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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, October 22, 2020

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2020 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

It is the privilege of the gods to want nothing, and of godlike men to want little. - Diogenes

Story of the Giro d'Italia volume 2

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Giro d'Italia Stage 17 reports

We posted the report from GC leader Joao Almeida's Deceuninck-Quick Step team with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Ben O'Connor's NTT Pro Cycling team:

NTT Pro Cycling’s Ben O’Connor stormed to a sensational debut Grand Tour stage win claiming victory on stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia.

Ben O'Connor

Ben O'Connor wins stage 17. Sirotti photo

In the process, O’Connor scored NTT Pro Cycling’s first stage win at a grand tour since 2018, in emotional scenes at Madonna di Campiglio.

The 24-year-old Australian, along with teammates Louis Meintjes and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier, crucially formed part of the day’s 18-man breakaway from which he eventually made the winning move.

With 8km to go O’Connor took control of the race and soloed to an incredible victory, raising his arms aloft, sparking wild and emotional celebrations at the finish line.

O’Connor’s victory comes just a day after he placed second in stage 16, confirming a rich vein of form at a time that’s crucially important to the team as it looks to secure its future.

To finish off a brilliant day for the team, Domenico Pozzovivo safely navigated himself to the finish ensuring that on a potentially difficult day he secured his 8th position on the general classification.

Ben O’Connor:
Yesterday I was pretty disappointed but I think that I’ve said before that I was very happy with how I raced. Today I think I was the strongest in the race,at the front, and I managed to pull it off.

My tears at the end were just a bit of pride, yesterday it was so close and I was just missing a bit in the end, but I think it’s easy to be inspired when the people around you need inspiration. I think our team really needed this win, I really needed this win as did my family and friends, who put a lot of faith in me.

I think I cried as it was a sense of overwhelming relief because the amount of effort and work that not just I put in but everyone around you does. Just from yesterday there was so much support that it would have been a shame not to try again.

I’m quite emotional as a person and it just means a lot because of everything this year, I guess it’s been an incredibly tough year for a lot of people and when you have such joy what else can you do but cry.

You know the team situation, everyone does, and it’s not good but it’s racing like we are now which gives hope to the team and to everyone as it’s proof that we can do it: as our bus driver says it’s a little bit of “grinta”.

Douglas Ryder:
What an amazing stage for Ben, and a brilliant stage for our team. This is something that we’ve worked so hard for as a team.

For this race, as we went into the Tour de France with expectations to win stages and ride fairly high in the general classification, the team showed that even through its struggling times to find a new title partner, there is complete unity and that everybody’s committed to each other.

Today having three riders in the breakaway all supporting each other, and then with Ben clearly the strongest after finishing second yesterday and feeling so disappointed in himself and then getting up again today and doing what he did shows his character. It showed how committed every single one of these individuals is to try and make a result and support the team that’s supported them over the years, it’s just a beautiful story.

To win here, on a climb that some big names in the sport have done, I’m just so happy for Ben and of course for the team.

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

The trip into the Italian mountains continued today for the peloton at the Giro d’Italia, with over 5500 metres of climbing spread throughout the 203 kilometre long stage. As a potentially good day for the breakaway, a big fight took place in the opening hour of racing before a large group of 19 riders was able to form out front, with all Team Sunweb riders in the peloton.

The gap to the breakaway continued to expand throughout the afternoon, as those within the bunch looked to conserve energy ahead of the final climb. Approaching the lower slopes of the ascent to Madonna di Campiglio the breakaway held on to their commanding lead and would go on to fight for the stage win.

In the meantime, the team came forward en masse to position Wilco Kelderman and Jai Hindley towards the front of the bunch. Testing the waters Chris Hamilton, Martijn Tusveld and then Sam Oomen set a strong tempo; drastically reducing the size of the peloton. Hindley then took over and pushed on but on the shallower gradients there were no chinks in the team’s GC competitors’ armour. As a result, Hindley and Kelderman sat in the wheels for the remainder of the ascent, focusing on saving some energy ahead of tomorrow’s big test and the famous Stelvio climb.

Wilco Kelderman

Wilco Kelderman racing in the stage 14 time trial. Sirotti photo.

“The final climb was also pretty flat and easy in the wheels so it wasn’t very decisive in the end,” explained Hindley at the finish. “The plan today wasn’t to go full-gas but we wanted to test the waters a bit, which we did, but it was a bit too easy in the wheels on the last climb. The strongest man wins tomorrow, I don’t think there will be any hiding on the Stelvio; it’s going to be the big one and I think it will be more decisive.”

