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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, May 1, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

No one should be ashamed to admit he is wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Alexander Pope

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Tour de Romandie Stage Four team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Sergio Higuita's Bora-hansgrohe team with the results.

Here's the report from GC leader Rohan Dennis' Team Jumbo-Visma:

Rohan Dennis has retained his leader's jersey in the Tour de Romandie. In the queen stage, Team Jumbo-Visma controlled the course from start to finish. The Swiss stage race’s final climb trial awaits on Sunday.

Rohan Dennis (shown at the start of stage two) goes into the final stage holding a 15-second lead over second-place Juan Ayuso. Sirotti photo

A group of twelve escapees gathered a four-minute lead. Gijs Leemreize, Timo Roosen and Michel Hessmann were strong today. The trio rode in the lead of the pack for several kilometres. Thanks to the trio, the leading group never got a big lead. Classification leader Dennis was surrounded by several teammates throughout the stage.

As the challenging stage’s final climbs approached, Robert Gesink, Steven Kruijswijk and Sepp Kuss took control of the race. With a strong effort, the latter ensured a considerably thinned peloton on the last climb. Dennis showed that he wanted to go for the stage victory in the last kilometres. In an explosive sprint on an ascending road, the Australian finished eleventh, three seconds behind day winner Sergio Higuita. Dennis is fifteen seconds ahead of his first competitor in the general classification.

“The entire team rode extremely well”, sports director Merijn Zeeman said. “The stage went completely according to plan. Michel and Timo rode along with the best, well into the stage. Then Gijs took over and he did so with flying colours. Then on the last climb, it was up to Robert, Steven and Sepp to bring Rohan to the finish well. It is unbelievably beautiful to see how Rohan holds up among the best climbers. Tomorrow we will do everything to win the Tour de Romandie with Rohan.”

Here's the report from third-place Juan Ayuso's UAE Team Emirates:

Young Juan Ayuso put in a mature display to take 3rd place on stage 4 of the Tour de Romandie which took the riders from Aigle to Zinal (Val d’Anniviers) (180.1km).

You can see Juan Ayuso in his UAE jersey just behind winner Sergio Higuita. Sirotti photo

On the uphill sprint to the line it was Marc Hirschi who sacrificed himself to pull back the lone leader Einar Rubio (Movistar) in the closing kilometre to tee-up Ayuso for the gruelling finish.

The spoils went to Bora Hansgrohe who finished first and second with Sergio Higuita and Aleksandr Vlasov respectively.

Ayuso’s third place moves him up to 2nd on the general classification with one stage remaining and he will wear the white jersey as best young rider.

Ayuso: “I’m very happy with this result and the way the team rode today, I think we worked well together. I had a mechanical in the middle and Finn did a great job to tow me back to the front and then when there was still a rider out in front a the end Hirschi put in a huge turn to bring it back.

I tried my best in the sprint but 3rd was all I could get. It’s great to be in second now but it’s very tight and things could all change tomorrow and I could lose placing or potentially even gain one so we will see. Also to wear the best young riders jersey is really satisfying at a big race like this.”

Tomorrow stage 5 will will see the race conclude with a time trial from Aigle to Villars (15.8km).

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Here's the Tour de Romandie report from Thibaut Pinot's Team Groupama-FDJ:

The queen stage of the Tour de Romandie, on Saturday, certainly caused some damage. Not as much as some had hoped though. Despite a large amount of elevation gain and many categorized climbs, it all came down to a final sprintbetween the GC contenders at the Zinal summit finish. In shape, Thibaut Pinot joined in the fight in the last few hundred meters but eventually had to settle for fifth place. His teammate Sébastien Reichenbach (8th) crossed the line in the same time, and climbed to seventh overall ahead of the final, uphill time trial.

The stage four profile certainly looks daunting.

On paper, the menu looked quite hard. As its great mountain stage, the Tour de Romandie had planned 180 kilometres of racing featuring more than 4000 meters of elevation gain onSaturday. It all started at eleven o’clock from Aigle, near theWorld Cycling Centre. It didn’t take long to see the day’s breakaway develop with no less than twelve men. Quinten Hermans (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert), Oscar Rodriguez (Movistar), James Know (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl), Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) and a few others were allowed to go quite early, and they managed to get a four-minute gap before tackling the first climb of the day, after 60 kilometres.

The bunch got a little closer at that point, but then accelerated a lot more when the riders reached the bottom of the second climbtowards Les Pontis. Bahrain-Victorious tried to make the race harder, brought the peloton back to less than a minute from the fugitives, but stopped his action after just a few minutes. The bunch then calmed things down after this unsuccessful attempt. Therefore, as they headed towards the “final ascent”, made of several climbs, the riders left from the breakawaycould enjoy a decent gap of about three minutes again.

It was not until approaching the second time up to Les Pontis, the first climb of the final ascent, that the peloton really got going again. The gap logically narrowed and the Groupama-FDJ cycling team contributed to it, as Matteo Badilatti took a few turns at the front. When the final categorized climb started, Izagirre and Rodriguez only had a minute left. The bunch, more and more reduced, eventually caught them witheight kilometres to go.

