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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, January 29, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights. - Muhammad Ali

Tour de France: the Inside Story

Les Woodland's book Tour de France: The Inside Story - Making the World's Greatest Bicycle Race is available in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana team reports

We posted the report from second-place Lennert Van Eetvelt's Team Lotto Dstny with the results.

Here's the report from third-place Ilan Van Wilder's Team Soudal Quick-Step:

The risk of snow forced the Challenge Mallorca organisers to cut the course of Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana Saturday afternoon to just 123 kilometers, but despite this and the presence of just two climbs separated by a long valley, the race was action-packed from the very beginning, and this was in part due to the Soudal Quick-Step riders, who pushed the pedal to the metal through the nagging rain from the first slopes of the day.

The Wolfpack stormed to the front of the peloton, ramping up the speed the first time up the Coll Femenies and forcing a major selection. But the situation quickly changed, when Julian Alaphilippe had to drop out of the 25-man group due to a mechanical. The double World Champion – a top 10 finisher in Trofeo Calvia a few days ago – had to wait for the car to make its way through the caravan before starting a long chase that eventually saw him return to the group.

As soon as Alaphilippe returned, his countryman Rémi Cavagna took off, launching one of his trademark solo attacks which spread panic in the bunch. It took a coalition of several teams to bring back the Frenchman, despite a maximum gap of just 50 seconds, but our team remained on the offensive even after this, and sent both Andrea Bagioli and Ilan Van Wilder up the road. The duo booked their place in a strong leading group which pretty soon became clear would fight for victory in Lloseta.

The short uphill finish was right up Andrea’s alley, but a puncture eight kilometers from the line took him out of contention. It was left to Ilan to carry the flag for the Wolfpack, and the 22-year-old Belgian didn’t disappoint from the group that arrived just a few seconds behind Kobe Goossens (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty). After three hours of riding in pouring rain and bone-chilling cold, Van Wilder still found the resources to accelerate on the small climb to the finish where he took third place for his first podium since joining Soudal Quick-Step.

Kobe Goossens wins in miserable weather. Photo: ativera

“I think it was the best I could do today. When the attack came in the finale, it wasn’t up to me to close the gap. It’s a pity Andrea had that mechanical, otherwise I would have raced full gas for him. Third is a good result for me and I can be content with this result, it’s a nice performance I had here in these conditions, twenty-four hours after suffering in the cold. Now I want to conclude my time in Mallorca with some nice trainings”, said Ilan, who was named most combative rider of the race.

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Here’s the race report from fifth-place Brandon McNulty’s UAE Team Emirates:

Brandon McNulty showed a glimpse of his early season form with 5th place at the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana (123km) today on day four of the Challenge Mallorca.

Brandon McNulty winning the Trofeo Calvia in 2022

The day would start with the news that due to severe weather conditions the route would be reduced to 123km due to concerns of snow.

The shortened route led to intense racing and the group began to split heavily on the final classified climb of the Coll de Femenies which came at -30km from the line. It was here that McNulty forced the gap along with four other riders, later being joined by Joao Almeida who bridged across with four other riders.

The riders faced a wet and technical descent towards the line with yesterday’s winner Kobe Goossens (Intermarche-Wanty) slipping away to take his second consecutive victory. McNulty would settle for 5th.

McNulty: “It was one of the coldest days I’ve ever had on a bike. Myself and Joao made it into the final move but we were trying to avoid taking too much risk on the descents as it was pretty rough conditions. All things considered I’m happy with the result and hoping for more in the races to come.”

Tomorrow the Challenge Mallorca comes to a conclusion with the flat Trofeo Palma.

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Wout van Aert and Fem van Empel triumph in Hamme cyclocross races

Here’s the report from the Team Jumbo-Visma:

Wout van Aert and Fem van Empel demonstrated splendid form at the X2O Trophy in Hamme on Saturday. With impressive solos they gave Team Jumbo-Visma in Belgium a double victory. It served as a valuable warm-up for next weekend's cyclocross world championships.

