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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, July 28, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Always be sincere, even if you don't mean it. - Harry S Truman

Current racing:

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Updated versions of The Story of the Tour de France are now available

Dear friends, We've spent the last couple of years revising and updating our The Story of the Tour de France. It's in two volumes and both are now available in both print and Kindle eBook versions. The Kindle version of Volume 1 just went live today.

Amazon hasn't linked the print and Kindle versions of Volume One yet. So here the link to the print version and here's the link to the Kindle.

The Story of the Tour de France

We used the same cover photo for our revised edition.

Our new Volume Two goes from 1976 to 2018.

You can find both the print and Kindle eBook versions of Volume Two here.

The Story of the Tour de France

Volume Two's cover shows Bernard Hinault winning a stage in the 1981 Tour.

Tour de France stage 20 reports

We'll start with the report from stage winner Vincenzo Nibali's Bahrain-Merida team:

Val Thorens, July, 27th – Great win of Vincenzo Nibali in Val Thorens. The Italian champion took the stage win coming alone with a 10 second advantage over Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa.

Vincenzo Nibali

Vincenzo Nibali wins stage 20. Sirotti photo

“The last 500 meters – Vincenzo Nibali smiles – they never ended! I wanted to honor the Tour and finally I did it today. Yesterday I tried and today it was the right one. The climb was endless and when I saw that the group accelerated I tried it myself. I’m very happy!”.

“In the last week, I found the right sensations. It wasn’t easy to manage the race but I felt I had a good leg. This morning at the team meeting we decided to get into the break and so I left together with Dylan Teuns. The break was close-knit even though the main peloton never gave us great advantage”.

“When Vincenzo came out of the GC – comments SD and coach Paolo Slongo – we decided to recover for some days and to try to leave a mark in the last mountain stages. Vincenzo once again proved to be a real champion”.

Here's the report from GC leader Egan Bernal's Team INEOS:

Egan Bernal and Team INEOS put in an emphatic performance on the final day in the mountains to all but wrap up a one-two finish at the Tour de France.

The team were more than equal to the task on the tough climb to Val Thorens, with Geraint Thomas finishing arm in arm with team-mate Bernal. Thomas elevated himself to second place overall on the eve of Paris, with long-time leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) becoming distanced on the climb.

At an incredible 22 years of age, Bernal looks set to win in only his second ever Grand Tour, and will become the first Colombian to do so when he crosses the line on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday.

Team INEOS stood firm on the weather-shortened 59.5km stage, vying for control and making sure both Bernal and Thomas were supported on the run to the finish. With a winning margin of one minute and 11 seconds, Bernal will also clinch the white young rider jersey by default.

Reactions

Egan Bernal:
“We’re now close to making it official. There’s one stage left, but normally if everything goes well, I can say that I’ve won my first Tour.

“The last climb has been very hard. Jumbo-Visma rode hard to make the podium. We were in a comfortable situation and I felt really well. I’m happy.

"It’s incredible to think that I have won my first Tour. I just want to get to the finish line in Paris tomorrow and after I’ll be calmer. Colombia is on the verge of winning its first Tour - I feel this is not only my triumph but the triumph of a whole country. We already had the Giro, La Vuelta, but the Tour was missing and it’s a great honour to think that I’m the one achieving this. My dad couldn’t talk at first but when he managed, he congratulated me. He was about to cry. For us, it’s a dream.

"We used to watch the Tour on TV and we thought it was something unreachable. As a kid, you think “how cool it would be to be there one day”, but it looked so far away. Here we are and I’m very emotional.”

Geraint Thomas:
“To get first and second doesn’t get any better. The fact that Egan is one step above me, he’s the best person to have in front of me.

“Obviously it’s been a crazy year for me and I can be happy and proud that I’ve given everything to be in my best shape here and I think we rode really well as a team from day one.

“It’s been amazing. I think that we’ve proved time and time again that we’re a strong unit and we know how to ride hard and perform in this race. It’s a pleasure to be a part of.”

Sir Dave Brailsford:
“It’s the most exciting Tour de France that we’ve taken part in and credit to Julian Alaphilippe as he died for that jersey every stage and he made a lot of people second guess what they thought they knew, and I think Pinot did the same in the Pyrenees. He was aggressive, he was brave and he took the race to us.

“We knew we had a group of older guys who were performing well, but we looked very hard to find the new generation and we decided that it was going to be Egan. We fought pretty hard to get him and he developed fantastically well.

“The advice that G has given [Egan], he knows what he’s doing, he’s generous with his advice and a generous person in that regard and in the end it was all about the team winning.

“A lot of people may have questioned having two leaders, were we hedging our bets and whether it was going to work. It’s worked to perfection and you can’t get better than second and first.”

