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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, September 11, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2023 Giro d'Italia

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” but “That’s funny”. – Isaac Asimov

Dirty Feet: Early days of the Tour de France

Les Woodland's book Dirty Feet: How the Great Unwashed Created the Tour de France is available in print, Kindle eBook & audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Vuelta a España stage fifteen reports

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

Here's the Vuelta report from GC leader Sepp Kuss' Team Jumbo-Visma:

On the 15th day of the Vuelta a España, Team Jumbo-Visma remained in the lead. GC leader Sepp Kuss crossed the line in the group of favourites, surrounded by his teammates. Breakaway rider Rui Costa won the stage.

Sepp Kuss descending in stage 15 surrounded by teammates.

The day before the rest day, the peloton faced a transition stage. After another fast opening phase, the yellow and black formation took control of the peloton. "You never know how a stage like today will go”, Kuss said. "It was a tough race from the start. A lot of riders wanted to be in the lead group, but it didn't happen right away. Even some of the GC contenders tried to get into the breakaway. We didn't let that happen. All in all, apart from the hectic opening hour, I had a quiet day.”

"Every day, we get a step closer to our ultimate goal. But as with any grand tour, the third week is crucial. We have to stay focused. It is nice to be the leader going into the second rest day. The region we head to in the final week is known for its steep hills and challenging roads. We will undoubtedly be attacked, but we will be ready. I'm looking forward to it”, Kuss said.

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Here’s the Vuelta report from third-place Santiago Buitrago’s Team Bahrain Victorious:

As la Vuelta leaves the Pyrenees behind, stage 15 was a slightly kinder terrain compared to the previous two days and didn’t offer the same shake-up in the GC, but it did offer plenty of excitement in the breakaway.

It took the breakaway several attempts to form with a high pace set on the first half of the 158 km route from Pamplona to Lekunberri in the heart of the Basque Country. The main breakaway featured Tiberi, Landa, and Buitrago from Bahrain Victorious and also included yesterday’s stage winner, Remco Evenepol (Soudal Quickstep). So for the rest of the breakaway members, the name of the game was to beat Remco, with several attacks coming to drop the Belgian rider and stage favourite.

The successful attack on the breakaway was made about 20 km to go, on the foot of the last climb (1st category), and our talented young Columbian, Santiago Buitrago, was joined by Lennard Kamna (Bora Hansgrohe) and Rui Costa (Intermarchie – Circus – Wanty). They worked to maintain a lead on the rest of the breakaway, and Santiago was trying to escape Costa, knowing he’d have an advantage in the final sprint. In the last few kilometres, they played cat and mouse, saving energy for the sprint to the finish. Rui Costa won, with Kamna coming in second and Santiago third. Behind the podium winners, all the favourites stayed together, meaning Mikel Landar remained 7th in GC, while Santiago stayed 13th but managed bridge time back to the top ten, cutting his deficit from five to two minutes.

Buitrago is the finishing rider on the far right of the picture. Sirotti photo.

Sports Director Neil Stephens reflects on Buitrago’s podium: “Right now I’m a little bit disappointed. That is the immediate feeling after the finish of the stage. We fought so hard for a stage win today, so when we didn’t get it, it was a disappointment. But when you look at how the day rolled out, it was so active, so many guys going off the front and on the back, so many guys were suffering, so Santiago saw that moment, went on an attack with his teammates, which wasn’t the plan this morning, but he made a breakaway with some fantastic bike riders, he knew that Remco would be hard to defeat on the climb, so he went ahead of the game, tactically brilliant.

"The only thing wrong was he went with former World Champion – Rui Costa. From there on, it was really going to be hard to beat him. He made several efforts on the climb, he got a few meters in a few moments, and he played everything right until the finish. At the end of the day, we were beaten by a better rider on a good day, and there is not much you can say about that. It’s a short-term disappointment, but I’m so proud of the effort the boys put in today.”

Our main protagonist, Santiago Buitrago: “Today was a really hard race, especially after the last two mountain stages in the Pyrenees. It’s hard to recover. At the start, it was hectic, with many riders trying to go to breakaway, and after 2 hours, finally, the breakaway was made. But in the final, Rui Costa was stronger in the sprint. As for me, today I’m happy because in the climbs my legs were really good, so I hope they’ll be good for the next week as well.”

