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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, April 16, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter. - Blaise Pascal

Story of the Giro d'Italia volume 2

Bill and Carol McGann's book The Story of the Giro d'Italia, A Year-by-Year History of the Tour of Italy, Vol 2: 1971 - 2011 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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Tour of Turkey stage six reports

We posted the report from winner Caleb Ewan's Team Lotto Soudal with the results.

Here's the report from third-place Danny van Poppel's Bora-hansgrohe team:

Several small climbs, strong crosswinds, and a difficult finale – the sixth day of the Presidential Cycling Tour of Türkiye had it all. The 201.5-kilometre-long stage from Edremit to Eceabat was for a long time dominated by a five-man-strong breakaway group before the finale started on an exposed, windy passage 50 kilometres before the finish.

Several teams, among them BORA - hansgrohe, attacked at this point, but 30 kilometres before the finish the peloton was together again. In the end, everything came down to a final sprint, with a climb and a very narrow route in the last kilometres demanding everything from the riders. BORA - hansgrohe brought its sprinter Danny van Poppel in a very good position, and the Dutchman came in third, scoring another podium spot for the German squad at this year's Tour of Turkey.

Caleb Ewan took first place. Lotto Soudal photo

“Today was a tough day – much tougher than we thought beforehand. Especially the wind and the uphill final were very demanding. But the guys did a super job so that I was perfectly positioned for the final sprint, despite the last hectic kilometres. In the end, it was a pity that Jasper Philipsen passed me on the finish line. Nevertheless, I am very happy with my third place.” – Danny van Poppel

“The athletes did a really good job today. We knew that the wind would play a role in this stage, so we tried to attack 50 kilometres before the finish. Unfortunately, there was too much tailwind afterwards, so everything came together again after a few kilometres. For Danny, the third place is a nice success, especially because he was only beaten by two of the world's best sprinters. My conclusion is positive: when something important happened, we were always at the front.” – Bernhard Eisel, Sports Director

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2022 Tour of Sicily final reports

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

Here's the report from second-place Louis Meintjes' Team Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert:

Three years after the stage victory of Guillaume Martin on top of the Etna, Louis Meintjes again made the colors of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux shine by finishing second in the queen stage of the Tour of Sicily (2.1) behind Damiano Caruso.

Louis Meintjes finishes the final stage. Sirotti photo

The battle between the GC contenders began from the start in Ragalna. The peloton rode at a high pace and made among others a breakaway attempt of Simone Petilli undone. Finally, nine riders escaped and covered the first passage on Contrada Giuliana (10.9km at 4.9%) with an advantage of more than 3 minutes.

This same climb then brought the riders to the foot of the Etna (17.7 km at 5.5%). Petilli and Georg Zimmermann accompanied Louis Meintjes until the foot, after which he played a main role in a group of five riders with ten kilometer to go. Even though he was distanced by three competitors under the red flag, Meintjes crossed the line in second position thanks to a perfectly timed finish. In this way, he finishes third of the Tour of Sicily and takes his first podium in a stage race since 2015 and his victory in the Semana Coppi e Bartali. His teammate Zimmermann finished nineteenth in the stage and seventeenth in GC.

“It is on a course like this, along with good weather conditions, that I can get the best out of me. It was a perfect stage for me and even though certain favorites raced aggressively in the beginning of the stage, I stayed calm until the final climb where I believed the decision would be made. I already trained in this region before so I knew what was coming. It was like a survival of the fittest until we were only a handful of riders left in the final kilometers.

“I wasn't able to react to all accelerations but I felt that I still had something left when the others started to explode. So I finished second behind the strongest rider of the day. After a slow start of the season because of physical problems, I hope that this performance brings me in a good flow. With a hard Tour of Catalunya and this Tour of Sicily in the legs, I feel like I'm well prepared for the Tour de Romandie.” - Louis Meintjes

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And here's the Tour of Sicily stage four report from fourth-place Vincenzo Nibali's Team Astana Qazaqstan:

Finishing fourth atop the legendary climb up Etna, Vincenzo Nibali took fourth place in the final General Classification of the Giro di Sicilia.

Vincenzo Nibali finishing fourth. Sirotti photo

There was a big fight among the race contenders on the slopes of Etna, Vincenzo Nibali was always in front, attacking and counterattacking in the leading group. The Astana Qazaqstan Team leader was very close to a podium, but finished fourth both, at the stage and in the overall standings.

