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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, August 1, 2020

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief. - Cicero

Current racing:

Important upcoming racing, according to the UCI revised calendar:

Latest completed racing:

Bora-hansgrohe reports on Vuelta a Burgos stage four

Here's the team's update:

The penultimate stage of the Vuelta a Burgos from Bodegas Nabal to Roa de Duero took the riders over 163 km through the southern part of the province, and featured partly unpaved roads. The breakaway attempts came right after the start, with a group of 6 riders eventually managing to escape.

The teams of the sprinters were able to keep a tight leash on the leaders over the long, flat course, and 10 km ahead of the finish, the remaining escapees were reeled back. Shortly afterwards, BORA - hansgrohe showed itself yet again at the front of the field in an attempt to fend off any attacks, and were joined by several other teams that fancied their chances today. In the last kilometre, a crash occurred in a sharp curve, in which our riders were fortunately not involved.

Shortly afterwards, Sam Bennett launched a decisive attack and won the stage solo. Although he was somewhat boxed in on the finishing straight, Martin Laas managed to take eighth position in the sprint for the remaining places.

Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett takes stage four. Santi Otero photo

From the Finish Line:
"In the last 10km, we were riding in front and in a perfect position until the base of the climb. At that point, there was a crash, but I was able to stay upright and I started the climb in third or fourth position. That’s when Bennett attacked, but he was simply too strong for everyone else. In the final corner, I knew that I could put in a good result, however I was a bit boxed in on the finishing straight, and so I wasn’t able to launch a full sprint. It’s disappointing, because I had good legs today and the team did an amazing job.“ - Martin Laas

"The race was a relatively easy one to control. Wth Martin and Jay, we had two options to net a good result in the sprint. Jay was ultimately held up by the crash, however, Martin was able to put in a strong performance in the finale. It was a shame that he was blocked somewhat in the end, but that's how it rolls sometimes in these hectic sprints. The team worked well for both riders, particularly over the last 10 km, but unfortunately we just had some bad luck today.“ - Steffen Radochla, Sports Director

Egan Bernal ready for racing return

Here's the news from Bernal's Team INEOS:

Egan Bernal is relishing his return to the peloton as he resumes his racing programme from Saturday.

The Colombian is part of a strong Team INEOS lineup tackling La Route d'Occitanie. The four-day event is the first of a series of French stage races leading up to the Tour de France.

Egan bernal

Egan Bernal is about to re-start his season. Sirotti photo

After returning from his homeland, and following a recent training camp in Andorra, it will be the first chance since February for Bernal to test his legs in a race environment.

On the eve of the event he told "I am in good condition. I have trained really well and I'm feeling ready for the race. I don’t know exactly where I am – I think I'm in good condition, but obviously the races are different to when you are training.

"I’m really excited about the race – it’s our first one after lockdown and I just want to enjoy it, while training hard for the Tour. That’s the most important thing – continuing to build up for the Tour de France. I really hope to arrive there in my best condition so I hope these three races will be really good training for me.

Tour de l'Ain will follow hot on the heels of La Route d'Occitanie, with the Criterium du Dauphine set to be Bernal's final race before he aims to defend his Tour title.

He added: "We were training very hard and well in Andorra but we have saved some intensity for the races. We are trying to arrive fresh for the Tour. The intensity we do will be in this block of racing.

"Le Tour de France is one of the most beautiful races. It’s really good to have a focus and a goal again – not just training and training, not knowing when you will race again. It’s really nice to be back racing."

EF Pro Cycling returns to racing at the Strade Bianche

The team sent me this preview:

“I’m super excited because the first race back is in Tuscany. It’s really close to where I was born and lived, so it’s double excitement for me.” – Alberto Bettiol

A hazy blur makes it hard to distinguish where the sky and land meet, the way it shimmers is a cognitive reminder of the blazing heat. The sun’s rays bounce off white gravel roads. The threat of a steamy mid-afternoon storm lingers, whilst a peloton of more than 100 hundred riders prepare themselves on the start line, some 184 kilometers of racing ahead of them. Not the usual scene we’d expect ahead of the one-day-race Strade Bianche, usually held in March, but there’s nothing usual about this year’s racing calendar.

