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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, November 8, 2020

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2020 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him. - Booker T. Washington

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Vuelta a España stage 17 reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner David Gaudu's Groupama-FDJ team:

Today, David Gaudu made another step in his – young – career. The French climber was looking forward to it for so long, and it finally came on the Vuelta on Saturday. In what he considered to be the queen stage of the 2020 Tour of Spain, the 24-year-old rider has today conquered his very first win on a Grand Tour. Furthermore, he did it in a mountaintop finish, which is a first for him since he turned pro. Beating Marc Soler on the line after a long breakaway and the invaluable support from Bruno Armirail throughout the day, David Gaudu brought the first win to Groupama-FDJ on this Vuelta and also climbed to 12th overall.

David Gaudu

David Gaudu wins stage seventeen. Photo: Gomez Sport

“We’ll need to interpret the race well and maybe get one step ahead if the opportunity arises”. These words from Thierry Bricaud on Thursday evening clearly echoed during stage 11 of the Vuelta today. Quite soon, Bruno Armirail already tried to get in some moves although the first breakaway of eleven riders went without him. However, the race circumstances – and the battle for the KOM jersey in particular- led the peloton to continue pushing. Therefore, all was brought back together in the Alto de la Colladana, the first of the four first-category climbs of the day. At that point, David Gaudu and Bruno Armirail then forced the course of destiny. “In the bus this morning, we considered that I would go up front, and that Bruno would come with me”, explained the French climber. “It’s not always easy to do what you aim for, but we managed to get in the front indeed”. “We plan a strategy in the briefing, but to see it realizing itself is something completely different”, confirmed Thierry Bricaud. “It was pretty much the scenario we would have liked to see occurring, and it worked out perfectly. The breakaway eventually formed on that first big climb after fifty kilometers, which was actually good for us since we had a better chance of putting David in there.”

At the top of this very climb, the Groupama-FDJ’s young leader was together with his teammate and six other riders. However, the peloton never really let go and just sat two minutes behind the day’s breakaway. Marc Soler took advantage of this small margin to bridge across on the next climb, the Alto de la Corbeteria. His teammate Nelson Oliveira and Bruno Armirail then give their all in the more rolling parts of the route. “We knew that Bruno is going very well and that he could play his part, so that the break would go far but also so that David could save some energy until the bottom of the final climb,” said Thierry. “This is what happened, he did a really great job”. “We managed to channel Bruno the right way in order that he could be useful in the finale,” smiled David. “He did a huge job and completely sacrificed himself for me. At some point he came to tell me that he’s taking his last turn, then he dropped back… but he came back again! I can say a big thank you to him today”. Although the bunch never stopped pulling because of Soler’s presence at the front, the breakaway still managed to keep a good collaboration over the kilometers and climbs to get to the bottom of the Alto de la Farrapona with a three-minute lead.

Bruno Armirail gave what he had left on the first slopes of this final ascent and then left David Gaudu battling against Marc Soler, Guillaume Martin or Michael Storer. The Spaniard made the first attack but the Frenchman managed to follow quite easily with five kilometers to go. “We knew Soler was strong, but the first goal was for the two to make a gap, so to be sure to go for the stage,” explained Thierry. The duo quickly took a 30-second lead and then stayed wheel-to-wheel until the last kilometre. “David hesitated to attack or to go for the sprint”, told Thierry. “We know he can do good punchy little sprints up the hills. He took that option and he did well.” “I know I have a lot of punch, that I’m doing very well in this kind of finish,” added the rider from Brittany. “When Marc Soler attacked 500 meters from the finish, I saw that he sat down quite quickly with the headwind. I waited for the last 150 meters and gave it my all. I saw he was dropped with 75 meters to go and I understood that I got it. From then on, it was just about happiness.”

The 24-year-old young man noticeably showed that happiness on the line, with his gestures and with his voice. “It was a scream of relief because I had been struggling for a few days,” he explained. “It was also a difficult season, we really struggled for three months and we failed at the Tour de France. We came on this Vuelta with a very combative spirit, and even if Thibaut had to abandon, we remained united and committed since the start. Today, I wasn’t necessarily feeling very well at the start but I ended up winning here. It’s something exceptional. I got my first WorldTour victory last year. Today, I took my first win on a Grand Tour, at the top of a mountain moreover. This is a first for me, and I did not do it ahead of just anybody. It means a lot to me and I hope it is only the start. Anyway, this is also a reward for the whole team for their work from the start of the Vuelta”. “David has had a tough season, so it’s important to be able to finish it on a high note, even if the Vuelta isn’t over,” said Thierry. “We can now say that this Tour of Spain has been successful, but like what we did on the Giro: now that we got one, why not get a second? That will be our state of mind. If we can get a final top 10, that would be great too, but the real goal is to get another win.”

Here's the report from GC leader Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team:

Primoz Roglic has managed to maintain his leading position in the general classification in the last mountain stage of the Vuelta a España. With only the final stage to Madrid to go, the overall victory can hardly escape Team Jumbo-Visma’s team leader.

Prinoz Roglic

Roglic crosses the finish line knowing he has won the 2020 Vuelta. Jumbo-Visma photo

The battle for the overall win became an exciting one at the Alto de la Covatilla. The number two of the general ranking Richard Carapaz had a shot at the overall victory, but was not able to take enough time on the Slovenian leader of Team Jumbo-Visma. If no unforeseen things happen in the usually ceremonial stage tomorrow, Roglic will win the Vuelta a España for the second consecutive time.

