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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, March 9, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. - Gilbert K. Chesterton

Tour de France: 2020

Bill & Carol McGann's book The Story of the Tour de France, 2020: The Tour During Covid-19, Better Late Than Never is available as an audiobook here. For the Kindle eBook version, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Paris-Nice Stage 3 reports

We posted the organizer's stage three report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Mads Pedersen's Trek Segafredo team

After misfortune plagued the finish of Stage 2 for Trek-Segafredo, the Team rebounded with a textbook effort and delivered Mads Pedersen to victory one day later.

Mads Pedersen takes the the stage. Photo: ASO/Alex Broadway

“We missed out yesterday with Alex Kirsch puncture and me losing the chain [in the sprint], and we wanted to make it up today,” explained Pedersen. “The boys did a fantastic job all day to make it as easy as possible for me, and yeah, a terrific lead out from Alex (Kirsch) and Jasper (Stuyven), and then I just put my head down a sprinted. Yeah, a really good day.”

It was a hilly run-in peppered with attacks that proved too hot to handle for the pure sprinters, but not for an on-form Mads. Trek-Segafredo played its hand well. With two strong classics specialists working for Pedersen in the finale, Mads has little to do but follow his teammates’ wheels.

“It’s not an easy final when you can see the finish line in the last kilometer and a half, so it’s a little waiting game. But like I said already yesterday, I normally don’t take into account too much in the final I just follow wheels. So today, I was following Jasper’s wheel, and then when I felt it was time to go, I opened the sprint. Roughly I opened between 250 and 200 meters to go – it was a long sprint, but I knew I could surprise the guys if I opened a little early. When you open that early it’s a risk and I was not so sure it would work, but luckily it was enough to keep the guys behind.”

Over the years Jasper and Mads have created strong chemistry. Coming into the finish straight, Jasper again laid the final lead-out.  Mads let his legs do the rest.

“I think a few years ago I said if you play poker, and you have two kings, it’s quite good, and today the poker game went really well for us,” smiled Mads. “It’s just incredible to ride with those guys, how they protect me the whole day, and the way Jasper and I work in the finals; that is really, really nice. It’s nice to finally pay off the boys with a victory.”

It was Pedersen’s first win in Paris-Nice. After two attempts in the first two stages, everything played out perfectly in Stage 3, a finish suited to his strengths.

“A little uphill is always better for me than a flat sprint, so today was perfect,” agreed Pedersen. “It was a hard sprint, and we knew we had to be in front on the local lap so 100% we were. Then the boys delivered me perfectly.”

“It’s my first WordTour win in a long time, and it’s really nice to start out [the season] so well; it’s a good direction for the classics that are coming in a few weeks.”

When asked if he has ever been in such good form, Pedersen quickly replied. “I have been in better form, maybe not at this time of year, but when I was World Champion,” he answered.  “I changed my coach last year and changed the approach to the start of the season.”

Then he added: “It was a long time since our last victory; we needed this. It’s nice to have confidence, and that is what’s coming out of this. The shape is good, but it can be better.”

Here's the report from Team Groupama-FDJ:

Following a “bad day” on Monday, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team got back in the running on the third stage of Paris-Nice. Although they could not prevent a bunch sprint in Dun-le-Palestel, Quentin Pacher, Kevin Geniets and Olivier Le Gac did take their chance in the last thirty kilometres. The Luxembourger also tried to get involved in the final sprint, but unfortunately crashed before getting back up. Tomorrow, Stefan Küng will be fighting for the win in Montluçon’s time trial.

The riders who got through the second stage and its dangers found themselves in Vierzon on Tuesday for the start of the third stage of Paris-Nice. Everyone was there for the Groupama-FDJ cycling team despite yesterday’s crashes, and the rather calm start to the stage was probably a relief for some. Owain Doull (Education First-Easy Post), Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels-KTM) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) took the lead very quickly and got a maximum gap of about five minutes.

Here's that early break with Doull, Gougeard and De Gendt. ASO photo

The bunch then progressively accelerated after mid-race and came back less than two minutes from the trio at the first time on the finish line, forty-three kilometres from the end. Later, some took advantage of the hilly final to attack while others started to drop back. The Groupama-FDJ joined the party at the côte de Le Peyroux (2.5 km at 5.5%), with twenty-five kilometres to go, through Quentin Pacher and then Kevin Geniets. “We wanted to try to get back into a good momentum after the very rough day of yesterday”, explained Quentin. “We wanted to try to make the race more dynamic as we don’t have a pure sprinter in the team. We wanted to attack in the final and see how that would go, and if other teams were interested in joining us. We all had the opportunity to give it a go, but it wasn’t easy with the wind and the terrain that was not so difficult. Anyway, it shows that we want to move forward.”

