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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

Is a hippopotamus a hippopotamus, or just a really cool Opotamus? - Mitch Hedberg

Tour de France: 2021

Bill & Carol McGann's book The Story of the Tour de France, 2021: The Little Cannibal Dominates is available in both Kindle eBook & audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Saudi Tour stage two team reports

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

Here's the report from stage winner Jonathan Milan's Team Bahrain Victorious:

A photo-finish was needed to determine the winner on Stage 2 of the Saudi Tour, and this time Team Bahrain Victorious beat Jayco AlUla to the line, with the young Italian sprinter Jonathan Milan beating Stage 1 winner Dylan Groenewegen.

Jonathan Milan (far left) takes the stage. Photo: Pauline Ballet

It was another windy stage in the open desert roads of AlUla, and the peloton remained intact for most of the day, navigating through the headwinds. But 30km from the finish line, the road turned left, and crosswinds split the peloton into three groups. While the eventual race winner, Jonathan Milan stayed in group 1, the rest of our riders were caught in the second group.

With our GC hopeful Santiago Buitrago in the second group, the rest of the team put in a monumental effort to close the 30-second gap and bring it all back together with 6km to go. In the last km, team Jayco AlUla had 2 riders for Dylan Groenewegen’s lead-out, and Milan latched on to Dylan’s wheel. With a few hundred meters to go, Milan launched his sprint early catching Groenewegen off guard and managed to hold his effort to the line before being caught.

Jonathan Milan: “I’m super happy about this win. It was a big goal of mine from the last year when I saw that this Tour can be important in the future for me. I want to say big thanks to my teammates, they did an amazing job today, and they helped me until the final, thanks to them. Again, I’m super happy with this result for me and for the team.”

Sports Director Enrico Poitschke: “It was as expected, a hard stage with lots of wind, and our goal was to win the stage and not to lose time with Santiago in GC. The guys did a fantastic job. They supported Santiago and Johnny. Jonathan stayed in the first echelon, especially the last 30km when it was the real crosswind. We knew it will be a hard final, we knew Jonathan is in great shape and that he can win the stage, which he did at the end. It is a very nice victory for the whole team and each rider has a part in this victory it’s very important that we worked as a team. Also, we didn’t lose time on GC with Santi.”

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Here’s the report from stage two second-place and GC leader Dylan Groenewegen’s Team Jayco AlUla:

Stage one winner Dylan Groenewegen was narrowly pipped to victory in a photo finish to stage two of the Saudi Tour.

The Dutchman looked to have the speed to come around Jonathan Milan in the dash for the line, but the Italian held on as the pair threw their bikes across the finish line.

Team Jayco AlUla had guided Groenewegen through another tricky stage that saw the peloton split to pieces in crosswinds inside the final 30km. The team were alert to the danger and amassed on the front of the bunch, with Groenewegen himself taking turns as riders battled the strong winds.

It was a windy, dusty day. Photo: Pauline Ballet

The squad once again took control inside the final 3km with Luka Mezgec teeing up his teammate inside the final 300 metres. However, Milan went early and despite coming with speed, Groenewegen ran out of road as the duo lunged for victory.

Dylan Groenewegen:
“The team was really strong today, again, but I waited too long to start my sprint, it was my mistake and it’s really disappointing.

"We showed again that the shape is really good in the whole team, including me and tomorrow there is maybe another chance, there’s a bit of a hill, but we will see tomorrow.” 

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Israel-Premier Tech headed to Etoile de Bèsseges

Here’s the team’s update:

The first French stage race of the season, Etoile de Bessèges, returns for a varied course which should suit all-rounders.

Etoile de Bessèges Tour du Gard is back for it’s 53rd edition, with the five-day stage race offering up a mix of terrain, from a hillier route suiting the puncheurs on stage one, to a Time Trial on stage five. The Time Trial, as well as the climb to Le Mont Bouquet on stage four, should prove decisive in the General Classification.

Talking about his expectations for the race, Sep Vanmarcke wants to build some race fitness, and produce a result.

Sep Vanmarcke (shown at the 2021 Paris-Roubaix) will begin stage racing this year at the Etoile de Bessèges. Sirotti photo

“I’m looking forward to starting my first stage race of the year, Etoile de Bessèges will be good to build some racing form, and see how my legs are feeling after the winter break. We have a strong team for every stage and for GC, so we want to make it a successful week.”

Having just come from a strong showing at the GP Marseillaise, Sports Director Steve Bauer is keen for the team to continue their development, as well as show the form they’ve built on over winter:

“Our team here began the 2023 season with a solid race in GP Marseillaise. We are expecting this group to continue building their early season racing fitness in Etoile de Bessèges. This short stage race has all the elements of difficulty mixed in; wind, selective road stages, a mountain top finish and a TT. It’s built for an all-rounder in great shape and our guys need to be sharp every day. We are aiming for a top result.”

Etoile de Bessèges starts on January 1st with a punchy route designed for attacking riders, and finishes on the January 5th.

Israel — Premier Tech at Etoile de Bèssges Tour du Gard

Riders: Guillaume Boivin, Hugo Houle, Krists Neilands, Dylan Teuns, Sep Vanmarke, Oded Kogut, Nadav Raisberg

Sports Directors: Steve Bauer, Dror Pekatch

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Tosh Van der Sande looks forward to Tour of Valencia

Here’s the news from Van der Sande’s Team Jumbo-Visma:

The European road season is about to start for Team Jumbo-Visma. From 1-5 February, the team will compete in the Tour of Valencia, traditionally one of the first multi-day European races of the season.

Tosh Van der Sande will start his second season in the yellow and black jersey next Wednesday in Spain. The 32-year-old Belgian says he is more than ready. "I am in good shape. I was able to train well this winter. I am on the right track, and fortunately, I have not had any bad luck along the way."

Tosh van der Sande at the 2019 Vuelta a España. Sirotti photo

The Tour of Valencia is not just Van der Sande's first race. It is a special race for the Belgian, not just because Team Jumbo-Visma has been successful there on many occasions. "In the first stage, we will pass my house. This is an extraordinary feeling. Over the next few days, we will mostly ride on the roads where I usually train. That makes it special. You could say I can ride the route blindfolded", the affable Van der Sande says with a smile.

Team Jumbo-Visma will compete in its first European race of the year with a well-balanced team. "With Olav, we want to win a stage on the first day. It will not be easy as the course is rarely easy. I expect that only some sprinters will be able to fight for the win on the first day. It will be up to the team to put Olav in a good position in the final kilometres", Van der Sande says.

The peloton will be put to the test on day two. The finish will be uphill. And stages three and four are hardly flat either. The final day will be flat, but the riders will have to contend with a 12-kilometre climb midway through the stage. However, Van der Sande believes his sprinter has a chance. "Olav showed last year that he can survive a climb. He also made a strong impression at the recent training camp. He feels good and says he is ready for the start of the season. We are confident of some good results."

Another young teammate also caught Van der Sande's eye during the training camp. "Thomas Gloag showed great potential during the autumn races in Italy. He continued in that vein at the camp. He could easily be our surprise in Valencia", Van der Sande says.

In Valencia, Team Jumbo-Visma comprises Van der Sande, Kooij, Gloag, Koen Bouwman, Sam Oomen, Michel Hessmann and Lars Boven.

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