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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, October 19, 2020

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2020 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul. - Douglas MacArthur

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Tour of Flanders/Ronde van Vlaanderen reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results

Julian Alaphilippe crashed out of the Tour of Flanders. Here's the update from his Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Part of a three-man move inside the last 35 kilometers of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Julian Alaphilippe crashed into a motorbike and had to abandon the race. The World Champion was taken to the hospital in Ronse, where the X-rays showed fractures of the metacarpal 2 and 4 on his right hand.

Alaphilippe, who was making his last appearance of the season in Flanders – which teammate Yves Lampaert finished in fifth place, as Elegant – Quick-Step’s best placed rider – will be operated Monday morning at the Herentals Clinic by Dr. De Schrijver.

Here's the report from second-place Wout Van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team:

Wout van Aert has ended a fantastic season with the second place in the Tour of Flanders. The leader of Team Jumbo-Visma was close to his second monumental victory after his win in Milan-Sanremo in mid-August. The attractive classic was decided in a sprint-a-deux, in which Mathieu van der Poel was the fastest.

Wout van Aert

Mathieu van der Poel takes a close one from Wout Van Aert. Photo: Photonews

Team Jumbo-Visma can look back on a great classic season. Manager Richard Plugge’s formation achieved top results in all the monuments. Van Aert won Milan-Sanremo, Primoz Roglic took the victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and George Bennett finished second in the Il Lombardia. In addition, Strade Bianche was also won by the 26-year-old Van Aert. The Flemish also won the opening stage in the Dauphiné and two stages in the Tour de France. At the world championship he clinched the silver medal in both the time and the road race.

Van Aert indicated in Oudenaarde that the three strongest riders had taken the lead. “It was a great effort to join Van der Poel and Julian Alaphilippe after the Taaienberg. Though it was unfortunate that Julian crashed. I hope he’s okay. ” The Dutch champion and the Belgian time trial champion were then allowed to decide who would take the victory.

“I raced as I wanted and as I like to race”, said an honest Van Aert, who finished Flanders Finest on his reserve bike after a crash. “Some details could be better, but I’m not going to look for excuses. In the sprint Mathieu was a little bit stronger. I will see that sprint a number of times tonight. Maybe I waited a little too long, because in the last metres I got very close. It was a beautiful race. We really gave the people at home a great spectacle.”

Van Aert is now entering a rest period. “I am disappointed that there will be no Paris-Roubaix. I’m honestly having a hard time with that. But now I have time to let pride dominate. It is not self-evident to be in top shape for such a long time. After Strade Bianche I have not lost my good legs.”

And here's the report from third-place Alexander Kristoff's UAE-Team Emirates:

Alexander Kristoff took another podium at the Tour of Flanders (winner in 2015 and third in 2019), once again demonstrating his strength when it comes to racing the ‘Ronde’. The Norwegian won the sprint from the group of favourites at the finish line, after the duo of Van Der Poel and Van Aert, first and second respectively, finished a handful of seconds ahead of the group.

Alexander Kristoff: “It was a good day and I’m happy to have made the podium. I had to do a very long sprint due to Asgreen’s attack, but still managed to hold-off Turgis and Lampaert. The front two had another gear today, they were the strongest. This is my favourite race and I’ve managed to get a lot of great results here over the years.”

Ever thought you could bring the two escapees back? “No, I have been in the front in Flanders several times and you can take advantage of the slipstream of the many motorcycles around you. They would’ve had to have watched each other a lot more and played cat and mouse in the finale if we were to come back. They were the strongest on paper and they proved to be the strongest on the road today too ”.

Giro d'Italia stage 15 reports

We posted the report from stage winner Tao Geoghegan Hart's INEOS Grenadiers team with the results.

Here's the report from GC leader Joao Almeida's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

João Almeida continued to defy expectations at the Giro d’Italia on the race’s hardest climb so far, Piancavallo (14.5 kilometers, 7.8%), which the race visited for just the third time in history. The 22-year-old from Caldas da Rainha, riding his first Grand Tour, was in a world of pain on the last of the day’s four classified ascents, but showed an impressive ability to suffer and an amazing resilience, managing to keep hold of the pink jersey.

Joao Almeida

Joao Almeida finished stage fifteen still in pink. Sirotti photo

Overall leader since the beginning of the first week, João was distanced after a huge forcing of the rival teams on the toughest part of Piancavallo, with a shy over seven kilometers to go, but fought admirably to limit the losses and make sure he wouldn’t lose the 56-second buffer with which he started the day following his sensational time trial in Valdobbiadene.

The most consistent rider in the race, having never finished outside the top 25 on any of the stages, Almeida proved again he is a worthy race leader, gritting his teeth, riding with his heart not just his legs, and producing an out-of-this-world effort on the gruelling gradients to the top. There, Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Grand Tour rookie finished just outside the podium, completely exhausted but happy knowing he retained the maglia rosa, which on Tuesday he will wear for the 13th consecutive day.

“I was expecting for the others to attack today, so that wasn’t a surprise. You could see that the tempo was very high from the start of the climb and many riders got dropped early. I was well positioned, thanks to an amazing job of my team – without whom I wouldn’t be where I am now – and after getting distanced, I just rode my own pace and pushed the limits, but without going into the red.”

