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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, October 12, 2020

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2020 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures; peace is our gift to each other. - Elie Wiesel

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Giro d'Italia stage 9 reports

We posted the report from second-place Jonathan Castroviejo's INEOS Grenadiers team with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Ruben Guerreiro's EF Pro Cycling team:

Wet, rainy conditions favor the bold in bike racing. It seems to also favor our ducks in Italy as Ruben Guerreiro took a second mountain top stage win for EF Pro Cycling at the 2020 Giro d’Italia on a day marked by torrential rain and lots of climbing.

Ruben Guerreiro

Ruben Guerreiro wins stage nine. Sirotti photo

The 208km course from San Salvo to Roccaraso was labeled as the queen stage across the Apennines with over 4,000m of altitude gain on 4 categorized climbs. With plenty of mountain classification points up for grabs and a stage profile that looked suited for a breakaway win, it took a while for the break to get established. But finally, eight riders would ride off the front of the peloton – including our own Ruben Guerreiro – right before the first categorized climb of the day.

The breakaway would build up a handy advantage over the peloton, stretching the time gap out to right around 6 minutes, where it would stay for most of the day. Ruben, who also had a shot of gaining control of the mountains classification at the end of the day, fought for every mountain classification point possible, sprinting over the top of nearly every single categorized climb. But in order to get the jersey, he needed to cross the line finish first as well.

With 35km remaining, the attacks started to fly out of the breakaway. Mikkel Bjerg (UAE) put in the first dig, shedding a few riders in the process. The group would work together for another 30km before Castroviejo (INS) launched a decisive attack that was only matched by Guerreiro. The two of them would ride together until the final kilometer where, with 200m to go, Ruben launched his sprint and distanced the Ineos veteran, giving himself enough time to savor his victory across the line.

This not only marks Ruben’s first World Tour stage win but it is also Portugal’s first Giro d’Italia stage win in 31 years. On Tuesday, Ruben will get to wear the blue mountains classification jersey as well. But first, the team will be able to savor their two stage victories on a well-deserved rest day tomorrow.

Matti Breschel – Sport Director:
“It’s amazing, I still can’t believe what just happened. Ruben Guerreiro rode like a champion today, it was a strong group, from the start he wanted to be in the breakaway, he was there and he rode the final perfectly. Definitely an amazing day for us.”

“He’s an amazing character, an amazing person, he’s a little bit like an artist on the bike, he wants to do a lot of things, but when he’s calm, he’s a really, really fantastic bike rider. He was close to winning a stage in the Vuelta last year and this year he’s only been progressing, and during the lockdown he was very professional. He’s been very motivated to do well in this Giro and finally he’s had some success.”

“He was telling me all day that he was feeling good, that he had good legs, I kept asking him during the day if he was ok, I don’t think the weather really existed for him today, he was just looking at the finish line.”

Ruben Guerreiro – Rider:
“Finally, what a great satisfaction after so many second places! The team and I really deserved this victory. It was very difficult to get into the breakaway this morning and it’s extraordinary to win today.”

“In professional cycling, it’s so hard to win. This is my fourth year as a professional and it feels incredible to take the win after such a hard day. I’m really cold and wet right now, but I know I will be warm soon. It’s amazing to take the second win for the team and I worked so much for this. It’s amazing.”

Jonathan Vaughters – CEO:
“Ruben likes to pick fights. Today he picked one, and he knew how to stick it. Bravo.”

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this Giro report:

The first rest day of the 2020 Giro d’Italia was coming tomorrow, and that gave the riders a reason to push hard today and recover tomorrow. The 208km stage was undulating, steadily rising upwards as the day went on, with four categorised climbs to make the going tough.

Starting with a first category before moving on to two second categories, with the finale taking place on a first category ascent into Roccaraso. Starting in rain, this wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of the breakaway, as several attempts to escape were pulled back quickly, the peloton keeping speeds high on the flatter start to the stage.

