baarle.
Dan Martin to lead Quick-Step Floors in the Dauphiné
Dan Martin will head up the Quick-Step Floors GC ambitions at the Criterium du Dauphiné. The Irishman finished third overall last year - the first Irishman to podium in the race.
The race begins with three hilly stages that could end in a sprint or breakaway, depending on how they are raced, before the time trial and three mountain stages.
Quick-Step Floors directeur sportif Brian Holm expects a hectic week of racing.
"If you look over the course, it's pretty obvious we have the same ingredients as in the past: some hard stages in the opening portion of the week, then a challenging time trial, which even though isn't long will lay down the ground for attacks in the mountains," Holm said. "I don't think there will be a moment of respite in the race, so we have to stay attentive all the time. Our team is built around Dan, whom we'll protect and help get another strong and morale-boosting result ahead of next month's Tour de France."
Quick-Step Floors for the Criterium du Dauphiné: Eros Capecchi, Tim Declercq, Daniel Martin, Enric Mas, Maximiliano Richeze, Petr Vakoc, Martin Velits, and Julien Vermote.