It all came back together at the top of this last categorized climb, then Olivier Le Gac also took his chance on the final hill, seven kilometres from the line. It did not prove successful either. It therefore all came down to the final sprint. “We said this morning that we had to give it a try”, added Philippe Mauduit, “but the speed was very high and it was well controlled by the teams that still had fast riders. We knew the hills were quite rolling, but if you don’t try, you won’t get anywhere. The riders wanted to give it a go this morning, and that creates a good momentum after the day we had yesterday. Just for this reason, it was the way to go today. And with no sprinter, we had nothing to lose. So, we have no regrets.”

In the final sprint, however, Kevin Geniets was caught in a crash as Mads Pedersen took the win. “It’s a stupid crash 400 meters from the line,” added Philippe. “Fortunately, there is nothing serious. Overall, he’s ok, but it’s always annoying to end up on the ground like this”. Quentin Pacher was therefore the first team member to cross the line, in 29th position, while David Gaudu and Valentin Madouas got to the finish a little later. “The injured tried to get through the day well, in order to recover as much as possible”, said Quentin Pacher. “Tomorrow’s stage should allow them to further recover, and after the time trial, a new Paris-Nice will begin”. As for Stefan Küng, he will of course be looking for a victory on Wednesday, on the undulating, 13,4-kilometer route between Domérat and Montluçon.

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And here's the Paris-Nice report from Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl:

Stage 3 of the “Race to the Sun” travelled from Vierzon to Dun-le-Palestel, the small town in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region located not far from the famous Monts de Blond. Spread out over a distance of ten kilometers, this natural site is home to some of Europe’s oldest megaliths dating back to the Neolithic period, when the societies of the time were trying to establish their unique identity and territorial ownership.

The peloton wasn’t interested in this, but more in the hilly final part of the day, seen by many teams as the perfect platform to increase the tempo and drop the sprinters. Wearing the green jersey following the spectacular victory he had taken Monday afternoon, Fabio Jakobsen was among those to lose contact with the bunch on the challenging gradients with around 25 kilometers to go.

An uphill finish awaited in the last kilometer, and it made for a messy bunch sprint, as some riders were involved in a crash just as they were preparing to kick out. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) took the win, while Zdenek Stybar ended the day as the best Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider and sits seventh overall ahead of Wednesday’s individual time trial.

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Tirreno Adriatico stage two reports

We posted the report from GC second place Remco Evenepoel's Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team with the results.

Here's the report from Olav Kooij's Jumbo-Visma team:

Olav Kooij has just missed out on a stage win in the second stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico. In the narrow streets of Sovicille, the 20-year-old sprinter from Team Jumbo-Visma only lost to Tim Merlier in the bunch sprint.

Tim Merlier takes the stage. Sirotti photo

Under a bright Italian sun, the riders left Camaiore in southern direction towards Sovicille for the longest stage of this Tirreno. Shortly after the start, five riders formed the day's breakaway, but an eight-minute lead proved insufficient to surprise the peloton.

After a late attempt by Marc Soler had also been nipped in the bud, the sprinters prepared for a bunch sprint after 219 kilometers. Kooij was not in ideal position in the narrow streets of Sovicille, but thanks to a powerful sprint he managed to take second place.

"Considering the good legs I had, second place is a bit of a bummer," Kooij said. "The UAE Tour had given me a lot of confidence and I wanted to go for the victory here. It's a shame I ended up second."
According to sports director Maarten Wijnants, the wind, the climbs and the narrow streets made it a hectic final. "In the last three kilometres we were not in the ideal position and I thought it would not manage to take a podium place. Only a few seconds later I saw that Olav had come second and I thought: how is that possible?"

Despite missing out on the stage victory, Kooij is looking forward to the coming days with a positive feeling. "The speed and condition are good. If we can start the sprint from a good position, we definitely have a chance to take a victory."

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Third-place Kaden Groves' Team BikeExchange-Jayco sent me this report:

Australian sprinter Kaden Groves continued his impressive start to the season with his debut WorldTour podium after sprinting to a fantastic third place on stage two of Tirreno-Adriatico.

The riders approach the finish. Sirotti photo

The 23-year-old finished off a solid team performance in the closing kilometres of the stage as the squad guided the fast finishing Aussie into position to contest the stage in Sovicille.

Team BikeExchange-Jayco safely marshalled Groves over both of the day’s categorised climbs as the last of the breakaway was reeled back in. A late solo attack then went clear, but there was no denying the sprinters as teams battled for position ahead of the tricky final kilometre.

Alex Edmondson was the last rider to swing off, dropping off Groves in prime position amongst his sprint rivals as the finish approached. As the final kick was launched Groves was forced to check up before kicking again and powering across the line in a photo finish for third.

Kaden Groves (3rd):
“I’ve got to thank the guys and the team for giving me the opportunity to sprint today. I’ve been very consistent this year, it’s another podium place today and my first WorldTour podium, so I’m pretty happy with that.

"I think all the guys can be proud of their performances today and now we can look forward to the rest of the week ahead with some more opportunities to come.”

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