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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, February 15, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book. - Groucho Marx

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Tour de la Provence stage two team reports

We posted the report from winner Alexandr Vlasov's Astana team with the results.

Here's the report from second-place Wilco Kelderman's Team Sunweb:

The second day of action at the Tour de La Provence saw the riders faced with a tricky 174 kilometre long route that featured several climbs throughout the day and a hilltop finish in La Ciotat.

It was expected at the start of the stage that there would be a big fight to get into the breakaway but the peloton was happy to let a break of three riders escape not long after the flag drop. The attackers were quickly able to build up a large advantage of over nine minutes. Yet, the peloton was always in control and heading into the second half of the day the gap started to tumble.

The breakaway put up a good fight but were caught at the summit of the penultimate climb. From therein the battle for position in the peloton was intense as riders fought to be at the front heading down the descent before the climb to the line. An attacking duo managed to escape from the bunch and led onto the opening ramps of the ascent but with the peloton in full flight behind, they were caught with three kilometres to go.

A tactical battle ensued on the climb, with numerous attacks in the finale. Wilco Kelderman was lively at the front and managed to get a small gap but the peloton was alert and quick to close him down. The pace then stalled before eventual stage-winner Vlasov attacked and broke clear. With the headwind on the climb, the bunch didn’t commit fully to a chase and despite Sam Oomen’s efforts at the front to set tempo, Vlasov held on for the win.

Aleksandr Vlasov

Aleksandr Vlasov takes the win. Sirotti photo

In the reduced uphill sprint between the peloton, the sprightly Kelderman showed a quick pair of heels to take the spoils and finish second on the stage. Taking some important bonus seconds, Kelderman moves into second place on GC with tomorrow’s summit finish atop the famous Mont Ventoux awaiting the peloton.

“I’m always unsure how good I will be after a high altitude training camp,” expressed Kelderman at the finish. “Today I felt good, especially on the climbs. It was a hectic day with a lot of twisty roads but we could stay together well towards the final. On the last climb I tried but Astana were just too strong in general. It’s nice to sprint to a second place, it’s a good start to the season.”

Team Sunweb coach Arjan Ribbers added: “The guys rode really well today and once again we’ve seen a strong team performance from them. With Wilco finishing second on the stage and in second place on GC, we’re in a good position for the weekend and we will fight hard to keep it that way.”

*Martijn Tusveld abandoned the race during today’s stage suffering from shoulder pain after a crash. He’s been taken to the hospital for a check-up, where he will have some scans and an x-ray. More to follow if there are updates.

Here's the report from Team Deceuninck-Quick Step:

A relentless up and down course and over 2000 meters of vertical climbing – stage 2 of the Tour de la Provence was no stroll in the park for the peloton, who faced a hard start with the road kicking up immediately after they left behind the neutral zone. That made for some intense racing on Col de l’Espigoulier, a small group containing Cyril Barthe (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), Jonas Koch (CCC Team) and Victor Lafay (Cofidis) getting clear only close to the summit.

Deceuninck – Quick-Step took over the front of the bunch and swapped pulls with the other teams interested to bring back the escapees, who went on to enjoy a maximum lead of nine minutes. Iljo Keisse worked ceaselessly and chewed into the trio’s advantage, which by the time they tackled the penultimate climb dropped below the two-minute mark. An attack of Pieter Serry helped to further reduce the gap to the leaders, who were caught at five kilometers to go, as the last climb, averaging 8.4% over 3.6 kilometers, began.

A series of searing attacks were launched, but they were all brought back by the bunch, where Andrea Bagioli sat in fifth wheel, after being excellently positioned by his teammates. With 1.5 kilometers to the finish, Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) went on the offensive and claimed the win and the leader’s jersey, the reduced group coming home 24 seconds later. Bagioli, who made his pro debut here at the Tour de la Provence, rode superbly, showing a lot of composure for his age, and remained in the peloton despite the big tempo, finishing an impressive fifth on La Ciotat/Les Crêtes, ahead of more seasoned riders, Grand Tour and Monument winners alike.

“To be fifth on my first race of the year is fantastic and makes me very glad. I am more than satisfied with this result and I want to thank the team for helping and pulling for me today, I think they had more confidence than I had in myself at the start of the stage. I was hoping to get a good result, but I never thought that I’d finish in the top 5. To be there with riders of such calibre, who until a couple of months ago I was watching on TV, is really incredible, such a great feeling”, the 20-year-old Andrea said after Friday’s stage. “The climb wasn’t that hard, but we had strong headwind and it made things really difficult. Tomorrow it will be very tough, a long climb, and we’ll see how things will unfold. Until then, I’ll just enjoy this moment and thank the guys again for their hard work.”

