Mountain Biking

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As Chris Froome rode alone for over 80km, from the dirt roads of the Colle delle Finestre to the finish above Bardonecchia, there was a sense of astonishment amongst those watching the Giro d'Italia along the roadside, at the finish line and even amongst those at the team buses parked at the foot of the final climb. From the moment Froome punched the air to win the stage, relegating Tom Dumoulin, who finished 3:23 down, again to second place 40 seconds down in the overall classification, the significance of Froome's performance was set in stone. With one mountain stage left to race before the final parade stage in Rome on Sunday, Froome appears set to win his third consecutive Grand Tour after taking the 2017 Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana. Nobody has done what Froome and Team Sky have done in the recent, modern history of the sport. It is difficult to put Froome's triumph into context and compare it with similar performances. It is historic, especially after he struggled earlier in the race after crashing hard before the Jerusalem time trial.ADVERTISEMENT Italian television quickly compared it to rides by Fausto Coppi in the forties and fifties by the way he attacked alone and then time trialled to victory. Others compared it to Floyd Landis' solo attack to Morzine at the 2006 Tour de France. The American had lost time the day before but went on a solo charge across the Alps to set up overall victory. Of course a week after the race, Landis tested positive and was eventually banned for doping. While the circumstances are quite different, Froome and his lawyers continue to argue his salbutamol case as he races at the Giro d'Italia, hoping that an eventual guilty verdict will not cost him his victories at this race and last year's Vuelta. Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford, who appeared at the Team Sky bus post-stage, is convinced Froome's result will stand the test of time, describing it as one of Team Sky's best ever moments. — LottoNLJumbo Cycling (@LottoJumbo_road) May 25, 2018
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Midway up the Colle delle Finestre, as the tarmac gave way to dirt road, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) braced himself for the inevitable. Team Sky's startling forcing had already seen maglia rosa Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) jettisoned out the back of the leading group, and now Chris Froome was readying himself to attack. Some 80 kilometres lay between this stretch of steep sterrato and the finish of stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia atop the Jafferau, but a seated Froome accelerated away as though the finish line were just around the corner, his legs spinning as though his bicycle had no chain. Behind, the podium contenders were scattered across the mountainside, scrambling in search of allies of circumstance as Froome disappeared from sight up ahead. They would not see him again until the finish, where he claimed the stage victory by three minutes and moved into the maglia rosa of race leader.ADVERTISEMENT Froome is riding this Giro despite testing positive for salbutamol at last year's Vuelta a España, and it is unclear whether his final result in Rome will last in the record books. Regardless of how the case pans out, however, this most absurd afternoon of racing will linger long in the memory. Pinot, for his part, was simply glad to finish among the best of the mortals, placing third on the stage, some 3:07 down on Froome. Despite that hefty deficit, Pinot made substantial gains on Domenico Pozzovivo (11th at 8:29) and the exhausted Yates (79th at 38:51), and thus climbs to third overall, 4:17 behind Froome. "I'm very happy with my day. I think today we've written a page of the history of the Giro, it was a crazy stage and it's something that marks your career, a stage like that," Pinot said after the finish. Jafferau
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Tom Dumoulin slumped on a stool in front of the Team Sunweb bus at the foot of the Jafferau climb near Bardonecchia, struggling to find something positive to say about his five hours in the saddle and his defeat to Chris Froome. Dumoulin was expected to challenge Simon Yates for the maglia rosa after starting the mountain stage just 28 seconds back. Yates cracked and finished 38 minutes down, but Froome stepped up and enjoyed one of the biggest days of his career; taking the stage 19 victory, gaining 3:23 on Dumoulin, and taking the maglia rosa. Dumoulin remains second overall but is 40 seconds down on Froome, with one final mountain stage to race on Saturday. It appeared to be a huge blow to Dumoulin after two weeks of intense racing.ADVERTISEMENT "It was a crazy stage. I expected Sky to go on the Finestre and they did. I had good legs, but I didn't have the legs to follow. I think I did everything right, but Froome was way too strong. I thought I rode well but Froome rode super well," Dumoulin said, every word heavy as if he was still hauling himself up the climb to the finish line. Dumoulin suspected that Team Sky had hatched a plan to attack on the Colle delle Finestre and appeared in control when Team Sky upped the pace on the asphalt road first half of the Colle delle Finestre. However, he was unable to go with Froome when he motored away on the dirt roads. Froome was unable to open a huge gap on the twisting dirt roads but then took risks on the descent, and took advantage of the tactical games playing out behind him. Dumoulin decided to wait for Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and his teammate Sebastian Reichenbach. As they chased together, Richard Carapaz and Miguel Angel Lopez refused to help them as the two South American riders fought their own battle for the best young rider's white jersey.
