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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, August 8, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness. - Seneca

Tour de France: the Inside Story

Current racing:

Important upcoming racing, according to the UCI revised calendar:

Latest completed racing:

Fabio Jakobsen brought out of induced coma

Here's the report from Jakobsen's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

A long recovery process awaits the Dutch Champion.

Two days after being seriously injured in a high-speed crash that took place on the finishing straight of the Tour de Pologne stage 1 in Katowice, Fabio Jakobsen was awakened from coma Friday afternoon by the doctors of the Sosnowiec hospital.

Fabio Jakobsen

In better times. Fabio Jakobsen winning the first stage of the Tour of the Algarve earlier thisyear.

Fabio, who Thursday night underwent a five-hour maxillofacial surgery, was able to move his legs and arms and communicate with the doctors, which immediately ruled out major neurological problems. Due to the surgery, speaking and eating will be a challenge in the coming period as the recovery process is expected to be a long and arduous one.

Deceuninck-Quick Step would like to thank everyone for their support and best wishes sent in these difficult and trying days and at the same time kindly ask you to respect the privacy of Fabio and his family.

Viral infection delays Serge Pauwels' return to racing 

Pauwels' CCC Team sent me this:

Serge Pauwels’ return to racing will be delayed due to a viral infection which will see the Belgian miss the upcoming French races.

Initially slated to line up at the Tour de l’Ain Friday, Pauwels will instead rest while he recovers from the mild infection, CCC Team Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa said.

Serge Pauwels

Serge Pauwels descending in the 2019 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

“Serge was very much on track to restart his racing season this week however, he has recently been suffering from some unexplained fatigue which prompted us to investigate further. Test results indicated that Serge is suffering from a mild viral injection which fortunately is nothing to worry about but will require him to withdraw from the Tour de l’Ain and Critérium du Dauphiné until he has completely recovered. He has repeatedly tested negative for Covid-19 so that is not a concern but now more than ever, we need to ensure our riders are healthy before they can enter the racing environment. We will continue to monitor Serge’s recovery and see him back at the start line as soon as he is ready to do so,” Dr. Testa explained.

Pauwels is looking forward to restarting the season as soon as possible.

“I had been feeling good training in Tuscany up until the last few days and I was looking forward to lining up this week at the Tour de l’Ain. Although it is disappointing to delay my first race, I am happy that it is nothing to worry about and after a short period of rest, I can resume training and finally race again,” Pauwels said.

CCC Team will provide updates on Pauwels’ recovery and communicate his revised race program when possible. Michał Paluta will replace Pauwels at Tour de l’Ain.

NTT Pro Cycling set for Milano-Sanremo

The team sent me this press release:

The 2020 edition of Milano-Sanremo will go down into the history books as one of the most unique editions of the event, ever

MILAN, Italy, August 7, 2020. The first monument of the UCI cycling season is upon us as Milano-Sanremo takes place this Saturday, 8th of August. NTT Pro Cycling ( will line up for the famous Italian classic, which is usually held in the early Spring, with our in-form Italian sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo leading our 6-rider team.

The 2020 edition of Milano-Sanremo will go down into the history books as one of the most unique editions of the event, ever. A change of date from March to August, due to the reshuffling of the racing calendar, poses numerous different challenges for the World Tour peloton.

The usual threat of cold rain and snow can be forgotten as concerns will now be around racing over 300km through the heat of Italian summer. The parcour has also been changed significantly with only the final 36km of the race being that of the familiar route along the coast.

Teams have also been reduced to just 6-riders, allowing the race organizers to invite two additional wild card teams to the race this year, resulting in 27 teams being at the start line tomorrow.

Despite the numerous changes, the key focal points of the race will likely remain around the climbs of Cipressa and the Poggio, before the winner is crowned on one of the most famous finish lines in cycling, the Via Roma.

NTT Pro Cycling lines up for this special race, one that always reminds us of how our South African team burst onto the professional cycling scene back in 2013 when Gerald Ciolek won, with in-form Italian sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo leading our team.

Gerald Ciolek

Gerald Ciolek wins 2013 Milano-San Remo. Sirotti photo

Nizzolo will be joined by Michael Valgren, Max Walscheid, Michael Gogl, Roman Kreuziger and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Giacomo Nizzolo - NTT Pro Cycling:
"We are ready for Milano-Sanremo. It is going to be a tough and long race, the longest of the year in fact. It's also going to be hot tomorrow, but NTT Pro Cycling is prepared, motivated and looking forward to a having a good race."

