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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, March 25, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

'Do you pray for the senators, Dr. Hale?' No, I look at the senators and I pray for the country. - Edward Everett Hale


Cycling's 50 Triumphs and Tragedies

Les Woodland's book Cycling's 50 Triumphs and Tragedies: The rise and fall of bicycle racing's champions 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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Volta a Catalunya stage four team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Joao Almeida's UAE Team Emirates with the race results.

Here's the report from Bruno Amirail's Team Groupama-FDJ:

For the third time in four days on the Volta a Catalunya, Bruno Armirail attacked. However, it lasted much longer on Thursday than it did the previous days. After a hard fight at the start of the fourth stage, the Frenchman managed to enter the day’s breakaway, from which he even was the last man standing. After 130 kilometres in the front, the Groupama-FDJ rider was caught four kilometres from the summit of Boí Taüll. His Swiss mates Sébastien Reichenbach and Matteo Badilatti then took over and finished just outside the top-20.

Joao Almeida takes the stage.

The second and last mountain stage of the Volta a Catalunya was on the menu this Thursday. After the summit finish at La Molina, the riders were set to face the Boí Taüll climb, more than 2000m above sea level, at the end of stage four. Two other climbs preceded this final ascent, which made for 3500 meters of elevation gain over barely 166 kilometres of racing. The Groupama-FDJ cycling team wanted to tackle this tough program one step ahead by sending at least one man up front. After about forty kilometres and almost an hour of racing, Bruno Armirail eventually managed to take the right move.

“We wanted to be in the break”, he said. “I tried in the first climb, and we knew it was going to be done at that point because there was a headwind in the first thirty kilometres, in the valley. I tried several times and managed to get myself in front. Unfortunately, there weren’t many of us up there. It would have been better to have 3-4 more riders, or even ten (smiles)!”. In the lead, he got some nice company with Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Easy Post), Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo), Mark Donovan (DSM) as well as Mikel Bizkarra (Euskaltel-Euskadi). “They were not enough in the front, but there were also riders just fifty seconds back in the GC”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “So, we knew straight away that it was going to be difficult to make it, and that the bunch was going to maintain a small gap all day. But you can’t know that before entering the break. We need to try this kind of moves. Bruno had good legs, so it was a good thing for him and for the team to be in front”.

Throughout the stage, the gap never went over the three-minute mark, which further compromised the attack of the leading riders. “There was not a really good collaboration because the guys who were still placed overall were kind of looking at each other,” added Bruno. At the top of the second climb, the gap was only two minutes, and it was again reduced by half entering the last thirty kilometres. The Groupama-FDJ’s time trial specialist therefore went all-in before the final climb. “I wanted to attack to go as far as possible, and I felt pretty good,” he said. “I went with Mark Donovan, we rode a bit together then I wanted to take my own tempo in the last climb. I really like this kind of climbs because they are quite steady and are not too steep”.

At the bottom of Boí Taüll (13 km at 6%), Bruno Armirail immediately went alone, but the bunch was only forty-five seconds behind. “I didn’t have enough of a lead,” he said. “I knew it was going to be hard as soon as the main guys were going to attack. It would have been possible with two minutes at the bottom, but one minute was not enough”. However, the 27-year-old man kept his adventure going for a while. He was first caught by George Bennett with nine kilometres to go, but the bunch only got back on him four kilometres from the summit.

“I tried, and I will try again in order to finally succeed”, he claimed later. “My shape is good following my training camp at the Pic du Midi. I hope it will keep growing, but I can’t complain. I still have decent legs, I need to make the most of it, continue to attack, to believe in my chances, and try to get a stage win”. “He showed that he was in good shape”, said Philippe. “We are competitors above all, and we are here to win. That being said, it is nice to see him in this physical condition, and that’s only by trying like he did today that he will eventually make it”.

Once the Frenchman got caught, Sébastien Reichenbach and Matteo Badilatti tried to hang on as much as possible with the best. They crossed the line in 21st and 22nd positions. Reichenbach now finds itself 22nd overall before three open stages. “There may be room for breakaways, but everything will depend on the fight between Arkéa-Samsic and UAE Team Emirates for the bonus seconds”, concluded Philippe. “As far as we are concerned, we do not have many options. If we wait for the final, we will probably be beaten by riders faster than us. If we want to get a result, it will necessarily come from a breakaway”.

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Here's the Catalonia report from third-place Sergio Higuita's Bora-hansgrohe team:

Today's 166.7km queen stage began in La Seu d'Urgell and featured two steep climbs before the peloton crossed the line after a 13km, six percent final ascent to Boí Taüll. Unfortunately, BORA - hansgrohe had to start the stage without road captain Cesare Benedetti, who was suffering from a cold. On the last climb of the day several attacks ensued from the reduced peloton containing Sergio Higuita and Jai Hindley. Sergio managed to follow an attack from Carapaz, but a little later two riders closed in on the duo. The Colombian champion tried to attack again with one kilometer remaining, but was brought back and the stage was decided in an uphill sprint, where he placed third. He thereby moves up one place in the general classification and is now third overall.