“It became very exciting in the last kilometres”, Roglic stated afterwards. “I knew it would be enough to retain the overall lead if I kept my own pace. In the end it all falls into place and I’m still wearing the red jersey. Carapaz showed that he is very strong. I didn’t always have everything under control, but I never had the feeling that I would lose the red jersey. I stayed focused and did my own thing. That turned out to be enough to keep my place in the rankings. The whole team showed themselves today. My teammates did a really good job today, as they have done throughout the Vuelta. Until now, we have been focused every day. We have to stay focused for one more day and then it’s over.”

Here's the report from third-place Ion Izagirre's Team Astana:

Ion Izagirre did a very strong race on the last mountain stage of the Vuelta a España 2020. The Astana Pro Team rider attacked from the breakaway on a steep cobble part together with two more riders, opening a nice gap.

Ion Izagirre

Ion Izagirre gives it a go. Astana photo

With 7 km to go on the final climb of the day the group of Ion Izagirre still had 50 seconds over the chasers. But later, the French rider David Gaudu made a strong counterattack, which brought him the stage win. Izagirre did his best, but in the end of the day he finished 3rd, 1.05 behind Gaudu.

- I think I did a nice stage. Of course, I would prefer to win today, but anyway it was a good performance for me. The stage was a tough one, and our group pushed really hard in front. On the cobbles I went together with Mader and Donovan, it was a good move and we opened a nice gap. Later I tried for myself, but behind me there were several really strong riders, so in the end, Gaudu and Mader passed me. Well, it was a nice opportunity to win another stage, but today a few riders were just stronger, - said Ion Izagirre.

A huge breakaway group went away on the first part of stage 17 (Sequeros – Alto de la Covatilla, 178.2 km). Two Astana Pro Team riders, Ion Izagirre and Omar Fraile joined this group, while Aleksandr Vlasov remained in the peloton, surrounded by Gorka Izagirre, Merhawi Kudus, Alex Aranburu and Dmitriy Gruzdev.

The break opened a 3-minute gap, which, in the end of the day, was enough to play the stage win. With 17 km to go Gino Mader and Mark Donovan launched an attack on a short but steep cobble section and Ion Izagirre immediately reacted to this move. Thus, three riders went away clear, opening a 50-second gap on the chasers.

Ion Izagirre attacked solo with 6 km to go, taking an advantage on his rivals. But, with some 4 km to go David Gaudu and Gino Mader passed him.

Behind the shoulders of the break there was a big battle among the GC contenders. Aleksandr Vlasov made an attack on the final climb, but later other favorites caught him back. In the end of the day, Vlasov finished 14th, 3 minutes 38 seconds behind the stage winner. Unfortunately, he missed just 2 seconds to remain in the Top-10 of the general classification. With only one stage to go Aleksandr Vlasov is 11th in the overall standings.

Before the final stage in Madrid the Slovenian rider Primoz Roglic leads the general classification, having 24 seconds on Richard Carapaz and 47 seconds on Hugh Carthy.

Stage 18 of La Vuelta will be held tomorrow: 139.6 km from Hipodromo de la Zarzuela to Madrid.

And here's the report from Felix Großschartner's Bora-hansgrohe team:

The penultimate stage of the Vuelta, which came to a conclusion with a decisive mountaintop finish, was responsible for slight changes in the overall standings today. Following 30 km in the saddle, the mountainous roller coaster kicked off with five classified climbs, including an ascent up to the Alto de Covatilla, a Hors Category climb.

Pascal Ackermann and Michael Schwarzmann first managed to make the cut into a 34-man breakaway, which was able to gather a lead of up to 4 minutes. On the final climbs, an increasing number of riders from the break were swept up by the field behind. Then with 15 km remaining, a trio from the leading group attacked and carved out a small advantage.

On the final climb, which came about 5 km later, Felix Großschartner unfortunately suffered a mechanical, but was able to catch up with the peloton not long afterwards. BORA - hansgrohe then took the lead, but with 7 km to the finish, the gap to the leaders was still 3:45 minutes. A little later, D. Gaudu attacked from a reduced chase group and was able to bridge the gap to the leading group. Back in the group of favourites, which also included Felix Großschartner, Ide Schelling dictated the pace in support of his teammate in his fight to defend his position in the general classification. After 178 kilometres in the saddle, Gaudu ultimately took the stage honours. At the end of a draining stage, Felix crossed the finish line in 21st place, and thereby places ninth in the overall standings.

"I’m admittedly a little disappointed that there was such a large group in the front. I had a mechanical on the last climb, and it took up quite a lot of energy to catch up again. In the end, I lost two positions in the overall standings, but ultimately I'm still in the top 10 and I can be proud of that." - Felix Großschartner

"The goal today was to have the team support Felix. From the onset, we concentrated on making sure that not too large of a group was able to break free. We particularly wanted to make sure that Vlasov didn't make it into the group, with him being 9th in the overall standings at the time. There was a very fast start, and in the end a large group managed to break away. Michael Schwarzmann and Pascal Ackermann were in there, but also Gaudu and De la Cruz, who were dangerous in the overall classification.

"We tried to react, but were unable to close the gap, and from then onwards, we tried to keep Felix in a good position at all times. With Pascal and Schwarzi, we had two riders up front, who were still there after the first climb if anything were to happen, and they could wait for Felix to support him. The others put in their best effort and supported him as well as possible. They rode a very strong race today and were able to stay with Felix for much of the day. Shortly before the last climb, Felix unfortunately suffered a puncture and had to change his bike, which also cost him a lot of effort. Gaudu and De la Cruz rode very strongly today and were able to overtake him in the overall standings. In the end, he’s now in ninth place, which is a very strong performance. In one respect, we're disappointed that our efforts weren’t enough to defend his 7th place overall, but on the other hand we're also happy that he’s sitting in the top ten. Many thanks to the entire team, who really gave it everything during this race. Tomorrow is the final day, and it will in all likelihood come down to a sprint finale. With Pascal, we have a rider who’ll be able to compete for the victory.” - Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

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