Strade Bianche

Time to hit the white roads. Sirotti photo

On August 1, WorldTour racing is set to resume in the Tuscan countryside along the infamous strade bianche. As the peloton sets out from Siena there will be 11 gravel sectors between them and the finish line back in Siena’s marvelous Piazza del Campo, and as the peloton gets back together after five months apart, it’s set to be one of the most unpredictable and open races seen in years.

“People are probably more motivated since they haven’t raced a lot this year. They want to show to their teams that they are strong and they want to race and show that they are really prepared. Of course, now the whole world will be back watching cycling,” Alberto Bettiol says.

This area is home turf for the reigning Flander’s champion and like any Italian he’s proud of where he’s from and excited to see his home region have its moment of glory, “I’m super excited because the first race back is in Tuscany, really close to where I was born and lived so it’s double excitement."

The white gravel sectors breed an intensity into the racing that very few other races on the World Tour calendar do. The gravel roads are lumpy, there’s very little flat and the first sector starts just 11km in. Some just a few kilometers long whilst others pack a punch like sector eight which is 11.5km long and considered one of the hardest in the race with mainly uphill and steep gradients.

Some of those gradients punch up to nearly 20%, such as on sector 10 with the climb toward Colle Pinzuto maxing out at 15%, and the Tolfe, peaking at 18%. It’s then a 12km drag race from the last sector into the centre of Siena leaving the riders staggering and winding around the city’s paved streets with the gradient still relentlessly clawing at their legs.

For its relatively short history, (this is the 13th running) Strade Bianche is an iconic part of the racing calendar and on the bucket list for many riders. One who will be ticking it off their list this year is Mike Woods, who will not only be racing it for the first time but is also lining up for the first time since breaking his femur back in March at Paris-Nice.

Luckily for Woods, he will have the likes of Bettiol and top 10 finisher in 2019, Simon Clarke, on hand for advice, “Mike will need to know where he needs to be in the peloton for this race,” Bettiol says. “Normally there aren’t too many problems because the speeds are not as high, it’s not a super difficult race, there are a few kilometers where you need to stay in the front, the more you are in the front the safer you are. Then after the feedzone, the race really starts. You have to be patient and save energy for the final because there are three or four really steep sections in which Mike could make a difference.”

Understandably there’s a mix of excitement and nerves from the first timer, “When I found out I was going to Strade I felt excited,” Woods says. “I’ve obviously never done it before and it’s a race that I’ve always been really interested in so I have a lot of excitement but also some nervousness going into it as well.”

When it comes to a question of form that’s another topic of uncertainty, not just for Woods but the whole peloton in general. “Fitness wise, I’m in incredible shape and I’m putting numbers out that I’ve never put out before. Mentally, I feel like I’m really comfortable on the bike right now,” Woods says, but agrees that the data from your training roads is never truly tested until you’re back on the road in real-time racing.

“I feel like I’m back to 100% from a bike handling perspective but it’s still not operating that in the confines of a peloton and it’s especially not in a group of guys, in a peloton on gravel roads,” Woods adds. 

Our sport director, Fabrizio Guidi agrees that the unknown around rider performance is going to produce an open and exciting race, “Everyone is going in a bit unsure, but we know how strong we are and what we’ve done and we start from there, then the rest we’ll discover race-by-race.”

This season very much feels like a time of discovery, a time of adapting to change and work within the parameters of uncertainty. Guidi and the riders are motivated for the season to restart but he notes that we do so with caution. “It’s a moment where we need to change, we know that it’s not going to be the same but we have to take this still as an opportunity. It’s the dream of young riders to get back to racing but we can’t forget what has happened and we need to take on those changes.”

Race facts

Key race sectors:

Sean Bennett
Alberto Bettiol
Simon Clarke
Magnus Cort
Lawson Craddock
Mitch Docker
Mike Woods

Gran Trittico Lombardo and Milano-Torino next up for Mitchelton-SCOTT

Here's the team's update:

Fri 31 Jul 2020: Mitchelton-SCOTT will continue their Italian race programme next week with two one-day day races, Gran Trittico Lombardo and Milano-Torino.

A punchy squad will head take on the first edition of the Gran Trittico Lombardo, as the likes of Australian champion Cameron Meyer and compatriot Nick Schultz return to racing. Kiwi pair Sam Bewley and Dion Smith are also in action alongside American Brent Bookwalter and climber Tsgabu Grmay.

