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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, August 13, 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

The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions. - Leonardo da Vinci

Current racing:

Important upcoming racing, according to the UCI revised calendar:

Latest completed racing:

Critérium du Dauphiné stage one team reports

We posted the organizer's stage one summary with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Wout Van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team:

Wout van Aert has continued his impressive victory march. The 25-year-old Belgian, who already won Strade Bianche and Milan-SanRemo this month, won the opening stage in the Criterium du Dauphiné today. After 218 kilometres, Van Aert was the fastest in the sprint of a reduced peloton.

Wout Van aert

Wout Van Aert takes the first stage.

The stage was animated by an early breakaway, controlled by Team Jumbo-Visma. After the breakaway was caught and Tony Martin had finished his work, Robert Gesink and Sepp Kuss increased the pace at fifteen kilometres from the finish line, with the three team leaders and Van Aert in their wheel. In the final kilometre, Van Aert was brought in an ideal position for the sprint by Steven Kruijswijk, Tom Dumoulin and Primoz Roglic.

“The dream continues”, Van Aert said. “I was still quite tired after Milan-SanRemo. So I did not immediately see this victory coming. Although I did have the mindset to go for it. I had also indicated that in the meeting yesterday and also during the stage. The boys did a fantastic job. It also indicates how we function as a team and what the atmosphere is like. When riders like Tom Dumoulin, Steven Kruijswijk and Primoz Roglic are working for you, it certainly gives you extra motivation. This is a very nice victory and it also was a perfect situation for us. So, as you can see, it works both ways. On the one hand we want to keep our GC guys in the front and on the other hand I still had the opportunity to do my own sprint. So you see, when the opportunities arise, I certainly will not hesitate to seize them. I will definitely enjoy riding in the yellow jersey tomorrow.”

Dumoulin was full of praise for his teammate. “This is really great. It is nice to achieve this together. Wout wanted to go for it this morning and this stage was a great opportunity. We were at the front on the final climb and Primoz and I countered the necessary attacks. Luckily, I still had enough energy left for a lead-out after Steven continued to pull to the top of the climb. I think I did a lead-out of about eight hundred metres. It is very special that Wout finishes it off like that.”

Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this:

Seven categorised climbs and an uphill stretch to the finish line welcomed riders to the first stage of the 2020 Criterium du Dauphiné. The 218.5km opener wasn’t going to waste any time gently warming up the riders – it was straight into the racing. The breakaway had clearly received this message and made the jump shortly after the drop of the flag. A group of five built up a lead that hit 5:30 at its peak, but as the riders hit the halfway point, this began to drop steadily, with three of the five abandoning the race.

The pace got faster and there were a number of crashes in both the peloton and the breakaway, the latter reducing the escape group to just one rider. A fall saw Emanuel Buchmann delayed momentarily, but re-mounting his bike, the German rider was brought back to the front by his BORA-hansgrohe teammates. With less than 30km to go, the gap to the break dropped below a minute, finally being caught to bring it all back together with 13km remaining.

Emanuel Buchmann

Emanuel Buchmann winning the Trofeo Tramuntana earlier this year.

Two fourth category climbs made up the final ascent and the narrow roads made attacking challenging. Daniel Oss and Lennard Kämna stuck to the front as the bunch stretched out, supporting Emanuel Buchmann to the last kilometre, where a reduced bunch fought their way up the ramps to the day’s finale. The day culminated in an uphill bunch finish, and Emanuel stayed with the leaders to cross the line in sixteenth position, taking the same finish time as the day’s winner. 

From the Finish Line:
"The Dauphiné got off with a very fast stage as Jumbo-Visma set a strong pace in the front. The guys worked really hard all day and kept me in an excellent position in the final kilometres. It was a tricky finish but I crossed the line in the leading group, so overall, I'm happy with the start of the race." – Emanuel Buchmann

"As expected, it was a long and hard stage, with lots of climbing, close to 3,600 metres. We were expecting a bigger group to come to the finish and that Peter and Gregor would go for the sprint, but, unfortunately, they weren't in the leading group. and we didn't have that option. The team worked very well for Emu who is in good form and was feeling well. He had a crash but it seems it was nothing serious, which is encouraging.  We have another four hard stages where we will focus on getting a good GC position for Emu while continuing fine-tuning for the Tour de France." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

And EF Pro Cycling sent me this Dauphiné report:

The first stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné was labeled as the “easiest” stage of the week, but with seven categorized climbs and over 218 kilometers of racing — this day was far from easy.

A breakaway formed early in the day, with five riders going up the road 10 kilometers into the stage. They were able to build up a sizable lead over the peloton, but a few crashes, variable weather conditions, and a charging peloton saw the break shrink down to one rider with 50km to go. The lone rider was caught with 20 km to go and from then on it was a battle between the general classification riders with Team Jumbo-Visma laying down a blistering pace and dominating at the front.