"Today was a tough stage, right from the beginning. However, Jai and I were supported well by Toni, Martin and Ben, so I'd like to thank them for all their work. We knew that the final climb would be ridden very quickly. Right from the get go, there were several attacks, and I think that Jai and I reacted well to these. In the end, Carapaz tried to launch a move with 3 kilometres remaining, which was controlled by Almeida, who was very strong. In the finale, I tried to sprint as best as I could, but the others were simply stronger. However, I'm still happy with the result today and also that I've moved up to third overall." - Sergio Higuita

"Our day did unfortunately not start too well. We learned in the morning that our road captain Cesare Benedetti could not start for health reasons and as a precautionary measure, which of course hit us hard. However, the rest of the guys did a fantastic job today. We went into the race with conservative tactics and tried to support Sergio as our leader as best we could. Martin Laas played a particularly important role, as one of the few sprinters here in the peloton who kept coming back after the mountains and was able to bring food and hydration to the guys. The other helpers also supported Sergio fantastically until the last climb. At the end he even had another helper at his side in Jai Hindley, and with his support he was able to race for the stage win. In the final sprint, Sergio unfortunately had a bit of bad luck, slipping away a bit, and was unable to get into an optimal position heading into the last corner. But we are happy with his third place and are looking ahead confidently to the coming days here in Catalonia." - Christian Pömer, Sports Director


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Coppi-Bartali Week stage three team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Ben Tulett's INEOS Grenadiers team with the results.

Here's the Coppi-Bartali race report from Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl:

More than 3000 meters of elevation gain, a highly selective route that gave little respite and no fewer than twelve climbs crammed into the 147km leg held in San Marino – there were plenty of ingredients to reshuffle the general classification, and the stage didn’t disappoint.

Ben Tullet wins the stage. Sirotti photo

Mattia Cattaneo was the first rider to attack, and the 32-year-old opened a good gap on the peloton, from where other riders soon jumped, joining the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Italian on Serra San Marco, the hardest ascent of the day. Together, they carved out a six-minute advantage, which prompted a reaction from the bunch, who increased the tempo and began pulling back time on the many climbs of the stage.

With 50 kilometers to go, Cattaneo put in a speculative attack that ensured him a good gap of almost 50 seconds over his breakaway companions, unable to react. Things looked good for the man from Bergamo, who along the way picked up important points in the KOM competition, but the heavy climbing took its toll on him, and after being caught by one rider 25 kilometers from the finish, he was then dropped and reabsorbed by the bunch. A small group emerged by the time they reached the base of the last climb, and Ben Tulett rode clear to take the stage victory.

Mattia rolled over the line some minutes later, content with the effort he put in during the stage: “I had nothing to lose at the start of the day, so I thought why not go in the breakaway. I felt good there and sensing some lull at one point, I decided to attack. It didn’t work out, but I have no regrets. There are two more stages left here and we are keen on trying something until the end. I am glad to be back with the team and get back in shape with every race day I complete.”

And here's the Team Jumbo-Visma report:

Team Jumbo-Visma has left a strong impression in the third stage of the Coppi e Bartali. During the queen stage, which started and finished in San Marino, Koen Bouwman, Johannes Staune-Mittet and Gijs Leemreize were able to keep up with the best climbers.

On the first climb of the day, eleven riders managed to break away from the peloton. The group got a five-minute margin but saw their lead diminish rapidly when the peloton started accelerating on the penultimate climb in San Marino. The last remaining riders were caught before the final pass, and an elite group of about 25 riders battled for the day's victory.

The British rider Ben Tulett won the stage. Bouwman finished thirteenth, Staune-Mittet and Leemreize finished nineteenth and twenty-second. "It was again a grueling scratch race with many altimetres", sports director Sierk Jan de Haan said.

"Our plan was to not waste any energy and stay in a good position in the peloton for as long as possible. It was the right tactic, as Koen, Johannes and Gijs all went up with the best 25 riders. Considering the huge field of riders, that’s a great achievement."


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Team Bahrain Victorious to race the E3 Saxo Bank Classic

Here’s the team’s update:

Bahrain Victorious continues the Flemish Classics campaign with the next WorldTour race in Flanders: the 64th E3 Saxo Bank Classic on Friday, 25th March.
The event is also known as the mini “Ronde van Vlaanderen” as the route features several climbs that the peloton will also face in the upcoming Monument Tour of Flanders.

Kasper Asgreen won the E3 last year.

Starting and finishing in Harelbeke, over the 203.9km course, the riders will shoot 17 hills (hellingen); among them are the famous Kapelberg, Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont, with the Tiegemberg as the last one, at 183.9km before the fast final towards the flat finish.

Fresh off the back of his Milano-Sanremo win, Matej Mohorič will lead the team, and he will look for a good result and test himself ahead of the Tour of Flanders.

Michal Golas, Bahrain Victorious Sports Director: “We traditionally consider the E3 a mini Flanders, but I’d not say it’s only a rehearsal or a warming up of that Monument. It is an important race in itself, and there are several strong contenders at the start looking forward to winning it. We will try to be among the best tomorrow as we have our leader Matej in excellent shape and also very motivated. Our co-leader will be Fred Wright, and our mission is to be competitive in the final, where we’re expecting a small leading group will fight for the win. We want other riders to support them at best, in each phase of the race, with Jonathan Milan and Kamil Gradek helpers in the first part and for the lead out in the key sectors of the race.

"In such a demanding course, where roads are narrow, twisting and cobbled, good positioning will be crucial. We will also have an added value as the great experience of our road captain Heinrich Haussler to organize the team throughout the day. Filip Maciejuk and Yukiya Arashiro will be ready to help as well. We will be looking forward to this race to assess the overall condition not only of our riders but of other rival teams as well, a week before De Ronde”.

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