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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, February 2, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish. - Michelangelo

Tour de France: 2022

Bill & Carol McGann’s book The Story of the Tour de France, 2022: The Fastest Tour Ever is available as 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 three team reports

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

Here’s the report from new GC leader Jonathan Milan’s Team Bahrain Victorious:

Jonathan Milan sprinted to second place on stage 3 of the Saudi Tour saw, which moved the Italian into the overall leader jersey and the sprinter jersey while keeping hold of the best young rider jersey.

Soren Waerenskjold wins stage three. Photo: Charly Lopez

The 159 km stage from Al Manshiya to Abu Rakah again had riders fighting through headwinds and crosswinds. A breakaway was allowed to go clear but managed by the peloton, giving them a maximum gap of 8 minutes. While the stage was mostly flat, a 1km climb in the finale was the only obstacle away from another bunch sprint.

An early attack was launched as the peloton got to the foot of the climb by Pascal Ackerman (Team UAE Emirates), followed by Zdenek Stybar (Jayco AlUla), who went over the top of Pascal. Buitrago followed the attack, but with a headwind on the final stretch down to the finish, it made it hard for them to get away, and it was all back together for a sprint for those who managed to stay in touch over the climb.

Jonathan Milan was one of the sprinters who managed to contest the final and launched his sprint early, but Soren Waerenskjold (Uno X), supported by a two-man lead out, beat Milan to the line.

Jonathan Milan: “This stage was quite hard as well, with a lot of wind and crosswinds. The plan was to go with Santi on the last climb, and me just to follow behind and to save as much energy if it was a bunch sprint coming. I started my sprint with 200 meters to go, but Soren was faster than me, so congratulations to him. Yes, I’m really happy with the leader’s jersey, while tomorrow is a crucial stage for our GC rider, Santiago, so we’ll look out for him.”

SD Enrico Poitschke: “The team worked this stage as we planned. We allowed a small break to the front so we didn’t have to do hard work up front, but we assigned Rainer to help on the front to chase the big gap breakaway made. We started pushing towards the final to position ourselves before the climb, Santiago had a task to follow attacks, and he did it perfectly, Johnny tried to stay with the leaders over the climb and he did well, and they all come together so we had a sprint. Johnny opened the sprint too early with the headwind, so that was a small mistake. In general, we had a good stage, the team worked very well together, and now we are in the leading jersey and again second in the stage. Tomorrow is the stage with the hard climb and we’ll try to win a stage with Santiago.”

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Here's the Saudi Tour stage three report from UAE Team Emirates:

New recruit Felix Grossschartner continues to creep up the general classification at Saudi Tour with the Austrian sitting in 5th spot ahead of the decisive mountain test tomorrow.

Both Grossschartner and Davide Formolo were present at the front of the reduced group for the uphill sprint at the end of the undulating final from Al Manshiyah Train Station to Abu Rakah (159.2km) with the Austrian and Italian teammates placing 6th and 7th on the stage respectively.

Søren Wærenskjold (Uno-X) took the spoils with yesterday’s winner Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) moving into the race lead.

Felix Grossschartner: “Today was a stressful day due to the wind but the team did a good job to keep us out of trouble. We were a bit unlucky with mechanical trouble for Gibbons and Ivo in the final kilometres but myself and Davide finished well up today and we didn’t lose time ahead of tomorrow where we will be going for a big result on the hilly finish.”

The Saudi Tour continues tomorrow for Stage 4 from Maraya to Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid (163.4km) which will be the Queen stage of the race.

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Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana reports

We posted the report from second-place Olav Kooij's Team Jumbo-Visma with the results.

Here's the report from Team Astana Qazaqstan:

Italian rider of Astana Qazaqstan Team Samuele Battistella started his season with the 7th place at the opening stage of the team’s first European race of the year – Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.

Biniam Girmay won the first stage.

Hilly stage with overcoming of two categorized climbs started today in Orihuela and finished in the center of Altea with the bunch sprint after 189.4 km of racing.

