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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 17, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2023 Giro d'Italia

Let a man walk ten miles steadily on a hot summer's day along a dusty English road, and he will soon discover why beer was invented. - Gilbert K. Chesterton


Tour de France: 2022

Bill & Carol McGann’s book The Story of the Tour de France, 2022: The Fastest Tour Ever is available as in both 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 20 team reports

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

Here's the report from stage winner Wout Poels' Team Bahrain Victorious:

On the penultimate day of the year’s final ‘Grand Tour’, Wout Poels did something not many bike racers can do: he beat Remco Evenepoel (SOQ)! Relying purely on instinct, Poels launched his sprint before he had planned, (and perhaps earlier than many watching thought was wise), but held off the day’s favourite by just a few centimetres on the line.

Stage winner Wout Poels. Sirotti photo

The parcours was akin to a Belgian classic, something like Liege-Bastone-Liege (which Poels has also won), with ten category 3 climbs totalling over 4000 meters of elevation gain. The day’s breakaway took a while to form, with Antonio Tiberi and Poels amongst the 19 that got away. Wout attacked on the last climb and created a small gap, with only 4 riders able to follow. They rode away and worked well together to ensure the winner would come from that group of five. Approaching the finish in Guadarrama, the Dutchman took matters into his own hands (or rather his legs!), and attacked 300 metres out, taking the perfect apex on the last corner, and resisting the late charge of Evenepoel to take a second Grand Tour victory of the year (after stage 15 on the Tour de France). The GC group came in all together to keep the General Classification unchanged, with Mikel Landa staying 5th and Santiago Buitrago 10th. Barring catastrophe, the American Sepp Kuss (TJV) will be crowned La Vuelta 2023 champion in Madrid tomorrow.
The overjoyed Poels reflected afterwards: “It was a hard day and we talked in the morning to have Antonio and me in the break, and it went pretty well, but you lose a lot of energy to get there. Then you see the calibre of the riders around you: Remco, G (Geraint Thomas (IGD)), Marc Soler (UAE), and you need to survive the first part and make a little plan for the final. Antonio did really well, he kept me out of the wind, and then on the steep part of the climb I left. Only 4 people came over, full gas to the finish line. Then I knew 250 meters to go, left corner, first I thought to go after the corner, but I second-guessed and had a feeling I needed to go earlier, pass Remco earlier… and it worked out. I wanted to go into Remco’s wheel, but sometimes you have to have a bit of a race feeling, so if you feel it you have to go.”
Lead Sports Director Neil Stephens had been hoping for a stage win in a race where Bahrain Victorious have performed strongly throughout, and it finally came.
“This is the last stage we realistically had a chance to win and to be able to pull it off in the last moment with Wout Poels was fantastic,” he said.
“We went into the day knowing that a GC attack was almost impossible. We had one climb that was a major challenge that we had to overcome, and we knew that we had support back in the bunch to do that with Santiago and Mikel. So that allowed us the moment to really put a big effort into breakaway, with the ideal people that we wanted into breakaway being the two that actually made it. So it’s a fantastic effort from the rest of the team to try to help them to make the breakaway, and then it was up to Antonio and Wout to really work it out between themselves and try to pull off the stage win. Wout made a really good tactical decision, he was the first one to attack on the hard climb, El Escorial. He was the first on the climb getting ready to descend into the town and the first to launch the sprint in the final. He did everything textbook, he was tactically really good, he’s in the form of his life, and to be able to win the last big stage of La Vuelta is fantastic.”

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

The penultimate stage of the Vuelta a España went without incident for Team Jumbo-Visma. Sepp Kuss, Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic crossed the line side by side in the group of favourites. Normally, Kuss will be on the top step of the final podium in Madrid tomorrow, flanked by teammates Vingegaard and Roglic.

Wilco Kelderman was part of a large lead group, but the 32-year-old Dutchman had to let go on the steep final climb. Wout Poels took the stage win in Guadarrama. In the group of favourites, the top three in the general classification, made up of the Jumbo-Visma trio, were not attacked.

"We decided to cross the finish line with the three of us. It was a fantastic moment", a beaming Kuss said. "We've achieved something unique with the team this season by winning the three grand tours. The last three weeks certainly haven't been easy, but we've granted one another. It is like a fairytale."

