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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, March 27, 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.

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Volta a Catalunya stage five reports

We posted the report from stage winner leader Lennard Kämna's Bora-hansgrohe team with the results.

Jumbo-Visma posted this report:

Just like yesterday, Team Jumbo-Visma has shown its attacking capabilities on the fifth day of the Volta a Catalunya. Steven Kruijswijk and Chris Harper were part of the large leading group for Team Jumbo-Visma that competed for the stage victory. Kruijswijk attacked several times, but eventually had to settle for tenth place. Sepp Kuss remained in ninth place overall.

It took a long time before a leading group got established in the turbulent stage to Manresa. In the descent of the Coll de Comiols the race exploded and eventually forty riders managed to break clear. There were numerous attacks but after everything came back together on the Port de Montserrat, Kruijswijk pulled through several times. The Dutchman was unable to get away and had to settle for a top ten place.

Lennard Kamna

Lennard Kämna wins stage five.

“In such a large group it is not easy to race and you often have to gamble as well”, Kruijswijk said. “We knew it was a day for the breakaway, so we wanted to make sure we had riders along. The team has done a good job and made sure that I was able to ride the final. I tried to attack a few times. For me it was a different way of racing, but unfortunately I am not in top form this week.”

“Today it seemed as if everyone wanted to join the breakaway”, sports director Grischa Niermann explained. “There were a lot of attacks. In the end we had two guys in the front with Steven and Chris. That was a good scenario for us. Chris did a good job for Steven who put up a good fight on the final climb and showed resilience.”

Team BikeExchange sent me this stage five report:

New Zealander Dion Smith displayed top form on today’s aggressive fifth stage in Volta a Catalunya, making the front decisive split over the top of the first category climb in Montserrat, before rolling the dice in the final kilometres to take a well fought fourth place.

After two hard mountain stages, today was a day for the breakaway with a stage full of continuous attacks and splits. A large group of 42 riders opened up a gap over the peloton where all the general classification contenders remained.

It was clear that the breakaway would stay away to the line and the battle for the win began over the last climb of the day. Smith climbed himself into a smaller selection of 12 riders, with teammate Tanel Kangert for company, after the pair made the initial large move.

Relentless attacks flew with three riders escaping one-by-one in the final kilometres with Smith having to pick and choose which moves to follow. Eventually the 28-year-old concluded the day in fourth place, winning the reduced group kick.

Yesterday’s stage winner Esteban Chaves took another trip to the podium as he continues to lead both the mountain and points classifications and remains in sixth place overall with two days remaining.

Dion Smith - 4th place:
“It was hard to know which move to go with in the final, you just never know. There was one team EF with two guys, everybody else was on their own so nobody was really riding trying to get Cavagna back. I was on the limit, so I had to just choose my efforts wisely. A couple of guys then got away in the last kilometres and everybody was just looking at each other.

“I think I surprised myself a little bit because the whole time leading up to the climb I was suffering. Everyone was tired but there was a lot of good climbers, a lot of good guys. I tried to stay calm, and I managed to stay with the front which is good so I can take confidence.”

Julian Dean – Sport Director:
“Dion rode really really well; it was good to get into that move in the beginning and then make that selection on what was a really hard stage. There’s certainly a little bit of disappointment for him but his condition is really, really good and it was a good result today. We will have another roll at it tomorrow.

“Tanel was also in the group, it is his first race, and he has been making good progression this week and he capped it off with a good ride today and he rode really well in support of Dion.”

Here's the Catalunya/Coppi-Bartali/E3 report from the INEOS Grenadiers team:

A packed day of racing saw Dylan van Baarle excel with a seventh place finish at E3 in Belgium. Adam Yates retained his overall lead in Catalunya, with the team also defending their 1-2-3 on GC. It was a more bruising day at Coppi e Bartali, but Ethan Hayter was still able to pick up a top-five.

Van Baarle put in a gutsy ride to force his way into the lead group ahead of the run into Harelbeke. Eventually taking seventh place in the sprint, the Dutchman's ride was a bright spot on the day.

Tom Pidcock and Owain Doull were also present in the second group on the road until the race blew apart over the final climbs. Jhonatan Narvaez was among a few Grenadiers to crash on Friday and was forced to abandon the race after going down with 119km to go.

On the flat run-in it was Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) who slipped clear to take an impressive solo win.

Stage five was clipped off at a rapid pace in Catalunya as the Grenadiers worked hard to keep control of the race. With splits and attacks, the team were happy to let a large group go from the peloton, with no rider proving an immediate threat to the team's GC trio.

The team set about pegging and then limiting the gap to ensure that not only does Yates still hold a 45-second lead, Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas remain on the provisional podium spots heading into the weekend.

Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe) prevailed from the break, with the peloton arriving 1:59 later in Manresa.

The team had to battle through adversity in San Marino at Coppi e Bartali. Ethan Hayter continued to impress by taking fourth place on a hilly finishing circuit. His ride was all the more notable after having to battle back from a puncture with 9km to go. Ben Swift and Seb Henao rode superbly to return the Brit to the bunch.

