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Monday, August 29, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places. - Henny Youngman

Bill and Carol McGann's book The Story of the Tour de France, 2019: A Year of New Faces is available in both Kindle eBook and audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Vuelta a España stage nine reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Louis Meintjes' Team Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert:

At the end of a long breakaway, Louis Meintjes rode to a solo victory in the ninth stage of the Tour of Spain, which finished on the particularly steep climb Las Praeres after four other climbs in Asturias.

Louis Meintjes wins stage nine. Sirotti photo

The South-African rider was accompanied by eight riders in the breakaway, which was formed after a battle of more than one hour. Meintjes was also the best placed rider in the general classification.

The escapees benefited from a five minute advantage during most of the stage and started the final climb with a gap of more than three minutes. So it was the breakaway battling for the stage win on the slopes averaging 13% of the final climb.

Louis Meintjes distanced his competitors one by one and finished solo, as the winner. He took the second victory in the Vuelta for Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux in two participations after Rein Taaramäe’s success on top of the Picon Blanco last year.

At the age of 31, Meintjes takes his first World Tour win, his second success of 2022 after the Giro dell’Appennino. It is de 23rd victory of the season for the team of Jean-François Bourlart and the fifth ever in a Grand Tour.

In the general classification, Louis Meintjes climbs to sixteenth position. Domenico Pozzovivo moves up to 22nd place. Rein Taaramäe, who was third on top of the Colláu Fancuaya one day ago, was 19th in the stage result.

After the loss of Jan Hirt because of a positive COVID-19 test, Gerben Thijssen was also forced to abandon this Sunday following a crash downhill. The Belgian sprinter, who was still recovering from a crash in the sprint in the opening weekend, has abrasions in his face and on his arms and will need stitches in his knee.

“I wanted to attack today, because I didn’t manage to follow the rhythm of the GC favorites the last couple of days. If I was in the right breakaway, it was thanks to my teammates. They controlled all breakaway attempts for more than one hour, after which one acceleration from my side was enough to join the right one. But the task wasn’t easy at all for me, because I was regarded as one of the best climbers in the leading group. My breakaway companions made my life hard by forcing me to work more and by accelerating now and then. I knew I was spending more energy than the others, so I wasn’t sure whether I would be the one with the best legs in the end.

"The slopes of Les Praeres were so steep that there were no other tactics than climbing in time trial mode to the top. It is so special to win here. This is the first time that I’m on top of the podium in a World Tour race, this is something I really wanted to achieve in my career. It will take some time before I realize what I achieved today!” - Louis Meintjes

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Here’s the report from GC leader Remco Evenepoel’s Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl:

Remco Evenepoel stomped his authority on the Spanish Grand Tour after an imperious ride on the first week’s final stage, which returned to Las Praeres after four years. In red since Pico Jano, Remco rode away from all his rivals just one kilometer into the brutal 3.9km climb which averaged 13.9% and increased his buffer in the general classification ahead of the Alicante individual time trial.

It sure looks like Remco Evenepoel went deep on the day's final climb. Sirotti photo

The start of stage 9 was furious, attacks coming from all over the place on the first climb, but the Wolfpack rose to the challenge, moving to the front of the peloton and restoring order. Rémi Cavagna, Dries Devenyns and Fausto Masnada did a fabulous job in the first 120 kilometers of the stage, before Ilan Van Wilder, Louis Vervaeke and Julian Alaphilippe stepped in for the final part, shredding the peloton to pieces.

It was the World Champion who guided Evenepoel onto Las Praeres, sprinting out of the saddle and setting an insane tempo that split the bunch, leaving only a handful of riders in the newly-formed select group. Remco didn’t stay too long there, turning on the afterburners and dropping his opponents one by one on the steep gradients which kicked up to 24%. The leader of La Vuelta pressed on unfazed by the gruelling slopes, catching and passing many of the breakaway riders on his way to another impressive result.

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s 22-year-old became the youngest rider since Miguel Indurain, in 1985, to amass four stages in the leader’s jersey at La Vuelta and will head into the rest day with more than a minute over his nearest rival after his massive show of strength on the Asturian mountainous weekend.