At that point, Rudy Molard, Thibaut Pinot and Sébastien Reichenbach were still there in a group made of twenty riders or so. In the final slopes leading to Zinal, Rohan Dennis’ teammates kept things under control, as Einer Rubio took a small gap. After a last flat portion, the road started to go up again at the flamme rouge. The favourites looked at each other, attacked one another, and the Colombian attacker was caught 300 meters from the finish.The sprint between the big guys started a few moments later.

In a good position, Thibaut Pinot was slightly boxed-in as he launched his effort and could not hold the wheel of winner Sergio Higuita. He therefore had to settle for fifth on the line.“Although there were 4,000 meters of elevation gain, we didn’t feel them, and it was more of a mid-mountain stage”, said Thibaut. “On top of that, there was a headwind. That’s a pity. The course is a bit frustrating, but we have to deal with it. I had good legs today but there was not much we could do. So, we decided to go for the sprint and I did not miss much.I’m still happy with today’s feelings”.

His teammate Sébastien Reichenbach finished right behind him, in eighth position, also in the time of the winner. On home soils, the Swiss climber therefore did what he had to do. “Personally, I achieved my goal today,” he said. “Being thereon GC, I had to follow the favourites above all. We had Thibaut for the stage win. I saw him from close, and he had really good legs. I think he will have regrets about the sprint. We are a bit disappointed with that today, but we were three riders in the final. It was a great race as a team, and we dealt with today’s profile”.

“When we looked this morning, the wind was expected to come from the back and was not supposed to change. However, the whole final climb ended up being with headwind”, added Philippe Mauduit. “Then, we know how it works in these cases. If there are not too many gradients and there is a headwind, it is even more difficult tomake a gap. That being said, it’s part of the race, we have to accept it. On the other hand, it was interesting to see the team’s commitment and to be up there with the best. We did what we could with the condition we had”.

On Saturday evening, Sébastien Reichenbach sits seventh overall, thirty-seven seconds behind Rohan Dennis, while Rudy Molard is 14th, fifty-five seconds away. “I would obviously like to keep my top–10 tomorrow”, added Sébastien. “The time trial is not my favourite discipline, but with the climb, it can suit me a bit more. I do not know what I’ll be able to do, but I will give everything, and we will see tomorrow evening”. “Keeping the top-10 is doable for Seb”, agreed Philippe. “I also think that Thibaut wants to test himself on the time trial, as he wasn’t able to fully use his legs today”.

And here's the Tour of Romandie report from James Knox's Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl:

James Knox showed tons of grit and determination on the queen stage of the Swiss race as he produced a strong ride – his most impressive since returning from injury last month – on the relentless queen stage between Aigle and Zinal. The appetizing course contained more than 3000 vertical meters and six classified climbs, most of them stacked in the last 90 kilometers, and lent itself to long-range attacks, but the GC favourites decided to wait until the final 400 meters to attempt something.

James Knox racing in the 2019 Vuelta a España. Sirotti photo

For his part, James delivered an awesome load of work in the large breakaway group, which he split with a well-timed attack the first time up Les Pontis. Joined by four men, the Brit continued to put himself in the pain cave, contributing to the small group’s three-minute advantage over a bunch that properly ignited the chase on Les Ziettes d’en Bas, the fourth ranked ascent of the 180.1km stage.

As they began climbing Les Pontis again, Knox accelerated and made an important selection, only two riders matching his surge in pace. Eventually, the valiant and generous effort produced during the entire stage began being felt in the legs, and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s rider was caught by the reduced peloton some 15 kilometers from the finish, where Sergio Higuita (Bora-hansgrohe) prevailed.

“It was a very difficult day. I didn’t have any stress at the start, so I thought it would be fun to go up the road. It wasn’t a challenge for the stage, it was more to test the legs a bit. I am happy with how I felt, especially after my crash on the second day of the race. In the end, I didn’t have the legs to remain at the front, as I was completely empty, but I am happy with my ride and with the confidence it gives me for the next races”, James said at the finish.

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Biniam Girmay signs new contract with Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert

Here’s the team’s release:

Biniam Girmay Hailu stays loyal to Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux. The 22 year old Eritrean rider signed a new long term contract with the Belgian team until the end of 2026.

Since his arrival in 2021, the rider from Asmara performed incredibly well. He entered cycling history by winning a silver medal at the U23 World Championships in Leuven and became the first African rider to win a major race thanks to his victory in Ghent-Wevelgem in March, at the age of only 21.

Biniam Girmay wins the 2022 Ghent-Wevelgem. Sirotti photo

This historical success intervened two days after an impressive performance at the E3 Classic Harelbeke, his very first Flemish classic in which he finished fifth. One week earlier, he took twelfth place in Milano-Sanremo whereas he was participating in his first ever Monument.