“We worked very well today, we passed the climbs on full gas with Crisitan Scaroni and David de la Cruz to try to put some gap between us and the pure sprinters. Finally, we did a good job until the finish line, where Scaroni and Luis Leon Sanchez helped me very well for the final sprint. Unfortunately, I was not at the best position to achieve a podium, but I tried to do my best during today’s sprint. I want to say thanks to all my teammates for a great job and I think it’s not a bad start for my season”, – commented Samuele Battistella.

And here's the Valenciana report from Team Bora-hansgrohe:

The five-day stage race Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (2.Pro) kicked off in southern Spain today. 190km with two cat.2 climbs and a tricky and twisty finale were on the program for today’s opening stage. A breakaway of five riders put their mark on the early stages of the race but was brought back at the Coll de Rates climb with 70km to go. After the second climb of the day, a reduced peloton reached the sprint finish in Altea, where B. Grimay took the win. BORA - hansgrohe’s riders for the overall Aleksandr Vlasov, Lennard Kämna and Bob Jungels crossed the finish line among the first group and without losing any time.

“I expected a bit more action on the climbs but ultimately the teams with a sprinter controlled the race and thanks to their effort it was quite a smooth day. The boys rode attentive and so - for us and our climbers it was a solid day and a good start to the race.” Enrico Gasparotto, Sports Director

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Wout van Aert and Fem Van Empel ready for world championships cyclo-cross in Hoogerheide

Here’s the update from their Jumbo-Visma team:

Next weekend the cyclo-cross world championships will be held in the Dutch town of Hoogerheide. Fem van Empel and Wout van Aert will compete for the Netherlands and Belgium, respectively, to win the coveted rainbow jersey. The two Jumbo-Visma riders hope to end an excellent cyclo-cross season in style.

Wout van Aert is looking to be King of the Dirtmen

Hoogerheide has been a fixture on the cyclo-cross calendar for years. The organisers have made a few changes to the course for this edition of the world championships. The riders are expected to reach a high average speed on the more than three kilometres long course.

Immediately after the start, there is a bicycle bridge, then a left turn into the woods. During the upcoming edition, there will be three loops around the forest. Previously there were two. Once in the woods, there will likely be an alternation between cycling and running lanes. Just before the end of the loop, there is another bicycle bridge and the traditional sloping edge. This is followed by slightly sloping asphalt.

Van Aert is happy that the World Championships are taking place in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant. "It's always nice to return to a place where you have achieved great results", said the Belgian, referring in part to his 2014 U23 world title.

"In Hoogerheide, everything is always perfectly organised, so riding a world championship there is cool. The weather will determine what the course will look like next weekend. Usually, it is pretty straightforward. But I have seen Hoogerheide in many different guises. For me, it can be advantageous if it is muddy with some running lanes. I especially hope that a lot of people will come to watch next weekend.

The 28-year-old Belgian is motivated to add a fourth world title to his list of honours, having won the rainbow jersey in the elite category in 2016, 2017 and 2018. "I am ambitious and would love to wear the rainbow jersey again. It has been a long time coming. I had a good last test in Hamme. I had some hard training sessions before that, which made me a bit tired at the start. My training has been adjusted for the world championship, so I will be as fresh as possible in Hoogerheide. I hope to get that extra percent by resting well and preparing for Sunday. It's positive that I've been in good shape for a few weeks. I think I have a good chance and am ready to compete."

For the 20-year-old Van Empel, it will be her first world championship in the elites category. However, winning a cyclo-cross world championship is nothing new for the young talent. In 2021 she won the title in the U23 category. With 13 season wins and the overall World Cup title to her name, Van Empel is confident heading into the championships on home soil.

Can Fem Van Empel add a rainbow jersey to her wardrobe?

"I have achieved all my goals this season, so I am relaxed about the world championship. Nevertheless, next Saturday will be a special day. I want to cross the finish line without regrets. I will see which result is linked to it. If someone is better than me on Saturday, I will have to deal with that. In any case, I will do everything I can to take home the beautiful rainbow jersey. I am not preparing for this race any differently than usual. I will have a normal training week and hope to be ready for the title race."

Van Empel's world championship weekend begins on Friday at 12:30 with the team relay. On Saturday, the elite women's race will start at 15:00. Van Aert will take to the start a day later at the same time.

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