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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, February 27, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

It's easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top. - Henry Ward Beecher

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 as an audiobook here. For the print and Kindle eBook versions, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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UAE Tour stage final news reports

We posted the report from stage and final winner Tadej Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates with the results.

Aleksandr Vlasov's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

While the first 135 km of the 146 km course were completely flat, the final stage of the UAE Tour ended with a mountain finish at Jebel Hafeet. On the final climb, Patrick Konrad kept the pace high and as a result of this tempo, several riders were dropped. After the Austrian national champion fell back, BORA - hansgrohe was still represented in the first group with Aleksandr Vlasov and Jai Hindley. However, when it came to attacks on the steepest part of Jebel Hafeet, Jai was forced to let go while his teammate attempted to follow the moves of Yates and Pogačar.

Tadej Pogacar wins the final stage. UAE Tour photo

He was ultimately unable to catch up to the leaders, crossing the finish line in eighth place. With this result, Aleks just misses out on a podium place in the GC, finishing in fourth overall.

"It was quite hot and it was a fast stage. On the initial flat part of the course, I tried to save my energy for the finale, as I knew it would be a tough fight in the final climb. I tried to follow the attacks, but in the end I didn't have the legs to stay with the decisive move. It's unfortunate that I missed out on a podium place in the GC. But I still think my result was strong overall and we can be pleased with our performance. Thanks to the team for their confidence in me, and my teammates for the support throughout the week." - Aleksandr Vlasov

"We were essentially going for the overall win. That also meant trying to take the stage today with time bonuses. It was a big mission especially because the current Tour de France winner was also in participation, but given Aleks' strong performance in Valencia, we still wanted to try. The team's task was therefore to make the race difficult. At the foot of the final climb Danny did a good job with that, and Koni then also set a strong pace in the reduced group on the ascent. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out the way we wanted it to. The others were simply stronger and Aleks didn't manage to follow the decisive attacks. All in all, however, it was a very positive result. Of course we hoped for more, but we now know where we have to improve because the development potential is definitely there." - Rolf Aldag, Sports Director

Here's the report from GC second-place Adam Yates' INEOS Grenadiers:

Adam Yates secured second place overall at the UAE Tour after a climbing showdown on the final day.

The traditional Jebel Hafeet summit finish posed a final test to the riders, with Yates launching a hard attack with 3.2 kilometres to go. The Grenadier did what he could to distance leader Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) but was unable to shake the defending champion on the run-in.

In a mirror of the 2021 race, Yates crossed the line just short of the Slovenian, but elevated himself on to the overall podium. Also present in the lead group was Luke Plapp. The young Australian has impressed during his WorldTour debut this week, and finished a superb fifth on the queen stage.

Adam Yates:
“Big thanks to all the guys. Today was the last mountain stage and we put a lot of effort into it. We’ve been working hard and well as a team all week, not just for GC but for the sprints too. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of it.

“Today we came up short but not through any lack of effort. The first attack I went full gas until I couldn’t go any more. I had a look behind and was hoping [Pogacar] wasn’t there – but it’s pretty hard to drop a double Tour de France winner. I tried again right at the final and I still couldn’t get rid of him. On a finish like this he’s pretty quick in a sprint. All in all I think we can be happy with how we’ve raced – there’s plenty to build on.

“Luke (Plapp) is a young guy but you can see how strong he is. He’s got real potential and you can see how motivated he is. I’m sure he’s got a big future ahead of him.”

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Omloop Het Nieuwsblad team reports

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

Here's the report from winner Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team:

Wout van Aert has won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The Belgian leader of Team Jumbo-Visma rode away on the day's final climb, the Bosberg, and crossed the line solo in Ninove. Thanks in part to the work of his strong teammates, Van Aert took his first win of the road season.

The race is van Aert's. Sirotti photo.

Under sunny weather conditions, seven riders formed the day's breakaway. After a quiet start Team Jumbo-Visma, led by Edoardo Affini, Pascal Eenkhoorn and Tosh Van der Sande, took control of the race. The yellow-black formation also ensured that leader Van Aert was in a good position to start the decisive cobbled sections and hills. Attacks by Mike Teunissen, Nathan Van Hooydonck and Tiesj Benoot allowed the Belgian champion to wait and see.

