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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, October 25, 2020

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2020 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. - Dale Carnegie

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Giro d'Italia Stage 20 reports

We posted the report from stage 20 winner Tao Geoghegan Hart's Team INEOS with the results.

Here's the report from GC leader Jai Hindley's Team Sunweb:

The penultimate stage of the Giro saw the peloton make a trip into the mountains for one last time, and a triple ascent of Sestriere. The GC battle was delicately balanced as the riders set off along the route, with Wilco Kelderman in the pink jersey for Team Sunweb, 12 seconds ahead of teammate Jai Hindley and 15 seconds ahead of Tao Geoghegan Hart.

After a few early attacks, a large breakaway of 21 riders managed to escape with all Team Sunweb riders in the bunch, protecting Kelderman and Hindley for what was to come. Other GC teams came to the front of the bunch and started to reduce the gap to the breakaway as the race hit the climb for the first time. Well supported by Chris Hamilton, Sam Oomen and Martijn Tusveld, the team were well positioned over the top of the climb and down the twisting and fast descent.

On the second ascent, an infernal pace was set by Ineos and most notably Rohan Dennis who in a repeat of yesterday’s Stelvio stage completely blew the bunch to pieces. Initially, pink jersey Kelderman was able to follow and once again it was the same group of four who were to the fore yesterday. However, Kelderman eventually succumbed and found himself in a chasing group alongside the other GC contenders, while Hindley followed the Ineos duo over the top.

Hindley smartly took the bonus seconds as they started the Sestriere climb for one last time, expanding his gap over Geoghegan Hart to four seconds. Behind, Kelderman dug deep alongside the other chasers in the group, fighting all the way up the climb as the kilometres and steep gradients ticked by. Approaching the final three kilometres, Hindley put in several attacks in an attempt to shake off the Ineos duo, but Geoghegan Hart matched him each time, with Dennis returning to set a strong tempo. Coming into the final few hundred metres it was set to be a two-up sprint for the stage, with Hindley almost coming round in the closing metres, but having to settle for a strong second place on the line.

Jai Hindley

Jai Hindley is in pink going into the final stage. Sirotti photo

As a result, the pink jersey stayed within Team Sunweb, with Hindley donning the famous Maglia Rosa. After showing true fighting spirit on the Sestriere, Kelderman managed to minimise his losses and holds onto the podium spot in third place for the team.

“I didn’t think it was possible, but here I am; it’s an incredible feeling,” beamed Hindley at the finish. “We had a plan with the team upfront today. If Wilco lost a certain amount of time I had the opportunity to go for it and try put time into Tao, which I tried to do. He was super strong and unfortunately I couldn’t put any time into him and it’s just the way it is. I really put it out there today but I just didn’t have it in the end but to go into the jersey, it’s massive.”

“It was like we expected,” explained Kelderman. “We had the plan up front to react, and Jai was good enough to follow but I wasn’t. It was the same as the Stelvio stage with the best two climbers in front. I’m a bit disappointed that I couldn’t finish it off, but in the end I can be proud of everybody and hopefully Jai can finish it off tomorrow and then we have a really nice team result. I’ll go full gas tomorrow, the TT is always full gas and we’ll see what happens.”

Team Sunweb coach Luke Roberts added: “Today’s final mountain stage was the last chance to shake up the GC before the short 15 kilometre final TT tomorrow. A big break of 21 riders went clear early but was kept relatively close by Astana. As we started the climbs Ineos began to increase the pace, then really forced the race to open up on the second climb. An incredibly strong Rohan Dennis then rode away from all GC contenders and only Geoghegan Hart and Jai were able to follow him. Dennis opened up such a large gap on the GC group that it put the pink jersey defence out of reach for Wilco and unfortunately big enough that they could ease up and turn their attention to the only remaining threat; Jai.

"Jai tried all he could but was unable to shake Geoghegan Hart. He has however kept us in contention for the overall victory, in a remarkable scenario they are now tied on time after three weeks and the final TT will decide the winner. Due to fractions of a second Jai will ride into Milan tomorrow in the pink jersey and Wilco looks to have secured a podium position; a position that exceeded our expectations and is a credit to the teamwork we have put in during this race.”

