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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, February 25, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2020 Giro d'Italia

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UAE Tour stage four reports

We posted the report from stage winner Sam Bennett's Deceuninck-Quick step team with the results.

Here's the report from GC leader Tadej Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates:

The fourth stage of the UAE Tour, 204 km of flat roads around Al Marjan Island, saw Fernando Gaviria finish 9th in the final sprint won by Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick Step).

Tadej Pogačar, well protected by the team throughout the day, keeps hold of the red jersey as leader of the general as he awaits the last uphill finish tomorrow.

Tadej Pogacar

Tadej Pogacar being guarded by his teammates. Bettini photo

Pogačar: “Today was a fairly quiet stage but the team did well. Unfortunately in the final Gaviria did not have the chance to finish further up but we have two more stages to try again to go for the win.

"Tomorrow we will face another tough stage, in which we will have to fight to the top of Jabel Jais. I am ready, together with the whole team, to give my best and defend the jersey.”

The fifth leg of this UAE Tour will see the riders do battle for 170km, with the last 20km uphill to the top of Mount Jabel Jais.

Second-place David Dekker's Jumbo-Visma team posted this report:

David Dekker has achieved another podium during the fourth stage of the UAE Tour. The young Dutchman of Team Jumbo-Visma finished second behind Sam Bennett after a strong sprint in the final. Dekker also took the green points jersey.

David Dekker

David Dekker will start stage five in the green points jersey. Jumbo-Visma photo

The fourth and longest stage of the UAE Tour went smoothly. Halfway through the stage two riders escaped, but they were caught up by the peloton at more than thirty kilometres before the finish. Only in the last ten kilometres the nervousness in the peleton increased. Dekker rode to second place with the help of Christoph Pfingsten.

“Our initial plan today was to help Chris”, Dekker said. “The beginning was nervous, because the wind could always cause danger here. When this eventually turned out to be better than expected, the rest of the ride was relaxed. Until the last ten kilometres. The loss of Jos was of course a pity, but luckily Christoph was top today. After the finish I was quite frustrated, because I felt there a better result had been possible.”

Sports director Addy Engels was very pleased with Dekker’s performance. “It was a long and calm ride with a fast final. An incredible performance by David, especially after Jos dropped out. In the final he could count on the help of Christoph. To find your way in this way and to finish second is very strong.”

Nothing changed in the top ten of the general classification. Chris Harper managed to maintain his fourth place.

Pascal Ackermann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

Another chance for the sprinters was today’s fourth stage at the UAE Tour. From Al Marjan Island the flat course took the riders over 204 kilometers back to the start. It looked like an easy task, but because of expected crosswinds the teams had to be attentive. Even several attempts were launched in the beginning, there was no early break today.

It took over 80 km until a duo was able to break away from the bunch, which was always in control of the situation. With already 30km to go the escapees had been caught again and all was set for a sprint finish. BORA – hansgrohe was compact at the front and with one kilometer remaining it was Martin Laas who did the lead-out for Pascal who launch the sprint as first. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to hold his speed until the line and was overtaken on the last 50m. It was S. Bennett who took the win in the end.

From the Finish Line:
"Today we managed to stay all together at the front of the bunch quite well, but maybe a little early as we invested a lot of energy there. With one kilometer to go only Martin was with me anymore and he decided to hit the front. He did a great job, but when I felt the speed comes down a little, I gave it a go and launched my sprint. Then, the line was a little too far today and, in the end, I didn’t make it. But my legs are good, so let’s see what’s possible in the next sprints here. " – Pascal Ackermann

"The day was not too hard to be honest and everything was well under control. We knew that in the final we had to be aware of roundabouts and direction changes and the guys did a great job to be in position there. In the lead-out we have been a little early, I think. It’s always hard to get the timing right, you can also get boxed in quite fast. But today we have been at the front too early." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

Team DSM sent me this:

Today saw the riders take on the longest stage of the race, a pan flat 204 kilometre long test that started and finished at Al Marjan Island. With the long day ahead of them, the peloton set off at a steady pace, with no attacks in the opening 110 kilometres before a duo eventually forged on out front.