“The team was outstanding again. I am impressed by these incredible riders on our squad, of how they selflessly work for me and how they give their best. They make me emotional and they deserve all the praise for their effort”, Remco said straight after the stage. “I felt that I had the legs to try something on the last climb, so I just did it. I am satisfied with the way things panned out and happy with having the red jersey at the start of next week. I didn’t expect to go into the time trial with this lead, but at the same time I know the Vuelta is far from being over, so we’ll remain motivated and focused.”

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Here’s the Vuelta report from second-place Samuele Battistella’s Team Astana-Qazaqstan:

At four kilometers from the finish, Samuele Battistella was in position fighting for the stage win with Belgian Jimmy Janssens, but on the steep slopes of the final climb to Les Praeres Louis Meintjes made his way back and passed both riders, with 2,5 km to go, to win Stage 9 of La Vuelta.

Meintjes, Janssens and Battistella were part of a nine-rider break that went away after a furious first hour of racing. They worked well together and got a maximum gap of five minutes. With less than 10 kilometers to go, Samuele Battistella and Janssens left the others to fight for the stage win.

Samuele Battistella near the finish of the stage.

“I knew that Meintjes would be faster than me on the last climb. That’s why I anticipated. Unfortunately, he caught me. Then I decided to continue at my own pace until the finish line. It made no sense to try to follow him, I would have exploded and now I finish second. Again second. My second second place in three days. I am happy, but I need to say not extremely happy. But I will try again at this Vuelta as I cannot complain about my shape”, – said Samuele Battistella.

Behind the shoulders of the breakaway there was a big fight among the favorites of the General Classification. Astana’s leader Miguel Angel Lopez showed his increasing form, finishing seventh among the GC contenders and 13th at the stage. This result allowed the Astana Qazaqstan Team leader to move up to 8th place in the overall standings.

After a tough day in Asturias with the scary final climb averaging 12,9%, including sections of 24% gradients, the riders will enjoy their rest day on Monday in Alicante, 900 km more south in Spain.

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Bretagne Classic Ouest-France reports

We posted the report from winner Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team with the results.

Here's the report from fourth-place Arnaud De Lie's Lotto Soudal team:

Lotto Soudal rider and neo-pro Arnaud De Lie has once again impressed, this time in the one-day race Bretagne Classic Ouest-France (1.UWT), which was decided in a reduced bunch sprint after 250 kilometres on hilly Breton roads. It was Lotto Soudal – with four riders present in the very final – who brought its sprinter Arnaud De Lie into a perfect position towards the finish.

Jasper De Buyst delivered the lead-out, De Lie launched a powerful acceleration and seemed to be close to victory, only to be passed in the final metres to the line. It was Wout Van Aert who eventually won, De Lie had to settle for fourth place. The Frenchman Laurance and the Dane Kamp finished second and third, respectively.

Wout van Aert takes the race.

After the race, it was a happy De Lie who reacted to his best result in a WorldTour race so far. “This fourth place in a tough race like the Bretagne Classic of course makes me happy but if you are sprinting for victory, you always want more. The legs still felt quite good for the sprint and the team did another great job of delivering me to the line. Maybe we made a little mistake by being at the front too early. Nevertheless, I don’t think I launched my sprint too early but with the slight uphill and the headwind, I was still passed at the very end. I was close to the podium and maybe even the victory, so this fourth place makes me really happy.”

For the 20-year-old neo-pro, the Bretagne Classic Ouest-France was with 254 kilometres the longest race in his career so far. “After Gent-Wevelgem, this is only my second race of such a long distance. That I can already take a result here is really great. The team’s plan was quite simple: race to get the highest possible result. In the final kilometres, it became clear that it would end in a sprint so it was up to me to show my fast legs. The team did another great job today and I am happy to reward them for their big efforts with this fourth place. This is once again a boost towards my next race: GP Fourmies on Sunday 11 September”, concludes Arnaud De Lie.

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