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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, February 21, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

Still round the corner there may wait, A new road or a secret gate. -  J. R. R. Tolkien

Cycling's 50 Triumphs and Tragedies

Les Woodland's book Cycling's 50 Triumphs and Tragedies: The rise and fall of bicycle racing's champions is available as an audiobook here. For the print and Kindle eBook versions, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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UAE Tour stage one news

We posted the report from second-place Sam Bennett's Bora-hansgrohe team with the results.

Here's the report from sixth-place Arnaud Démare's Groupama-FDJ team:

The 2022 WorldTour calendar opened on Sunday, in the United Arab Emirates, with a first stage looking a lot like a sprinters’ world championship considering the field lining-up in the UAE Tour. After quite a straightforward day, the bunch sprint proved to be very nervous. Under these conditions, Arnaud Démare took sixth place on the day while Jasper Philipsen grabbed the win. More opportunities await the former French champion in the next few days.

Jasper Philipsen (on the left) takes the first stage.

The opening stage of the UAE Tour was a unique one over 184 kilometres with start and finish in Madinat Zayed. “It was a bit of a special stage, said Sébastien Joly. It was a long straight line back and forth and a short lap in the dunes, also back and forth. There was rather a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the way back. Five fugitives went out quickly and the sprinters’ teams took control.” At the head of the race, Luca Rastelli, Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Pavel Kochetkov, Dmitry Strakhov (Gazprom-RusVelo) and Xandres Vervloesem (Lotto Soudal) then showed their colours while the peloton managed its pace as wished. “It was a calm day even if it was a bit hard in the south, in the dunes”, testified Arnaud Démare.

Without even leading a frantic chase, the pack caught the day’s breakaway twenty kilometres from the finish. “About ten kilometres from the finish, the pace was not yet very high, it was a bit unusual,” added Sébastien. “The fight only started six kilometres from the line”. Two kilometres further, the Groupama-FDJ’s train appeared at the front of the peloton. “We tried to stay together with the guys, but we lost a little bit each other towards the end,” said Arnaud. “We couldn’t do what we wanted, but it’s also difficult because everyone was fresh, everyone could give his 100% and it’s a strong field. This is the world championship for sprinters”.

While Miles Scotson and Ramon Sinkeldam were able to take control on the left around the flamme rouge, Arnaud Démare took the wheel of some of his rivals on the right of the road. “He positioned himself in the wheel of Groenewegen and Philipsen, it was a rather special sprint, he rubbed shoulders with the others and finished sixth”, commented Sébastien. The former French champion brought some noteworthy data to describe this final. “The last kilometre was done at an average speed of 71 km/h and the maximum speed in the sprint was 77 km/h,” he explained. “It was a super-fast sprint, which you don’t see very often, although it is more common here on the UAE Tour”.

The Frenchman therefore starts his campaign in the Gulf with a sixth place and is now looking forward to other opportunities. “We were able to adjust today, and the sprint did not go that bad, even if we are disappointed”, he added. “We just need to find our bearings again. Physically, we’re doing well. I think there are good things to take from today and others that we will talk about together. We always seek better results, but it’s not a bad day though”. “We are going to debrief peacefully and see what we can implement to do better next time,” concluded Sébastien Joly. Next time should be tomorrow.

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Volta ao Algarve stage five team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Sergio Higuita's Bora-hansgrohe team with the results.

Here's the report from GC winner Remco Evenepoel's Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team:

Remco Evenepoel took the honours at a stage race for the eighth time in his career, after successfully defending his yellow jersey on the final and most difficult day of the Portuguese race. The Belgian, who came into the race after finishing runner-up at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, where he made his season debut, built his success in the long individual time trial, nabbing a crushing victory that put him in the driver’s seat before the final day.

Remco Evenpoel on his way to winning the stage four time trial.

Comprising five climbs, including two ascents of the iconic Alto do Malhão, stage 5 made for a route that gave little respite, the relentless up-and-down course lending itself to the attackers. After a fast and frenetic opening hour, it came as no surprise that a large group moved away from the peloton. Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl placed Yves Lampaert there, while behind Kasper Asgreen, green jersey Fabio Jakobsen and Bert Van Lerberghe protected the overall leader.

The first big moves from the GC contenders came with 25 kilometers to go, when several riders tried to put pressure on Evenepoel. Louis Vervaeke was the first to claw back those men, before the yellow jersey took matters into his own hands, getting out of the saddle and keeping things together as they crested the penultimate climb. Just before the summit, Lampaert linked up with his teammate and did a monumental job on the descent, picking up the remnants of the breakaway and setting the tempo all the way to the base of Alto do Malhão (2.5km, 8.9%), where Louis Vervaeke took over until the flamme rouge.

