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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, July 2, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2023 Giro d'Italia

Love is never defeated, and I could add, the history of Ireland proves it. - Pope John Paul II

Tour de France: 2021

Bill & Carol McGann's book The Story of the Tour de France, 2021: The Little Cannibal Dominates is available in both Kindle eBook & audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Tour de France stage one team reports

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

Here's the report from second-place Simon Yates' Team Jay AlUla:

The Yates twins made headlines on an explosive first day of racing of the 2023 Tour de France after a thrilling duel, with Team Jayco AlUla leader Simon clinching second place to his twin brother in Bilbao.

Stage winner Adam Yates looks back to make sure his brother is well and truly beaten. Sirotti photo

Training and racing together for their whole lives, it was a spectacle to be remembered as the pair from Bury blew away their competition on the biggest stage, to go head-to-head for the stage win and the first yellow jersey of the Tour de France.

The twins attacked clear of a very select group of general classification favourites inside the final 10km and worked well together to extend their advantage out to almost 20 seconds, as the chase group stalled behind.

Fans watched on from around the world as the almost identical riders fought hard, riding one in front of the other in a synchronised position and riding style. The question was who could win? It was the first time that the pair had ever gone head-to-head whilst racing for different teams, a unique sight for all.

As the gradient increased towards the finish line, Simon continued to set the pace on the front, but when Adam came through inside the final 500 metres, Simon couldn’t respond as cramps began to set in on a hot and humid day in the Basque Country.

The Team Jayco AlUla rider claimed a memorable second place after the historic duel, showing his bittersweet feelings of elation for his twin brother and devastation to miss out on the stage win as he crossed the line. The team now quickly switch the focus to another very realistic chance of glory on tomorrow’s stage two.

Simon Yates (2nd):
“I have a fantastic relationship with my brother so I am really happy for him and I will stick it to him in the coming days.

"Over the top of the final climb there was a bit of cat and mouse, Adam came back, he sort of rolled to the front and gave Pogacar the nod as if to say ‘can I go? What’s the situation?’ So he’s gone and I’ve gone across to him and that’s all she wrote really.

"At first when he [Adam] saw it was me coming across he was put in a difficult situation maybe. He asked on the radio straight away ‘what can I do? Can I roll through?’ And at first he wasn’t pulling, but I kind of knew that anyway, I knew it was going to be tricky but at the same time I had to take an opportunity.

"Normally in a finish like that I wouldn’t beat Pogacar or Vingegaard or these guys in a real fast sprint, so to get away with Adam, I thought maybe there is a chance. It was pretty close, but I had some cramps in the final, it’s a really humid day, so unfortunately he got the better of me, but I’m sure there’s more chances coming up.”

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Here's the Tour report from fourth-place Thibaut Pinot's Team Groupama-FDJ:

Thibaut Pinot fourth, David Gaudu tenth, in a group battling for third place in Bilbao behind the Yates brothers (Adam winner, Simon second): the Tour de France 2023 is off to a good start for the climbers from the Groupama-FDJ cycling Team! The two managed to master the difficulty of the Côte de Pike, which served as their first big test on the opening stage. The July series is off to a promising start.

Groupama-FDJ rider Stefan Küng in the peloton as it races in Bilbao. Sirotti photo

From the moment they arrived at their base camp in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the riders of the Groupama-FDJ cycling Team have been eager to pin on their first bibs of the 2023 Tour de France. They were also fully aware of the exceptional nature of the first race weekend of this 110th edition, with spicy routes that inevitably forced the peloton to be extremely vigilant.

The first act of the July show, a loop around Bilbao, offered five KOM climbs – the first as early as the thirteenth kilometre; the last, above all, just ten kilometres from the finish line. But before approaching the key ascent that was the Côte de Pike (2 kms at 10%), it was a traditional scenario that set the pace for most of the day. Lilian Calmejane (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Simon Guglielmi (Arkea-Samsic), Pascal Eenkhorn (Lotto-Dstny), Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X) and Valentin Ferron (TotalEnergies) formed the very first breakaway of these three weeks of competition, but never had more than a 2’30” advantage.