Ivan Sosa went down in a crash on a descent with 40km to go. The Colombian also showed great spirit to return the front of the race, but that effort cost him in the closing kilometres. Despite that Sosa finished just five seconds back.

Sadly Carlos Rodriguez was forced to abandon the race after a crash. Following the roadside concussion check it was deemed that the Spaniard should stop. He headed to hospital for additional checks after the race.

Race leader Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) took the stage win to secure some valuable bonus seconds. Hayter and Sosa sit third (+11 secs) and sixth (+16 secs) respectively ahead of a hilly final day.

Coppi-Bartali Week stage four reports

We posted the report from stage four winner Jonas Vingegaard's Jumbo-Visma team with the race results.

Here's the report from Javier Romo's Astana-Premier Tech team:

Javier Romo impressed with his sprinting prowess on stage 4 of Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, where the Spanish neo pro sprinted to second place in San Marino after a tough day of climbing.

A breakaway formed early in the 155-kilometre punchy stage with 11 riders, including Italian Manuele Boaro, going clear and building an advantage of almost four minutes after 30 kilometres of racing.

Race leader Jonas Vingegaard’s teammates controlled the situation and brought Boaro’s group’s advantage down to two minutes after the first climb of the day. Up ahead, the breakaway changed composition multiple times with the climbs, totalling more than 4000 metres of altitude, taking their toll.  After the third and final climb of the day, the peloton were on the heels of Boaro’s group and as they reached the first local lap in San Marino, the gap was down to just 30 seconds.

As the bell rang at the start of the final lap, the catch was made and the stage was set for a reduced bunch sprint. Romo, who started the day in sixth place on the General Classification, attacked inside the final two kilometres forcing a selection in the group. Having positioned himself well in the finale, Romo launched his sprint with 300 metres to go and narrowly missed the stage win behind Vingegaard, crossing the line in second place to secure his best result in his debut season with Astana – Premier Tech.

Jonas Vingegaard

Jonas Vingegaard beats the others to the line. Sirotti photo

“Today was another day that we have worked very well as a team. It was a tough day and in the final kilometres, I attacked with 1.5 kilometres to go. I started my sprint with 300 metres to go and was in a good position but I was passed by Vingeegard just a few meters before the finish line. My feelings were very good and it was only a matter of a few centimetres for the victory. Tomorrow is another day and we will try again,” said Romo.

Ahead of the final day of racing, Romo has moved into fourth place on the General Classification, 14 seconds behind Vingegaard, and is three seconds off the lead in the youth classification.

Here's the Coppi-Bartali Week stage 4 report from Guy Niv's Israel Start-Up Nation team:

Guy Niv’s assignment for stage 4 of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali was to control attacks and to go with a big group if it contained the GC teams. And that’s just what he did, on what he knew was “going to be the hardest day of the race with 4000 meters of climbing and pretty much no flat.”

“A small group went clear on the first climb, and then more went on the second, so I had to go with them. I felt super good and just bridged solo up to the group,” Guy said.

Once there, “I tried to do the minimum work possible. I hoped that Ben Hermans could come across with a small group near the end, and I would be able to help him in the finale.

“Unfortunately, the final laps of the closing circuit ended up being not hard enough to make a big selection, and a big group caught us near the end. I gave the guys another pull in the front, and when we started the last climb of the day with 3km to go, I had finished my job for today.”

It was a confidence builder for the Israeli climber. “I’m really feeling good in the last two weeks of racing, since Tirreno, and can say confidently that I have taken another big step this season and my level is definitely higher.”

Ben Hermans, our GC rider, finished seventh in the closing sprint, giving him fifth in the GC with one stage left. He praised his Israeli teammate. “Guy did a really good race, and I am happy for him that he showed something great today. Even when we caught him, he was still a help for the team. So, kudos for him.”

“Guy covered everything in the front of the break and was very strong,” said DS Dror Pekatch, “while back in the bunch the guys were supporting Ben perfectly.”

He was, obviously, happy with the progress of the Israeli climber. “ It was one of the strongest days of his career and made a leap forward since his TDF but he obviously  has still a long way to go before reaching his full potential”.

Once things came back together at the end, “Ben was unfortunately boxed in before the last climb and had to put in a lot of energy to get to the front as the others were attacking. In the end Ben got a good seventh place and all the other guys worked amazingly for him.”

E3 Saxo Bank Classic team reports

We posted the report from winner Kasper Asgreen's Deceuninck-Quick Step team with the results.

Here's the E3 report from Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team:

Wout van Aert has finished eleventh in the E3 Saxo Bank Classic. On the final climb, the Tiegemberg, the Team Jumbo-Visma leader attacked as the first of the favourites, but the Fleming had to let go of his competitors at the top.

Team Jumbo-Visma brought the leader in good position, to the decisive hill zone. The race really broke open on the Taaienberg. Van Aert was in good position accompanied by almost all the big names after that climb, but had to drop out a few kilometres later with a puncture. Thanks to the hard work of Pascal Eenkhoorn, Nathan van Hooydonck and Timo Roosen, Van Aert was able to return with a firm intermediate sprint.