Biniam Girmay combines his qualities of a classics specialist with his fast legs, who enabled him to win the Trofeo Alcúdia on his second race day of the season, before finishing three times among the best six riders in his first Paris-Nice. Last year, his leg speed also enabled him to defeat his competitors in the Classic Grand Besançon Doubs, his first victory on European soil.

His performances in season 2021 were crowned with the overall victory in the UCI Africa Tour, meaning that he was the African rider with most UCI points. He was also awarded the title of African cyclist of the year for the second time in a row.
This Sunday, Biniam Girmay will return into competition one month after his historical success in Ghent-Wevelgem, on the occasion of the classic Eschborn-Frankfurt, alongside four-time winner Alexander Kristoff.

“Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux is my family, there’s no other place I would rather be. I’m as motivated as ever to defend the team’s colors until at least 2026. I feel happy in this team and that’s what counts most, because that’s what enables me to give the best of myself. There’s also this shared ambition, all team members head in the same direction with the aim of reaching new milestones each year. These dynamics push everyone to surpass themselves. Another factor that distinguishes Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux from any other team is its management. From the first day, the Performance cell listened to my needs and showed its confidence by establishing a tailored race program and a long term plan. They believed in my capabilities of performing in the most prestigious races and I’m very grateful for that. I’m convinced that my compatriots will be happy to hear that my future is intertwined with the team who gave me the opportunity to write important pages of African cycling history. It is a winning combination which will hopefully lead to many more unforgettable moments in the next years!” - Biniam Girmay Hailu

“Continuing the adventure we started last summer with Biniam Girmay was a matter of course. We have always believed in his capabilities and his talent and this is probably what convinced him to join our project last year when he had to reorientate his career. From his first pedal strokes in our colors we have been able to welcome him as a family and at the same time offer him a long term plan and a performance oriented structure, thanks to our members, our experts, our technical partners etc. I was convinced that he would be the first African winner of a major classic. But he has been faster than our predictions, so much the better! We are proud that we can continue working with Biniam until at least the end of 2026. This offers us nice perspectives in line with our long term philosophy, which has always been based on long relationships with our partners. Let’s not forget that Biniam is only 22 years old and that we cannot cut corners in his development. I’m convinced that we can surround him with the right people and a good team and that Biniam and our other riders will offer us many more exceptional emotions!” - Jean-François Bourlart (CEO)

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Lotto Soudal’s Arnaud De Lie looks back on the start of the 2022 season

Here’s the team’s post:

On Sunday 1 May, Lotto Soudal will be in Germany to race the 59th Eschborn-Frankfurt. During this 184 kilometres long WorldTour one-day race, the peloton will face a tough course with ascents of amongst others the Feldberg and Mammolshain. But as the final climb is situated at still 40 kilometres to go, the sprint teams have plenty of time left to organize things. The past has also shown that Eschborn-Frankfurt is first and foremost a sprinters’ race.

Arnaud De Lie wins the 2022 Volta Limburg Classic. Sirotti photo

In a possible sprint scenario, Arnaud De Lie will be Lotto Soudal’s chosen man. He will be part of the line-up including amongst others Filippo Conca, Thomas De Gendt, Rüdiger Selig and Maxim Van Gils. The two recent signings of Lotto Soudal, Carlos Barbero and Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg will wear the race suit of the Belgian WorldTeam for the first time.

The 20-year-old neo-pro Arnaud De Lie had with three victories (Trofeo Palma, GP Monseré and Volta Limburg Classic) and places of honnour in amongst others Nokere Koerse and Classic Brugge-De Panne a fabulous start to the season. After a short period of rest, he worked towards the next period of races, which begins with Eschborn-Frankfurt on Sunday. De Lie looks back on his first months as a pro and already looks ahead to what’s to come.

“I am really surprised about what I have already performed, I didn’t expect this right away. At the age of 19, you’re not supposed to immediately be up there but I’m happy that I could prove otherwise with three victories and several nice places of honour. There were no specific expectations on a sports level during my first year as a pro, it was all about learning as much as possible. That is why I am really proud of what I’ve showed in the first part of the season”, begins Arnaud De Lie.

‘I’ve had several days without the bike and I helped out on the farm to take my mind a bit off cycling. Afterwards, I started training again with a lot of motivation and I continued to build on the good base to prepare for the upcoming races. I chose to stay in my familiar environment and train on the beautiful roads in and around the Belgian province of Luxemburg.”

“Eschborn-Frankfurt, with several tough climbs, is a race which could suit me well on paper but it remains to be seen how the legs will respond to that short period of rest. In any case, I want to do well. The race usually comes down to a sprint and I hope to be still part of the bunch towards the final kick.”

“In the next months I want to grasp any opportunity to learn but every race is also a good way to set a nice performance. There are still lots of beautiful races to come for me. The Tro Bro Léon and GP Morbihan should in theory suit me because I always performed well on Breton roads while racing in the youth ranks. With its unpaved roads, Tro Bro Léon is an atypical race but it’s a part of modern cycling which I really love. Furthermore, I really look forward to for example the Brussels Cycling Classic, but it’s still a bit too early to talk about that”, concludes Arnaud De Lie.

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