As soon as that happened, Remco got out of the saddle and pushed such a strong tempo that he made it impossible for his opponents to attack until 200 meters to go. Having a more than comfortable buffer over them, the Belgian came home a few seconds behind the front quartet, celebrating arms aloft his eighth GC triumph and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s ninth victory of the season.

“It feels amazing to get another stage race victory for the team and I can’t tell you how happy I am that I could bring it home after a hard week of racing. The whole team did a tremendous job, not just today, when they protected me and rode at the front, but the entire week, so I want to thank them for that. This is the Wolfpack spirit and we showed it again, and we can be proud of what we achieved here.”

“My opponents attacked me today, but I had good legs – although I could feel the effort of Saturday’s time trial – and that’s why on the last climb I pushed a high tempo. Then, in the final 200 meters, when I was sure of my success and the others began sprinting on that flat part, I took some time to celebrate my win and this yellow jersey. Now I will go home and prepare for Tirreno-Adriatico, a beautiful race that I am eager to discover”, said Remco, who was first also in the youth standings, after his second triumph in three years here.

Fabio Jakobsen was another Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl performer at the Portuguese race; the Dutchman racked up two victories this week, taking his overall tally at the race to four wins in three outings, and finished at the top of the Volta ao Algarve points classification for the second time in his career.

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Vuelta Ciclista Andalucia-Ruta del Sol stage 5 team reports

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

Here's the report from Team Lotto Soudal:

The curtain fell on a hard edition of the Vuelta a Andalucía with an uphill finish in Chiclana de Segura today. The final stage win went to the German Lennard Kämna, who was the strongest of a breakaway group. Steff Cras finished about 20 seconds behind Simon Yates, who led home the group of GC contenders. Dutchman Wout Poels retained his leader’s jersey and takes home the overall win of the 68th Ruta del Sol. Going into the race, Cras aimed for a top ten spot in the overall rankings, but the Belgian has to settle for a place in the top twenty after five days of racing in Andalucía.

Lennard Kämna winning the final stage.

“As a team we can be satisfied with how we raced at this Ruta del Sol”, Steff Cras said. “The guys protected me perfectly during the five stages. Still, I look back on it with mixed feelings. I felt good all week, which proved my 5th place at the end of stage two in Alcalá la Real. Unfortunately, I had a bad moment yesterday at 800 metres from the top of the first climb. I was part of the leading group but I had to let them go. The consequences were quite big because the fight for the stage win was over due to a lack of organisation during the chase…”

Despite the disappointment on stage four, the Lotto Soudal rider will mainly remember the positive side of things from his participation at the Vuelta a Andalucía.

“What happened during stage four was a major disappointment because otherwise a top ten spot on GC – our goal for this week – would have been possible. Today I felt good again and my shape is definitely growing towards the upcoming races. So in general, I have to be satisfied with the past five days of racing”, Steff Cras concludes.

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Here's the final Ruta del Sol report from Team Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert:

The Tour of Andalucia was concluded by a fifth intense stage this Sunday with an uphill final towards Chiclana de Segura (6.4km at 5.6%). After working in the lead of the peloton the previous days, Frenchman Théo Delacroix showed himself in the front of the race again, this time by joining the breakaway of the day after 10 kilometer on the flanks of the Puerto Fuente del Gallo, the first of four categorized climbs. The breakaway of nineteen riders stayed ahead of the peloton until the final 70 kilometer, so it was the peloton which crossed the intermediate sprint in Santo Tomé first.

A group of thirteen counterattackers was formed before the final climb and battled for the victory of this fifth stage. Italian climber Domenico Pozzovivo accompanied the best climbers in the peloton in a group of around ten men and concluded the five day race or his first appearance in the colors of the Belgian team in 21st place in the classification.

“Our leaders rewarded our hard work with nice successes the last couple of weeks and I was lucky to have a share in Alexander Kristoff’s victory in the Clasica de Almeria, his first one in our colors. Also during this Ruta del Sol we took the responsibility in the peloton every day to defend Domenico Pozzovivo’s position in the general classification and in the hope that we could sprint for the victory with Biniam Girmay. We worked well collectively and I’m happy that I was able to show myself in the breakaway at the end of my busy race schedule in February. I want to recover well from this intense period in order to be ready for some French and Italian classics which suit me well.”  - Théo Delacroix

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