Fifty kilometres before the finish, the leading five were reviewed by the front of the peloton in which the riders from the Groupama-FDJ cycling Team had always remained in a good position, in the wheel of the very focused rookie Lars van den Berg. “The group played out today. The guys did what they had to do, and they did it well,” commented Philippe Mauduit. “We opted to give Valentin and Thibaut a bit of a break at the start of the race and to rely on the other five riders, who were at David’s service throughout the first part of the course”. “The team worked really well,” added David Gaudu. “We always stayed in the front”.

The penultimate difficulty of the day, the Côte de Vivero, then arrived. The set tempo eliminated several candidates to stage victory. David Gaudu, assisted by Thibaut Pinot and Valentin Madouas, reached the summit in an excellent position. “It was at this point that David was able to call on their help and they could support him very well“, explained Philippe Mauduit.

On the descent of the Côte de Vivero, the first highlight of the Tour de France 2023 occurred: the crashes of Enric Mas (Movistar Team) and Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost). The former was forced to withdraw and the latter conceded more than fifteen minutes. Nevertheless, the peloton at the foot of the famous Côte de Pike was still well-packed. David Gaudu was in the right wheels at the start of the first slopes and then got into the fight, only to fall into a second group at the end of the climb, just behind a trio made up of Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates Team), Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Victor Lafay (Cofidis).

Thibaut Pinot, meanwhile, picked off his rivals one by one to also take his place in the right wagon. “I wasn’t in a great position at the front,” he admitted. “I didn’t want to make an unnecessary effort, but if I had to do it again, I’d go about it differently, because I wasn’t able to make the jump until the track opened up.”

The brothers Adam (UAE Team Emirates) and Simon Yates (Jayco-Alula) put in a joint attack that would prove victorious for Adam a few kilometres further on in Bilbao. “I was so washed out at the top that I couldn’t follow them,” analysed David Gaudu. “They seized the opportunity”. Together in a group with the main Tour de France favourites on the descent to the finish of the day, David Gaudu and Thibaut Pinot had already achieved the essential for such a demanding first act: being in the game, having been able to follow the attacks in a breathtakingly explosive exercise.

However, Thibaut didn’t want to settle for that, launching the sprint for third place and only being edged out in the end by Tadej Pogacar. He ended up fourth on the stage and also fourth overall, while David Gaudu was tenth. “It was a race of usury and the strongest riders found themselves in front at the end“, summed up the man from Bretagne.

“It’s obviously a good first stage for us today, even if this morning we were dreaming of even better than fourth place,” explained Philippe Mauduit. “It’s great that Thibaut and David are with the best. We’re off to a good start in the Tour de France and it’s always important to get there”. Thibaut Pinot was in a similar vein: “It’s been a good day. An almost perfect day. We’d have liked to go for victory but the two Yates brothers were very strong up front. With my fourth place, we’ll have the car well-positioned behind the peloton tomorrow, which may not seem like much but it’s a good thing.”

The second stage will see the riders travel from Vitoria-Gasteiz to San Sebastian, with the Jaizkibel (8.1km at 5.3%) sixteen kilometres from the finish of the Clasica San Sebastian’s flagship climb. “It’s possible that there will still be a big fight,” announced David Gaudu. “But sprinters like Mads Pedersen, or riders like Mathieu van der Poel, will undoubtedly want to get past the last difficulty.” For the Groupama-FDJ cycling Team, the primary objective will be to build on the success of the first stage. “If we succeed, our Tour de France will be off to a good start,” added Philippe Mauduit.

Team EF Education EasyPost posted this bad news about Richard Carapaz:

Richard Carapaz will not start stage 2 of the Tour de France after an ultrasound scan revealed a small fracture in his left kneecap. He also needed three stitches to close the cut on the same knee. Richard suffered no other injuries in the crash and will return home to begin his recovery. Heal up campeón. We’ll bring your attacking spirit to the rest of this Tour.