Finishing together. Sirotti photo

"It will take a while for everything to sink in", the 28-year-old American continued. "It's an incredible feeling. It was a huge relief to cross the line here. I knew it was possible to finish this, but you have to get through all the stages well. I suffered a lot, but I survived every time. This Tour of Spain has been an unexpected success for me. When I became a cyclist, I did it for the love of the sport. Now, I am close to winning a grand tour. It is still too difficult to express my feelings. I am grateful for this experience."


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Here's the Vuelta report from second-place Remco Eenepoel's Team Soudal Quick-Step:

Remco Evenepoel was separated by mere centimeters from another victory on the penultimate day of the season’s final Grand Tour. One of the best riders of the year, the only Belgian to have conquered three summit finish at a single edition of a Grand Tour and the winner of the 2022 Vuelta a España, Evenepoel featured in his fifth breakaway of the past three weeks on the longest stage of the race.

It couldn't get much closer.

Together with Mattia Cattaneo, James Knox and Louis Vervaeke, Remco was in a large 30-man breakaway that after a frantic start, managed to put eleven minutes between them and the red jersey group in the sierras of Madrid – a terrain that at past editions ended up changing the general classification. It wasn’t the case this time, the spotlight being on the fight for victory on the course which took in ten classified climbs, for a vertical gain of almost 4400 meters.

Soudal Quick-Step’s riders did a phenomenal job the entire day, shutting down all the attacks that came before the last ascent and setting a steady tempo at the front for the KOM jersey. When Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) and three other men went clear on the steepest part of the Alto de San Lorenzo El Escorial, the Belgian still had Cattaneo with him, who made sure those up the road would remain within reach. Once the Italian’s job was finished, Evenepoel took off and with relative ease joined the leaders on the descent.

The five men worked well together and Remco entered the final kilometer in a good position, but Poels surprised everyone by opening his sprint with around 400 meters to go. The defending champion had the speed to come back, and for a moment there it looked like he would prevail, but the line came too soon for him, so in the end he had to settle for second – his sixth podium at this edition of La Vuelta.

“It was a hard stage, but we did our best. Mattia, James and Louis were amazing, pulling the whole stage and working tirelessly for me. I felt good and was confident in my sprint going in the closing kilometer of the stage, but Poels surprised us all by starting his sprint from afar, while I reacted a bit too late. I tried to make up ground, but despite having the speed, I ran out of road. Despite everything, I don’t have any regrets. Now I’m looking forward to Madrid and to one last ride with the boys here”, said Remco, who moved up to 12th on the general classification after this penultimate stage.


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And here's the Vuelta report from fourth-place Lennert Van Eetvelt's Team Lotto Dstny:

Following a third spot in stage 14 towards Larra-Belagua, Lotto Dstny youngster Lennert Van Eetvelt has shown himself again during his first Grand Tour. In a stage for attackers, the 22-year-old Belgian was part of five riders that would sprint for victory at the end of a tough stage 20 at La Vuelta. The stage win went to Wout Poels, Van Eetvelt got rewarded with a 4th place for his strong Vuelta a Espana.

Eetvelt is just behind polka-dotted Remco Evenepoel at the finish. Sirotti photo.

With a 200-kilometre stage and no less than ten official climbs, the Vuelta peloton awaited one last hard day before the final stage towards Madrid.  Soon after the start, a group of 31 riders formed including three of Lotto Dstny: Andreas Kron, Sylvain Moniquet and Lennert Van Eetvelt. Soon the tactical game between the breakaway started but eventually Soudal Quick-Step, with four rider in the break, would control the day for Evenepoel. Everything would be decided  on the Alto San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the final climb of the day. On the steep slopes, the Dutchman Wout Poels launched an impressive attack   and only the young Lotto Dstny rider Lennert Van Eetvelt was initially able to follow. Eventually,  five riders remained who would sprint for victory in Guadarrama: Evenepoel, Soler, Poels, Sanchez and Van Eetvelt.  It was the Dutchman Poels who showed the fastest, Van Eetvelt had to settle for 4th place.

Van Eetvelt  was happy with his result but also showed ambitious towards the future. “Today was a final chance and soon a big and strong group rode away.  After a hard day out with the many hills, I still felt good. Maybe I just went over my limit a bit to follow Poels when he attacked but luckily I could be part of the five guys sprinting for victory in the end. Honestly, I didn’t expect the move of Poels in the sprint but I’m not sure more than a fourth place was possible today. It’s maybe a pity but I’m definitely very happy with this first Grand Tour experience. I really love this kind of racing and I hope to show myself a lot more in the future”, concludes Van Eetvelt.

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