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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, August 31, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

Not all those who wander are lost. - J. R. R. Tolkien

Plato's Crito

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Philippe Gilbert out of Tour de France with patella fracture

This update from Team lotto-Soudal came too late to make yesterday's news:

Saturday night investigations at the Clinique Saint-Jean in Cagnes-sur-Mer revealed a broken kneecap of the left knee of Philippe Gilbert. The Lotto Soudal rider will be unable to take the start in stage two of the Tour de France.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert winning stage 17 of the 2019 Vuelta. Sirotti photo

“I was riding around position 20 in the peloton when they crashed in front of me", explained Philippe Gilbert. "I managed to escape that crash. I passed two, three fallen riders and thought to be safe, but then they crashed again, and this time I couldn’t avoid them anymore. We were lying there with 10-15 guys… Immediately I tried to get up, but that was impossible. I’ve waited there some two minutes, leaning against a guardrail. Then I left alone without being able to really push on the pedals. In a small group of dropped riders, I managed to finish, without being able to help the others. I was in pain. A pain I recognized from 2018...”

The pain that the former world champion was going through can only be imagined after he was diagnosed with a fracture of the same knee cap. In the 2018 Tour de France, Philippe Gilbert broke indeed the same patella after a crash in the descent of the Portet d’Aspet.

After the finish in Nice and the first medical aid by team doctor Jens De Decker, Gilbert was brought to the medical truck where X-rays did not reveal a major problem. An MRI in the hospital however revealed a fracture.

“Was it the fracture of two years ago or a new one? We would only be sure after an ultrasonography. There a fresh fracture was diagnosed. The good news is that it’s a fracture without displacement. First, we feared problems with tendons and ligaments. The doctor of the hospital, who took his time for us and stayed with us until 11 PM, spoke about an immobility period of two-three weeks. It could have been worse.”

Day 1 of the 107th Tour de France will be a day to forget for Lotto Soudal after John Degenkolb crashed out as well.

“What a disappointment for us”, concluded Philippe Gilbert. “We are both riders who love their sport and job. We always have respect for the races, our team and sponsors. We always fight and share the same values. I have big respect for what John did, finishing after a nasty crash, 65 kilometers alone and arriving two minutes out of time limit. John gave everything, but got zero respect from the commissaires. With the rain and all crashes, at least he deserved the respect to put him in the result, even if, afterwards, he would have been unable to continue. So unacceptable.”

Tour de France stage two reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage two winner Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

A magnificent display helped Julian Alaphilippe continue to build upon his extraordinary legacy, as he took a fifth stage victory at the Tour de France, moving into the race’s overall lead on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais. Just like last year, when a superb attack on the roads of Marne netted him an emphatic win and the iconic yellow jersey, Alaphilippe made his move on the final climb of the day, some 13 kilometers from the finish.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe enjoys his stage win.

Up until that moment, Deceuninck – Quick-Step was prominent with Danish Champion Kasper Asgreen, who spent almost the entire day in the breakaway, and Dries Devenyns and Bob Jungels, who set a steady tempo at the front of the bunch, making sure no one attacked, on Col d’Èze and Col de Quatre Chemines, respectively.

On this last climb, which suited him to the tee, Alaphilippe attacked hard and danced away from the reduced field, before being joined by Marc Hirschi (Sunweb). Together, they opened a ten-second lead over the GC favourites’ group, from where Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) zipped clear and bridged across, one kilometer from the top.

Then, on the fast descent to Nice, the trio extended their lead to 20 seconds, but soon a cat and mouse game began, which allowed the bunch to claw back time and close the gap to a mere five seconds with the finish line in sight. Sensing the threat behind, Julian launched the sprint down the left-side of the road, blasted past the Brit and with a perfectly-timed bike throw over the line edged out Hirschi, capturing his first victory of the year, before pointing to the sky, in memory of his father, who passed away in June.

“I wanted so much to get a stage victory for my late father. This was my main goal coming into the race. Everything that comes from now on is a bonus, but I wanted this victory for him and knowing that I got it makes me so happy”, an emotional Julian said after the finish. “I wanted so much to get a stage victory for my late father. This was my main goal coming into the race. Everything that comes from now on is a bonus, but I wanted this victory for him and knowing that I got it makes me so happy”, an emotional Julian said after the finish.

The 28-year-old Frenchman, who now has six Grand Tour stage wins to his name, the latest of which confirmed the amazing power to astonish he possesses, was quick to praise his team’s role in Sunday’s triumph: “Having Kasper in the breakaway put us in the perfect position, as we could wait for the final climb. Then Dries pushed a steady tempo on Col d’Èze, before Bob took over on Quatre Chemines. This incredible effort of my team was instrumental in the victory I got.”