Team Movistar got 2nd & 3rd in stage 20. Here's their report:

The Movistar Team ended up on Saturday on the verge of adding a second stage victory in the 2019 Tour de France to its success on Thursday. The explosive, grueling penultimate stage of the race, 59.5 kilometers from Albertville to the top of the Val Thorens ascent -33 kilometers + nearly 2,000 metres of vertical gain.

The Telefónica-backed squad even had seven of its members into the 30-strong group halfway through the climb, in pursuit of an early break which contained Nelson Oliveira. The repeated attacks from Marc Soler into the second half of the climb contributed to shrink the gaps and even give the Catalan himself a chance to win. However, the Blue youngster was brought back to the field -Jumbo-Visma and Bora-Hansgrohe pushing hard for a big portion of the climb- as the group reached the final slopes with over half a minute in arrears of Vincenzo Nibali (TBM). The last-minute moves from Alejandro Valverde (2nd in the stage) and Mikel Landa (3rd) weren’t enough to make up that terrain.

Landa will finish, barring any incident, in 6th place overall as Egan Bernal (INS) is crowned tomorrow as the first ever Colombian winner of the ‘Grande Boucle’, ahead of team-mate Geraint Thomas (INS) and Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk (TJV). Paris will again receive, with its eight laps in the Champs-Élysées, the ‘survivors’ of the 106th Tour.

Mikel Landa

Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana after the stage. Sirotti photo

REACTION / Mikel Landa:
“Such a bad feeling in the end. We all know how talented Nibali is – when he’s into a break, it’s difficult to bring him back. Alejandro and I were really strong coming into that final slope, and it was sad not being able to claim that victory. However, the thing is this climb was ‘suffocating’, to put it in one word, really difficult. None of us were able to find the legs we wanted, no one felt really good, and it was difficult to leave the ‘train’ when we were mostly riding at nearly 30 kph at most sections. It was difficult to make a move before the closing stages. Such a fast climb. As soon as I saw we were entering that final slope with such speed and then stopping after the turn, I made my attack, because I was once able to see Nibali ahead. However, as I looked to my side and saw the 400m banner, I knew it would be hard to keep that pace until the end.

“This Tour has made me learn much. I came here aiming for a podium, the crash took me out of contention for that, and it was tough to carry on. Fortunately, I enjoyed this sport again in the Pyrenees, attacking, doing as I pleased. I struggled a lot and learnt lessons that will surely help me a lot next year.”

Steven Kruijswijk's Jumbo-Visma squad had this to say about the day's racing:

Steven Kruijswijk has claimed his first ever overall podium in a Grand Tour. In the last mountain stage to Val Thorens, the leader of Team Jumbo-Visma moved up from fourth to third place overall. For Kruijswijk, it is the ultimate reward for years of hard work after having already finished fourth in the Giro, fourth in the Vuelta and fifth in last year’s Tour de France.

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk finally gets a place on a Grand Tour podium. Sirotti photo

In the shortened stage from Albertville, Kruijswijk put his Team Jumbo-Visma teammates in the front of the peloton at the foot of the 33-kilometre climb to Val Thorens. The efforts of George Bennett and later Laurens De Plus in particular caused that Julian Alaphilippe wasn’t able to follow their pace at ten kilometres from the finish. Kruijswijk finished eighth in the stage.

“This is what I came for and wanted to achieve. We have done everything and it worked out. I think I can be very proud of that”, Kruijswijk explained. “I had to put in an extreme effort. I was close to the podium a few times before. I have always kept working hard and always continued to fight. And the team has always believed in me. The fact that it has worked out now can’t be described with words. The team delivered a tremendous job today. We knew we had to go all in, so we took the initiative from the start of the climb. The pace of George and especially Laurens was so high that everyone was riding at their limits. That was good for me. I had expected that Alaphilippe would face difficulties, but I also had to keep an eye on Buchmann. I kept fighting all the way to the finish and I just had to finish it off for the boys. I am really happy that it worked out.”

De Plus had also seen a dream come true. “Getting on the overall podium with Steven in my first ever Tour de France is simply incredible. We put all our cards on the table today. It was all or nothing. Steven had been close to the podium a few times, so we had to do everything we could to make sure he would become third. I gave everything I had. I am very happy. This is so well-deserved. All those times we were on altitude to prepare for the Tour... All preparations have paid off. This is the best reward for all the effort we put in.”

Bennett also couldn’t find the words to describe his feelings. “This is great for Steven and the team. We have always believed in the podium and we have achieved what we came for as a team. With four stage wins and the podium, it has been a great Tour and it’s not even over yet. Winning with Dylan in Paris would really be the icing on the cake.”