“I think that for me it was a very good test after the altitude training camp and ahead of the Giro d’Italia. It was a nice race, and I am feeling like I am on the right way. Well, I did maximum I could today and, in general, during these four days, I couldn’t do more. So, I am quite satisfied with my actual form and my result. I congratulate Damiano Caruso on this nice victory, I am happy that another Sicilian rider wins the second edition of this race in a row”, said Vincenzo Nibali.

“We were close to the race podium and it’s a pity we missed just two seconds to reach it. However, we can be happy with the way our team raced today and in these four days, the guys did an amazing job and Vincenzo is improving day by day, coming back to the races after a training camp. Well, three places in the Top-10 and team classification victory are our results at the Giro di Sicilia and we are going to keep on moving ahead”, – added Giuseppe Martinelli, Sports Director of Astana Qazaqstan Team.

Two more team riders entered the final Top-10 of the race: Andrey Zeits finished 9th, while Antonio Nibali did 10th in the General Classification. Astana Qazaqstan Team won the final team classification, becoming the best team of the Giro di Sicilia.

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Florian Vermeersch headed to his second Paris-Roubaix participation

Here’s the post from Vermeersch’s Lotto Soudal team:

Less than 200 days after the previous edition, the ‘Hell of the North’ is again opening its gates for the 119th Paris-Roubaix this Sunday. Lotto Soudal will be at the start in Compiègne with Cedric Beullens, Victor Campenaerts, Philippe Gilbert, Sébastien Grignard, Roger Kluge, Brent Van Moer and Florian Vermeersch.

The 257 kilometres long course underwent little changes. Also this year, the riders will start from Compiègne and race towards thirty cobbled sections, accounting for 55 kilometres of suffering on the pavés. No doubt the mythical five-star sectors of Trouée d’Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre will again have a big impact on the unfolding of the race. After passing through ‘Hell’, one rider will reach eternal cycling glory on the famous Roubaix velodrome.

With a heroic Paris-Roubaix last October still in mind – in which an impressive Florian Vermeersch battled his way to second place – the 23-year-old Lotto Soudal rider is looking ahead to his second time racing on the cobbles of northern France.

Under that mud, Florian Vermeersch is one of this trio along with Sonny Colbrelli and Mathieu van der Poel riding on the cobbles of the 2021 edition. Sitotti photo

“Although last year’s second place has changed quite a bit, I don’t necessarily feel more pressure to perform”, starts Florian Vermeersch. “Personally, my ambition for Paris-Roubaix remains the same as for any other race this spring. I want to be part of the final and feel that I can battle for the win. Most of all, I am really looking forward and I expect a lot of myself. But if I won’t be able to grab a top result, that will be a pity but not a disaster.”

“Honestly, the first months of the season have been disappointing for me. Partly due to crashes and bad luck, I feel that I haven’t had the opportunity to fully show myself. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as you plan them. The tide can also turn very quickly, hopefully starting this Sunday.”

“What makes Paris-Roubaix so heroic and tough? Especially the succession of the cobbled sections. And purely based on power, it is one of the hardest races of the season. Also the impact the race has on your body is not to be underestimated. Last year, I suffered from quite some pain in the hands and sore muscles, even days after the race.”

After a rainy edition last year, with sectors turning to mud puddles, the weather conditions will be gentler on the riders.

“I’m not less excited that this year will likely be a dry edition. But it will be a different kind of race, that’s for sure. There will maybe be more space to pass riders on the cobbles. With Philippe Gilbert, we have a former winner within our selection, who is very important for the team. With his broad experience, he still learns us things every day. Besides, he’s still really motivated to race. You can never write off a rider like Philippe Gilbert.”

For Philippe Gilbert, it will indeed be a fifth and final participation at Paris-Roubaix. The 39-year-old Belgian won the cycling Monument in 2019 and will be at the start of the ‘Hell of the North’, due to a change in his program.

“At this point in my career, Paris-Roubaix suits me better than Flèche Wallonne. At Paris-Roubaix, explosivity is of lesser importance, it is mostly about endurance. Stating specific ambitions is difficult. I am not in top shape but Paris-Roubaix is sometimes full of surprises. It is a race in which you can never give up and keep believing in your chances. It was be a special moment to race the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix for one last time”, concludes Philippe Gilbert.

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