Kasper Asgreen

Kasper Asgreen wins the 2021 E3.

“Before the Taaienberg I already felt that the tyre was deflating a bit. That was a very bad moment to change, so I waited until I really had to swap wheels. That’s where I lost the power I needed in the final”, Van Aert explained the events surrounding his equipment failure. “It’s logical that at some point I ended up alone. After my puncture I had to sacrifice all my teammates to quickly rectify the situation. The guys were there when they needed to be there. Those efforts obviously took a lot of strength.”

In the kilometres that followed, the winner of two stages in Tirreno-Adriatico showed himself well on the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont, among others, but after his explosion on the Tiegemberg, the legs were empty.

“I have a double feeling about this race”, Van Aert said in honesty. “My place would be in the front group, but that wasn’t possible today. On the Vossenhol, I had to give in. After my attack I felt that there was no more left. After that it was a give-and-take until the end, but at the front they didn’t sit still, of course. Deceuninck-Quick-Step showed themselves a very strong block. They deservedly won the race. It’s a shame about today, but fortunately Gent-Wevelgem is coming up soon.”

And here's what Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert had to say about this year's E3 Classic:

From the start of the E3 Saxo Bank Classic in Harelbeke this Friday, the peloton went towards the heart of the Flemish Ardennes for a classic of 203 kilometer, which has nothing to envy from the level of difficulty of the Tour of Flanders. Numerous climbs on today's route are also on the parcours of the Tour of Flanders, like the Kanarieberg, Taaienberg, Kwaremont or the Paterberg.

The peloton waited until the first climb after 30 kilometers, the Katteberg, to launch a first attack. Once more, Taco van der Hoorn was one of the enthusiast riders. The Dutch rider, who spent 270 kilometer in the breakaway in Milan-San Remo one week ago, decided again to join the leading group, ensuring the presence of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux in the breakaway.

The leaders enjoyed some time of relative liberty until the Taaienberg, 80 kilometer before the finish. Deceuninck-Quickstep opened the final at this, very often, strategic point in the race. All of a sudden, the gap between the early breakaway and the peloton, with only 40 riders remaining, was closed. Van der Hoorn was in this way joined by his teammates Loïc Vliegen, Jonas Koch and Andrea Pasqualon.

After the Kwaremont and a lot of breakaway attempts, Asgreen was caught by ten favorites after a 35 kilometer solo. With 30 kilometer to go, Vliegen, Koch, and van der Hoorn participated in the chase behind the leaders. Deceuninck-Quickstep outnumbered the other teams and managed to take advantage of it, sending one of their riders to a solo victory. Kasper Asgreen crossed the line first in Harelbeke. Taco van der Hoorn took 24th place and Jonas Koch 28th.

Taco van der Hoorn:
"You might think that I’m smiling all day, but it’s actually my facial expression when I’m suffering! We already had to dig deep to form the breakaway, because it was composed of many strong riders. It’s only a couple of days since I rode 270 kilometer in the lead in Milan-San Remo, but this time, my task had a different angle. My presence in the early breakaway in Milan-San Remo was nice for the team, but today there was a bigger goal. The idea was to stay in front as long as possible with a strong breakaway and to achieve a good result.

"I don’t think I fully realized this, as an athlete you always want more. Haller finished in the top 10 after a long day in the break and I hoped to do the same. Actually, we were caught by the favorites a little too early. I still felt good at that moment and reacted on attacks from van der Poel. Afterwards, I didn’t move when six others tried to breakaway and in the end it was a wrong decision. I tried to help Loïc in the approach to the Paterberg, and therefore I start last at the bottom of the cobbled climb myself. I had to chase and only managed to join the group after the Karnemelkbeekstraat, more than 10 kilometer later. I joined forces with Loïc and Jonas in the chase behind the leaders. During the final 5 kilometer, I attacked several times, battling for 15th place. Actually, I didn’t rest for one moment today. So in the end I’ll have to conclude that I did a good race!"

Hilaire Van der Schueren (Sports Director):
"I’ve been following the performances of our riders in Milan-San Remo, Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico and I knew that they were able to show themselves in this E3 Classic. Just like in Milan-San Remo, Taco showed the team colors from start to finish. I encouraged him by saying that the breakaway would stay in the front until the Eikenberg and that he’d only have to pass the Paterberg and Kwaremont with the favorites in order to achieve a good result. But I didn’t think the acceleration of the bunch on the Taaienberg would be that fast. It’s very nice to see him finishing within the top 25.

"Taco is not the only one who perfectly executed his job. The six riders worked really well together. If you want me to give one remark about the team performance, I can say that the positioning on the Taaienberg could have been better because I warned the riders for an attack of Deceuninck-Quickstep. We’ve seen today that Aimé was not performing at his best yet after illness, but I’m confident that he will at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. After a couple of difficult Flemish classics, I’m very happy that we’ve shown our colors and typical offensive mindset to our fans in this very hard classic."

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