Sports director Grischa Niermann concurred with the explanation of his riders. “We came here for the podium and we succeeded in that. We must also honestly say that this was the best we could achieve. Finishing third in the Tour is really impressive and the third place in the Tour always counts a little bit more. It is also Stevens first podium in a Grand Tour. My compliments to Steven and the entire team. After some setbacks in the past week, we have shown resilience as a team and we have shown that we didn’t get distracted. It has been a great Tour and hopefully it will get even better tomorrow.”

GC 4th place Emanuel Buchmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent this report:

The Tour de France is a race of surprises. The riders themselves make the race unpredictable, but there’s so much more that can change the course of a stage, or the race as a whole. Yesterday’s extreme weather conditions saw the race shortened and similarly today, what was originally a 130km parcours covering three categorised climbs became just 59.5km and just one climb – but what a climb this was. At 33.4km it was the longest ascent of the 106th edition of the race and its 5.4% average gradient did not do its true difficulty justice, with many steep sections and changes in gradient that would make it hard to find a rhythm, with the 2,365m altitude making it even harder to reach the top in one piece.

The outcome of the GC race was far from certain and one way or another, the race would be decided today. Starting in Albertville, the sky was heavy with rainclouds – the weather so unpredictable that the stage could still be affected by extreme conditions, but in spite of the less glamourous start – heading south on the N90 highway – this didn’t stop a spirited break making their move.

Twenty-three riders made their move at the start, with others pushing to latch on, making it twenty-eight. The kilometres passed and the break decreased in size owing to the changeable terrain of the climb, but they had managed to build a lead of more than two minutes at this early stage.

There was everything to race for in the overall race though, and a reduced peloton, made up of GC riders and their domestiques, picked the break off one by one. In this group, representing BORA-hansgrohe, were Emanuel Buchmann, Gregor Mühlberger and Patrick Konrad, and with the former yellow jersey holder being dropped, the top five of the overall race was shifting by the kilometre. With three races going on today – the GC, the King of the Mountains and the push for the stage win – there was mayhem on the roads and with attacks going off on the upper slopes, Gregor calmly took to the front of the yellow jersey group to bring them back in, the Austrian rider doing an amazing turn on the front, finally dropping back with just two kilometres to go.

Just one member of the break remained, and while Emanuel’s group couldn’t make the catch, this didn’t matter, with the German rider crossing the finish line twenty-three seconds after in seventh position on the stage to seal BORA-hansgrohe’s highest ever Grand Tour GC result of fourth. With no intermediate sprint today due to the course change, Peter Sagan only has to finish the race in Paris tomorrow to take his record-breaking seventh Maillot Vert, the Slovak rider celebrating by riding to the finish line pulling a one-handed wheelie.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan has only to finish stage 21 to win another green jersey. Sirotti photo.

From the Finish Line:
"Today's stage might have been shortened but it was still very challenging. The last climb was really long and the pace was strong from the bottom. There were a few flatter sections in between where you could recover a bit but it was very demanding, mentally. After three weeks of racing, you needed to try and stay focused and keep on pushing. The cushion I had to the riders behind me in the GC was big enough to allow me to try. Unfortunately, I didn't have the best legs today, so my attempt didn't really succeed. Obviously, I'm overly happy with this fourth place, a great achievement compared to my initial goal of the top ten. I wasn't too far from the podium but Kruijswijk and Thomas were simply stronger and I think this is the best I could have achieved this year, but there are more years to come." – Emanuel Buchmann

"The last mountain stage of this Tour de France was very short but still not easy and the finish atop Val Thorens brought us to just one sleep before Paris. Congratulations to Emanuel, he did a great ride today and is now sitting fourth in the GC. It's a sprint stage tomorrow, so I will give all I have to get the best result on the Champs-Elysées." – Peter Sagan

"When the Tour de France started in Brussels, our realistic goal was to have a rider in the top ten and we are now just one stage away from Buchmann claiming an amazing fourth overall, so we are more than happy. Emanuel had a great Tour de France and today, both he and Gregor were very strong. I think Emu's preparation for the Tour was perfect. He was never sick this year, he started the season with a victory and the Dauphiné worked fine for us. After that, he went again to high-altitude training and here we are, fourth overall at the Tour. This is the result of a process that took place in the last few years. We knew he would be able to achieve very good GC results, even in the Grand Tours, so, step by step, we built him to reach his potential. This is his first time as team leader in the Tour de France and he did a brilliant job. The team helped him, including Marcus, Peter, and Daniel in the flat parts. In the climbs, Gregor was with him and today, he rode in an unbelievably strong way. All those factors combined led to this very good result. We were quite close to the overall podium as well, so we look forward to the future editions of the Tour de France where we will try again." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

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