After scoring Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s 40th Tour de France stage victory and taking the 15th yellow jersey of his career, Alaphilippe – who became the first Frenchman in 29 years to hold the overall lead in consecutive editions – insisted that the general classification isn’t his goal at this edition: “Winning in the Tour always feels special. It’s true that this is my fifth victory, but it always is a different feeling. It means a lot to win here and to be in yellow. Le Tour is the biggest race in the world and wearing this prestigious jersey is always an honour. I’m not here for the overall, but we’ll try to respect the maillot jaune and defend it for as long as possible. I can tell you I will enjoy every single moment I’ll spend with it on my shoulders.”

Here's the report from second-place Marc Hirschi's Team Sunweb:

After yesterday’s rainy conditions, sunnier and clear skies greeted the peloton as they rolled out from Nice for stage two of the Tour de France. With over 4000 metres of climbing ahead of riders, it was set to be a tough day in the saddle and a stage where no-one was too sure what would happen.

A big fight for the breakaway was expected but after a flurry of attacks a group managed to form out front in the opening five kilometres. With all Team Sunweb riders in the bunch, focus turned towards conserving energy and waiting for opportunities late in the stage.

The breakaway managed to build up an advantage of three minutes where it soon stabilised as the race leader’s team took up control at the front of the bunch. As the tough climbs ticked by, the breakaway’s gap diminished and with 40 kilometres to go and on the foot slopes of Col d’Èze those ahead were caught. The team worked well to move Nicholas Roche and Marc Hirschi into a good position as a strong pace was set at the front by the GC teams.

The strong pace nullified any attacks, so the peloton was all together as the race headed onto the final ascent. Roche did well to bring Hirschi towards the front, with the young rider reacting brilliantly after Alaphilippe launched a stinging attack. Hirschi made the junction to Alaphilippe with the duo forging on out front before they were joined by Yates with one kilometre to go to the summit.

Extending their advantage over the top and holding it onto the descent, they led by 18 seconds as they turned onto the promenade with two kilometres to go. A fierce headwind made for a tough finale, with Hirschi using his tactical nous and letting the other two do more work. As a result of the tactical games, the charging peloton had them in their sight but with 200 metres to go Alaphilippe launched the sprint. Hirschi started his effort a few bike lengths behind, producing a phenomenal turn of speed and constantly closing in on Alaphilippe’s wheel but the Frenchman held on to the line.

Julian Alaphilippe and AMrc Hirschi

Julian Alaphilippe and Marc Hirschi have escaped. Sirotti photo

It was an incredible effort from Hirschi though, who took a brilliant second place on the day and as a result moves into the lead of the best young rider’s jersey and gets to wear the white jersey in tomorrow’s stage. With the bonus seconds he took on the penultimate ascent and on the line, Hirschi also moves his way up to third place in the overall standings too.

“When Alaphilippe attacked on the last climb I wasn’t directly on his wheel and I was a bit scared that I might blow up, but I knew if I came to his wheel that it was flat on the top and I could recover a bit,” explained a buoyant Hirschi at the finish. “I was on the limit and just needed to recover a bit so didn’t do too much work, otherwise I would completely explode. I knew that when I went over the top I could also do some work with them and I think Yates had the most pressure for the GC. I was on Alaphilippe’s wheel at the finish but he was just too strong in the sprint. For me it’s really nice to have this jersey. At the first moment I was a little bit disappointed because I was so close to yellow, but in a few minutes I’ll be really happy about it. I’m really happy with how my shape is and I’ve made some more good progress since the Dauphiné. Already now the Tour is a success for me because I get to wear the jersey but we’ll try and go for another day success later in the race.”

Team Sunweb coach Matt Winston added: “Our goal for the day was to try and be in the race winning breakaways. It didn’t go quite as well as we had hoped to at the start. Then the plan was to really focus on the final and look after Marc for it. I think he showed really great initiative after some good teamwork from all, even though we weren’t all there in the final, all of the guys showed good cooperation in the stages leading up to it. They got him into a good position with everything he needed. Nicholas really looked after him on his home circuit and put him in a position where he could attack. Marc showed great initiative when Alaphilippe jumped and he went with him. Then he did a really smart, tactical final where he came just short of the win. It’s his first final in the Tour de France where he’s going for the win and I think he showed great maturity and we can definitely build on that.”

Adam Yates attacks to third place on stage two of the Tour de France

Yates' Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this report:

UAE Tour winner Adam Yates sprinted to third place in an attacking finale to stage two of the Tour de France in Nice.

Adam Yates

Adam Yates winning stage three of the UAE Tour.

The 28-year-old attacked on the final climb of the day to put himself in contention for his first Grand Tour stage win, but the Mitchelton-SCOTT rider couldn’t match the speed of winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick Step) in a three-way sprint for victory.

