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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, March 25, 2023

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Volta a Catalunya stage five team reports

We posted the report from second-place Remco Evenepoel's Team Soudal Quick-Step with the results.

Here is the report from stage winner Primoz Roglic's Team Jumbo-Visma:

Primoz Roglic has won the fifth stage of the Volta a Catalunya. The Slovenian kept his composure as his competitors attacked him on the arduous ascent to Lo Port's summit, only to launch an attack himself in the last few hundred meters.

The roads to the foot of Lo Port were relatively flat, but that changed when the peloton hit the climb with just under nine kilometres to go. The road climbed an average of nine percent towards the finish line.

Remco Evenepoel launched an attack halfway up the ascent. Roglic jumped right onto his closest rival's wheel. The Belgian accelerated again in the last kilometre, but Roglic held on. The leader of the overall standings tapped into his Slovenian grit, went for it, and won for the sixth time this year. It is the 17th victory for Team Jumbo-Visma so far this year.

Primoz Roglic finishes ahead of Remco Evenepoel.

"I'm overjoyed", Roglic admitted. "It's been a while since I rode a race with such a tough climb. Looking back, I am happy that I seem to be able. The legs felt particularly good today. It was another great battle for me. Despite the pain, I was able to enjoy it. After my shoulder operation, this is yet another step in the right direction."

Roglic enters the final weekend of the Catalan stage race with a ten-second lead. "Nothing has been decided yet. Today's difference was small once more, fortunately to my advantage. But we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves because we still have two challenging days. Sunday will be particularly tough. The formula is the same as always. I'll enter the race fired up and convinced, and we'll see what happens. In any case, this win gives me confidence for the future."

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Here’s the Catalonia report from Jai Hindley’s Team Bora-hansgrohe:

The 176.6km long fifth stage in Catalunya featured the “Lo Port” climb. The final ascent of today’s stage was with a length of almost 9km and an average gradient of 8,6%, the hardest of the week. The last rider of an early breakaway was caught at 6.5km from the finish. After a tough race and several attacks on the way to the mountain finish, Jai Hindley crossed the finish line in 9th, Cian Uijtdebroeks, in 10th, scored a top 10 for the third time this week. Primoz Roglič took the stage win and also the GC lead. In the overall standings, Jai Hindley lost one position and is now 8th, closely followed by Cian Uijtdebroeks in 9th.

The stage featured a punishing final ascent.

“Another really tough mountain finish! The whole day was pretty easy until we hit the bottom of the climb, from there on it was full gas. Ide Schelling did a strong pull on the lower parts of the climb but I just didn’t have the legs to continue it. We’re still expecting two hard days here and we’ll see what we can do!” Jai Hindley

“It was the last mountain finish of the race, we wanted to take some risks in order to gain a few positions in the overall. However, Jumbo-Visma and Soudal - Quick Step were just too strong and foiled our plans. Jai Hindley and Cian Uijtdebroeks are still in the top 10 overall - we will try everything on the remaining two stages to improve and head towards a top 5 finish.” Christian Pömer, Sports Director

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E3 Saxo Blank Classic team reports

We posted the report from winner Wout van Aert's Team Jumbo-Visma with the results.

Here is the report from Sep Vanmarcke's Team Israel-Premier Tech:

They call the E3 Saxo Classic the “mini Tour of Flanders”, but for Krists Neilands and Sep Vanmarcke, it may well have felt like the real thing. The notoriously small roads, combined with the 17 steep climbs, or hellingen, meant that positioning was always going to be crucial, and as such it was a high pace all day. The first big push from Matteo Jorgenson went with over eighty kilometers of racing left, and from then on the attacks came thick and fast, until a decisive move on the Oude Kwaremont proved to be the winning move of the day for Wout Van Aert.

Wout van Aert celebrates his second consecutive E3 win.

Krists Neilands was Israel–Premier Tech’s highest finisher, sprinting to 12th place having left everything on the road to catch the race leaders.

“It was a really tough race. Especially for me, as I have never been in this much action there at the front of the peloton at this race. It was great to be there, but unfortunately I had zero legs in the finale. Thanks also to Sep as he gave me a big hand in the race.”

Sep Vanmarcke was also a true fighter on the day, following all the early attacks, and bridging over to escapees on a number of occasions. It was not to be for him, however, as he missed the key attack from Mathieu van der Poel on the Oude Kwaremont.

