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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, October 10, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

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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 in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Paris-Tour race reports

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

Here's the report from winner Arnaud Démare's Team Groupama-FDJ:

He did it again. A year after his first victory on Paris-Tours, achieved after a superb ride, Arnaud Démare again conquered the French Classic this Sunday to complete his season in the most beautiful way. At the end of the Avenue de Grammont, and following a great team race, the former French champion outsprinted a small bunch to get his seventh win of the season. Doing so, he also took the Groupama-FDJ cycling team’s tally to nineteen victories, one week before the official end of the season on the Chrono des Nations.

Arnaud Démare wins in Tours. ASO photo

While part of the professional bunch ended its season on Saturday on the shores of Lake Como, another part was preparing to do the same this Sunday through the vineyard tracks of Touraine. As in recent years, the 116th edition of Paris-Tours included gravel sectors in addition to the usual climbs. It’s on a similar course that Arnaud Démare brilliantly took the win in 2021, after an offensive race.

In good form, the French sprinter then took the start as defending champion and with all the eyes staring at him. But also with a great squad. “We knew we had a good chance of winning and a strong team,” said Frédéric Guesdon. “We also had the outgoing winner who was super motivated”. A five-man breakaway including Jonas Abrahamsen (UnoX), Romain Cardis (Auber-St Michel 93), Clément Carisey (GO Sport-Roubaix Lille Métropole), Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hôtels-KTM) and Maël Guégan (UC Nantes Atlantiques) first took the lead on Sunday while the bunch let the gap get to six minutes shortly after the halfway point.

“The race was really quiet at the start”, said Stefan Küng. “There was not much wind and not too many dangers. There were still a few crashes that we had to avoid”. Unfortunately, Lewis Askey was involved in one of them seventy kilometres from the finish, just before entering the first vineyard sector. The race then opened up and Olivier Le Gac got in the mix by joining a chasing group. “My role was to be attentive from the first sectors”, indicated the Breton. “We know that there is often a group that goes out quite early and goes far in this race. We wanted to keep Stefan and Arnaud for the final”.

Over the kilometres, Olivier Le Gac got closer to the morning breakaway with Clément Russo, Alex Kirsch, Kim Heiduk and Sam Bennett. At the back, his teammates tried to cover him as best they could. “We wanted to be present from the start so as not to be caught behind and have to pull”, explained Stefan. “As a team, we did a great race. With Jake and Kevin, we followed the moves, which allowed Arnaud to save his energy”. “We also entered the chasing groups to get a head start, because we know that a lot can happen on these roads”, confirmed Frédéric Guesdon.

The peloton remained for a long time just a minute away from Olivier Le Gac’s group, which itself got back slowly to the leading group. “I already had cramps forty kilometres from the finish, so I did less work than the other riders in the breakaway”, explained Olivier. “I didn’t want to go flat out and help the others go far, and then be dropped in the end. Eventually, in the last climb, I still had a bit of energy to follow the attacks”. In this final hill, the Frenchman went away with Heiduk and Kirsch, and bridged across to Abrahamsen, the last rider from the initial break, just seven kilometres from the finish. Behind them, the bunch still included some forty riders. “It really hurt on the sectors, but the pace eased off every time we got back on the road”, explained Arnaud. “I think that’s because the right teams were in the breakaway. Everyone was happy with the situation. We didn’t really know what to do either. We didn’t want to pull behind Olivier, we wanted to trust him”.

In the lead, the Breton also found himself in a hard position, and with an advantage of barely fifteen seconds with five kilometres to go. “I was hoping to fight for the win, I would have liked to get a nice result”, he said. “I had confidence in my sprint, but having Arnaud behind, I wasn’t sure about what to do. I didn’t completely believe in my chances. I told myself that I was going to gamble a bit with my rivals in the break to keep a little something for the sprint”.

