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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, February 7, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2020 Giro d'Italia

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics. Plutarch (46 - 120 AD)

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Etoile de Bessèges stage four team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Filippo Ganna's INEOS Grenadiers with the results.

Here's the report from third-place Pascal Ackermann's Bora-hansgrohe team:

There were no significantly challenging climbs on today's undulating 151km-long route from Rousson to Saint-Siffret, except for a short and steep final ascent that had to be taken on four times. Despite the efforts of the peloton, the riders from the break eventually managed to fight out the stage victory among themselves. With less than 10 km remaining, F. Ganna attacked from the leaders, going on to take the stage solo. Back in the peloton, the battle for the rest of the podium placings was underway, with Pascal Ackermann taking third place in the uphill sprint. Nils Politt moved up three places in the overall classification and now occupies ninth place overall.


Not a bad day for a race. Photo: Bora-hansgrohe/Bettiniphoto

From the Finish Line:
"That was an interesting stage today. With about 20 km remaining, it looked like the breakaway had a good chance of being caught, but following some attacks out of the peloton, the pace in the leading group increased and they gained significant momentum. The guys did a strong job to try to bring them back, but ultimately, the break managed to contest the win amongst themselves. After Ganna took the honours, we then fought for the rest of the podium places, and I ended up finishing the stage in third place, a satisfying performance which shows that my form continues to improve." - Pascal Ackermann

"Our goal was first and foremost to assist Nils to defend his solid position in the overall standings, or even gain a few valuable seconds on the uphill finish. The second aim was to support Pascal in the sprint, should it eventuate. Unfortunately, already on the first longer climb a strong 3-man group took flight, among them Filippo Ganna, and we knew from the outset that it would be difficult to reel this group back in. The peloton set a good pace, and upon the last crossing of the finish hill we decided, with a time gap of less than 1 minute, to  go full throttle in pursuit of the leaders. Compliments to Felix and Lukas, who almost pulled it off, as well. In the end, we just lacked a bit of support from the other teams. Nevertheless, Pascal finished the stage with a strong third place, showing that his form is on the rise. Chapeau to Nils Politt as well, who was also right up there. Everyone in the team rode their best for our two leaders and we're looking forward to seeing what Nils can do in tomorrow's time trial." - Christian Pömer, Sports Director

Israel Start-Up Nation posted this report:

It all comes down to this one question: can our GC man, Mads Würtz Schmidt, step up to the plate tomorrow and produce the result that will land him a podium finish?

Mads wurts Schmidt

Schmidt is sitting in third place at the end of stage four.

Judging by his performance since day one, there is every reason to believe he can. Beyond his power (“I’ve got the legs,” he says), it’s his clear confidence in himself to be able to step up in the crucial moments that will play a deciding role.

In stage 3 we saw him in the game-changing breakaway, and today he drove it home on the last steep hill to the finish, following 150 km of high-intensity racing, which truly showed us what he’s made of. He came up 10th, in front of most of his podium rivals.

Now it comes down to tomorrow’s 10 km TT, and the critical 3 km climb at the end. Mads, a skilled TT performer, analyzed the task at hand:

“I believe I have good chances tomorrow. This is a TT where you have to get the pacing strategy right. You need to start fast but without killing it. Because you need as much power as possible on the climb; you don’t win the TT on the flat part, but you can lose it. So, beyond having the legs, it’s all about being smart.”

Mads is clear about his goal to fight for second overall as Tim Wellens (46 seconds ahead) is out of reach. But eight riders, including Mads, are within a mere 6 seconds of each other.

“I believe in myself for tomorrow. I will give everything I have and aim for that 2nd place in the GC.”

And here's the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux report:

This Saturday, the fourth stage of the Etoile de Bessèges (1.1, 2-7 / 02) was the last opportunity for the GC contenders to take advantage of the bonus seconds, on the eve of the time trial in Alès. Similarly to the inaugural stage, the winner would be decided atop a short hill, this time in Saint Siffret (1.1km at 5.6%), which the peloton had to climb three times.

Five men, including Filippo Ganna (INEOS), animated the first part of the race. Behind, the peloton led by Total-Direct Energie and Education First controlled the gap just around two minutes. With about 20 kilometers from the finish, these two teams initiated a counter, bringing the number of riders at the front to seven.

With 10 kilometers to go, time trial world champion Ganna decided to get rid of his fellow breakaway companions. He soloed his way to the line with almost 20 seconds on the peloton. Odd Christian Eiking, the first Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux rider to reach the finish, is provisionally entering the top 10 overall.

Team Deceuninck-Quick Step to race Tour de la Provence

Here's the team's announcement:

Taking place between 11-14 February, the sixth edition of the Tour de la Provence will be the Wolfpack’s debut race this year. The four-day event will stick to the script, with the first two stages (finishing in Six-Fours-les-Plages and Manosque) suited to the puncheurs before a trip up Chalet Reynard (14.6km, 7.6%), some six kilometers shy of Mont Ventoux’s summit. On Sunday, despite some rolling roads between Avignon and Salon-de-Provence, there’s a fair chance the fast men will get their opportunity, as the race will prepare to bring down the curtain.

World Champion Julian Alaphilippe will be at the start of the Tour de la Provence for the first time since 2016, when the race held its first edition. The Frenchman, who in the past two seasons kick-started his campaign in South America, will be making his first appearance on home turf since last year’s Tour de France, when he was again in the spotlight thanks to a spectacular stage win, followed by a three-day spell in the yellow jersey.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe (shown in the 2020 Tour de France) will be racing in Provence in a few days. Sirotti photo

Danish National Champion Kasper Asgreen will be as well on Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s seven-man squad, which is set to contain also Davide Ballerini, most combative rider of the 2020 La Vuelta Rémi Cavagna, Mauri Vansevenant, and Paris-Roubaix podium finishers Yves Lampaert and Zdenek Stybar.

“With so many races cancelled or postponed, we had to make some changes in our line-up, that’s why we have a Classics-orientated team for next week. We’re happy to get the season underway and to have Julian show his rainbow jersey for the first time this year in France. The guys are feeling good, they are all motivated, and we are confident that this solid squad is capable of fighting for some nice results. Our main goal is to give our best there and get back that racing feeling that we love and have missed so much”, said sports director Geert Van Bondt.

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