It was Van Empel's turn in the early afternoon. Already assured of victory in the overall World Cup standings, the 20-year-old Van Empel did not participate in the World Cup CX in Besançon. She performed at her peak at Hamme, gaining the lead after the first two laps and maintaining it for the rest of the race.

Fem van Empel winning the Antwerp Cross race in 2022.

Van Empel did not anticipate taking her thirteenth victory of the year in this manner. "I only got back from the training camp in Spain yesterday. I was still a little fatigued, so I didn't feel fantastic. On the first lap, I made a mistake at the material zone, but after that, I recovered well. It wasn't really my intention to be in the lead so early. Then I tried to ride as consistently as possible, even shifting gear in certain areas."

Following Van Empel's performance, it was Van Aert's turn at precisely three o'clock. "I noticed right away at Fem that the course's several challenging sections make it preferable to ride your own course here." The Belgian pulled away from his competitors after two laps and soloed to the finish. "Throughout the race, I had to maintain my composure. I spent a lot of time riding by myself and always watched for errors. When you win the cross in such a manner, you can only call it a good race."

It was Van Aert's ninth victory of the season. The Belgian aims to conclude his successful winter with the world title next week in Hoogerheide. "Next week, I will rest well to be fresh for the start of the world championships. I am very ambitious, and I am really looking forward to it."

The young Dutchwoman, who will compete in her maiden world championships in the elite category, is not nervous. "I'm preparing for the world championships like any other race. I'll have a great feeling going to Hoogerheide because of today's triumph."

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Team Bahrain Victorious to race Saudi Tour

Here’s the team’s update

For the second year in a row, the Saudi Tour will be hosted in the UNESCO Heritage sight, Al Ula, over 5 stages and 830 km.

Stages 1, 2, and 5 will likely be decided by bunch sprints as due to their fairly flat profiles. Stage 3 has a 1.5km long slope averaging 8.5% close to the finish line, the same finish our Santiago Buitrago won last year. Stage 4 is the queen stage of the race, with the 3km climb to the Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid with the steepest section reaching a 22% gradient.

Our team will see 4 riders returning to Saudi after racing it last year – Santiago Buitrago, Jonathan Milan, Filip Maciejuk, and Ahmed Madan, mixed with 3 new riders on our team – Dusan Rajovic, Rainer Kepplinger and Andrea Pasqualon.

Santiago Buitrago winning stage 2 of the 2022 Saudi Tour.

Sports Director Enrico Poitschke: “We have a very strong team for the Saudi Tour. Our leader Santiago Buitrago is in very good form. Hopefully, he can stay with the best on the crosswind sections, and then on the stage with the climb, he can fight for victory and the GC. It will not be easy as it will be up to the wind situation, but he is very motivated and in good shape and the team will support him in the best possible way. As for the sprint stages, we are in a very good position, we have good guys for the lead-out for Jonathan Milan and Dusan Rajovic who are very fast.

"We’ll decide stage by stage who is our leading sprinter. We have a few riders that will race for us for the first time. Rainer Kepplinger is not as experienced in this kind of race, but he’s in great shape and feels strong, he’ll be in a supporting role and also learning about his tasks. Dusan, another new member, is a sprinter and lead-out rider, he’ll get his chance in one or two sprint stages. Andrea Pasqualon rounds up the list of new team members. He’s a very experienced and very important rider for this race, as we need someone to organize the team, especially in crosswinds, to stay in the right position as well as in the lead-out.

"We have a good mix of young and hungry guys (Rajovic, Milan, Madan, Kepplinger, and Maciejuk) with experienced riders like Pasqualon and Buitrago. It’s a good mix and we are very motivated and feel comfortable doing some good results”.

Our leader Santiago Buitrago: “Well, very happy to have been able to successfully finish the first camp with the team, and I am very motivated to start my calendar at the Saudi Tour. It is a race that I really liked, and it is a good test to start this new season. We are going with a very competitive team for the sprint as well as for the general classification. We hope it will be a week full of good results and we can improve on the 2nd place achieved last year.”

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