After more than 50km, as the gradient began to steepen, a small group of seven finally managed to get away, quickly taking two minutes’ advantage over the peloton, and this grew to seven minutes at its peak. The miserable weather meant the peloton was in no hurry to make the catch, and even as the race moved into its final 50km, this lead was still at 4:30, with the now five riders working together well to keep the peloton at bay, just as riders were being left behind as the climbs stacked up.

With many riders in rain jackets or arm warmers, the first category summit finish was going to be demoralising, but this didn’t prevent Rafał Majka and Patrick Konrad taking to the front in the final 10km to keep a good position on the climb to the finish, the steep lower slopes making themselves visible in the grimacing faces in the peloton.

While some attacks came from riders lower down the overall standings and the break started to splinter, the expected GC battle didn’t take place until the very end, with both Patrick and Rafał taking to the front with 2km left, and both riders pushing hard as the holder of the Maglia Rosa struggled. Rafał and Patrick crossed the line together in eleventh and twelfth respectively, with Patrick making a jump in the GC to eighth and Rafał holding on to tenth

"It was a very hard stage and, at times, really cold. Our main goal today was to finish sound and safe and avoid losing any time to the main GC contenders. Rafał and I crossed the finish line together, in a good position, so we can be satisfied with our day." - Patrick Konrad

"Patrick and Rafał not only survived today's very difficult conditions but also managed to gain a few seconds in the overall standings. At the finish line, the temperature was just 9ºC and it was raining, we are almost in the middle of October, and weather conditions are getting harsher. The front group made it to the finish, although trimmed from eight to two riders, because it was made of strong climbers. We didn't take any initiative on the road today, our only focus was to protect our guys and be alert if needed. We made sure they had everything they needed to go through this difficult day. We will have a well-deserved rest day tomorrow and I think that after this first part of the Giro we are still very close to our goals. We're on the right track with our GC riders, both of them in the top 10 after nine stages. Peter scored three second places, so a stage victory is within reach and the battle for the points jersey isn't over. We have a very hard final week and riders need to go through it. The only sad part is that we lost Patrick Gamper, a very motivated young rider." – Jens Zemke, Sports Director

Gent Wevelgem team reports

We posted the report from second-place Florian Sénéchal's Deceuninck-Quick Step team with the results.

Here's the report from winner Mads Pedersen's Trek-Segafredo team:

It was not Mads Pedersen’s greatest win but certainly will go into his palmares as one of his biggest. The former world champion nailed another sprint to take a massive victory in Gent-Wevelgem, the cobbled classics’ opening race.

Mads Pedersen

Mads Pedersen takes the win.

The final kilometers were non-stop thrills as nine riders – the strongest that rose to the fore after over 200 grueling and intermittently wet and cold kilometers – launched attack after attack.  The elastic didn’t break until the final 1500 meters when three riders finally broke free.

Mads Pedersen:
"Three guys went from the group, and I hoped Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert would close it, but they didn't. Then I managed to jump across, stay in the last wheel, and make my sprint from there. I like long sprints. They fit me better. It was a pretty hard race, especially in weather conditions like this, raining and then drying up, but I know how to handle this, so it was good for me. It's definitely one of my biggest victories!

Pedersen waited, showing a patience of experience, then jumped across the gap to the leading trio. In the sprint, he powered from fourth position, overtaking Florian Senechal (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and Matteo Trentin (CCC Team), who finished second and third. It was his first Classics win.

“I’m definitely learning more and more every time I’m racing, and today I tried to play it a little bit smarter than usual, and luckily it paid off,” said Pedersen. “I had enough [energy] to jump across and also make a sprint, which was good. It was a decision that I had to make in a few seconds. The group started to slow down a little bit, and I said to myself, ‘Okay, it’s all or nothing.’ I had to make a decision and try.

“I knew I had to go alone, and hopefully, I could make it across. I might still end up fourth or even behind, but at least I had tried. Today it paid off, but maybe next time it will bite me in the ass, and then I’m out of top 10.”

The 24-year-old Dane is beginning to make his mark in the world of pro cycling, his win in Gent-Wevelgem builds on a second place in the 2018 Tour of Flanders, and winning the 2019 road World Championships. There is no doubt he is heading into the Tour of Flanders in a week as one of the clear favorites.

