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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, January 22, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2020 Giro d'Italia

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching. - Satchel Paige


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2021 Santos Festival of Cycling stage one team reports

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

Team Bike Exchange sent me these two reports, one for the women's race and one for the men's.

Women's race:

Double Herald Sun Tour champion Lucy Kennedy made the front split on the opening stage of the Santos Festival of Cycling before sprinting to eighth place in the dash for the line in Tanunda.

Peta Mullens

Peta Mullens takes stage one.

Team BikeExchange had controlled the peloton for much of the day and kept the breakaway in check ahead of the final and decisive ascent of Menglers Hill. The race burst into life on the climb with an acceleration Kennedy on the lower slopes, followed by a move from Tour Down Under stage winner Grace Brown.

The duo managed to reduce the numbers in the peloton, but Brown found herself unable to follow further attacks over the top, leaving Kennedy alone in a select leading group. The stage finale came down to a reduced bunch sprint with Peta Mullens (Roxsolt LIV Sram) taking the win, while Kennedy got up for eighth.

Lucy Kennedy:
“We certainly didn't want a break to win, this race won't be decided by huge margins so we couldn't afford to lose time from the first stage. The plan was to be aggressive on the second and third lap to try and force a break.

“We had hoped Grace and I would both make any selection, but the NRS teams are really strong at the moment and capitalised over that final climb to keep the front group away.

“Racing is a bit of a shock to the system at this time of year and I felt very sluggish early but built into it a bit. My form is maybe a little better than I was expecting so I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do up Willunga, which is likely to be decisive."

Grace Brown:
“Not the day I was hoping for, today is a reminder that the local girls are in really good form. To be honest I haven’t done anything over threshold in training, so that was really brought to front of mind today.

"When we were attacking over the climb, I just couldn’t go up that extra level to stay with them. So, I finished in the second group, but thankfully Lucy was in the front.

“I think tomorrow is more likely to be a bigger bunch sprint and definitely teams with strong sprinters will want to keep it together. Hopefully it won’t be quite as attacking on the climbs.”

Dave Sanders (Sports Director):
“The girls did a great job to bring back the break and put Lucy at the front for the final climbs. Then she did her job over the top and finished well in the front group as planned. We had hoped to have Grace there as well to give us more options for the rest of the race, but she’s still finding her legs in her first race of season 2021."

Men's race:

Australian time trial champion Luke Durbridge soloed to an emphatic victory on the opening stage of the Santos Festival of Cycling to take Team BikeExchange's first victory of the 2021 season.

Luke Durbridge

Luke Durbridge takes the first stage.

Durbridge crossed the line more than two minutes clear of second place Raphael Freiensten (InForm Insight TM Make) and his Team BikeExchange teammate Damien Howson.

The race blew apart over the first passage of Menglers Hill and as the peloton assessed the damage through the intermediate sprint, Durbridge rolled off the front. A chase group formed with Czech Tour winner Howson amongst them, but a meaningful chase failed to materialise, allowing Durbridge to slip further up the road.

Durbridge didn’t look back and continued to press-on solo, opening up a maximum advantage of over four minutes. It was clear there was no catching the 29-year-old as he headed onto the final lap and eventually crossed the line 2'24" ahead to take his first victory of the season, after almost 80km solo.

Luke Durbridge:
“I guess it wasn’t really the plan. Obviously, there was big pressure on our shoulders, being the only WorldTour team here. All the boys are motivated and I’m just glad I could finish it off.

“I sort of said to myself ‘be a bit brave and go for it, only 100km’. But when I got out there and it’s 40 degrees, 100kms is still a long way. I countered the sprint at the first intermediate and just sort of squeezed on a little bit and nobody really came with me.

“Then after I got a gap, I just sort of settled in. That’s my style, most of the time of the year I’m doing that on the front of the peloton, so as soon as I got the gap, I knew I could settle into a nice tempo."

Matt Wilson (Sports Director):
"It was very early in the race when Luke jumped up the road, but he had a strong team behind him and that made it hard for the other teams to try and get across to him with us covering behind, and Durbo didn’t die, he just kept putting time into them.

"We’re in an awesome position now, we’ve got the strongest team in the race and got the lead by two and a half minutes, so we couldn’t ask for anything more."

Wout van Aert will be on Team Jumbo-Visma until 2024

Jumbo-Visma sent me this:

Wout van Aert and Team Jumbo-Visma have renegotiated his contract that was due to expire at the end of this year. The team extended it for three years until 2024.