Tomorrow is a well-deserved rest day before entering the last week of racing, including four stages with high mountains where the GC battle will continue to unfold.

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Remco Evenepoel's Team Soudal Quick-Step posted this Vuelta report:

Remco Evenepoel made the headlines on the final stage before the second rest day, as the peloton left the Pyrenees behind and took on a less demanding route between Pamplona and Lekunberri. But before going in the breakaway for the second consecutive day, the Belgian Champion and his Soudal Quick-Step teammates went to the podium with the Moroccan flag to show their support for the country that just a few days ago was hit by a massive earthquake.

Then, as soon as the peloton exited the neutral zone, Remco launched one of his many attacks of the day, determined to make it into the front group as he knew that the 158.5km stage was tailored to a breakaway. In the beginning, the Belgian Champion wasn’t given any leeway by the peloton, but just like on Saturday, he never stopped and continues to push on the false flat leading to the first classified climb, and in the end, he was rewarded for all that effort, when a breakaway formed on the Puerto de Lizarraga.

Remco Evenepoel descending the Puerto de Zuarrarrate. Sirotti photo

Numbering around fifteen riders, the strong group up the road established a nice three-minute gap over the chasers, in part thanks to the same generous efforts of Evenepoel, who also made sure of racking up the points at the top. On the first ascent of Puerto de Zuarrarrate, several riders tried to zip clear, but Remco kept things together and further extended his buffer in the mountain classification.

It was on the final climb that the serious moves began to come, and the 23-year-old found himself with some ground to make up behind a strong three-man group. Despite having to cut what looked to be an insurmountable 30-second deficit, the World ITT Champion almost made it back on the descent with the others clinging to his wheel – taking advantage also of some cat and mouse games between the three leaders – and concluded the stage just two seconds behind winner Rui Costa (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty).

“I went quite deep today and began feeling quite quickly that my legs were a bit tired after Saturday’s ride, but that didn’t stop me from giving my best. I would have loved to win again, but you can’t do it every time, and this fourth place is the most I could get out of it. I’m looking forward to the rest day, and then I will continue to focus on taking the best climber jersey home”, explained Remco, who picked up the prize awarded to the most combative rider for the second day in a row.

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Here's the Vuelta report from Chris Hamilton's Team dsm-firmenich:

With the goal of getting it into the break to play for the stage win the team rode well with Chris Hamilton making the move; and battling to a strong eighth place at the end of the day; yet another top ten for Team dsm-firmenich.

A fierce start to the day saw incredibly fast racing with 50 kilometres covered in the first hour as even the GC riders rolled attacks. Hamilton was sharp when it came together and bridged to group ahead on the opening climb of the day. Despite being held close initially, the proverbial elastic then snapped and Hamilton’s break gained enough time so it was clear they would fight for the stage win. The nature of the route made it tactical and with a strong group several attacks were made, including some from Hamilton, but it all came down to the final climb. A trio managed to escape with Hamilton in a chasing group. Over the top the leaders held 30 seconds but after playing some games, Hamilton’s group had then in view in sight of the line. However, they just wouldn’t be able to come back with Hamilton taking a fine eighth place on the day; showing his good legs after his third place on stage nine.

Chris Hamilton finished in the second group, at two seconds.

“It was pretty hard today, a lot harder than I expected it was going to be,” expressed Hamitlon. “We were pretty confident that it was going to be a breakaway day so we just went all-in for that. After the past few days I was suffering quite a bit and I honestly felt not great today either so just to be there I was pretty surprised, but we can take some confidence from that. Then I just suffered as much as possible and did what I could in the final. It’s not a podium or something but I’m still pretty happy with how I got through the stage and managed to get another top ten for the team.”

Team dsm-firmenich coach Phil West added: “It was like warfare today. Directly from the start the race was full-gas. We had the goal to be in the break or the move that finally went. It was a real war of attrition in the end. We were present and correct and had Romain and Chris in the spots they needed to be. It was a real fight and then a really select group came together, before a new breakaway went and Chris bridged across to the front. We tried to make a fight of it on the final climb and in the end Chris came in eighth. It’s a really nice result actually in a high-level front group. The teamwork again was on point by the guys, but I think after today they’re all looking forward to the rest day.”

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