Cameron Meyer

Australian road champion Cameron Meyer will ride both races. Sirotti photo

A flat course at Milan-Torino will see Alex Edmondson continue his comeback to race action after the Vuelta a Burgos. 2020 signing Barnabas Peak will make his pro debut at the race, while veteran Michael Albasini adds his experience to a balanced team.

Gran Trittico Lombardo Team:
Sam Bewley - (NZL, 33)
Brent Bookwalter - (USA, 36)
Tsgabu Grmay - (ETH, 28)
Cameron Meyer - (AUS, 32)
Nick Schultz - (AUS, 25)
Dion Smith - (NZL, 27)
Rob Stannard - (AUS, 21)

Milan-Torino Team:
Michael Albasini - (SUI, 39)
Alex Edmondson - (AUS, 26)
Tsgabu Grmay - (ETH, 28)
Alexander Konychev - (ITA, 22)
Cameron Meyer - (AUS, 32)
Barnabas Peak - (HUN, 21)
Dion Smith - (NZL, 27)

The Courses
The Gran Trittico Lombardo route comes in at 202.7km, with the race organisers combining roads from three one-day races to create a new event for 2020. The course is largely flat until the peloton hit the finishing circuit around the city of Varese where the bunch will tackle the 3.6km long Montello climb four times before crossing the finish line.

For 2020, Milano-Torino has reverted back to its original flat course, with the event now seen as an ideal preparation race for the following weeks Milan-San Remo. The peloton will start in Mesero and will reach the finish in Stupinigi 198 kilometres later, with no categorised climbs to speak of en route.

The Past
This will be the debut edition of the Gran Trittico Lombardo, while in contrast the 2020 running of Milano-Torino will be the 101st edition. The team have two podium finishes at Milano-Torino, with Adam Yates taking second place in 2017 before a third placed finish last season.

Nick Schultz:
"Training went reasonably well through the lockdown. It certainly made for a different period and I just tried to make the most of what it was. I find it hard to really gauge form after a very long period of training. I often find that training and race form are two different things, so I'm just really looking forward to getting back out there and seeing where things are at.”

“I've been itching to pin a number on for a long time now and ultimately, its why I ride a bike. There'll certainly be some pre-race nerves, but that’s also something that adds to the beauty of racing.”

“I have raced a few of those Italian one-day races before and this new race will be using the same circuits used in Tre Vali. It’s a solid circuit which lends itself to aggressive riding. I think that within our team, we'll be able to get amongst it. It will be an unknown for everybody, but the main thing is that we can get back out there and get the ball rolling.”

Cameron Meyer:
“I was lucky with my situation that I could train outside each day and training has been going well since returning to Europe. I have been enjoying getting the hours in around the mountains of Andorra.”

“I am very much looking forward to racing again and these Italian races are a perfect start. I can’t wait to be back with my teammates and staff, laughing with each other and talking all things that comes with racing.”

“These will be the first races back for many riders, I’m sure mistakes will be made as we all try to get back into the swing of fast bunch racing again, but these will be important tests to see where our levels are at before the big monuments start very soon.”

Gene Bates (Sports Director):
“Gran Trittico Lombardo is a new race for us, it’s a combination of three original races that they’ve rolled into one. It’s quite flat for a long time and then as we approach the finishing circuit in Varese you have the Piccolo Stelvio, which is the first critical point of the race, then once we get to the circuits it’s game on.”

“I think it’s a great team for this race, we don’t have one leader and we’ll be happy to back any of the guys if they’re on a good day. It’s the type of course that you really don’t want to get caught chasing, so we’ll look to be on the front foot and be aggressive.”

“As it turns out, Milan-Torino is a good preparation race for Milan-San Remo and we’ll have most of our guys do both races. It’s a good one for the sprinters, I can’t imagine it being any other finish come Torino and we’ll be looking to give Alex Edmondson a real crack at the finish.”

Race Details:
Monday, 3rd August: Gran Trittico Lombardo, Legnano - Varese (202.7km)
Wednesday, 5th August: Milano-Torino, Mesero - Stupinigi (198km)

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