However, the peloton really took on the chase in the closing kilometres through teams that still had the numbers. “The other teams had to bring back Olivier”, noted Stefan. “It allowed us to save our energy a little, especially since I was the last rider with Arnaud”. “In these final kilometres, it proved very useful to have Olivier up front”, underlined Frédéric.

In the end, the bunch got the best of the leading quartet, which was caught about 1,500 meters from the line. A reduced bunch sprint was therefore looming on the long Avenue de Grammont. “A sprint after 200 kilometres of an attrition race is not the same thing as a sprint after a quiet race”, claimed Stefan. “I trusted Arnaud, and he trusted me. When Trek-Segafredo did not continue their effort after the last corner (750m), I had to start mine and I told myself that I had to hold on until the last 200 meters”. “I know that it is better to be right in front and not touch the brakes than to be behind and try to make your way”, added the Frenchman. “I trusted Stefan. I know that he is very resistant and that he could do a long sprint. I just let a small gap behind his wheel in case some riders would launch from afar”.

When the sprint really opened, about 250 meters from the line, the former French champion immediately jumped on the wheels, quickly took the lead, and maintained his first position until the finish line. He then took a convincing victory ahead of Sam Bennett and was able to scream out his joy. “I did a great sprint to take the win”, commented Arnaud with a broad smile. “The home straight felt so long to me. I was really afraid to get caught after my recent seven second places. I gave everything until the very end, and I managed to win. If I had to win one race, it had to be this one. I’m really happy to finish with a victory. It’s a completely different scenario than last year and it’s not at all what I expected this morning. It also shows that I can be up there in several ways. We were expected, and we had a superb team race. It closes the season perfectly. That’s great“.

“We take the start of every race to win, but it’s always nice to win the last one”, confirmed Frédéric. “It’s Arnaud’s victory, but it’s above all a team victory. It was our tactic today. Arnaud was not the only protected rider, everyone had their chance, we trusted the whole team”. Olivier Le Gac was an example of this. “I’m surely a bit disappointed from a personal point of view, but Nono won and that’s what we came for, so that’s the most important thing,” added the Breton. “Arnaud brilliantly finished it off”, concluded his lead-out man for the day, Stefan Küng. “It’s great to win the last road race. We had an extraordinary campaign in one-day races, we were always up there. We have a young team and those of the Conti are coming! I’m already looking forward to doing the Classics with them next year.” The Swiss time trialist will conclude his season next Sunday on the Chrono des Nations and try to bring the twentieth win of the year to Groupama-FDJ.

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Here's the report from second-place Edward Theuns' team Trek-Segafredo:

The last races of a long season can be tough. It’s been almost a year of training and racing and the off-season beckons. The riders need a strong mental approach to push aside thoughts of sandy beaches, time with friends and family, and the extra-curricular pleasures that have been put on hold for months to focus on the bike.

Edward Theuns and Trek-Segafredo came into Paris-Tours with plenty of late-season motivation and a solid plan that paid off with a podium in a fall classic that has opened more opportunities with the addition of gravel sectors.

The action kicked off at the start of the gravel, 60 kilometers from the end, and never relented. The escapees – Alex Kirsch playing a key antagonist in a late move – were finally caught 1500 meters from the line and a reduced bunch sprint unfolded.

It was heartbreak for Kirsch, who had the green light to ride for a result, after helping power a five-man chase group to catch the early breakaway, and then try and hold off the bunch in the final kilometers.

But Edward Theuns, with help from Toms Skujins, mended Kirsch’s disappointment, paying back the Luxembourg cyclist’s hard work with a fantastic sprint.

It was a close finish.

Eddie almost stole victory from pre-race favorite Arnaud Demare.  It was a worthy podium. The fall classics like Paris-Tours are late in the season but are finding their niche in a full calendar with exhilarating action over gravel roads.

“I have had good form in the past weeks, and we have a good team here to follow attacks, so I had to try and save myself for a sprint, and the other guys could try and go in moves. Alex did a great job by going in a good group pretty early when the gravel sectors started.  They got a good advantage and we were behind trying to cover all other moves that were going.