“We have a really strong team,” continued Kelderman. “We tried to force something to get a gap on Almeida but the climb was not hard enough and Almeida was also strong so it was hard to try something. Tomorrow is another super hard day, so we’ll see tomorrow. For sure tomorrow is important, every day is important; we’re not done yet, we’re going to try.”

Team Sunweb coach Luke Roberts added: “Today was a really fast start and then straight into a category one climb where a strong breakaway went away. Pernsteiner was inside ten minutes on the GC, which meant the tempo stayed on in the GC group throughout the day. With the final not being so steep, it was difficult to make a difference. We went up there to test the other GC competitors, see how they were, but everyone was there sharp and in the wheels. It was difficult to make a difference on the climb so it was almost a checkmate between the GC competitors. Tomorrow is a day where we can expect some bigger gaps.”

Rafal Majka & Patrick Konrad's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

The jagged sawtooth profile today left the riders in no doubt – the Giro d’Italia was hitting the big mountains. Four categorised climbs dominated the parcours, only one of which was below a first category, and all this over a long 203km route. This was going to be a tough day, and the entire peloton knew it. In spite of some brave attempts to break away at the start, it took a while for an escape group to form, with every move shut down almost as quickly as they went out, but after nearly 50km of racing, the bunch finally let a group of eighteen go off.

This sizeable escape quickly set about building an advantage and this was more than six minutes as the stage went into its final 100km. While the skies were blue and the sun was shining on the race, jackets and arm-warmers made an appearance as the climbs got taller, the late October weather making conditions chilly at the top of the Monte Bondone. The break was working hard to stay warm though, with escapees going on the attack on the descents and creating some splits in the lead group, and with the one lead group becoming four, the breakaway was staking its claim on the stage, and with the peloton eight minutes behind, it looked certain this was going to happen.

With the stage win decided, all eyes were on the finale on the summit finish today, with a select group forming at the foot of the climb to Madonna di Campiglio, and both Rafał Majka and Patrick Konrad representing BORA-hansgrohe here. While the kilometres were quickly covered by this group of eleven, it was clear that everyone in this group was feeling strong, and every move was quickly brought back in. In the last few hundred metres, Rafał pushed on, but it wasn’t possible to open up any time gaps, the Polish rider taking thirteenth spot, with Patrick coming across the line in seventeenth. With the race’s Queen Stage tomorrow, the whole team was saving energy today to battle it out in the Dolomites.

Patrick Konrad

Patrick Konrad finishes stage 14. Sirotti photo

"It was quite hard today for me, I wasn't in my best form. Still, I kept fighting and managed to finish with the group of leaders. I hope I feel better tomorrow. At least, the weather is nice. It might be cold but this isn't an issue. It's more important that it's sunny and the roads are dry. If it was raining it would be much harder." – Rafał Majka

"Another tough stage but, once again, the team did a very good job and both Rafał and I were always in the group of main contenders, until the finish line. We saved some energy because tomorrow will be a crucial day and I look forward to it." – Patrick Konrad

"We were able to survive and Patrick and Rafał stayed with the best all the way today. Unlike the previous days, we had no interest in getting into the breakaway today. In our pre-race meeting, we made it clear we only had one goal, to ride for our two GC riders and provide the best support possible in order for them to achieve their maximum performance. They are still in contention, they aren't too far from the podium and I think they are able to make it to the top five. That's our sole goal now. Tomorrow will be the big showdown, with the Stelvio close to the final climb, and we will have to be ready for it. It will not be easy but we will give our best." – Jens Zemke, Sports Director

Vuelta a España stage two reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Marc Soler's Team Movistar:

It was a day the Movistar Team really hoped to enjoy on home roads. Stage two of La Vuelta would be covered entirely in Navarra, with the 151km route from Pamplona to Lekunberri featuring the climbs of Guirguillano (Cat-3), Urbasa (Cat-3) and the tough San Miguel de Aralar (Cat-1; 9.4km at 7.9%), on concrete roads, 16 kilometers before the end.

After great battle for the early break in the ascent + downhill of the Alto de Guirguillano, a five-man escape with Aranburu (AST), Wellens (LTS), Serrano (CJR), Armirail (GFC) and Hivert (TDE) was able to stay away from the peloton. Jumbo-Visma calmly took command of the pace at the bunch, consenting a maximum gap of four minutes for the escapees.