EF Pro Cycling takes a close look at Milan-San Remo

The team sent me this:

Every young bike racer in Italy wants to win Milano Sanremo. It is La Classicissima—the classic of the classics. Each spring, the country gathers in the early morning around their television sets to watch the peloton set off from the Duomo di Milano, a cathedral at the center of Piazza.

The racers then travel through Lombardy, Piemonte, and the Apennines, before arriving on the hilly Riviera del Fiori for the approach to Sanremo’s Via Roma and the finish, which comes early in the evening after 300 kilometres of racing.

Generations of cycling heroes have written their stories in Sanremo. They’ve been collected throughout the years in the Gazetta dello Sport’s archives. Costante Girardengo, a peasant-gentleman earned his first victory in 1918 while war was still raging in the northeast of the country. Girardengo went on to win six more.

Then there’s Fausto Coppi’s mythic venture of 1946, which brought together a broken nation, to Pippo Pozzato’s 2006 sprint from a last-minute break and Vincenzo Nibali’s most recent victory. Italy’s champions inspire future pelotons of cyclists. They remind their fellow citizens of one of their country’s great glories: its bike racing.

Brief side note on Fausto Coppi’s 1946 victory. Legend has it that Fausto Coppi not only won by a solid 14-minutes, he did so after having stopped for a cup of coffee before crossing the line.

“It’s a symbol,” says EF Pro Cycling’s Italian classics star Alberto Bettiol. “It’s the only race on the calendar of 300 kilometres, and for us Italians, it is a dream to win it, because all the best riders in history have won it.”

Alberto Bettiol

Alberto Bettiol finishing the 2019 Tour of Flanders in style. Milan-San Remo is next? Sirotti photo

Although Alberto has already won one of cycling’s monuments, the Ronde van Vlaanderen last year, winning Milano-Sanremo would be even more special.

“To win it in Italy and to win it in front of the Italian people, in my country, it’s something that’s difficult even to dream… It is Milano-Sanremo. I am Italian. It would be something unbelievable, indescribable,” he says.

EF Pro Cycling’s Simon Clarke finished ninth in the sprint on the Via Roma last year, after catching the lead group with a blistering last descent. The race has a special place in his heart too. He broke his back trying to win it in 2018.

“When I first came to Europe in 2003 when I was 16-yeas-old, I stayed in Italy and raced in Italy with the Australian national team,” he says. “So, it is probably the European country that I have raced the most in, and I feel most at home racing in. I really love racing here, and appreciate every time I am able to line up for such a significant race.”

This year, Milano Sanremo will look a little different. For one, the race, which is such a rite of spring in Italy that it is also named La Primavera, will be held under the hot summer sun, as it had to be postponed due to the recent lockdowns in Italy.

Several towns along the coast were not prepared to host the race, so the course has been changed, too. This year, the peloton will reach the seaside in Imperia, after 257 kilometres of racing. That means that the iconic passage over the Turchino has been left out. Instead, the riders will ascend two minor climbs: the Niella Belbo at the 161-kilometre mark and the Colle di Navia after 229 kilometers. From Imperia, the traditional finale remains the same: first, the swooping 5.6-kilometre climb of the Cipressa followed by a high-speed descent onto the climb of the Poggio. The Poggio is only 3.7 kilometres in length, but it always proves decisive. It switchbacks jut up to its summit, which is only 5.3 kilometres from the finish and is followed by a breakneck descent towards Sanremo and the line on the Via Roma.

Simon Clarke revisited the finale a few weeks ago. He’s not sure how the other route changes will affect the race. On Thursday, the team will recon the most important sections, paying particular attention to the long, fast downhill before the Cipressa.

Still, La Classicissima’s spirit remains much the same. In many ways, it’s a throwback to an earlier era, when organisers didn’t have the pressure to provide made-for-TV action every few minutes, as audiences would listen to the race on the radio while going about their days and wait for the final written account, which would appear in the next day’s Gazzetta.

“You pass a lot of periods during the race,” Alberto says. “At the beginning, you start really fast. You have eaten a lot of pasta in the morning, so you have a bit of a heavy stomach. And then there is a long, long transition period—it is around 150 kilometres—where you pass through Lombardia, Piemonte, towards the Apennines, that drop you directly onto the coast. Once you are on the coast, you start to feel your legs—if you are on a good day or a bad day.”

That prolonged build up gives the race its heroic character and heightens the drama for the crescendo.

“It is probably the easiest monument on paper, but it is the hardest one to win, because so many things can happen, and it’s such a tricky and calculating race,” Clarke says.