"I had a mechanical for a couple of sectors and it took me some time to regain contact with the bunch first of all, and then to try and move back up [to the front] of the bunch. It cost me a lot of energy and I was a bit on the limit in last 20-30kms. But I knew the finale was a bit more flat so I could recover a bit. Toms picked me up in the back of the bunch with five kilometers to go and kept me really well in the front to the last corner.

"I let Demare pass in the last corner to try and come from his wheel and I didn’t have enough energy to go over him. I am a bit disappointed to not grab the victory but on the other hand I am happy with the second spot here at the end of the season.

"I knew the from is good but it’s not easy to beat Demare. He’s one of the best sprinters in the world, I think. I tried, I was in a good position, but in the end I just didn’t have enough power left in the legs.

"Japan Cup is next and maybe that’s not the race that suits me the best, but the form is good and the morale is still good, and we have some good climbers there.  I will give my best for the team in the last race of the season. Then after I take some time to recover and regain energy to look towards the next season.”

It was not the last race for Trek-Segafredo. Make sure to join us for one more week of races in Italy and Japan before we close the book on a successful season.

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Here's the report from third-place Sam Bennett's Team Bora-hansgrohe:

The last race of the season for BORA - hansgrohe was today’s autumn classic Paris-Tours in France. 213.5 km between Chartres in the southwest of the French capital and Tours were on the program on the season’s final day of racing. With a total of 10 gravel sections and 8 punchy ramps, the main difficulties of the day came within the last 70km.

Racing in the vineyards.

An early breakaway of five riders was able to gain more than six minutes throughout the race. 60km from the finish, right at the first gravel section, Sam Bennett and K. Heiduk broke away from the peloton and started chasing the leading group. While Bennett, after an extremely strong performance, was brought back by the peloton ten kilometers from the finish, the breakaway’s remaining riders were caught in the final kilometre. Ultimately it all came down to a bunch sprint from a significantly reduced peloton where Sam Bennett was able to take 3rd and wrap up the season with a podium place. Arnaud Démare claimed the victory today.

“I saw the opportunity to ride the gravel sections without too much fighting and I was lucky to have a strong group with me. We rode a good steady pace without many accelerations. We had a good recon yesterday which was crucial for today. In the end I’m super happy to finish the season on a high and on the podium.“ - Sam Bennett

“We didn't want to rely on a bunch sprint today, so we tried to get up front with Sam Bennett right from the first gravel sector. He put in a really strong race in the chase group, while his teammates in the peloton paid close attention and were able to follow every attack. Of course, a win would have been possible and nice, but we are more than happy with a podium at the end of the season.” - Jean-Pierre Heynderickx, Sports Director

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Team BikeExchange-Jayco reports on Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen

Here’s the team’s report:

Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen blasted to third place today at the Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen in Belgium, after a hard 175km race. The result highlights the 29-year-old’s late season consistency with the result today making it his fifth podium finish in the last month.

After a breakaway of seven riders animated most of the day, Team BikeExchange-Jayco took responsibility, contributing to the chase to keep the gap at a controllable distance along with other teams and worked to bring the race back together for a bunch sprint.

Taking over the workload in the final, lead-out man Luka Mezgec helped to position Groenewegen for the fast and furious sprint and the Tour de France stage winner surfed the wheels with his classy style. In the end, Groenewegen had to settle for third place, concluding his impressive and successful 2022 season.

Tristan Hoffmann – Sport Director:
“Today was a hard race, from the start seven guys went in front to make the breakaway and we helped to control the race with two other teams. We had Luke Durbridge riding at the front for us, then in the final, Jack Bauer took over and the other guys put Dylan in a good position. Unfortunately, two riders were a little bit faster in the sprint, so it was third for Dylan. In the end, it was a good day of racing, and it was the final race of the season for most of the riders here so nice to end with a podium finish.”

2022 Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen results:
1. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 3hr 42min 6sec
2. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) s.t.
3. Dylan Groenewegen (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) s.t.

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