A seven-rider breakaway was allowed to go clear as they contested the first intermediate check point, and the escapees maintained a three-minutes advantage over the Col de la Colmiane. Despite the gap coming down over the Cold de Turini, they made it over the summit with two-minutes in hand.

However, the race was starting to heat up behind them and as the Col d’Eze approached, the break were swept up. A high tempo set by Team Jumbo-Visma prevented any attacks on the climb, meaning the stage was set for a showdown on the Col des Quatre Chemis.

Several teams battled for position heading into the base of the climb, but it was Alaphilippe who was the first to make a move, attacking clear of the pack with the 13km to go. The Frenchman was then joined by Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb), with the duo opening up a narrow gap.

With no movement or organised chase in the bunch, Yates jumped away in pursuit of the leading pair. The Brit quickly bridged across the gap to make it a leading trio as the summit approached, with vital bonus seconds available over the top.

Yates proved to be the fastest in the uphill run and grabbed eight bonus seconds, but attentions quickly turned to the fight for victory. The threesome worked to maintain their lead over the chasing pack on the descent, and it was soon clear the win would come from one of the three.

A strong headwind greeted them as they passed under the flamme rouge and Yates found himself on the front as the peloton closed in. With 200 metres to go, Alaphilippe opened up the sprint, Hirschi and Yates reacted, but the former Milano-San Remo winner proved too quick in the three-way dash for the line.

Adam Yates:
"It was a really hard day out, even the climbs at the beginning were being ridden at a solid pace and you could feel the fatigue as we came onto the climb the first time, you could see there were a lot of people suffering, just like me.

"There were already two up the road and when they went it was still quite early and Jumbo-Visma were riding quite a hard pace anyway. So, I waited until the little steep bit and jumped across and tried to work straight away.

"In the final I got away with the two guys, we started working well towards the end, and yeah, I was never going to win that sprint, was I? So, I think third was the best I was going to come out of that situation.

"It was a block headwind and I ended up on the front, not a good scenario for me there, but like I said, I was probably never going to be winning that sprint anyway, they’re both faster than me. So, I can be happy with third."

Matt White (Head Sports Director):
"It’s not a normal Tour de France stage two, it was a tough one today and with these special bonus seconds as well there was an added incentive to go after them.

"There was a chance there that if a group could stay away they could take the yellow jersey, and it has, Alaphilippe is in yellow and Adam in second overall.

"Adam did a great ride today when he bridged across to the two leaders on the last climb. I didn’t give them too much chance to stay away just because it was a very, very strong headwind coming into the finish, but they did, just."

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this stage two report:

After the flat opening stage, it was straight into the mountains at Le Tour. Starting and finishing again in Nice, stage 2’s 186km parcours covered three categorised climbs, with the first two being first category. While the finale was flat, with a downhill section leading to the finish line, the fast riders would find it harder to challenge for the win, but this didn’t stop Peter Sagan jumping in the break with Lukas Pöstlberger and six others.

Peter SAgan

Peter Sagan can be seen in the green jersey in the breakaway. Sirotti photo

With points up for grabs at the early intermediate sprint, the Slovak rider added to his total in the Maillot Vert standings taking second position before staying with Lukas in the lead group as the stage went on, coping well on the day’s climbs and keeping their advantage at around three minutes before finally dropping back with 95km to go, leaving the break with almost four minutes’ lead. While Lukas was riding well in what was now a group of three, the peloton was drawing close and the catch was made with 40km to go, at the foot of the day’s final categorised climb.

The run to the finish provided plenty of opportunities to attack, and several riders made an attempt, with three managing to make their move stick. Helping drive the pace in the peloton, Emanuel Buchmann and Maximilian Schachmann were close behind, but this reduced bunch was just too late to deny the escapees the win, Deceunick Quick-Step’s Alaphilippe taking the stage and Maximilian crossing the line in ninth position and Emu taking the same time as the bunch.

From the Finish Line:
"It was a long day but a good one. I had to fight to get more points for the green jersey and I think we did a good job for that in the intermediate sprint. I'm happy Emu finished with the main group and we'll continue giving our best every day." – Peter Sagan

"It was a good stage today for me. Going into the start, I was a bit scared because I wasn't sure how my shape would be after my crash at the Dauphiné but I felt pretty well, I had no problems in the finale and finished with the leading group. I would say it was a good day." – Emanuel Buchmann

"It was a very hard stage and our focus was to have Peter score additional points in the intermediate sprint. Lukas and Peter went into the breakaway and that worked very well as Peter took second. Afterwards, we worked for Max and Emu in the finale. It was tough but our guys gave their best and brought our two leaders in a good position. That also worked well although, unfortunately, Max wasn't able to follow the attack Alaphilippe and Yates launched. However, that was to be expected given the fact he had broken his collarbone recently. Overall, we did a good race, Emu didn't lose time and from that point of view all is fine today." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

Michael Matthews moves to Mitchelton-Scott

Here's the note I got from Matthew's Sunweb team:

Team Sunweb are developing and building for the future, aiming to become stronger in width. One of their goals includes the formation of strong, dedicated blocks of riders for the one-day races and sprints, to create options for different scenarios in the finales.