The team all tucked in within the peloton, conserving energy and looking to protect sprinter Cees Bol for the finish. Ahead, the breakaway duo built up an advantage of almost three minutes at one point but with 30 kilometres to go the race was all back together again.

Cees Bol

Cees Bol. Team DSM photo

Heading into the finale the team did well to move Bol up towards the front in the closing five kilometres, but on the hectic run in, the lead outs became messy. The team managed to regroup though, with Bol sat in third wheel as the peloton charged towards the line through the final few sweeping corners. Opening up his sprint, Bol launched at around 225 metres to go but unfortunately ran out of power in his legs before the line, eventually ending the day just outside the top ten for the team.

“It was a fast finale like we expected,” explained Bol at the finish. “It wasn’t the perfect textbook lead out but I got a lot of help from the guys to get in the right position so that was good. Maybe we were a little bit early on the front, but I just didn’t have the power needed to win today. It’s a good starting point for our first sprint of the season. We have some things to work on for sure, but we also showed some good teamwork.”

Team DSM coach Luke Roberts added: “Today’s stage looked inevitable to end in a bunch sprint, with little wind out on the course and the peloton were in quite a relaxed mood. We ended up with a fairly slow stage before coming in for a hectic finale. We had a good plan to set up Cees for the sprint. The guys invested well into that plan, and did their best to set him up in a good position, ready for the finish. It went okay and there are some improvement points to take from it, but we were still able to put Cees in third wheel ready to start the sprint. He just didn’t have the legs today but it’s a good step in the work with our lead out train and we’ll keep chipping away at it.”

And here's the report from Groupama-FDJ:

Stage 4 of the UAE Tour ended on Wednesday as expected: with a bunch sprint. Sam Bennett took the victory while Olivier Le Gac earlier went up front for sixty kilometers before getting caught by the sprinting teams. 23rd today, Anthony Roux remains eleventh overall ahead of the second mountain top finish of the week.


Olivier Le Gac and Francois Bedard zooming across the desert. Groupama-FDJ photo

More than two hundred kilometers were to be covered on Wednesday in the Persian Gulf. It certainly felt like a transition stage between the two summit finishes of the UAE Tour. “It was the longest stage of the race,” said Jussi Veikkanen. “We had more or less an idea of ​​how it was going to unfold. We only had a slight doubt about the wind, but when we woke up this morning, we saw that it was not strong enough to have a real impact on the race”. Therefore, the first part of the stage kind of was a long procession where no breakaway took the lead. “Deceuninck-Quick Step made a small attempt of echelons, but it had no effect.” The peloton then arrived all together at the halfway point. Only there a move went clear, with a man from Groupama-FDJ involved: Olivier Le Gac. “We told the guys not to hesitate to go in the breakaway,” Jussi said. “That was above all for Olivier, Alexys and Matthieu, with the idea of working for the future in mind. Olivier was a bit bored in the peloton, he asked Bidard from AG2R-Citroën to give him company and they attacked together about 100 kilometers from the finish. They did a nice ride up front, but it proved unsuccessful. They got a three-minute gap at best, Bidard suffered a puncture and they eventually got caught shortly after the second intermediate sprint”.

“Apart from the climbers and Anthony, we had carte blanche if we wanted to go up front,” said Olivier. “We knew that there was little chance that the breakaway would make it given the field of sprinters here, but it was also an opportunity to do some work. Alexys attacked at the start of the race, but found himself on his own so he sat down. After a hundred kilometers, I agreed with François Bidard in order not to find myself alone in front. We did a few kilometers together even though we knew it was going to be difficult. We still hoped to go a little further but the sprinters’ teams decided otherwise. At least I got a little busy and the time went by faster. The feelings are good for the first race, but I had a difficult winter. I was a bit injured so I didn’t ride as much as I wanted, and the weather was also really tough. I wasn’t sure what form I was going to be in for the recovery. It’s not too bad. I hope the UAE Tour will give me a good start for what will follow. That’s the purpose. Anyway, it feels good to ride with hot temperatures and to make some effort”.