Talking about his race, while he was disappointed to miss the key move, he knows that this strong performance shows he has the form to bring results at other races in the coming weeks.

“It was a hard edition. I think in all of the years I have done it, it was the first time in the rain. If you know E3 then you know it’s a lot of small roads and a lot of chaos and very nervous racing. The race exploded very early in the race, and Krists and I managed to stay in front at the moment we had to and we were in the race together. Krists did an excellent job to be in the front and I just missed a few meters on the Oude Kwaremont, but it’s promising for the next races.”

For Sports Director, Steve Bauer, it was a promising performance, and he was pleased to see Sep and Krists fighting at the front for the majority of the race.

“It was a positive race for us. We had Sep up with the favorites for a long time, really in the mix with the best challengers of the day, and Krists coming back into the front group and working with Sep to get the best performance possible. It was good to see two of our strong guys in a good place in an extremely tough bike race.”

Talking about the finale, Steve was happy to see Krists at the front end of the race, and knows there’s more to come from the team.

“Krists ran out of a bit of gas at the end but there were a lot of guys running on empty. Stefan Küng made a super strong attack and in the right place at the right time, maybe Krists could have followed that. But eventually he was racing for eighth place which was a solid place to be in. He eventually finished in 12th place which is still a good performance, in his first E3 participation. Sep is just missing a bit as he was ill this week but we hope the progress is good for both of them and they’ll be even better in the next races.”

The classics team will be in action again on Sunday, racing Gent-Wevelgem, another punchy test, throwing cobbled climbs into the mix courtesy of the infamous Kemmelberg.

Here's the E3 report from Team Groupama-FDJ:

Just over a week away from the “Ronde”, the Groupama-FDJ team is definitely ready. In the E3 Saxo Classic, a proper rehearsal for the second Monument of the season, Stefan Küng and Valentin Madouas rode through the main Flanders “bergs” up front. Fighting for the top-10 behind an untouchable trio, the Swiss and the French riders came away with sixth and eighth places respectively in the WorldTour race, won by Wout van Aert. A good way to launch the “holy week”, while the second round is planned on Sunday with Ghent-Wevelgem.

Some sixty kilometres were certainly missing from the route, but the hills, the crowd, the atmosphere and the starting list had everything to remind us of the Tour of Flanders this Friday. That is not a coincidence as the E3 Saxo Classic has long been considered THE real test before the Flemish Monument. With Stefan Küng and Valentin Madouas, third and seventh in 2022, the Groupama-FDJ team therefore wanted to show ambitions at the start from Harelbeke, despite difficult weather including rain and wind.

“We were quite optimistic and confident”, assured Frédéric Guesdon. “We got a podium last year and we have a group built for these races, so everyone was motivated and in good shape. We were there to win.” Yet, a small mishap kind of disrupted the dynamic after about sixty kilometres. Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), Mathis Le Berre (Arkéa-Samsic), Kelland O’Brien (Jayco-AlUla), Thomas Bonnet (TotalEnergies) and Martin Urianstad (Uno-X) were already in the lead within the breakaway when Stefan Küng hit the ground in the peloton. “It’s never good to crash, even if it didn’t seem too serious,” said Frédéric. Entering the last hundred kilometres, it also became way more nervous and the approach to the Kortekeer and the Taaienberg proved extremely contested.

It was indeed in this iconic berg that everything started, with Mathieu van der Poel as the first attacker. “We knew the strategic places”, explained Frédéric. “We wanted to be placed as well as possible, but we didn’t really succeed. This is always the issue, because everyone wants to be in front, and there is no room for everyone. We always try, but sometimes it doesn’t work”.

At the top of the Taaienberg, Stefan Küng and Kevin Geniets found themselves in a chasing group, which finally made contact with the leading men a few kilometres further on. A small bunch of around thirty men reformed, before Soren Kragh Andersen, Nathan Van Hooydonck and Matej Mohoric took a step ahead. In the back, Valentin Madouas took advantage of the Eikenberg to bridge across to his two teammates. However, he had barely returned when he saw Van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Tadej Pogacar fly away in the Stationberg, nearly sixty kilometres from the line.

“We were a bit far when they went, but I don’t think there was much to do,” said Stefan. “We then tried to do the best possible race in the back, but we were racing for fourth place”. “The guys corrected the situation well and we got back in the mix”, added Frédéric. “We just came across three riders who were above the rest. We should have tried to get a step ahead, as others did”.