Michael Matthews, still under contract until the end of 2021, indicated that the team’s tactical approach to the sprints and classics – a more varied method, which takes advantage of the team’s increased collective strength - doesn’t precisely fit his athletic profile nor his preference of being the team’s targeted fast finisher. The team’s evolution of tactics for classics and sprints made Matthews request to look for new opportunities after 2020 elsewhere. The team decided to cooperate on the move.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews is moving on...

Michael Matthews said: “The team is very ambitious and increasingly want to work with a broader collective of riders deeper in the finales of classics and sprint races. Those tactics do not ideally fit with my ambitions and specific strengths to sprint for the wins. For that reason, I decided to ask permission to investigate opportunities to look for a different team and I appreciate that Team Sunweb was open for this.

“I always have been very happy with the team’s professional environment and the wealth of knowledge that they have. I hope that I can find a similar environment in my next team. Through the years we have achieved amazing things together which I am very proud of, these memories will stay in my mind forever and I am very thankful to the team for that.”

Team Sunweb’s Iwan Spekenbrink said: “We are now in a position where the composition of the team has changed, and we want to exploit that broadened collective strength in the classics and the sprints. We respect that Michael has been open about his view on our goals and tactics in relation to his own specific strengths. Michael is an incredibly gifted rider; he is ambitious, we’ve really achieved great things together and he has been a good fit to the team. All of this combined made us decide to respond favorably to his request to search for opportunities elsewhere.”

And Matthews' new team, Mitchelton-Scott, sent me this:

Eight-time Grand Tour stage winner and 2017 Tour de France green jersey champion Michael Matthews will return ‘home’ to Mitchelton-SCOTT next season.

After four years with Team Sunweb, the recent Bretagne Classic winner has signed a new two-year contract that will see the 29-year-old reunited with the Australian team until 2022.

A complete package, ‘Bling’ has 35 individual professional career victories, including 18 during his time in GreenEDGE Cycling colours between 2013 and 2016.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews in GreenEdge colors in 2015

A two-time podium placer at Milan-San Remo, including in 2020, Matthews will be a serious contender for monument and one-day Classics success, as well as adding stage winning capabilities to the Mitchelton-SCOTT outfit.

Michael Matthews:
“I saw a moment where it just felt right. As a sprinter and as a rider you feel moments like this and sometimes you just have to go with instinct.

“The opportunity was there to come back and you have to take them when they are there. At this moment in my career it just felt right, and the team has welcomed me back with open arms which is really special.

“I’m definitely happy to be coming back, I have some amazing memories from GreenEDGE. Gerry Ryan supported me through my under-19, under-23 days and also in helping me turn professional, so it just feels like coming home.

“I want to get my own results, but also to be a part of the team that has GC goals as well. We will have Simon Yates that can win the biggest Grand Tour’s in the world and I would love to be part of that and there’s some young guys coming through, to help them progress too.

“I wouldn’t put it down to one particular race or result to make the next two years successful, but I want to progress as a rider and as a teammate, and enjoy races.”

Gerry Ryan – Mitchelton-SCOTT Team Owner:
“I have followed Michael’s journey from an aspiring junior to the world-class rider he is today and to witness the transition, both on and off the bike, has been incredibly satisfying for me.

“Michael is a one-of-a-kind rider and has given this organisation some of our most spectacular victories on the world’s biggest stage, including the Tour de France.

“We couldn’t be happier to have him back home, this is where he belongs.”

Brent Copeland – Mitchelton-SCOTT General Manager:
“It is with great pleasure that we welcome Michael to the team.

“First and foremost a big thanks to Gerry for making this agreement become a reality, Michael’s presence in the team helps us come full circle with the team roster that we have been working meticulously on in the past few months together with Darach McQuaid and Matthew White as well as with the team's technical staff.

“He is a rider who brings a huge amount of excitement to racing as well as being a true personality that fits in exceptionally well with the team culture.

“We are sure the Australian and worldwide fans are just as excited as we are about the return of Michael and we are looking forward to a solid future ahead of us.”

Michael Matthews
Date of Birth: 26th September 1990
Nationality: Australian
With Mitchelton-SCOTT: 2013-2016, 2021-2022

Top Results:
• 1st 2017 Tour de France – Sprint Classification
• 3 x Tour de France stage winner (2017 & 2016)
• 2 x Giro d’Italia stage winner (2015 & 2014)
• 3 x Vuelta a Espana stage winner (2014 & 2013)

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