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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, April 19, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

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Tour of the Alps stage one reports

We posted the report from third-place Romain Bardet's Team DSM with the results.

Stage winner Geoffrey Bouchard's Ag2r-Citroën posted this:

Geoffrey Bouchard: “It’s a great victory. This is a race where the riders who will compete for the general classification at the Giro d’Italia are completing their preparation. Last year, at the Giro, I came very close to taking a stage. I’m happy finally to win as a pro. I have already won King of the Mountains jerseys in two Grand Tours, but that does not have the flavor of a victory. When I knew that the peloton was gaining on me, I got out of the saddle and I said to myself: 'You can’t sit down anymore.' Whatever the lead, we had to win. I compete in a lot of WorldTour races where the level is very high. It is therefore necessary to know how to seize the slightest opportunity.”

Geoffrey Bouchard

Geoffrey Bouchard alone and on his way to his first professional victory. Sirotti photo

The number: 4
Geoffrey Bouchard’s victory, the first of his professional career, is the fourth success of the season for the AG2R CITROËN TEAM. Ben O’Connor won the third stage at the Volta ciclista y Catalunya and the Tour du Jura, and Marc Sarreau won Cholet-Pays de Loire. It is the 496th victory for the team since its founding in 1992.

The news:
Geoffrey Bouchard wears both the general classification leader’s jersey and the King of the Mountain’s jersey. Since turning professional in 2019, he has won the King of the Mountain’s jersey at the Vuelta a Espana in 2019 and at the Giro d’Italia in 2021.

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Here's the Tour of the Alps report from second-place Pello Bilbao's Bahrain Victorious team:

The 45th Tour of the Alps started on Monday with a 6-man Team Bahrain Victorious squad showing strongly on the front of the bunch throughout the day, before Pello Bilbao won a sprint for 2nd place behind stage winner Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroën Team).

Geoffrey Bouchard

Geoffrey Bouchard couldn't be caught. Sirotti photo

The Frenchman had been part of the initial breakaway which built up a lead of 7’45”, before the first climb, the category 2 Passo Brocon. It was Bahrain Victorious who were active at the front and pulled the peloton, reducing the gap to 4 minutes at the first KoM.

Bouchard was all alone at the front of the race by the top of the day’s other categorised climb, the 3rd cat Passo Gobbera, and with Ineos Grenadiers helping, there were 5 TBV riders pushing the pace as the leader’s advantage fell to 2’30”

It was down to a minute when the race entered its denouement – a 13.5k lap around Fiera di Primiero, including a kick to the finish with maximum gradients of 9%.

Bahrain Victorious were once again dominant in the chase, and although Bouchard managed to hold on for victory, 5 seconds behind, Bilbao came around and through a big group, passing 5 riders to take the sprint for second place ahead of rivals including Romain Bardet, Pavel Sivakov, Miguel Angel Lopez & Richie Porte.

“At one point we thought the race was lost. The peloton didn’t work together 100% but we tried to pull full in the last 5k and we were near,” said Bilbo after the stage.

The Basque rider, who finished 2nd overall here last year, takes a time bonus on the line to lie 9 seconds back in GC. Santiago Buitrago came over the line in 11th, and leader Mikel Landa made it 3 TBV riders in the top 25.

After that team performance, Bilbao added, “We showed that we can do great things in this race.”

Stage 2 leaves from where stage 1 ended, and the race heads 153kms to Lana, with 2 serious climbs to contend with on the way.

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Team Bora-hansgrohe posted this Tour of the Alps report:

The longest stage of about 161km in Trentino opened today the Tour of the Alps. BORA – hansgrohe rode offensively from the beginning and Ben Zwiehoff finally was part of today’s break. The group entered the first KOM of the day with a gap of seven minutes, when Zwiehoff and Bouchard dropped their companions in the climb.

On the last climb of the day Bouchard attacked and crossed the KOM just less than 10 seconds ahead of Ben, who unfortunately crashed in the downhill on his way back to the front. As a result, he was caught from the bunch with 10km remaining, while Bouchard defended five seconds to take the stage victory. For BORA – hansgrohe an unfortunate end to a strong performance today.

“I think we had a good plan and actually it also went very well except one corner. I had a very good training camp to prepare this race and the Giro and I feel really good at the moment. Also, today my legs were good and I was ready to fight for the stage win. When Bouchard attacked on the last climb, I simply was a little surprised and didn’t want to rush it over the top. I was confident to come back and kept my rhythm. In the downhill I pushed to close the gap and was slightly too fast in one corner. It’s a pity because a possible win is lost. But I am ok and there will be another chance in the next days.” – Ben Zwiehoff

“When I prepared the race last week, I already had in mind to go for the stage win with Ben today. He is a very strong rider but still kind of a dark horse in the bunch so I thought the favorites might underestimate him. I don’t know if they did, but our plan worked out perfectly. Ben was there and if they would have worked together until the end, there was a chance to get to the line with around 40 seconds today, which also would have put us in a strong position in the GC. Unfortunately, Ben crashed in the downhill and all the good work before didn’t pay off. But that’s cycling. We have an interesting and motived squad here and we’ll take it day by day. And for sure we will try something again the next days.” – Christian Pömer, sports director

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Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl to race the Flèche Wallone

Here's the team's update:

This year’s edition of Flèche Wallonne will be a special one, at it celebrates four decades since the first passage over the now iconic Mur de Huy. Starting from Blegny, the 202.1km race will see the riders take three times on a tough circuit in the second half of the course, where a trio of demanding climbs awaits: Côte d’Ereffe (2.1km, 5%), Côte de Cherave (1.3km, 8.1%) and Mur de Huy (1.3km, 9.6%).

It goes without saying that the last of these will be the scene of the much-anticipated battle for victory the final time up there Wednesday afternoon, especially as the stinging gradients peak out at 22% not far from the finish line where last year Julian Alaphilippe arrived victorious after a fantastic surge in the last 200 meters.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe wins the 2021 edition. ASO photo

One of the only five riders in history to have racked up consecutive wins at Flèche Wallonne, the World Champion will continue his spring campaign at the Belgian Classic, where he has finished on the podium at all his five participations. Alaphilippe, a winner of the event in 2018, 2019 and 2021, will be joined on Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s roster by Remco Evenepoel – who will have his first taste of the Ardennes Classics – Pieter Serry, neo-pro Stan Van Tricht, Mauri Vansevenant, Ilan Van Wilder and Louis Vervaeke.

“We go with a strong team to Flèche Wallonne, a race we know and like. Having Julian – who has shown a good condition in the Basque Country at the beginning of the month – as our leader gives us a lot of confidence that we can be in the mix again and fight for a good result, just like at the previous editions”, said sports director Klaas Lodewyck.

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