Benoot even went on a solo attack on the road to the Muur of Geraardsbergen, but he was caught just after the top. On the Bosberg, Van Aert gave everything he had and no rider could keep up with him. A fifteen-kilometre solo resulted in the victory, which meant Team Jumbo Visma's second victory of the road season.

Tiejs Benoot on the attack. Sirotti photo

"Tiesj and I were attacking nicely after the Berendries", the happy winner said. "I know it's always quiet before the Bosberg, so I wanted to take an advantage there. At the top, I still had a nice gap, so I decided to go full speed. I gave everything and fortunately, that tactic worked. The wind was a disadvantage, so maybe that's why it stayed closed for a long time. My teammates deserve big compliments because we controlled the race at all times. And of course, I am delighted to finish first."

Van Aert will now continue preparing for the upcoming races. "I've had a good preparation, but I didn't expect it to go so well right away. It's great that I won this race. I could still do better in terms of race intensity because you need that for classics like the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. I want to take that step in Paris-Nice, where we will be at the start again with a strong team."

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Here's the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad report from Lotto Soudal:

Lotto Soudal rider Victor Campenaerts finished fifth at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, his first race of the season. Despite two punctures and a crash, the 30-year-old Belgian was up there after the iconic Muur van Geraardsbergen. In the run-up to the Bosberg, Wout Van Aert launched his attack. Campenaerts gave his all to bridge towards his compatriot, but he couldn’t close the gap. Van Aert extended his lead as he came closer to the finish in Ninove, where he took a solo victory. A sizeable group sprinted for second place, with Campenaerts ending the Omloop with a powerful sprint, a fifth place and a satisfied feeling.

“Going into this race, we wouldn’t have signed for fifth place, but given how the race unfolded I am happy with this result”, said Victor Campenaerts after the Omloop. “Florian Vermeersch put our team in a comfortable position thanks to his attack. That way, I ended up in a good situation during the final. I didn’t suffer too much from the crash, but I also had to deal with a few punctures and bike changes. However, I realised that I needed to keep my head cool. I knew I was in good shape and riders with good legs automatically come out on top on the Muur.”

Today, the peloton hit the Belgian roads again for the first time this season at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. After a traditional nervous start to the race, the 77th edition of the Omloop really kicked off after the climb of the Wolvenberg. Lotto Soudal youngster Florian Vermeersch anticipated and bridged towards the early breakaway together with Küng and Vliegen.

When the front group built up its advantage to around a minute, the alarm bells went off in the peloton. On the Berendries, the peloton split to pieces and five riders bridged towards the leading group including Vermeersch. In the end, it all came together again on the Muur van Geaardsbergen, where Victor Campenaerts came back to the fore after he had to deal with some bad luck. Not much later, Van Aert launched an attack just before the Bosberg, the final climb of the day. Campenaerts did everything in his power to follow, but couldn’t close the gap. Van Aert rode solo to victory, Campenaerts ended an impressive race in fifth place.

Victor Campenaerts: “When Wout Van Aert attacked just before the Bosberg, I maybe hesitated a little too long. I tried to react but soon I realised I would not catch him. To avoid my legs to explode, I made the switch and waited for the chasing group. Wout showed he was the best man in the race today. Normally, my sprint isn’t my best weapon but the fact that I still finish fifth shows how hard the race was and how fast Wout rode. As a team we had of course preferred a better result but despite the absence of our leader Wellens, we certainly didn’t do bad today. The atmosphere and team spirit is good and I am sure there is more to come than just a fifth place."

Florian Vermeersch was also satisfied after the Omloop, even though the youngster had secretly hoped for more.

“I felt good and anticipated after the Wolvenberg, which created a good situation for the team. It would have been more interesting if not only Küng and Vliegen but also some other strong riders would have joined us. There was a lot of headwind, which cost us a lot of energy. Until the Muur, I found myself in a comfortable position but on the climb the legs exploded. Respect for what Victor did today, he really did an epic race.”

Here's what Team Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert had to say about the race:

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux participated to the first race on Belgian soil this Saturday, the Omloop het Nieuwsblad (1.UWT, 26/02), traditional opening race of the Flemish classics campaign.

