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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, January 5, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life. - Neil deGrasse Tyson

Dirty Feet: Early days of the Tour de France

Les Woodland's book Dirty Feet: How the great unwashed created the Tour de France 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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2022 Vuelta a San Juan cancelled

The organizer of this important early season race posted this announcement:

"Good morning to all our dear followers. The organization of Vuelta a San Juan informs that due to the sanitary situation of the world, the region, the country and the province, with the different statistics that are known from the official entities and with the sole purpose of taking care the population health, it was decided to cancel the International Vuelta a San Juan."

Fernando Gaviria winning the last stage of the 2020 edition of the Vuelta a San Juan, the last time the race was run.

This Argentinian race was to be an important early season tune-up for riders planning to do well in the first big European races. Their teams are now scrambling to re-jigger their racing schedules. According to the race organizer, among those who were scheduled to come were Remco Evenpoel, Filippo Ganna, Elia Viviani, Chris Froome and Richard Carapaz.

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Tom Pidcock wins Gullegem cross race

Pidcock’s INEOS Grenadiers team posted this report:

Not belonging to any of the three major series, the Belgian standalone event provided a tough test, with the entire course covered in sticky mud.

Pidcock was able to battle back from an early puncture to rejoin Quinten Hermans at the head of the race. Fortune then swung towards the Grenadier as Hermans subsequently punctured, leaving the Brit able to control the gap to the finish.

The back to back victories come at a key point in the season, with Pidcock set to tackle one final event - Wednesday's X2O race in Herentals - before heading to Mallorca for a block of training with the team.

Tom Pidcock wins the Hulst Cyclcross a couple of days ago.

"In those conditions it's always hard," said Pidcock. "No matter how hard you go you never feel like you're going anywhere. After one lap I had a puncture. At first I didn't think it was a puncture, as I was running low pressures anyway. So I rode for quite a while on the puncture. Luckily I could get back to Quinten, get a gap and control the race.

"Quinten was going well. It was a hard day and the main thing was just making sure that it went without any difficulties, with tomorrow to think about as well. It should be one more good day's racing then away to training camp."

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Team Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert looks back on the 2021 season

The team posted this retrospective:

On December 23rd 2020, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux received the confirmation of its introduction in the World Tour peloton starting from season 2021. A historic moment for the team managed by Jean-François Bourlart, but equally hazardous as the announcement occurred rather shortly before the opening of the race calendar.

"We were aware that 2021 would be a transition year. This would be our first season in the World Tour indeed, however we already held a significant experience in the world of cycling. We are fortunate to rely on loyal partners who are fully committed to our project, and they were reinforced by new title partner Intermarché at the beginning of December 2020. We worked together with Gavin Chilcott and Jim Ochowicz, the historical owners of Continuum Sports and the World Tour license of Team CCC, to include as many riders and staff members as possible in our team. In addition, we hired Aike Visbeek to lead the Performance team and Valerio Piva came adding his experience to the team of sports directors. In a short period of time, we managed to strengthen the foundation of the structure in order to start our World Tour campaign with a long-term plan." - Jean-François Bourlart (CEO)

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert is presented before the start of the 2021 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

The professional peloton was not spared of the pandemic as several races were cancelled or rescheduled and race programs were turned upside down. On the sportive side, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert started with two top 10 finishes on French soil thanks to Odd Christian Eiking, in the GP La Marseillaise and the Etoile de Bessèges. The team remained faithful to its aggressive style of racing and joined breakaways in the Belgian classics. The first podium of the season took place at the GP Samyn in the beginning of March thanks to  Andrea Pasqualon.

Bad luck took its toll in the first World Tour races. The team couldn’t take advantage of the strong collective performance in the final of Omloop het Nieuwsblad as both Jonas Koch and Pasqualon were involved in a crash in the final hundred meters. On the first Monument of the season, Milan – San Remo, Taco van der Hoorn distinguished himself in a 270 kilometer breakaway and a solo on the Cipressa. But Loïc Vliegen was thrown out of the game after a crash in de descent of the Poggio while chasing the leaders.

Danny van Poppel took 4th place at the Scheldeprijs at the beginning of April and finished just outside the top 15 at the Tour of Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem. On stage races, South African rider Louis Meintjes lead the hopes of the team with an 18th place in the UAE Tour and a 23rd place in Paris-Nice. Belgian cyclocross specialist Quinten Hermans was among the revelations of the first part of the season, showing an attractive racing style in the Tour of the Basque Country and excelling in the Ardennes classics with a 14th place in the Flèche Wallonne. There, Maurits Lammertink resisted solo in the lead until the final kilometer. Vliegen and Lorenzo Rota animated Liège-Bastogne-Liège for more than 200 kilometers.

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"The start was difficult and we didn't reach the results we were hoping for in the beginning of the season, but sometimes it was only decided on little details. Without the crash in the final kilometer of Omloop het Nieuwsblad, Andrea Pasqualon probably sprinted to the podium. Loïc Vliegen was in the winning group in Milan - San Remo until he crashed into a barrier on the descent of the Poggio. Logically, criticism arises as the wait for victories takes longer. But we never panicked, we continued working hard without loosing our goals out of sight. With the unwavering support of our sponsors we were convinced that one day, things would go in our favor." - Jean-François Bourlart (CEO)

The first victory was edging closer in May, with two second places from Danny van Poppel in the sprint behind Sam Bennett in the Volta ao Algarve. Ahead of the Giro d’Italia, the line up lead by Valerio Piva and Steven De Neef promised to leave its mark on our first Grand Tour of the season. And thanks to Taco van der Hoorn, they backed up their words in remarkable fashion. On stage three, the Dutch rider reached Canale after a 190 kilometer breakaway hands in the air, as the winner. He offered the team its first victory of the season and the first ever Grand Tour stage win, in the team’s first Giro participation.

Taco van der Hoorn wins stage three of the 2021 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

The next day, Rein Taaramäe and Quinten Hermans launched a heroic act, that allowed the Estonian rider to dream about the pink jersey. All eight riders reached Milan after 21 stages, displaying constant offensive racing style, solid performances in the bunch sprints and an exceptional team spirit. The team left its first Giro with a stage win and nine top 10 finishes.

In June, as Danny van Poppel distinguished himself on Belgian soil with podium finishes in Dwars door het Hageland and the Belgium Tour, Taaramäe also offered a historic success by becoming Estonian time trial champion, the first title of the Belgian team in this discipline. The two German riders of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, Koch and Georg Zimmermann, performed remarkably in their national road race championships,  by finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively.

"Taco's stage victory was exceptional. Taking into account the beginning of the season, it had an even greater impact. Before, we showed on the bike that we deserved to race on the highest level, but only a victory was lacking. This is why, I repeat, we never ceased to believe, we never gave up as we were convinced that we were on the right track. This success was the necessary trigger, it was liberating. This enabled us to tackle the rest of the racing calendar with more serenity."- Jean-François Bourlart (CEO)

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