“I wouldn’t go as far as saying I had a bad day, it’s just you can’t always be flawless. It was the hardest stage of the race so far, a proper sufferfest and having survived it gives me a lot of joy and confidence. I will now enjoy the rest day and then continue to leave everything out there as I will try to hold the pink jersey”, João said after the podium ceremony.

Second-place Wilco Kelderman's Team Sunweb posted this:

Stage 15 at the 2020 Giro d’Italia is a day that Team Sunweb will look back on and can be proud of.

Billed as a general classification showdown on the slopes of Piancavallo in Italy’s Dolomites region, the entirety of Team Sunweb took on the challenge and by the end of the day had impressively managed to improve both top ten general classification positions.

Thanks to a unified and determined approach from every rider in the team, Kelderman raced to second place on stage, 35 seconds ahead of the race leader Almeida, meaning he now sits just 15 seconds in arrears of the pink jersey.

Wilco Kelderman

Wilco Kelderman finishes stage 15. Sirotti photo.

Jai Hindley impressively finished in third place and moves up to third place overall in the general classification.

However the day’s “man of the match” award goes to Nico Denz. Denz rode a relentless tempo on the front of the peloton for almost 140 kilometres of the 185 kilometre race. The German star singlehandedly shaved minutes out of the breakaway’s advantage, bringing it to under three minutes before Chad Haga took up duties with 40 kilometres left to race.

Deep on the slopes of the final climb – an epic 14.5 kilometre ascent with a maximum gradient of almost eight percent – Team Sunweb had three riders remaining in the reduced group of 10 thanks to the earlier work of Sam Oomen and Martijn Tusveld.

The constant pressure set by Chris Hamilton forced an even greater selection, before a surge in pace from Hindley finally resulted in race leader Almeida losing contact. In the final seven kilometres, Geoghegan Hart was the only rider in the race that could follow Hindley and Kelderman, sitting on their wheels before launching an attack to take the stage victory. It was a resounding team display and one that sees the team going into the second rest day in a great position, with Kelderman and Hindley occupying second and third on GC respectively.

“The team were incredible,” expressed Kelderman. “On the final climb everyone did their job. Jai did perfect work, super super strong. Too bad we couldn’t win the stage and fell just short for pink. But how we rode, it was super. I was on the limit towards the final, and we went full to the finish. It was a super hard day with narrow roads so controlling at the front was beneficial. I heard through radio that Almeida was in difficulty, but it wasn’t enough. He is just very strong. If you look at how we raced, it’s just super, also with Jai in third. It gives us a lot of confidence into the final week which will have a lot of uphill finishes. I feel super strong and the team feels super strong.”

Rafal Majka's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this Giro report:

Starting on an air force base, on stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia it wouldn’t just be fighter jets gaining altitude today. The 185km parcours covered four categorised climbs, including a first category summit finish, featuring an average gradient of 7.8% over its 14.5km length, with maximum gradients hitting 14% in the mid-section.

There would likely be attacks on this climb from the GC contenders, who could use the race’s second and final rest day tomorrow to recover from their efforts. After the fighter jets had put on a display with the green, white and red of the Italian flag, it was straight into racing, with eleven riders striving to form the day’s break and the peloton doing all they could to stop them.

Eventually, the bunch couldn’t hold them, and this group set about building a lead that hit 6:30 at its peak, and while there were some strong riders in this group, the peloton had their eye on the finale and so set about reducing their lead, hitting three minutes with 50km to go.

With the final climb where the fireworks were bound to be set off in the overall race, it was important to be in position, and the BORA-hansgrohe riders had made sure Rafał Majka and Patrick Konrad were delivered in a strong position to tackle the climb to Piancavallo and its tough lower slopes. The GC riders were gearing up for their fight on the summit finale as they slowly swept up the break, the last of their number caught with less than 10km left.

By this point, four groups of GC riders had formed on the road, with Rafał in the third group and Patrick fighting for position in the fourth. Both riders had kept their cool when the attacks came, and as some of the other favourites struggled, the two measured their efforts well, with Rafał crossing the line alone in fifth, and Patrick leaving behind the other members of his group to finish a few seconds behind in sixth. While many of the overall contenders lost time and places in the GC standings, both Rafał and Patrick held fast in sixth and ninth respectively.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka finishes stage fifteen. Sirotti photo

"Today was a day to grit my teeth and hold on during the last climb. After yesterday's time trial my legs were in good shape and I was able to stay close to the GC leaders. I kept my position in the overall standings and I was in the front on such a hard climb." – Rafał Majka

"Today's stage was full-on right from the start and, in my view, it has been the hardest one so far in the Giro. Our focus was on the final climb and I think Rafał and I did well, we managed to drop some of the main GC contenders. I look forward to tomorrow, a rest day." – Patrick Konrad

"It was an exciting stage, up and down all day. We brought our two GC riders to the final climb, 14km long, and from there it was up to everybody's legs. The front group of 25 riders exploded completely and when the leading trio went ahead, Rafał was the last rider to remain with Almeida. He rode behind Almeida, alone, was then caught by Masnada but was able to distance him and finish fifth. I think it was a big performance by Rafał while Patrick came in behind him, ahead of the Nibali group. Overall, it was a day where we didn't win much but didn't lose much either." – Jens Zemke, Sports Director

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