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More than 38 minutes had ticked by on the clock beneath the Arrivo banner when Simon Yates finally reached the final ramps of the Jafferau and inched grimly towards the finish of stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia. The dream had died three hours previously on the slopes of the Colle delle Finestre, and the final 80 kilometres of the stage must have felt akin to a nightmare from which he was trying to awake. Yates crossed the line in 79th place on the stage in the company of his Mitchelton-Scott teammates Jack Haig, Roman Kreuziger and Mikel Nieve, some 38:51 after new race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) had passed the same point at the end of a most improbable 80-kilometre solo attack. For two weeks, Yates had appeared resplendent in the maglia rosa, but now the garment on his shoulders was dulled by the dust of the Finestre. A scrum of television cameras enveloped the Briton at the finish, but his soigneur helped to guide him through the crowds to the tent that served as a makeshift changing room a little further along the road. Once inside, Yates stripped the maglia rosa from his shoulders for the final time on this Giro.ADVERTISEMENT When Yates emerged a quarter of an hour or so later, his eyes were red, perhaps from fatigue as much as emotion, but before descending to his team bus at the foot of the mountain, he paused to put words on a most trying day. Yates had already shown signs of fatigue when he was distanced on the final haul to Prato Nevoso on Thursday, and it was clear from the outset that he would be robustly tested by Froome, Tom Dumoulin et al. on the tappone of the Giro. The only surprise was that Yates was already in difficulty on the lower slopes of the Finestre, with 85 kilometres still to race. "I was just really tired and extremely exhausted," Yates said. "That's bike racing, unfortunately. That's it." Exhaustion
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Fabio Aru's miserable Giro d'Italia came to an early end on Friday as the Italian abandoned the race just over an hour into stage 19.  The UAE Team Emirates leader had lost time on almost every mountain stage and found himself down in 27th place overall at the start of Friday's stage, more than 45 minutes down on race leader Simon Yates. Chris Froome (Team Sky) went on to win stage 19 and move into the overall lead. The team confirmed the exit on Friday, with no indication that Aru was suffering with illness or any other problem. The team later released a comment from Aru.ADVERTISEMENT "I’ll evaluate my feelings day by day because I feel that I'm going through an abnormal period of my sporting career. I wanted to keep going and honor the team's jersey, give the fans something and the race its due respect. But I could not do it. I'm really sorry for all this, for my team, my family and the sponsors that I represent, but it didn't make sense to go ahead," Aru said. "I’m not going to be dramatic, this is sport and maybe, even if it hurts to say so now, this is the beauty of the sport. I'll try to reset and understand together with the team what happened, then I'll restart thinking of the rest of the season. Because this is what you have to do in difficult moments."  There were high hopes of Aru, the Italian champion, heading into the 2018 Giro. After two disappointing attempts at the Tour de France, it was thought a return to his 'home' Grand Tour could inspire him to rediscover his 2015 form, when he finished runner-up at the Giro and then won the Vuelta a España.  Yet his struggles were evident from early on. He lost a chunk of time, quite expectedly, on the opening-day time trial in Jerusalem, and although he finished with the favourites on Mount Etna on stage 6, he lost more than a minute on the stage 9 summit finish at Gran Sasso. 
