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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, October 9, 2020

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2020 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. - Epictetus

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2020 Paris-Roubaix cancelled

The organizers posted this update:

Paris-Roubaix: see you on 11th April 2021

October 9 th 2020 - 10:58: At the request of the Préfet du Nord, Préfet des Hauts de France and following the Health Minister Olivier Véran's announcement yesterday, that placed the Lille Metropolitan area on maximum alert, the 118th edition of Paris-Roubaix (UCI WorldTour) and the 1st edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes (UCI Women's WorldTour), originally scheduled to take place on the 25th October, will not be organised. 

Paris-Roubaix, an incredibly popular event and one that is met with great enthusiasm every year, had already been postponed from its original 12th of April date following the containment measures put in place in spring to fight against the spread of COVID-19. 

We would like to warmly thank the communities and event partners who supported us in this postponement as well as those who were, like us, delighted to see the Queen of the Classics even in the autumn. We will see you on the cobblestones on the 11th April 2021 to celebrate one of the greatest monuments in world cycling.

Paris Roubaix

We'll have to wait until next year. Sirotti photo

Giro d'Italia stage six team reports

We posted the report from GC leader Joao Almeida's Deceuninck-Quick Step team with the results.

Here's what stage winner Arnaud Démare's Groupama-FDJ team had to say about the stage:

On Thursday afternoon, the smiles within the Groupama-FDJ team almost were as gorgeous as the city of Matera, where the sixth stage of the Giro was ending. That is where the French champion Arnaud Démare stormed his second stage victory in the race, doing so brilliantly and without any doubt this time. The French sprinter proved able to hang on in a tough finale, found the right space at the right time and clearly dominated the sprint. A winner for the 12th time this season, he also took the cyclamen jersey. And another opportunity awaits him tomorrow.

Arnaud Demare

Arnaud Démare is the new points classification leader. Sirotti photo

“This is one of the stages where we put a question mark,” said Sébastien Joly on Wednesday night, referring to stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia that would lead the riders from Castrovillari to Matera after 188 kilometers and a few climbs. There was therefore quite an uncertainty regarding the ambitions to carry towards the picturesque city of Basilicata. On Thursday morning, however, the plans were much clearer. “We had planned to stay calm until the last four kilometers, explained Sébastien. Firstly because we had already won, but also because the stage was still quite technical today, with quite a few climbs and especially a particular finale that suited more Matthews or Sagan. Therefore, we could afford to gamble a little, especially since we were down to seven after losing Benjamin Thomas yesterday. It was not up to us to take on the chase.”

For a long time, nobody actually chased behind the four-men breakaway that went at the beginning of the stage. It was only halfway through the race that Peter Sagan’s Bora-hansgrohe decided to take responsibility of the pursuit. The Groupama-FDJ stayed in the background, excepting for the first intermediate sprint where Arnaud Démare won a few points by taking fifth place.

The French champion then got back to his place inside the pack as the gap with the breakaway gradually dropped. The gap was also only a minute and thirty seconds approaching the Galleria Millotta (5 km at 7%), the last listed climb of the day, which could have made real damage in other circumstances. “We had an occasional ally with the wind, we knew it, and that’s also why we were motivated for this stage, explained Sébastien. This climb was quite difficult but the headwind kind of blocked the race”. At that point, the peloton indeed hardly lost any rider. Everything had to be decided in the last ten kilometers, made of slightly ascending and descending parts, but also including a steeper climb with three kilometers to go.

“We did what we wanted in the finale,” added Sébastien. “The most important thing was to position Arnaud well with the punchers four kilometers from the finish, as the road narrowed before the short downhill. Then the hardest part was “only” 600-meters long and we knew that Arnaud, in great shape, was able to get over it. Right now, he’s got this grit that enables him to do extremely well in climbs like this.”

The French sprinter then continued the finale’s story: “It went hard on the climb, I lost a few places but I did not panic. I was really at my limits in the 9-10% parts, almost cracking. We then got back to a good speed and I could catch my breath. Simon [Guglielmi] wanted to bring me up, but I preferred to wait. I managed to recover, and then I thought ‘let’s go for the sprint’. I made the effort at the last moment, with 800 meters to go in the wheel of the Astana. They brought me up perfectly, I did not have to brake a single time and I then started the sprint. I gave everything I had left in the tank, and I knew it was good enough. I had the right power; I knew I wasn’t going to crack.” Not only didn’t he crack, he actually was in a league on his own in the home stretch. Leading by multiple meters, he was able to enjoy his incontestable victory, as it should be this time. “It’s just awesome, it’s great,” he said with a huge smile at the finish.

“This morning I was really unsure whether or not it would end with a sprint, but we wanted to give it a try and the guys did a great job again. I cannot thank them enough. They were even almost too strong when they brought me up four kilometers from the finish. Today I enjoy it a lot more. This one was not easy to get but I could raise my arms clearly, and it makes me all the more happy to do it with this beautiful jersey. That makes it two already on the Giro. For now, it’s a delight!”

The euphoria also sounded in Sébastien Joly’s word at the finish. “He put three bikes between him and the second, Arnaud is doing super great right now,” he added. “No matter how much we plan, in situations like these the legs mostly do the talk. And they did for Arnaud today again. I’m also happy because Simon did a very good job in the finale. Originally, he came here to pull, but he manages to be there today in a tough finish in order to give Arnaud a hand. It’s fantastic for a youngster like him. Collectively, these two victories are different, but this one is necessarily special. The finish city obviously does its part. To win in a beautiful place and with the way he did it, it is magnificent”.