Rigoberto Urán was the first rider to mix things up on the final climb of the day, launching an attack with 2.9 km to go. He was quickly brought back, but his attack left the peloton fragmented and disorganized. The stage finished at the top of a steep category four climb at Saint-Christo-en-Jarez, seeing Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) take the win ahead of Daryle Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) and Egan Bernal (Team Ineos). Our top finisher was the young Colombian, Sergio Higuita, who crossed the line in seventh.

Sergui Higuita

Sergio Higuita on the attack in the 2019 Vuelta a Espana. Sirotti photo

Here is what our team had to say after today’s finish:

Rigoberto Urán - rider:
“You know it has been so long since racing it was just really exciting to be back with the team and back out there. In reality, my last race was last August at the Vuelta a España. Obviously, I raced at Tour Colombia in February, but there you’re on home ground. It’s a bit like being on holiday, whereas here at the Dauphiné it’s where all the best riders in the world are, with the mentality that they’re just about to race the Tour de France. Therefore it’s a very different race, so I’m just really happy to be back.”

“In the final few kilometers of the race I was feeling good and so wanted to test things a bit, it was a hard final and they didn’t give me a lot of space. But it felt good, I feel happy with that as a first day back. It’s all about building as much strength as possible ahead of the Tour de France. We have a great team here and we want to do well, it’s going to be a complicated race because it’s a really hard one. On the whole it was a good first day.”

“Between us and the guys who have raced already this season you can notice a bit of a difference, because they’ve already done quite a few days and so they are already back into that racing rhythm, so we’re a bit behind them. We’re really not worried about it because we are motivated to do well. We were up there today, but we also know there might be one or two days where we’re not, but it’s all about getting back in there and seeing what we have and just enjoying the race.”

Charly Wegelius - head sport director:
“It’s nice to get the first day of racing out the way without any big hiccups. It’s been a long time for this group to be away from racing of course, and they’re coming into a group of riders who have been racing for a while. So to get those first day of school nerves out the way is great.”

“I think the first impressions are that the group functioned really well. I’m sure there are little bits and pieces that need to be worked on which we will take care of this week. It was really nice to see Rigo on top of his game in the final, and I think Sergio did a super finish even though we probably would have preferred they put the finish 150 meters further up the hill — but you can’t have it all your own way.” 

Road ahead:
Tomorrow is the first of many big mountain tests of this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné, it’s definitely going to be a week of uphill battles. The peloton will scale a category 1 climb up the Côte Maillet and will finish atop Col de Porte, a 17.5km climb. Hold onto your hats, more fireworks are to be expected.

Gran Piemonte team reports

We posted the report from Deceuninck-Quick Step with the results.

Race winner George Bennett's Jumbo Visma sent me this report:

George Bennett has gone solo in Barolo to clinch a magnificent victory in Gran Piemonte. With that, the New Zealander provided Team Jumbo-Visma with the eleventh victory of the season.

After a smooth start on the hilly course, the pace increased during the final lap of the local circuit. The team, led by Addy Engels, was actively at the front during the entire race. After the early breakaway was reeled in, the battle in the peloton broke loose. On La Morra, the final climb, Bennett went on the attack and he managed to hold on until the finish line.

Bennett: “I wanted to wait until the toughest part of the race. I was worried it wouldn’t be difficult enough, so I had already asked my teammates to make the race as tough as possible. They did a great job and positioned me well all day long. Paul Martens and Koen Bouwman set the pace and Chris Harper made the last climb super tough. I still had to be careful with the rain on the descent, but I went as fast as I could.“

Earlier, in the Tour de l'Ain, Bennett had shown that he is in good shape. Therefore he was free to go for his own chances in Piemonte. It resulted in Barolo in his second professional victory of his career.

"I knew I only had two days this season to go for my own chance. One of them was today. The other one will be next Saturday in Il Lombardia. After that I go back to work as a domestique. So when I saw that I had the possibility today, I knew I had to go for it. I hoped that I could stay away until the end and I did”, Bennett said.

Here's what Team Astana had to say:

The Italian one-day race started with temperatures of around 33 degrees and ended under pouring rain with Aleksandr Vlasov and Alex Aranburu taking fourth and sixth place in Barolo after a tough race, where the Kazakh team set the pace for a long time.

The 104th edition of the one-day race Gran Piemonte took the peloton from Santo Stefano Belbo over 187 undulating kilometers to Barolo, in the region of Piemont. The Kazakh team arrived with quite a young but strong team, alongside Ion Izagirre, the team had many cards to play for today’s punchy uphill finish with Alex Aranburu and Mont Ventoux winner Aleksandr Vlasov.

After some kilometers of racing a quartet went up the road and built up an ample gap over the peloton. The breakaway was gone for most of the race, while Astana Pro Team took control over the pace in the peloton.