Here's the report from Joao Almeida's Deceuninck-Quick step team:

Saturday witnessed one of the best races of the year, on the penultimate day of the Corsa Rosa, and Deceuninck – Quick-Step were among the main protagonists from start to finish, displaying the unique Wolfpack spirit that has made our squad one of the best and most exciting in the peloton. Right from the gun, Davide Ballerini, Mikkel Honoré and Pieter Serry attacked and joined a sizeable breakaway group that padded out their lead to a maximum of seven minutes ahead of the three scheduled ascents of the mythical and taxing Sestriere.

The race properly exploded the second time it went up there, by which moment Ballerini was already alone at the front, having attacked his fellow escapees on the descent. The bunch was thinned out to just a handful of riders, including former leader João Almeida, who showed again a maturity and composure well beyond his years when the it came to crunch time and he lost contact with the main group. Showing incredible resilience and fighting spirit, James Knox came from behind closing the gap and immediately assumed pace-setting duties, putting in a towering work in the service of the Portuguese.

At the same time, Pieter Serry – still up the road – was joined by the small favourites group and managed to stay there until with five kilometers to go, despite the relentless tempo. Despite getting dropped, the experienced Belgian didn’t end his day there and waited for Almeida, who attacked the maglia rosa on the steepest part of Sestriere. João linked up with his teammate, who emptied himself for the 22-year-old, who then accelerated again once Pieter’s job was done.

Up ahead, Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos) outsprinted Jai Hindley (Sunweb), while behind Almeida got out of the saddle and kept pushing through the pain, sensing he had a chance of gaining a significant chunk of time on all the chasers. The revelation of this year’s Giro d’Italia concluded the stage in fourth place – for his tenth top 10 finish at the race – exhausted but satisfied after having made inroads in the general classification ahead of Sunday’s flat individual time trial and cementing his fifth place on the general classification.

Joao Almeida

Joao Almeida finished fourth in Sestriere. Sirotti photo

“We rode aggressively and we can be proud of our day at the front, we showed to everyone why we are the Wolfpack. Our first plan was to have many guys in the break and try to go for the stage win with them, but we were also ready to support João in what we were expecting to be a very demanding final. The victory eluded us, but the guys were so strong and made the most out of this tough stage on a day people will remember for many years to come. Almeida proved again what an incredible fighter he is and even gained some time on the last climb, and this could prove vital in Milan, at the end of the race”, said Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Klaas Lodewyck.

Patrick Konrad's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this Giro report:

The last road stage of the 2020 Giro d’Italia was also one of the hardest. There were three climbs on the 190km parcours and all three of them took place on the same mountain. Trading the Dolomites for the Alps, the full distance of the day’s climb was 11.4km and saw an average gradient of 5.9% and a maximum gradient of 9%. After a fairly flat profile for the first part of the stage, the race was bound to explode on these climbs – both the GC and the push for the stage win itself.

The break went out after 24km, a large group of twenty-two quickly setting about building a lead of seven minutes and the peloton initially showing no desire to pull them back, knowing that the first ascent to Sestriere would thin out their numbers and make them easier to catch.

As the climbing continued and the break was swept up, the effects of both the past three weeks of racing as well as the sheer difficulty of the ascents today began to tell in the final 50km, as more and more riders dropped off and a select GC group formed on the front.

Today, neither Patrick Konrad nor Rafał Majka were able to stay with the GC leaders. Having suffered with stomach problems in recent days, Rafał had fought on and refused to give up, but this had taken its toll on today’s stage. Patrick measured his efforts well on all three climbs to keep from going into the red and to cross the line in seventeenth – a strong finish on a day when other GC riders suffered on the hard ascents.