Vuelta a Murcia stage one team reports

We posted the report from winner Xandro Meurisse's Circus-Wanty Gobert team with the results

Third-place Josef Cerny's CCC Team posted this:

Josef Černý crossed the line in third place on stage one of the Vuelta Ciclista a la Region de Murcia on a day where the breakaway stole the show, battling for the stage win and finishing more than 16 minutes ahead of the peloton.

Černý formed part of an 11-rider breakaway that went clear after 20 kilometers of racing and quickly grew their advantage to five minutes after 50 kilometers of the 177-kilometer stage.

After the steepest climb of the day, the category one Alto Garapacha, halfway through the stage, the breakaway’s advantage continued to hover around the five-minute mark until a lack of organization in the peloton saw the gap extend to ten minutes inside the final 50 kilometres.

With multiple teams represented at the front of the race and no real chase from behind, the breakaway’s advantage continued to grow to more than 14 minutes after the day’s final climb by which stage, entering the final 30 kilometers, it was clear the stage win would go to the breakaway.

Černý covered all of the moves when the remaining ten riders began to attack each other and despite two riders forging ahead in the final 10 kilometers, the breakaway came back together with five kilometers to go.

Černý positioned himself well approaching the short, but steep, cobbled finish and started his climb in second wheel before eventually crossing the line in third place behind Xandro Meurisse (WGT), who took the stage win, and Adam De Vos (PRT), who finished ahead of the Czech rider.

The peloton rolled across the line more than 16 minutes behind Černý’s group which has the set the stage for an explosive second and final stage of the race, with another four climbs on the cards.

Josef Černý:
“Today, our tactic was to have someone in the breakaway if there was a group of eight or more riders and strong guys. We were trying to get into the move and I had the luck to go at the right moment and get in the breakaway. We all worked well together and everyone continued to work together until the last 20 kilometers or so when there were attacks to try and split the group and drop some riders. In the end, we all came back together in the finale. It was a hectic finale though and when I crossed the line, I had nothing left. It was a hard finish and it came down to who had the legs. I was feeling good though so we will see what happens tomorrow now that the peloton was so far behind us today.”

Piotr Wadecki, Sports Director:
“In the meeting before the race, we decided that Josef Černý was one of three riders who should try to get in the breakaway if teams like Movistar Team, Astana Pro Team, and Bora Hansgrohe were represented. Josef was feeling good all day and as the gap continued to grow, we knew the stage win would come from this group. We knew that Meurisse was strong and the finish was suited to him so Josef just had to do everything he could to stay up there and see how his legs responded, which he did. It will be interesting to see how tomorrow plays out. With teams like Astana and Movistar having their leaders around 16 minutes back, anything could happen. We will see what we can do with Josef in the General Classification.”

Here's what Bora-hansgrohe had to say about the stage:

With an early move Lennard Kämna made the decisive brake today at the first stage of the Vuelta Ciclista Murcia. While a trio went up the road first, Kämna managed to bridge across with another eight riders just before the first climb of the day. As the peloton wasn’t chasing hard enough, it was clear early that the stage winner had to be found among this breakaway. Already 20 km before the finish first attacks where flying, with Kämna making a move a little later. The young German was leading the race by 20 seconds, before seven riders were able to close the gap. On the step final kilometer, Kämna had to settle for fifth place after yet another strong ride in this early part of the season.

Xandro Meurisse

Xandro Meurisse wins the first stage.

From the Finish Line:
" I just tried once today to jump and made it straight into the group. As all WorldTour teams had a rider in front, there was no strong enough cooperation in the bunch to bring us back. In the finale first attacks were launched quite early. After some attempts, I also gave it a go. I had a good gap, but the guys behind me worked well together. On the last kilometer I then had to pay a little for the effort earlier. Still I can be happy with this fifth place. I am now in a promising position for the GC as the stage tomorrow is quite hard and my shape is good." – Lennard Kämna

"We knew that we had to try something today as the final was too hard for Pascal. Lennard is our guy for the GC here and it was perfect to have him in the front. At the end the race was hard to control as the group was quite big. Lennard tried it once but was caught with around 5 km to go. We can be confident about the GC now as Lennard is sitting in a very good position. Still it will be a tough battle tomorrow." – Jens Zemke, Sports Director

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