“I did well in Flanders two years ago, and now I’m showing I’m one of the guys that can win classics. It means a lot to me to win here. I missed the Worlds, and one of the reasons was to be ready for the classics,” Pedersen pointed out.

“The whole team was awesome today,” he continued. “Before starting the classics, we had a good talk and decided that we would race every day like it’s the last race of the season. You never know what can happen, so every day it’s all-in. That’s how we’re going to race this Wednesday and again Sunday.”

Third-place Matteo Trentin's CCC Team sent me this:

Matteo Trentin stepped onto the podium at Gent Wevelgen - In Flanders Fields today after sprinting to third place at the end of a thrilling race.

Trentin was part of a quartet that headed onto the finishing straight ready to battle for the win and, even with another group closing in, the sprint for victory came down to those four riders with Mads Pedersen (Trek - Segafredo) eventually taking the honors ahead of Florian Sénéchal (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) and Trentin.

Earlier in the day, after an active start to the race, which saw CCC Team patrolling the front of the peloton, a seven-rider breakaway went clear to open up a maximum advantage of seven minutes 30 seconds after 100 kilometers of racing.

With the majority of the day’s cobbled and gravel sectors plus all of the climbs still to come, the bunch soon picked up the pace and by the time the race reached the famous Kemmelberg for the first time, the gap was down to inside three minutes.

A burst of acceleration at the front of the peloton on the cobbled climb saw cracks appear and with the crosswinds picking up, these small splits widened. However, Trentin had been well-positioned at the front of the field from the beginning of the day and, as a result, he was able to make the first selection with relative ease.

Approaching the 60-kilometer to go mark, after the breakaway had been caught, another nine-rider selection was made but, once again, the Italian was strong enough to go with the move as, one-minute behind, other groups started to come back together.

At the start of the third and final ascent of the Kemmelberg, traditionally the key climb of the race, with just under 35 kilometers to go, Trentin’s group grew to 17-riders strong after a smaller chasing group bridged across.

This larger group would eventually go on to fight it out for the stage win with rider after rider trying their luck and launching attacks off the front. In the end, it was Trentin who forced the decisive final four-rider move before powering towards the line to round out the podium positions.

Matteo Trentin:
“It was a really hard race today although we probably all predicted that. I am happy with my race overall and the team did a good job in the opening part before the first time up the Kemmelberg and I was there with good legs. I tried to attack a lot of times and even, in the end, I felt strong enough to make that final move inside two kilometers to go, it’s just a pity Mads [Pedersen] could make it back across. However, at the end of the day, the best man won and he deserved it. It was a race where the guy with the best legs would win and that was him today.”

“The final selection was really, really strong and everybody was fast so you couldn’t really predict who was going to win out of a group like that. We were all attacking each other because any move could have been the good one and actually when I worked with Mathieu [Van Der Poel] to close the gap to the group that went going into three kilometers to go, I thought my legs were maybe going to explode but in the end, I still had a little energy for one last kick.”

“It’s a nice podium result and there’s still one race to go so, I feel good and actually even though I’ve been feeling good since the restart of the season, there have been some situations where I wasn’t there to contest the victory. Today I was and even though it wasn’t a win, I proved that the legs are there and that’s what all of these Classics are about ultimately.”

Sports Director, Steve Bauer:
“We set up the tactics for today so we were all in for Matteo. It wasn’t a great race for him at Brabantse Pijl but we know he is in good shape and so we wanted to keep him out of trouble at the start. We knew it would be windy coming back from the coast and the race would start there. Once we put him into position, he rode a really smart race. He was always staying at the front of the race with the echelons and the attacks, always anticipating how the race would go and he was there in the final attacking with two kilometers to go. I think that was his real chance to win but in the end, a strong Mads [Pedersen] came back to his wheel. Overall, he rode a fantastic race. We have one week to Flanders and if he is riding this well, it gives us another shot for a great race.”

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