The riders came on the final laps towards Barolo as the race went on fire. With the gap dropping steadily the breakaway was caught 8 kilometers ahead of the finish line. The fans around Barolo saw several attacks on the steep last parts. Also, the riders of Astana Pro Team were very active at the front of the race working for Alex Aranburu and Aleksandr Vlasov. Both riders dug deep to bridge across to the soloist, who attacked on the final kilometers.

While George Bennett, took the stage win, the Astana youngsters rode into the Top10. The Russian National Champion took fourth, while Alex Aranburu crossed the line in sixth place.

George Bennett

George Bennett wins the 2020 Gran Piemonte.

- The race was really hard, always up and down. But, also the temperatures made it extreme. But the team did an excellent job, they rode the whole day at the front of the race. I felt really good but the last climb up to the finish was pretty tough, however I am really satisfied with my performance and huge thanks to the team for their support. I am looking forward to the next races, as I feel in good shape. – Aleksandr Vlasov

- The team did a really good job. We controlled the race the whole time. The race was very hard, the temperatures and the course weren’t that easy. On the last climb, we were pretty strong and fast, but Bennett was stronger and took the win. The chasing groups were back together on the final meters uphill, just Bennett was alone at the front. As he arrived, we battled for the second place but I had nothing left to go for the podium and finished in sixth place. – Alex Aranburu 

- It was a tough edition of Gran Piemonte, especially the heat makes it really hard. Well, of course a victory is always nice and a goal, but we can be happy with our results today. The team worked really well together and took control over the race, helping their leaders. We had several cards to play today, so we tried to bring Aranburu, Vlasov and Izagirre into a good position, and it worked. At the end we finished the tough day with a fourth and sixth place, so all in all we can be satisfied. – Stefano Zanini

The team continues their Italian trip this Saturday with the next Monument in the race calendar, Il Lombardia.

And here's the Gran Piemonte report from Mitchelton-Scott:

Australian Rob Stannard put in an impressive ride on his way to a top-10 finish at a punishing edition of the Gran Piemonte.

The 21-year-old was in the mix in an attacking finale after the team had lost Australian champion Cameron Meyer and Kiwi Dion Smith to a crash, with Stannard stepping up to grab eighth.

Scotson Breaks Away
There was a big battle to make into the early breakaway and Australian Callum Scotson was amongst the four rider move that eventually snapped the elastic and forged clear of the peloton. The bunch then knocked off the pace, allowing Scotson and company a maximum advantage of more than seven minutes.

Disaster then struck Scotson when the 24-year-old was struck down by cramp, forcing him to stop at the side of the road with 50kilometres to go. That left three riders out front and their advantage soon began to tumble as the bunch upped the pace behind.

A lull in the peloton caused a reaction in the bunch with veteran Michael Albasini keen to animate the race as several riders pushed the pace. No attacks stuck, but the action reduced the gap to the breakaway down to one minute.

Plan B
The bad luck then continued for Mitchelton-SCOTT as Meyer and Smith were caught up in a crash with 20km to go. However, despite losing key men, Albasini and Stannard ploughed on towards the head of the reduced peloton.

As the breakaway was eventually mopped up with nine kilometres to go, Stannard was poised and ready. The attacks soon followed as George Bennett (Team Jumbo-Visma) launched his move, but Stannard was quick to react and gave chase.

However, the youngster couldn’t go with the Kiwi climber’s acceleration and instead formed part of a select chase group behind. That group then swelled in number, but there was no chance of catching Bennett who soloed to victory, while Stannard sprinted eighth place from the chasing pack.

Rob Stannard:
“The original plan was to put Dion and I into a good position for the second to last climb. After the crash we lost Dion, but for me the plan didn’t change, I had Albasini there and I put myself in a good position for that climb.

"I felt great in the final part of the race, I couldn’t follow Bennett, but I went over the top in the chase group of six. I saved as much energy as I could in the run in to the last climb just following wheels.

“I could see it was an uncomfortable day for everyone in the heat, but I started to feel better later on as the temperature dropped. I’m really pleased with the sensations on the final climbs, being able to stay with some of the top climbers gives me a lot of confidence.”

Gene Bates (Sports Director):
"We were keen to have someone in the break, if it had been a big break we would have tried to get a couple of guys in there. But in the end the teams of the favourites were pretty keen to keep the breakaway relatively small.

"But it was still good to have Callum in there. Had he not cramped it would have given us another person in the final to help Rob. But nevertheless, it was a good race back for Callum and despite the cramps forcing him out of the breakaway, I think he’s got a bit of confidence in his form for the upcoming races.

"In a final like that there’s not a great deal you can do if you don’t have good legs and we knew it was all about positioning Rob into that final climb before the finish. In the end Rob had a fantastic ride, he set himself up really well, he was just unlucky to miss the move of Bennett.

"But it’s a fantastic result for Rob, a real confidence booster for him, particularly as a young guy up against some big names at the end there."

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