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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, March 29, 2021

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2020 Tour de France | 2020 Giro d'Italia

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

Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac? - George Carlin


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Latest completed racing:


Loudal Soudal’s Steff Cras returns positive covid-19 test

The team sent me this:

Lotto Soudal’s Belgian rider Steff Cras did not start in today’s stage 7 of the Tour of Catalunya. Cras had some fever in the morning, after which the team decided not to take any risk. Cras as well as his close contacts were immediately isolated. In Barcelona Cras and his close contacts underwent a PCR test. Cras returned, later in the day, a positive corona result, the others a negative result. Prior to the race the other five riders and all staff returned a negative result as well after a rapid test.

Steff Cras and his close contacts remain in Spain in quarantine. Cras feels already well again and does not show any symptoms. Team Lotto Soudal will continue to follow up all riders and staff, following the existing covid-19 protocols, and carry out more covid tests in the coming period.

Gent-Wevelgem reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Winner Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team sent me this:

Wout van Aert has written the classic Gent-Wevelgem to his name. By being in the right echelon early on with the very strong Nathan Van Hooydonck, the Fleming was able to sprint to the prestigious victory on pure power. It is the eleventh victory of the season for Team Jumbo-Visma.

Wout van Aert

Wout van Aert wins a big one. Sirotti photo

In the opening hours it immediately became clear that the wind was going to play a major role. Team Jumbo-Visma rode attentively from the front and had two men in the first echelon with Van Hooydonck and Van Aert. The early breakaway was caught and  went to the West Flemish hill zone together with the connected echelon. On the hills and plugstreets, the chasing groups did get closer, but never returned to the very front of the race. Van Aert impressed on the Kemmelberg, but his companions and Van Hooydonck kept up with him. Partly due to the great work of the sublime super domestique, Van Aert could sprint to victory in the streets of Wevelgem.

The best one-day rider of 2020 clinched his third triumph of the season in Wevelgem. Earlier, Van Aert won two stages in Tirreno-Adriatico.

"This means a lot to me. Of course I have already won many beautiful races, but in the Flemish races it often just didn’t work out. I was waiting for this. I’m super happy with this, of course."

"As a team we have continuously kept the focus on the wind and the echelons. You know that’s almost always the case in this race", Van Aert said. "It soon broke open and I was in the right echelon with Nathan. We worked well together and kept control of the race. The confidence in the final sprint was there, of course."

The Team Jumbo-Visma leader gave his Flemish companion the deserved compliments. "I have been encouraging Nathan all along to also survive the last time on the Kemmelberg. He did. That was really super strong of him. I knew I was going to need him a lot afterwards. In the last kilometre he took the lead. A top notch performance. Hats off to him."

"Today we proved that we can win a race even without a dominant team", the outstanding Van Hooydonck said. "This is really a fantastic feeling. We always kept on riding. We had to, because the chasers were never really far. Wout told me to keep up the pace. Sometimes it was a bit of a lynch mob between the many sprinters, but then I quickly caught up to keep the pace. It’s clear that in the end we rode to the finish with the strongest seven riders. Wout can do everything, so I never doubted that he would win the sprint."

Here's the report from Michael Matthews' Team BikeExchange:

Australian Michael Matthews battled to a hard fought fifth place after making the decisive selection at Ghent-Wevelgem.

It was a chaotic opening half of the stage with a strong group of 25 going clear in the crosswinds and swallowing up the early breakaway of four riders. Team BikeExchange were well represented in the front split with Jack Bauer, Rob Stannard, Alex Edmondson and Luka Mezgec all present alongside Matthews.

Peloton

The peloton races across a dusty road in Flanders. Sirotti photo

That group then continue to whittle down over the climbs and on the run to the finish in Wevelgem, with just seven riders remaining at the front with 10km to go. The chasing group had threatened to bridge the gap, but it was too little too late, with the day set to end in a small group sprint.

With a number of fast finishers amongst the seven leaders, Matthews made sure he was well positioned as the line approached, but as the kick was launched the 30-year-old just ran out of legs as Wout van Aert sprinted to victory.

Michael Matthews:
"Before the race we had a really good meeting, Mat Hayman gave us a really good idea at around 70km into the race we would move to the front as a team and position ourselves for the crosswind.

It worked, I think we got a split of around 25 guys and we had five guys there at that point. That worked really well and then we worked all through the race to try and keep things together and give me the best opportunity for the sprint in the final.

There were seven of us left in the final for the kick and I didn’t have the legs to win the sprint unfortunately, but I gave it my best, the team did an awesome job today, so I’m looking forward to next weekend now."

