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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, February 5, 2022

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What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable. - Joseph Addison

Marcus Aurelius: Meditations

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Saudi Tour stage four team reports

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

Here's the report from stage winner Maxim Van Gils' Lotto Soudal team:

Echelons, a climb with peaks to 22 percent and a solo victory for Lotto Soudal: the fourth stage in the Saudi Tour had it all. Maxim Van Gils won the spectacular race and also takes the green leader’s jersey with a 36 second lead in the general classification.

Maxim Van Gils wins stage four.

What a day it was for Maxim Van Gils. The 22-year-old rider from Brasschaat showed himself in the first echelon all day long. Roger Kluge and Jasper De Buyst put him in perfect position in the first group of 18 riders. Van Gils was the best placed GC rider in the group. Very quickly their lead rose to over a minute.

15 kilometers before the finish was the toughest climb of the Saudi Tour, with peaks to 22 percent. Van Gils showed himself there as the best climber of the group and topped the climb solo with a 30 second lead. Behind him the field was shattered. In the last flat 8 kilometers, the Lotto Soudal leader managed to build his lead even further. Finally, he reached the finish line at Harrat Uwayrid with a 40 second advantage.

“What a special feeling”, said the winner immediately after. “I do not win that often. That I managed to do so today, is very special for me. I had a very good day, the team worked hard to get me in the first echelon. Afterwards, it was up to me to stay there. That I could finish the teamwork in style, makes me very happy.”

Van Gils and sprinter Caleb Ewan have been motivating each other whole week. Ewan won the first stage and promised Van Gils new sneakers should he be able to get the podium of the GC. With one stage to go and a 36-second lead in the GC, things are looking well for Van Gils’ new footwear. “The team has been motivating me whole week. Tomorrow there is a new day for Caleb to go for a stage and I have to go all out for the GC. The sneaker-promise has started as a joke of Caleb, but it is becoming more serious within the team now. Hopefully, I will have earned a new pair tomorrow.”

Here's the report from second-place Luka Mezgec's Team BikeExchange-Jayco:

Slovenian fast-man Luka Mezgec fought his way to an impressive second place on stage four of the Saudi Tour, after battling the crosswinds and the steep slopes up to the Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid.

On another windy day in AlUla, the 33-year-old made it into the decisive split inside the final 60km, as a group of 18 riders swept passed the early two-rider breakaway.

The group was down to just 10 riders as they entered the lower slopes of the final climb, a 2km long effort with a 12% average gradient and a maximum of 22%. Mezgec battled over the top but couldn’t follow two riders as they edged away on the steepest section.

Together with five other riders, Mezgec managed to catch Andrea Bagioli on the flat run to the finish, but the group couldn’t reel in Maxim Van Gils, who held on to take the win. Mezgec then played it smart in the finale, following the wheels before sprinting to second place, once again proving his form in this first part of the season.

Luka Mezgec:
“These kind of climbs, 10 minutes, 12 minutes, they can suit me sometimes. But today, the race before we got to the climb was so hard, it was basically a breakaway, and nobody was fresh.

"Just before the race we actually went here to see the sights and we saw the climb, so I knew I would need really light gears for today, but still I was in 36-30 and I was zig-zagging all the way to the top.

"I couldn’t hold the first two guys over the climb, but I knew the guys from behind were coming so I tried to play with them, but in the end the Lotto-Soudal guy was just too strong for everyone. It was a good effort, I’m happy with the shape for the season and we go into the sprint tomorrow.”

Tristan Hoffman (Sport Director):
“Luka did a fantastic ride, we expected a lot of crosswind today, but the crosswinds came a little bit later and Luka was directly up there with 20 guys. He managed well in the group, and when he came to the bottom of the climb I think there were only 10 guys left and he kept on fighting on the climb.

"Luka was not far behind, he was very smart in the final, went with the right move and finished second. We know he’s a very good, strong rider, but it’s very nice to see on a climb like this that he’s competing for the win, and this also means he’s in very good condition, because if not you don’t survive this climb.

"It’s a great second place, but now the focus is on Dylan again tomorrow and we will try to get another victory tomorrow.”

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Team BikeExchange-Jayco withdraw from Volta Valenciana following a positive COVID-19 result

The team sent me this news:

Team BikeExchange-Jayco will not take to the start line for Stage 3 of Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. The decision to withdraw from the five-day event has been taken following two positive COVID-19 test results within the team.