“Once you hit the Cipressa, the real race starts,” Alberto adds. “Straight after you have like 10 kilometres between the Cipressa and the Poggio, and on the Poggio every year there are some attacks.”

Riders have to gamble. Milano Sanremo can be won by climbers and sprinters alike. If you’re near the front when attackers are launching towards the top, as Alberto did last year, you have to choose whether to go with them and hope they stay away or bet that they will be caught and save your strength to hurtle that much faster towards the line.

“This year, I will try not to attack,” Alberto says. “I will stay on the wheels and play my cards in the sprint, because the sprint in Milano Sanremo is not a normal sprint; it’s a sprint after more than six and a half hours. This year, it’s going to be a sprint after a long ride below a really hot sun, so the energy will not be too high. I will do my best, as always. Milan Sanremo is a different race compared to all the others.”

Watch out for Simon Clarke, too.

“I had a good result last year with the top 10 and I am definitely aiming to try to better that result this year,” he says. “We also have Alberto riding really well at the moment. The priority is to get a good result for the team like we were able to do at Strade Bianche. Depending on how the race will play out, it will be myself or Bettiol going for a top result.”

An Australian or an Italian—if one of EF Pro Cycling’s contenders wins Italy’s great classic, they will inspire people around the entire world.

Kaden Groves 10th as Luke Durbridge retains race lead on stage two of the Czech Tour

Mitchelton-Scott sent me this race report:

Mitchelton-SCOTT and Australian Luke Durbridge retained the race lead at the Czech Tour as stage two came down to a sprint finish in Uničov.

Luke Durbridge

Luke Durbridge remains the GC leader. Here is at the 3 Day of De Panne race of 2017. Sirotti photo

The day concluded with the anticipated bunch gallop, with neo-pro Kaden Groves crossing the line in 10th place behind stage winner Jordi Meeus (SEG Racing Academy).

Under Control
It took a while for a breakaway to form, but eventually three riders were allowed to escape as the peloton eased up. Mitchelton-SCOTT then took up control of the bunch, putting Italian Edoardo Affini and Kiwi Jack Bauer on the front to keep the gap in check.

The trio of escapees were never allowed more than four minutes of an advantage, with the peloton keen not to give themselves too much work to do ahead of the predicted sprint finish.

Race leader Durbridge also contributed to the chase and the gap to the two remaining breakaway riders was down to just over one-minute as the bunch hit the finishing circuit. It was soon all back together as teams turned their attentions to the upcoming sprint finish.

Sprint Finale
A series of minor counter attacks followed but there was no chance of the sprint teams allowing anyone to get away, and they were all quickly shutdown. A crash in the closing kilometres caused a split in the bunch, but Mitchelton-SCOTT managed to avoid the melee as they drove the pace on the front.

With the focus on protecting the team's general classification contenders, Groves was left to surf the wheels as the sprint approached, and it was a chaotic kick for the line, with the youngster having to settle for 10th.

Kaden Groves:
“The boys did a really good job riding on the front today, firstly to keep the jersey with Durbo. It was pretty hard for them out on the front all day, it was quite a warm day and we had no help from any other team.

“As for the sprint, we ran out of guys a bit too early to do a proper lead out. I just had to freelance and surf on the back of some trains, but there was no team really going to ride and it was pretty messy and dangerous.

“I’m not too stoked with 10th, because the guys did a better job than that. But I was simply tactically on the wrong side, made an error and got boxed in on the barrier once we came into the finish.

“I’m keen for tomorrow, I’m motivated to give it a second crack, and we’ll see how we go. I haven’t race in a while, but I’m pretty happy with the condition, I just need some things to go right in the finish and have a clean run.”

Dave McPartland (Sports Director):
“We were on the front all day keeping the team in position, we’re here for our GC candidates so we have to ride as close to the front as possible to keep out of trouble.

“The finishing circuit was quite dangerous, everyone was fresh after sitting in the bunch all day. It was a fast final lap, and then there was a big crash with three kilometres to go, we avoided because we were in front of it.

“In the end we had Kaden going for the sprint and we just came up a bit short with troops. He was by himself with a kilometre to go and had to fend for himself, he did the best he could, it just wasn’t to be today.”

Czech Tour - Stage 2 Results:
1. Jordi Meeus (SEG Racing Academy) 4:41:34
2. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) ST
3. Max Kanter (Team Sunweb) ST
10. Kaden Groves (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:01

Czech Tour – General Classification after Stage 2:
1. Luke Durbridge (Mitchelton-SCOTT)

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