Matt Hayman (Sports Director):
"The boys rode a fantastic race today, the wind was there, everybody knew about it. Ghent-Wevelgem is always a race that has wind at the start and then the climbs, and the guys were where they needed to be and they made the front split. They rode and they had the race under control, so hats off to the boys there.

Michael came up against the best of the best in the final, obviously suffering from some cramps there at the end, but he did absolutely everything right."

And here's the report from Sam Bennett's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Irishman Sam Bennett shared his impressions after one of the toughest Gent-Wevelgem editions in recent memory.

"I came to the start very confident after my win in Classic Brugge-De Panne and knew it was going to be a tough race, but it ended up exceeding all expectations due to the brutal winds that wreaked havoc and split the race with more than 150 kilometers to go. I found myself in a good position, it was the perfect echelon with a lot of the right guys, a mix of sprinters and Classics riders, which was a guarantee that people would pull and be really involved in this move.

Gent Wevelgem

The early winds broke the field into echelons.

"The gap was small in the beginning, but it then went over two minutes before hitting the hills and that was the moment our chances of making it increased. We all worked well together and we still had a good gap the first time up the Kemmelberg. I felt good on the climbs, although you could feel those hills sapping your energy, but the sensations I had changed the third and last time we tackled the Kemmelberg. I went a bit too much into the red and although I managed to hang in, I paid for this later as my legs were full of lactic acid.

"I also made a mistake, as I ate a lot during the race so I didn’t want to run out of fuel, but I overdid it and had too much in my stomach inside the final hour of racing, which everybody could see when I threw up. Because of this and the effort I put in during the day, it just happened and I ended up going from one extreme to another, as after this I was completely empty and had no more energy left. I felt a bit better after that moment, but my race was over so I just rode at my own pace until the finish. It’s the first time I found myself in such a situation, but in the end it’s something from which I will learn.

"It’s kind of disappointing, as I was really hoping I could get a good result, but it is as it is and it’s not something I could anticipate. As I said, it’s my fault but I’ll learn from this and take only the good things from this race, which is that I was in the front with the Classics guys, I felt good on the hills and in the echelons, could produce a solid ride until with 40 kilometers to go and did a lot of things the right way. All these things make me happy and give me a lot of confidence that in the future, when I would like to race more classics, I have what it takes to feature in the finale of these races. I would like to come back stronger here in Gent-Wevelgem and get to fight for victory one day."

2021 Volta a Catalunya final reports

We posted the report from stage winner Thomas de Gendt's Lotto Soudal team with the results.

Here's the report from winner Adam Yates' INEOS Grenadiers:

The INEOS Grenadiers were equal to the task to secure a historic 1-2-3 overall at the Volta a Catalunya.

Adam Yates, Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas locked out the podium at the WorldTour event after a thrilling final day in Barcelona.

Adam Yates

Adam Yates winning stage three.

The team were forced to work hard over six laps of a relentless circuit around Montjuic. Movistar launched a number of attacks in a bid to make the top three but the Grenadiers were resolute.

Luke Rowe got through a lot of early work as a large breakaway went clear ahead of the finishing circuit, soaking up some key bonus seconds along the way. Jonathan Castroviejo, Richard Carapaz and Rohan Dennis ensured the team had numbers to the fore, with Movistar finally splitting the peloton with three laps to go.

After fending off the challenge of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), it was Thomas who drove into the final kilometre to help seal an emphatic result. In addition to two stage wins and the first Catalunya podium lockout since 1960, the Grenadiers also secured the team GC.

Adam Yates:
"It's been a good week. We started off with big ambitions and we ended up 1-2-3 on GC. There's not much more we can say really. It was the perfect team performance. Even today was a really tough day, especially with this climb. It's a lot steeper and harder than I remember, but the team had it under control. It's a really special day.

"We wanted to win the race but in the end we had three guys in really good positions. We worked perfectly together and we controlled the race from start to finish.

"Two years ago I was close, I just missed out on that win. Now to come back and take the top step is great, and it makes it more special to see my two team-mates on the other steps."

Geraint Thomas:
"It feels good to be back on the podium at a World Tour race. To be honest it was never really a goal at the start of the year to be going so well so early. But I've been working hard and each race I've felt better and better. The team here has just been incredible, as you've seen on the road. Morale is good and I'm enjoying racing with the boys. It's unbelievable really to have a 1-2-3. It's an amazing feeling.

"Everyone was communicating really well and we've got a lot of experience of defending the jersey. Today was the hardest day for sure - Movistar really attacked the race once we got on to the circuit. I was definitely in the hurt box for quite a few laps but I think everyone was. We stuck together well, had strength in numbers and were able to take morale off each other really and keep it under control."