From the Finish Line:
"Today, we had the fight we all had expected and I felt well after three hard weeks. It all came down to the action by Ineos which split the bunch. From that moment, I kept on pushing as hard as I could, giving my best. I'm now 8th in the overall standings and I think it is something I can be happy about because I performed at my 100%. We still have a time-trial tomorrow, so maybe there is something possible." – Patrick Konrad

"Our goal was to keep both our top riders in the GC top ten, something that would have been an amazing result for us. Unfortunately, Rafal Majka's stomach upsets in the last 2-3 days took their toll, so he suffered a lot today. On the other hand, the good thing is that Patrick put in again a very solid performance and is now 8th overall. He wasn't able to hold on to the wheel of Nibali but stayed with the main contenders. Overall, I think we can be satisfied with the team's performance in this Giro. We had a number of podium places in the first half, we put on the mountain and points jersey in some stages and, the highlight was Peter's stage victory." – Jens Zemke, Sports Director

Vuelta a España stage five reports

We posted the race organizer's stage five report with the results:

Stage winner Tim Wellens' Lotto-Soudal team sent me this:

Lotto Soudal’s Tim Wellens claimed the stage win in Sabiñanigo after beating Guillaume Martin and Thymen Arensman in a three-man sprint. Wellens becomes also leader in the mountains classification. The three sprinted for the stage having broken clear from a larger breakaway group that formed earlier in the stage. After the stage Wellens announced having extended his contract with the team until end of 2022.

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens wins Vuelta stage five. ASO photo

"At the start of La Vuelta it was the goal of the team to win one stage”, commented aggressive rider Tim Wellens, who went in the break already for the third time in this Vuelta . “It is super nice that it comes so early in the stage race. So now the next two weeks we can ride without stress. This morning I already had a plan to join the breakaway. The start was super difficult. We went full gas for two hours. Then I was lucky enough to be in the first group. The cooperation was difficult since we had two riders with a good GC classification present. Then we attacked with three riders and the cooperation was much better. We were all three at the same level. I could finish it off on the steep finish."

Tim Wellens, multiple winner of some stage races, won already two stages in the Giro. This is his first one in the Vuelta. After a difficult classics campaign, Tim Wellens insisted on participating in La Vuelta to color his short and different 2020 season.

"I had a difficult period with a big crash in the run-up to Tour de France. I made a comeback in Tour de Luxembourg but I needed a long time to find back my good legs. So, I was a little bit scared to come into this Vuelta. But I am super happy with this stage victory”, explained Tim Wellens.

Tim Wellens, who still had a contract with Lotto Soudal until end of 2021 was very happy to announce that he extended his contract until end of 2022.

“I became professional in this team in 2012. Lotto Soudal is part of my family. With them I won six stages and nice one-day races. Why should I change? I feel good. The team trusts me and I have a lot of confidence in the team’s future. Our future looks good”, concluded Tim Wellens.

Here's the stage five report from GC leader Primoz-Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team:

Race leader Primoz Roglic will go with confidence into tomorrow’s tough mountain stage in the Vuelta. The Slovenian leader of Team Jumbo-Visma was on the top of his game in the fifth stage and won the peloton sprint for fourth place on the uphill finish.

Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic is trying to repeat his 2019 Vuelta success. Sirotti photo

In the hilly stage to Sabiñanigo the pace was very high from the start. Team Jumbo-Visma was riding very attentively as Jonas Vingegaard and Sepp Kuss were part of a multitude of breakaways. In the end, three riders stayed away. They sprinted for the stage victory. Roglic was positioned well for the final, after which the defending champion was the first of the peloton to cross the line.

“It took a long time before a breakaway got established, but with Jonas and Sepp we always had one rider in the break. That was ideal for us”, Roglic said.

“I knew that the last five hundred metres were still very difficult. So I gave it my all in the sprint. Every second counts. You have to take those opportunities and take advantage of them. The Vuelta is the last race of the year, so nothing prevents us from racing.”

Tomorrow the Vuelta will continue with a tough mountain stage. Roglic is looking forward with confidence. “I expect a big fight from start to finish. It will be a tough stage. The team is in a good shape and we cannot do more than our best. We will try as a team to win this Vuelta and if we succeed, we can be very happy and proud.”

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