Prior to the slopes of Urbasa, Wellens left the rest of the breakaway group behind and went solo for a chance to win the stage. However, and as his advantage increased at the top of the climb (-60 km) to a promising seven minutes, Jorge Arcas picked up the pace and anticipated a crosswind attempt which split the peloton into several pieces.

The pressure by Erviti, Oliveira and Rojas reduced the main group to about 70 riders and ruined the breakaway’s chances, its last survivors being caught at the foot of San Miguel de Aralar, 25km before the end. At the climb, Carlos Verona kept a hard pace and further reduced the size of a peloton where Marc Soler set the adequate rhythm to leave only the main favourites behind him: an eight-man group, with three Movistar Team riders (including Valverde y Mas), which the Catalan momentarily dropped back from near the top.

Marc took advantage from a stop in the leading group in the beginning of the downhill and attacked as soon as he bridged back. It was soon clear no one would ever get back to the Vilanova native, who scored his second victory of 2020 -the first one obtained in Mallorca, back in February- and opened the Movistar Team’s account in this year’s La Vuelta. Behind at the GC group, Enric Mas climbed up to fifth overall, with Alejandro Valverde, just ahead of his young team-mate at the finish (5th), sits just outside a top-ten now completed by a brilliant Soler.

Masrc Soler

Marc Soler wins stage two. Photo Gomez Sport

Marc Soler: “I’m so happy with this victory. We were racing at home, we were so motivated to be riding in Navarra, next to the team’s headquarters, and together with our sports directors, we had already planned before the start we wanted to give it a try from the top of Urbasa. We started pulling there and everything simply went perfect from that moment on. Arcas, Imanol, Nelson and Rojillas always kept the pace high on the flat, then Carlos put on a really good performance from the bottom of the climb, and I tried to pick it up from that. I struggled a bit into the final meters of the climb because I had worked so hard, but as I saw that they were slowing down into the descent and I was coming back, I took advantage from the fact that I was maybe at 2x speed from them, I tried to pass them without anyone getting to my wheel – and I went on to the finish. We were so excited and willing to do well here – we actually did a recon of this very stage in the weekend, just before travelling to Irún. It’s my first ever victory in a Grand Tour and I’m so, so happy. This team already deserved some reward after so many efforts and such a difficult season. I can only thank the team for their support and everyone who has been by my side in these months.”

Enric Mas: “We knew it was going to get windy, but it wasn’t actually an attempt from us to create some echelons, rather than keeping the group strung out so we could reach the foot of San Miguel with good speed and in a good position. Arri (DS José Luis Arrieta), who is from this area, and Imanol, who knows these roads like the palm of his hand, had planned to push at that very moment, they really wanted to take advantage from their knowledge – and it turned out really well. We used those final slopes in Urbasa to push with Arcas, we also took advantage from the wind with several other team-mates and the whole team did an amazing job. In the end, we crowned it with Marc, who really deserves this win. When he overtook us, I thought it was a motorbike, because he was riding at triple speed from what we were doing. When I saw he took 50 meters in barely three seconds, I knew he couldn’t stop and he would take this. We’re so happy about him!”

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

Primoz Roglic has sprinted to second place in the second stage of the Vuelta a España. The leader in the general classification won the sprint of the group of favourites in Lekunberri, behind stage winner Marc Soler. The Slovenian leader of Team Jumbo-Visma took six bonus seconds and extended his overall lead.

The stage from Pamplona was directly controlled by Team Jumbo-Visma. After Movistar took over, a breakaway was reeled in quickly. On the Alto de San Miguel de Aralar the pace was very high and the peloton was quickly reduced to ten riders including - in addition to Roglic - also Sepp Kuss and George Bennett for Team Jumbo-Visma. The latter two kept Soler within striking distance in the last ten kilometres.

Primoz roglic

GC leader Primoz Roglic winning stage one.

“This is another great result”, Roglic said. “It was a difficult and nervous stage due to the wind. The team did a fantastic job of keeping control and always keeping me in a good position. Movistar rode very fast on the climb, but Sepp and George managed that well. Even when Carapaz attacked. So far, things are going well for us and hopefully we can maintain this flow. The Vuelta is still long and I definitely expect a tough battle with Carapaz and the Movistar guys, among others. I think today was fun to watch.”

Tom Dumoulin has faced better days. “I didn’t have the legs to compete with the best. But the most important fact after today is that we are still in the lead and the team is very strong. I have also shown in the Tour that I can be very valuable in a serving role”, the Dutchman concluded.

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