The strong trio quickly caught the three leading men, and then broke away on the Oude Kwaremont just over 35 kilometres from the finish. In the back, Valentin Madouas and Stefan Küng perfectly took advantage of the Paterberg-Vieux Quaremont sequence to make a difference. After those two hills, there were only four riders left with them. Thanks to a good collaboration in the group, the Groupama-FDJ men were able to join the three former leaders thirty kilometres from the line, and therefore go for a top-5.

In the Tiegemberg, the last climb of the day with twenty kilometres to go, Valentin Madouas again tried to make the difference, but the latter was made on the downhill. Stefan Küng counterattacked and went away with Ivan Garcia Cortina, Matteo Jorgenson and Matej Mohoric. The four men worked well together, without being able to get significantly closer to the three leading men. Fighting for the remaining places, Stefan Küng couldn’t match the Movistar’s duo, but still put on a great fight to take a solid sixth place on the line, less than a minute behind the winner Wout van Aert. Valentin Madouas finished a few moments later, alone, in eighth position.

“In the end, it was played a bit tactically”, explained Stefan. “It was also a very, very hard race and I was really empty at the finish. Overall, it’s a good first race on the Flemish Classics. It’s always a good thing to be in the mix and to start the campaign well. We get off on the right foot, we will continue like this, and it will pay off”.

“For my first Classic, it was really a difficult and tiring day, but I felt pretty good personally,” said Valentin. “I was sick for almost ten days, it was my returning race, so it makes sense not to be 100%, but it will come. Today’s performance is a good sign, because I felt pretty good compared to the feelings of the last few days. I am really very satisfied. This is the race I needed to get back in the mix for the next goals which are also the most important”. “We are where we belong”, concluded Frédéric. “It’s a rather good start to our Classics. It could have been better because we always take the start to win, but it could also have been worse if Stefan would have hurt himself more in his crash. In the end, we placed two guys in the first 8, so it’s not bad”. The campaign will continue on Sunday between Ghent and Wevelgem.

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Arnaud De Lie and Caleb Ewan will ride Gent-Wevelgem

Here’s the update from their Lotto-Dstny team:

With Arnaud De Lie and Caleb Ewan, Lotto Dstny heads to Gent-Wevelgem with two protected riders. Both top sprinters are looking forward to the Classic in which the fast guys might get their chance to shine.

Gent-Wevelgem is a Classic that’s full of history. The peloton will pass lots of World War 1 Monuments but this time the battle will be between the riders in Flanders Fields. On the menu: the notorious ‘Moeren’ and climbs like Monteberg, Baneberg, Scherpenberg and not to forget: Kemmelberg. Also the unpaved Plugstreets will give the race an extra dash of spice.

Just like in La Primavera, both Arnaud De Lie and Caleb Ewan will be at the start for Lotto Dstny. They will be supported by Florian Vermeersch, Brent Van Moer, Frederik Frison, Jasper De Buyst and Cedric Beullens.

For Caleb Ewan it will be his third time at the start of Gent-Wevelgem, a race the Australian does not have fond memories of but in which he’d like to get a result this year.

Caleb Ewan after winning this year's Schwalbe Classic. Sirotti photo.

Caleb Ewan: “The big difference compared to previous years is that I’m at the start with real ambitions. I already won Scheldeprijs and Brussels Cycling Classic in the past and to win in Flanders is always special. Gent-Wevelgem is full of history and is important to both myself and the team. In the past, lots of sprinters have won the race. It’s not a typical sprinters’ race anymore and a lot will depend on Sunday’s weather report, but I’m really looking forward to it and I’ll go for the best result possible.”

Also Lotto Dstny’s youngster Arnaud De Lie will be part of the team on Sunday. “I don’t think we’re rivals”, says Ewan. “It even gives me some peace of mind. I’m not the only leader so we share the pressure a bit. We’re two totally different kinds of sprinters and the only ambition is to win with the team on Sunday, it doesn’t matter which of the seven riders it is.”

Arnaud De Lie will start his second Gent-Wevelgem. Right before Milano-Sanremo, he got a minor illness, which caused him not to have the legs he dreamed of for the Italian Classic. “Now, I’m back to a good level”, the 21-year-old confirms, “and I’m looking forward to race again. It will probably be a really hard race, but I love that. I really hope to play my part in delivering a strong team performance.”

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