After the start in Ghent, the seven riders of the Belgian World Team had to accomplish 204 kilometer towards Ninove containing nine cobble sectors and thirteen hills in the heart of the Flemish Ardennes.

After a crystal clear beginning of the race, during which a breakaway of seven riders escaped, the race situation changed on the Wolvenberg. When the gap with the leaders decreased to one minute, Loïc Vliegen attacked from the peloton with Vermeersch (Lotto) and Küng (FDJ) with 54 kilometer and joined the breakaway 10 kilometer later.

In the peloton, local riders Dimitri Claeys and Aimé De Gendt controlled the accelerations in the Marlboroughstraat and on the Leberg, enabling the group with Loïc Vliegen to stay ahead until the foot of the Muur van Geraardsbergen.

As Claeys (mechanical) and Alexander Kristoff (crash) had bad luck, Andrea Pasqualon was part of a group of strong riders on top of the Kapelmuur. The Italian rider then passed the top of the Bosberg, the last hill of the day with 15 kilometer to go, in third place.

Pasqualon reached the finish line in the first chasing group behind Van Aert and the Italian rider sprinted for second place. He finished eighth after almost five hours of effort.

“I felt that the acceleration of Van Aert on the Bosberg was a key moment, but I attacked just before with Benoot and I needed a couple of seconds to recover before trying to follow Van Aert. Even with the help of some compatriots in the chase he was too strong. The unfortunate crash of Alexander Kristoff gave me an opportunity to sprint for the podium, but I have to admit that I didn’t feel fresh anymore after my efforts. In addition, I also had some cramps in the final as a consequence of my crash in Algarve last week so I have to be satisfied with an eighth place. My presence in the final is a good signal for the next classics. For me it will be the GP Le Samyn, where I finished on the podium last year. This semi classic will be a very nice opportunity for our strong team!” - Andrea Pasqualon

“We can be satisfied with the result of Andrea Pasqualon and our collective performance. We anticipated as planned, with Loïc Vliegen joining the first attacks in the peloton. But, our day could have ended better if we would have been spared of bad luck. That’s of course part of the Flemish classics, but I feel like we had bad luck in all stages of the race. Especially the crash of Alexander Kristoff before the Muur van Geraardsbergen came at a bad moment. He received help from Sven Erik Bystrøm and Dimitri Claeys, who both had a mechanical, but the victory was already out of reach. Despite this bad luck, I already notice after this opening race that our team made a step forward compared to last year and that’s what we want to show as well tomorrow in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne with a strong line up around a very motivated Alexander Kristoff.” - Aike Visbeek (Performance Manager)

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Faun Ardèche Classic reports

We posted the report from winner Brandon McNulty's UAE Team Emirates with the results.

Here's the report from second-place Mauri Vansevenant's Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team:

This year’s Ardèche Classic had it all: a hard up-and-down course, a breakaway fighting to remain in the lead as much as possible, attacks galore from the favourites inside the final 50 kilometers, a World Champion oozing panache and a sensational Mauri Vansevenant, who put in a tremendous ride on the way to his first podium of the season.

Mauri Vansevenant takes second ahead of Sepp Kuss. Sirotti photo

Controlled by a number of teams, including Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, the race came to life with around 50 kilometers to go, when a furious tempo set at the front of the group reduced the buncto just 30-35 riders. Julian Alaphilippe was there and he turned on the afterburners, launching a stinging attack on the Mur du Cornas. Having further reduced the peloton, the World Champion made another move, this time on the Saint-Romain-de-Lerps, but he was countered by a handful of riders.

A brief lull in proceedings followed, and three riders jumped off the front as soon as the road went up again. Among them, Mauri Vansevenant, who together with his companions caught the last member of the day-long breakaway. The trio worked well together until the penultimate ascent, where Brendan McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) went clear and opened a small advantage which on the descent he padded out to almost 40 seconds.

Mauri chased hard to reduce the lead, but despite his best efforts he was left to fight for second, which he took with a big sprint on the finishing straight in Guilherand-Granges, racking up the team’s 22nd podium of the year: “It was a really hard race, also because things started early. The pace was quite high the whole race, there was never really a dull moment during the race. The moment McNulty attacked, it was just a bit too fast for me. I tried to follow, but I never managed to come closer. I can be happy with a second place and with my form, which is improving with every race.”

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