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Seventh-place Jai Hindley's Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this report:

On an atypical opening course around Bilbao with a tricky and quite hilly finale, the biggest bike race in the world started today. The race was well controlled and fast, and an early break was already caught with 50km remaining. Before the last two climbs of the day, BORA – hansgrohe moved up in the bunch with Jai Hindley. In the last KOM the race exploded, and Jai managed to just bridge across to a small leading group before the downhill. In the descent the Yates brothers attacked with 8km to go, and it was Adam Yates who finally took the win. Jai finished in the group of favorites in 7th place and already gained time to some of his rivals in the hunt for the podium.

Jai Hindley at the riders presentation ceremony before the stage start. Sirotti photo

“It was already a really hard first day. The boys did a great job to keep me out of trouble the whole day and I appreciate that. On the penultimate climb the pace was already really high. The Tour is definitely something different from all the other races. On the last climb it was full gas. I was just off the first guys and waited for the chasing group because Jumbo had some numbers there and we all regrouped quite fast. I just had to follow the wheels, and I’m happy with the result and my shape. A top ten at my first ever Tour de France stage is not too bad, I think.”  – Jai Hindley

“It was a hectic first day as expected. Our goal was to not lose any time on Pogacar and Vingegaard today on this atypical opening stage with more than 3500m of climbing. The boys did a great job to protect Jai during the day and we were close to the front ahead of the last part in the bunch. The positioning was good, only at the foot of the last climb could we have been a little further up because with all those fans on the road, position is even more important. In any event, Jai was up there when it mattered. All went well and we are happy with the result and the impression we got from today.” – Rolf Aldag, Sports Director

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Here’s the report from Jonas Vingegaard’s & Wout van Aerts’ Team Jumbo-Visma:

Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard and Wout van Aert finished in an elite group on the first stage of the Tour de France, just behind the number one and two riders, Adam and Simon Yates.

The Grand Départ of the 110th Tour de France took place in Bilbao. Around 50 kilometres from the finish line, the nervous peloton caught a five-person break that had formed at the start. The Team Jumbo-Visma riders grabbed control of this peloton, riding in service of leader Vingegaard and the favorite for the stage win, Van Aert.

Jonas Vingegaard with several INEOS Grenadiers on his wheel as the pack races in Bilbao. Sirotti photo

With the steep Côte de Pike ahead, things moved quickly in the peloton. Tadej Pogacar accelerated on the climb, and Vingegaard swiftly followed. Not much later, Van Aert joined him with teammates Sepp Kuss and Wilco Kelderman. Meanwhile, Adam and Simon Yates attacked. The brothers crossed the finish together despite Sepp Kuss and Wilco Kelderman's tireless efforts to catch them.

"Chapeau for how the team rode today”, a somewhat disappointed Van Aert said. "We couldn't do much more. It's a shame I couldn't sprint for the stage win and the yellow jersey.”

"Congratulations to the Yates brothers”, Van Aert continued. "They stayed in front when Sepp and Wilco were chasing them. Tactically it's good for us that UAE Team Emirates took the yellow jersey, but I would have liked to take it myself today. The form is good. I finished among the best climbers, so that's nice.”

Vingegaard was satisfied. "I thank my teammates for their hard work today”, the defending champion said. "They were super strong. Of course, we were hoping for a stage win here, but it's also important that we all got through the first stage without any problems. Pogacar took four bonification seconds, but the Tour will probably not be decided by those four seconds.”

"It was a typical stage for the Tour de France’s first week”, sportive director Merijn Zeeman said. "The peloton was really tense, so it was important to protect the leaders. The men did that very well today. It was also very clever how Wout stayed with the best climbers. Unfortunately, he could not compete for the stage victory, but for the GC, it's not at all a bad result.”

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