Sunday also saw Gent-Wevelgem take place, with Dylan van Baarle continuing his strong form taking eighth place. The Dutchman was able to slip clear of a group in the closing kilometres to back up his seventh spot from E3 Harelbeke.

Michal Golas showed good legs once again to make the early lead group, with the Pole and Owain Doull finishing just behind the lead group. Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) won the reduced group sprint to take victory.

Team BikeExchange sent me this report:

Team BikeExchange wrapped up a successful week at Volta a Catalunya today, walking away with their first WorldTour stage victory of the season, three riders in the top-10 on the general classification and the overall victory in both the points and mountain classifications.

Eteban Chaves

Esteban Chaves winning stage four.

On the fast and furious stage around Montjuïc, Esteban Chaves was able to maintain his sixth place on GC and secure the two jersey competitions, while teammates Simon Yates and Lucas Hamilton both moved up one place to ninth and tenth respectively, after all making it into the final front selection behind the solo stage winner Thomas de Gendt.

These high overall placings also saw Team BikeExchange finish a close second on the team classification standings, highlighting the squads consistency across the board all week, with strong results including a fourth and fifth stage placing from Dion Smith.

Lucas Hamilton:
“I think this race is up there with the toughest one-week races that I have done. It was a final good day for us with Dion Smith and Tanel Kangert getting into the main breakaway. It just wasn’t meant to be in the end, that group didn’t stay away to the line but then we just drilled it on the final laps and so it was pretty hard all day.

“In the end, we had three guys there in the final group and finished with three in the top-10 and we can be happy with the whole week.”

Esteban Chaves:
“It is awesome, three guys in the top-10 overall and three guys in the first group today in the final. This circuit in Barcelona, I think it was harder today than the previous years, but the team worked perfectly. We covered the breakaway; everybody was super active throughout the race and everybody was super committed.

"I am happy for the results; it gives me confidence for my performance and for the coming races. It is unbelievable for us, for the team, but we deserved this. We worked really hard for this; this is not for free, we put a lot of effort in and this is the result and we need to enjoy it but we also need to keep working for the future.”

Julian Dean – Sport Director:
“It has been really good and a really successful week for us. Lot of guys came here with different objectives. The most pleasing thing was that the level of the whole team, it was really, really high.

:We took a stage win and nearly secured the team’s classification today with having Tanel and Dion in the breakaway; that was a little bit disappointing to miss that but overall, we can be very happy with the stage win we took, the overall and the points jersey and the mountains jersey wins.”

And here's the report from Bora-hansgrohe:

Just 133km remained of the 100th edition of the Volta a Catlunya. Today, the race would end in Barcelona after a week of solid performances from BORA-hansgrohe on every stage, including victories on stage 5 for Lennard Kämna and stage 6 for Peter Sagan, and a strong GC showing from Wilco Kelderman. Today’s route would bring the race to a close in Barcelona, with five laps of a street circuit rounding off the day.

Lennard Kamna

Lennard Kämna winning stage five.

As the last opportunity for both a stage win and to make an impact on the GC standings, there was a lot of activity at the start, with several riders, Lennard Kämna included, trying to make their way into the break. The peloton shut down most of these moves until 50km of the race had been covered, where a large group of more than thirty riders built an advantage of 2:30, and arriving at the finishing circuit with 50km to go, this lead sat at around four minutes. The high speeds had created splits on the road, and Ide Schelling had made his way into the second group, but as the kilometres counted down, a number of attacks went off the front of the escape group, causing the break to splinter and, while the two leaders were struggling to work together, a late attack from De Gendt secured the win today.

Further back, the GC group was working well and riding at a blistering pace, with Wilco in the mix here. Any attempts to attack to take bonus seconds were quickly shut down and, while there were no changes in the overall standings, Wilco confirmed his 5th place, crossing the line in the GC group, after a successful race for the entire BORA-hansgrohe team.

"I think we had a really successful Volta a Catalunya, two stage wins, and a good GC position. It was what we came for here and we achieved it. We had a good team spirit and we can be happy with our performance. As for today's final stage, it was full gas from start to finish. I tried to stay with the main GC contenders and it was a good race as we finished together. I'm very happy with how my recovery is progressing after my accident in Lake Garda, it is much better than I expected, so I'm very happy with this." – Wilco Kelderman

"We had a very successful week, we reached all the goals we had. I think we can be very happy with the team's work and performance. The two stage victories were amazing but also important ones, for Peter as well, and the fifth spot in GC for Wilco is another really nice result. We look forward to racing in the next weeks." – André Schulze, Sports Director

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