Wout Van aert

Wout van Aert wins 2020 Strade Bianche

"Also after ’21, I am a very proud member of Team Jumbo-Visma. I am very happy with that", Van Aert said at the training camp in Alicante. "I really wanted to extend because I have become a lot better with this team. I think everyone has seen that I have made huge steps forward as a rider in recent years. I was always in shape when I needed to. I owe a lot to the team to be able to work towards my goals. The decision that I wanted to re-sign was was made pretty pretty quickly in my mind. Of course there are other things that come into play and that required some time. The intention was good on both sides and I was confident that everything was going to be all right. I am very happy that I can pursue further successes in this familiar environment. I feel very good here and the past years have shown that I can do justice here. I don’t have to explain to you that there was more interest in me, but I have never had talks with another team. My goal was to extend the contract. We have become the best team in the world. It was best for me to stay. I am glad that it is done and I am relieved that I can speak out about it."

The same goes for Managing Director Richard Plugge of Team Jumbo-Visma, who together with Merijn Zeeman had the final meeting with Van Aert in Alicante. "Wout is one of the big names, one of the big stars of cycling. He is the current number three of the world. For us it was important to keep him. There might have been other teams that were interested in Wout, but his intention was to sign from the beginning. We have helped him in his development and that is why he wants to stay. We quickly understood each other’s desire. Then the details took some time. I am very happy that we were able to keep him", said Plugge.

Zeeman, Sportive Manager at the Dutch formation, is also pleased with the extension. "This is fantastic news for everyone on our squad and for our sponsors", he said. "Wout has turned out to be a great trendsetter in cycling, a star I would say. He is someone who makes the sport more fun to watch. It is marvelous that he does this as a rider of Team Jumbo-Visma and that he will ride in yellow and black for years to come. We are very proud of that. We are also very grateful for the trust he has given us by choosing us and we are grateful to our partners who make this possible. For us as coaches, it is great to be able to work with such a personality and such a rider. This is a team that has been evolving continuously in recent years. This also applies to the team around Wout in the spring classics. I think last year’s analysis was that the support was insufficient. We are developing this. It will continue in the coming years to also become stronger in this area to give Wout the support he needs."

Ville de Marseille and the Région Sud- France join EF Education-Nippo in 2021

The team sent me this press release:

EF Education–NIPPO is proud to announce two new partners joining us in the 2021 season: the Ville de Marseille and the Région Sud- France, two territorial authorities in the South of France.

“It’s no secret I personally love the South of France,” said EF Education–NIPPO CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “It’s an absolutely wonderful place to visit, to ride a bike, to race a bike, or to simply relax. From its incredible wines to the world class cycling roads and the friendly, welcoming people, the region has it all. I am excited to welcome two new partners to the team in Ville de Marseille and Région Sud- France.”

The region has a long and rich history of sporting excellence as well as cycling fandom. Marseille was named the European capital of sport in 2017, and will help host the 2024 Paris Olympic Games as an Olympic site. The Région Sud- France is a staple of the Tour de France with climbs such as Mont Ventoux, Col de la Bonette, and the Col de la Madone, and was the host of the most recent “Grand Départ” of the 2020 Tour in Nice.

The city of Marseille is the oldest city in France and is currently the second largest municipality after Paris. Marseille has been an important port of commerce and passage since antiquity due to its opening onto the Mediterranean Sea and has earned it the nickname of “Gateway of the East.”

Marseille, who just welcomed a new mayor – Benoît Payan – has ambitions of building upon the rich cycling history in the region. Marseille is home to developmental squad Velo Club La Pomme Marseille, which helped train numerous EF Education–NIPPO riders, including Alex Howes during the Chipotle-First Solar Development Team years, and will be placing an emphasis on developing cycling as part of the Marseillaise lifestyle in the years to come.

The Région Sud- France is made up of six departments – Alpes-de-Haute Provence, Alpes Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône, Hautes-Alpes, Vaucluse, and Var. These departments, headed by president Renaud Muselier, are as diverse as they are beautiful.

For the inhabitants of the Région Sud- France – which encompases the regions surrounding Marseille, Nice, and Toulon – cycling has always been an essential part of their lifestyle and has drawn many tourists to the  area. The region includes coastal roads where one can explore the beautiful Côte d'Azur to the South, mountains with peaks above 4,000m (13,000ft) in the Hautes-Alpes to the North, and lavender fields on rolling hills of Provence in between.

“We have a robust collection of partners with a distinct international flavor, and I think that gives us a unique opportunity to represent different parts of the world,” said Vaughters. “I’m excited for us to race in the beautiful Marseille area, and also hold camps there, exploring the Région Sud- France’s roads and natural beauty.”

EF Education–NIPPO will be kicking off our season at the Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise, which is set to take place on Jan. 31. We can’t wait to explore this wonderful region of France and share our journey.

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