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Chris Froome (Team Sky) - stage winner, new race leader I don't think I've ever attacked with 80k to go like that on my own and gone all the way to the finish but the team did such a fantastic job to set that up for me. It was going to take something really special today to try, and first of all, get rid of Simon [Yates] and get away from [Tom] Dumoulin and [Domenico] Pozzovivo. To go from fourth to first - I wasn't going to do that on the last climb alone, so I had to try from far out and Colle delle Finestre was the perfect place - gravel roads I guess reminds me a bit of riding on the roads in Africa. It just felt good and I said it's now or never, I have to try. It's great - obviously there's still a really hard day tomorrow, but the legs are feeling good and I've been feeling better and better as the races has gone on. Even today up front I gave it everything but I also tried to stay within my limits and tried to stay within myself. Hopefully we can finish this off tomorrow. Nico Portal (Team Sky directeur sportif) It's amazing. We forget it's Chris Froome. He's been battling with Contador, Quintana and Nibali and these guys can do this type of thing. Obviously we still believed it could happen. You've seen it the past two weeks on the media, everyone's saying 'what are you gonna do guys?'.ADVERTISEMENT We keep on pushing, Froomey didn't want to stop and kept on fighting until the end. No matter how strong they are, there's only a few champions in the world that can do this. It wasn't 20 seconds, it was 3 minutes 20 seconds or something, it's unbelievable. It's hard to know where it stands. Most of the time we need to ride defensively because we're in the leader's jersey but it was different here, a different situation. He needed to build up to this because of crashes. The way he rode and the team rode today was amazing. We saw some weakness yesterday in the GC contenders and our team has become stronger and stronger. Today on the Finestre we decided it was an all or nothing day, so I said you know there isn't much tactics today, it was all about the legs. It was unbelievable what he did." (Eurosport) Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) - third overall I felt much better today - this was a really crazy stage, that's how the story of the Giro is written. Now I'm hoping to have good legs again tomorrow, because my dream has always been to make the podium in Rome. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) - best young rider David Brailsford (Team Sky principal)
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Dimension Data team manager Doug Ryder is hoping to keep both Deloitte as a major sponsor and Mark Cavendish as a team leader in 2019 as the African WorldTour team tries to fight back after a testing spring hit by injuries to a string of leading riders. Last week the usually well-informed Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf  first reported that Deloitte would no longer back the Dimension Data team in 2019 and instead join up with bike brand Giant to replace BMC as title sponsor of Jim Ochowicz's squad for 2019. Cyclingnews understands that Ochowicz has confirmed to his riders that the reports of Deloitte coming on board are not true and he is hoping to fund a team for 2019 via sponsorship from Giant, as well as existing partners Sophos, and Swisse Vitamin. ADVERTISEMENT The reports about Deloitte caused Ryder a few sleepless nights. He was with a group of important Deloitte guests at the Tour of California when De Telegraaf published its story, and Deloitte never confirmed or denied the reports. The precarious nature of professional cycling and the huge budgets needed to sign the biggest riders and provide them with the best support means the WorldTour is often dog eat dog and a battle of survival. However, Ryder ruled out a merger with the BMC Racing team, despite reports that Dimension Data will ride BMC bikes in 2019. He is focused on securing the next phase of the African team's future and is convinced the team can continue to help develop African riders and help African children via the Qhubeka charity. "There are lots of conversations going on with sponsors all the time and I don't think reports like that help anyone, neither us or even Jim Ochowicz as he tries to secure the future of his team," Ryder told Cyclingnews at the Giro d'Italia. Keeping Cavendish is key Riding the down wave, working to get back up
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Astana's Miguel Angel Lopez made a concerted effort to jump up the overall classification on stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia on Thursday when he attacked on the final climb to Prato Nevoso, finishing 10 minutes behind stage winner Max Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors), who was part of the day's successful breakaway, but 15 seconds ahead of the first of this Giro's main contenders. Bahrain-Merida's Domenico Pozzovivo led home the best of the rest in a small group that included Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Chris Froome (Team Sky), while race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) lost almost 30 seconds to his closest rivals – and 43 seconds to Lopez, who holds the white jersey as best young rider, with more than a minute's advantage over Richard Carapaz (Movistar). "I saw a possibility to attack, and I just did it," explained Lopez, who made his move with around 4km to go, and ended the day moving from seventh position overall to sixth.ADVERTISEMENT "It was Carapaz who tried first, but I was able to respond quickly, and I found myself in a good position to continue. Honestly, I wanted to gain more time on my rivals, but I did my best on the climb, which was quite fast. The hardest stages are still to come, so let's see what happens." Colombian Lopez, who is just under five minutes down on Yates, is only 2:11 behind third-placed Pozzovivo, and now has two more days in the mountains to try to edge himself into a podium position. With teammate Pello Bilbao in eighth place in the GC, the Astana duo are going to add further headache to race leader Yates and his Mitchelton-Scott teammates, who are certain to be put under pressure by the teams of the other main contenders – namely Sunweb for Dumoulin, Sky for Froome, Bahrain-Merida for Pozzovivo, and Groupama-FDJ for Thibaut Pinot – en route to the summit finishes on Monte Jafferau on Friday and Cervinia on Saturday.
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com