Following the team protocol of daily testing, two members of the team returned positive test results on the evening of Thursday, February 3rd.

As a precautionary measure, in accordance with strict team policy, and having already had to withdraw one rider due to injury, the decision was made to withdraw from the event, with the health of riders, staff and all those involved in the race being the priority. The race organisation was informed of the situation immediately.

Team BikeExchange-Jayco’s medical team are now working to move riders and staff safely to areas of quarantine where necessary, and to continue further testing.

Brent Copeland, Team BikeExchange-Jayco General Manager:
“The safety of all our riders and staff, and that of everyone involved in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana is of the utmost importance, and we believe the only correct decision to be taken in these circumstances is to withdraw from the race.

“We would like to thank the race organisation for their understanding and support, and will continue to carry out our team policy to ensure the safest possible outcome.”

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Tour of Valenciana stage three team reports

We posted the report from stage three winner Aleksandr Vlasov's Bora-hansgrohe team with the results.

Here's the report Remco Evenepoel's Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl team:

Friday saw the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana peloton travel from Alicante to Antenas de Maigmo, over a 155.1km course peppered with six classified ascents. After a frantic first hour of racing, which witnessed a flurry of attacks, a breakaway was finally established, with none of the eleven men at the front posing a threat to the GC men.

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl took over the reins in the bunch and limited the advantage of the escapees to a three-minute maximum, before ramping up the pace with 50 kilometers to go. Slowly but surely, our riders began chewing into the leaders’ advantage, which dropped to one minute by the moment they tackled the final climb, thanks to the impressive work of Mattia Cattaneo, Josef Cerny and Yves Lampaert.

Vuelta al Pais Vasco stage winner Mikkel Honoré remained with Remco Evenepoel on the first part of the last climb, pacing him until the moment that what was left of the bunch entered the wicked 1.8km gravel stretch. Briefly dropped, the yellow jersey battled back and returned to the front group, but the unsurfaced roads and stiff gradients eventually took their toll on him and the 22-year-old Belgian was dislodged from the top of the standings by Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe), who took both the stage win and the leader’s jersey.

Remco Evenepoel winning stage one.

Evenepoel came over the line 41 seconds down on the stage 3 victor and is now second in the overall rankings with two days to go: “The best guy won today, I think that’s quite clear. Aleksandr was strong not just today, but also on the first stage. The race was beautiful, with a nice course, so chapeau to the organisers for that. But then they decided to send the riders on those small roads, where there were a lot of loose stones, despite them saying before the race that these were gone.”

“The stage and the final climb were so hard that they didn’t need this gravel sector. It resembled a mountain bike sector, but I can’t say that’s the reason for me losing that much time, it’s just that Aleksandr was stronger. I felt good today, but then, towards the end of the gravel sector, I began feeling the legs getting tired. For me, the stage was one kilometer too long. Being second in the GC is still a good result. Now, I look forward to helping Fabio on the remaining flat stages”, said an upbeat Remco, who continues to lead the best young rider classification.

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

Sam Oomen and Milan Vader have finished twelfth and thirteenth during the queen stage of the Tour of Valencia. The two Team Jumbo-Visma riders had to let go of the strongest riders on the gravel section of the final climb.

It took a long time before the leading group was formed. Only in the run-up to the first climb of the day, the Coll de Rates, a group of eleven riders managed to break away from the peloton. Their lead remained limited as their advantage never grew bigger than two and a half minutes. Yet, the last fugitive was caught only on the final climb by a depleted peloton containing Oomen and Vader. They eventually lost just over a minute to winner Aleksandr Vlasov.

“I went all the way. It was tough and at the same time it was a lot of fun”, Vader said. “I rode up the final climb with the first fifteen riders. The crowd’s atmosphere and riding among the big names gave me a lot of morale.”

Vader is making his debut as a (professional) road rider during this Tour of Valencia. “It took me some time getting into it. It had been a while since I had raced on the road and not at this level. Meanwhile, I have adapted and I am used to the dynamics within the peloton. I also feel more and more part of the team. I still have a lot to learn, but in these three days, there is already progress. But there’s still plenty to improve. I’m really looking forward to that.”

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