On Thursday, Arnaud Démare was able to show off his French champion jersey in a worldwide coverage. He did right in doing so, as he will have to swap it tomorrow for the cyclamen jersey, which he now has for 39 points overPeter Sagan. “We will continue to have the same goal: stage wins,” Sébastien said. “Tomorrow’s stage is special, quite short, and there will probably be echelons with the side wind all day. We will act as if we do not have the jersey: that will be all for the victory”. “I said when I arrived on the Giro that the sooner I got my first victory, the sooner I would be free mentally,” said Arnaud. After a striking demonstration on Thursday, will there be another one on Friday?

Here's the report from second-place Michael Matthews' Team Sunweb:

Today’s stage saw the peloton faced with an interesting parcours as they tackled 188 kilometres from Castrovillari to Matera. The opening 50 kilometres of the race were dominated by two long climbs and a big battle was expected for the riders to make the day’s breakaway. However, a four-rider move was able to escape almost immediately from the flag drop and with the bunch shutting it down behind, their gap quickly grew.

Reaching the 100 kilometre to go mark the breakaway’s advantage had hit almost ten minutes, but the peloton soon began to chase in earnest and the gap began to fall. Driving into a headwind, the bunch had caught all but one breakaway rider on the only categorised climb of the day and with 13 kilometres to go it was all back together at the front. The team moved forward together with two goals in mind; to protect their GC interests and position Michael Matthews for the finish.

On the testing drag up to the line Chris Hamilton, Nico Denz and Chad Haga did their work at the front to keep everyone well to the fore on the twisting and narrow roads. Matthews was well positioned in the closing kilometres, always in the top ten riders even when there were attacks. However, as the road flattened with around 500 metres to go the pace slowed which allowed those behind to move up and it swamped those at the head of the race, Matthews included. The Australian produced a very impressive, almost 30 second long sprint, to move past several riders to take a strong second place finish on the line.

Arnaud Demare

Arnaud Démare get the win. Second-place Michael Matthews is on the right. Sirotti photo

Behind, there were no changes in the GC standings with Wilco Kelderman holding onto third place for the team, with Jai Hindley sat in 11th place overall. Tomorrow sees the riders take on a predominantly flat 143 kilometre long route from Matera to Brindisi.

“It was a good day today, with an easier start than we expected,” said Matthews after the finish. “We took up our position in the peloton with the team, as we’ve been doing this whole Giro so far. We kept Wilco out of trouble for the majority of the stage. Coming into the final the team did a great job. From about 25 kilometres to go we held our side of the road. With Nico, Chad and Chris coming into the right hand corner with four kilometres to go, it was pretty hectic on the uphill sections from there. It was a pretty crazy final and I had some good support from Sam and I got put in a good position to sprint to second place. All in all I’m happy with the day and happy with the feelings, they were better again than yesterday, and we’ll keep fighting for that stage victory.”

Team Sunweb coach Luke Roberts added: “Today’s stage had two difficult climbs in the beginning and an uphill finish with a tricky kick in the finale. It looked like a stage that would be difficult for the pure sprinters and quite inviting for some breakaway specialists. Strong winds were forecast for later in the stage, with mostly headwind, so in the end we saw just four riders try for today’s breakaway and it was quite easily controlled. We wanted to sit back today and try to spend the least energy possible. At the same time in the final, our priorities were to get Wilco and Jai safe and over the line, and for Michael it was a very good opportunity for a day result. We had our guys take a position at the front as we led up towards the final ten kilometres. It got a little bit messy with the downhill run towards the final kick but the guys started that in a good position. Michael had a pretty good run then through to the final sprint where unfortunately one guy was just quicker than us today. It’s better than our string of fourth places we’ve had until now, with the second place today, so things are looking better for the coming stages.”

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

Stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia saw riders tackle another choppy stage, but while riders would face an undulating 188km parcours, with a third category climb towards the end, this summited more than 25km from the finish, giving the faster riders a chance to go for the stage win. Four riders went clear at the start of the day, using the early climbing to their advantage to build a lead of almost six minutes after just 20km of racing, going out to ten minutes at its peak. As the stage ticked over the 100km to go point, BORA-hansgrohe took to the front to push the pace a little, the break’s lead coming down by two minutes in the space of just 10km, and with Patrick Gamper and Cesare Benedetti on the front, the gap dropped even further.

Having destroyed the escape’s advantage, the high speeds also forced some riders to drop off the back of the peloton and with 50km to go, the gap was just two minutes. Careful not to make the catch too soon, it was finally all back together with 14km remaining. Here, Paweł Poljański took to the front and was working hard to keep Peter Sagan safe, knowing that the final few kilometres would feature street furniture, twists and turns and a short but steep climb. Matteo Fabbro led the peloton on this climb as gaps formed further behind, showing just how important it was to stay alert. The ciclamino jersey responded to late attacks but was squeezed out of position on the final turn, Peter having to settle for eighth after pushing to regain places in the sprint.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan had to give up his points leader's jersey at the end of the stage. Sirotti photo

"The team did a great job today to control the breakaway and set everything for the finale but, unfortunately, after the last curve I found myself in an unfavourable position and I was unable to go for the sprint." – Peter Sagan

"Our plan today was to control the breakaway thinking that other teams would collaborate towards that goal. However, we saw it wasn't happening, so when the gap to the breakaway was close to 9'30'' at about 100km from the finish, Patrick Gamper and Cesare Benedetti took over and put in a tremendous effort to bring in the escapees. The squad then worked to bring Peter well positioned for the final climb but, unfortunately, after the last bend he wasn't in a position to contend the sprint." – Jan Valach, Sports Director

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