On Wednesday, Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step) got the victory in the final sprint. “As far as we are concerned, nothing to report”, added Jussi. “The instruction for the final was not to take any risk. William has a habit of placing and rubbing, so he found himself in front for a while, but that was mostly down to his experience. We didn’t try to go for the sprint at all”. First rider of the team on the line (23rd), Anthony Roux remains eleventh overall but a second summit finish, at Jebel Jais this time, is due on Thursday. “The climb is longer and smoother than in stage 3,” Jussi explained. “The general classification will surely be decided there as the last two stages will be mostly done in the cities, so there are fewer risks of echelons. Anthony knows the climb, he is still in the mix in the overall standings and we’ll see if his legs will be better than yesterday. I think our climbers (Matteo Badilatti and Attila Valter, editor’s note) also want to show themselves more tomorrow. We will take stock when we’ll get to the bottom of the climb. That being said, everyone is fine and ready”.

Team BikeExchange ready for Belgian battle at Opening Weekend

The team sent me this:

Team BikeExchange men kick-off their Belgium Classic’s campaign this weekend, as they line-up for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne with a mixed squad of young talent and experienced riders.

Luke Durbridge will lead the seven-rider team in both races while 22-year-old Robert Stannard and new 2021 signing Amund Grøndahl-Jansen give additional options and cards to play.

Luke Durbridge

Luke Durbridge winning the first stage of the 2021 Tour Down Under.

Alongside them will be riders experienced in tackling the ‘Cobbled Classics’ in Australians Alex Edmondson and Callum Scotson, plus New Zealander Dion Smith. Danish powerhouse Chris Juul-Jensen brings a wealth of knowledge to the team and will be an important captain on the road.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the first race of the weekend, features 13 climbs including the famous Kapelmuur and the Bosberg just under 15km from the finish line. The 73rd edition of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is staged with a route that boasts 12 tough climbs, including the notorious Kanarieberg, Oude Kwaremont and Kluisberg, the last of which comes 50km from the finish line and often reduces the number of competitors aspiring for victory.

Team BikeExchange at the Opening Weekend:
Luke Durbridge (AUS)
Alex Edmondson (AUS)
Amund Grøndahl-Jansen (NOR)
Chris Juul-Jensen (DEN)
Callum Scotson (AUS)
Dion Smith (NZL)
Robert Stannard (AUS)

Luke Durbridge:
“Opening weekend, it’s for me like the big start of the season where you can see what your form is after the winter period and also you can test the bike and get ready with the team. I really like these races, it’s the first step to being ready for the big classics to come.

“My first goal is to have a good race and I’m hoping to be in the last selection after the crucial climbs and if I can take an opportunity, who knows?

“From Australia it was a good start of the season, I had good signs, that’s also why I spent one month more than usual in the Australian summer having some time to put more base compared to previous years.

“Omloop or Kuurne, I’m not going to say I like one better than the other, they both present great opportunities and I hope to take them. Omloop probably better suits for me for a result and Kuurne I think I can come down with the best group. They are both hard races and a lot of it depends on the conditions of the weather and crosswind in the final.”

Laurenzo Lapage – Sport Director:
“On paper Omloop is harder and more selective while Kuurne is more suitable for fast riders, but the truth is that in Belgium, all races are unpredictable and can give great surprises.

“For sure, the final of the race on Saturday, is the same as the old Tour of Flanders, will help make a great selection, while for Sunday a small group of 25-30 riders is more likely to arrive, also because the roads are very narrow and nervous.

“We have a good and competitive team, and our goal is to make a podium with our leader Luke Durbridge and, if there is a chance, Robert Stannard and Amund Grøndahl-Jansen will also be able to play their cards. Furthermore, in these first races, it is crucial to see how the boys work in the race to perfect the team’s mechanisms.”

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Race Details:
Saturday, 27th Feb, Gand-Ninove, 200km

Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne Race Détails:
Sunday, 28th Feb, Kuurne-Kuurne, 196.3km

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