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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 6, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. - Henry David Thoreau

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Tour de France stage eight reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

GC leader Adam Yates' Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this:

Tour de France race leader Adam Yates had to dig deep to hold onto the yellow jersey on stage eight as the race headed into the Pyrenees for this first time in this year’s edition.

Adam Yates

Adam Yates kept the yellow jersey for another day. Sirotti photo

The UAE Tour winner was distanced several times on the final climb, but his rivals failed to wrestle the race lead from his grasp as the 28-year-old clawed his way back time after time.

Tomorrow will be the fourth day for Yates in the maillot jaune and another challenging and important mountain stage, with his closest rival Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) close behind at a three-second deficit.

As well as being a day set for a general classification battle, the stage was also another chance for the breakaway to succeed and a fight to escapee began as soon as the flag dropped. Eventually 13 riders were allowed to go clear as the peloton sat up and knocked off the pace.

The gap to the escapees quickly stretched out and reached a maximum of 14 minutes before the race arrived at the first categorised climb of the day. Mitchelton-SCOTT assumed their position at the head of the peloton, with Kiwi duo Sam Bewley and Jack Bauer taking turns on the front.

The gap held steady over the Col de Menté before Team Jumbo-Visma took over the pace making in the peloton on the approach to the Port de Balès, the longest climb of the race so far. The Dutch team continued to press on up the ascent, with Yates sitting just behind them alongside Colombian teammate Esteban Chaves.

The peloton had been reduced to a group of general classification contenders and a host of domestiques by the time they hit the summit. With the breakaway set to take the stage victory, a GC battle was imminent on the Col de Peyresourde.

Former race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick Step) was the first to attack, but his move was short-lived and spelled the end of his chances. Tom Dumoulin (Team Jumbo-Visma) then upped the pace and put several riders into difficulty, including Yates. Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) was the next to make a move and the Slovenia’s attack drew out Nairo Quintana (Team Arkea Samsic) and Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma).

Yates continued to ride at his own tempo and made it back the GC favourites before Pogačar attacked again. This time there was no movement from his rivals, with race leader Yates clinging onto the wheels, unable to react.

As the summit approached Guillaume Martin (Cofidis Solutions Crédits) jumped away, and sitting only nine seconds down on the GC, the move posed a threat to the yellow jersey. However, Yates couldn't follow as his rivals hunted the Frenchman down, with the Brit again forced to claw his way back on his own.

The danger looked to be over as the group crested the summit, but a late attack from Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) required a reaction from Yates. The Frenchman managed to steal two seconds back in the overall standings, but an impressive and resilient ride from Yates was rewarded with a fourth day in the yellow jersey tomorrow.

Adam Yates:
"It was a really tough day, in the beginning we let the break go, it was a good breakaway, I think the first guy was 17 minutes down, so it was easy for us to control.

"Then later on in the stage Jumbo-Visma came up and started pushing the pace real hard, and they rode pretty much full gas from when they got on the front until the finish. In the end I did my thing, tried to stay with the best guys and in the end, here we are.

"Dumoulin set a ferocious pace and I just couldn’t hold the wheel, I had to ride at my own pace a little bit, so I could collect myself. I clawed my way back and over the top I manged to stay with the guys, so like I said before, all-in-all a good day.

"Tomorrow is a very similar stage, if we can hold on for another day, the day after that is the rest day, so hopefully we can hold on until then. Who knows what’s going to happen?"

Matt White (Head Sports Director):
"Today was the first big, big challenge for everyone. We’ve had some climbs before, but this was the business here, this was a very stereotypical Pyrenean day. It had a bit of everything, and we’ve come out of it with the yellow jersey and it’s great for the team and obviously for Adam.

"This certainly wasn’t the plan [to take the yellow jersey], but we’re going to take it with two hands and run with it. The big picture, that doesn’t change, so while we’re in the yellow jersey it’s something we want to keep, it’s the most prestigious jersey in our sport.

"We’ll be running a similar plan tomorrow to keep that jersey. Then we’ve got a rest day and a few flatter days before the next set of mountains, so one day at a time. But the plan coming here, that still doesn’t change, we want to win stages."

Here's the report from Thibaut Pinot's Groupama-FDJ team:

After the Tour de France’s stage 8, this Saturday, Thibaut Pinot is no longer in contention for the general classification. Because of a severe back pain due to his crash on day 1, the Groupama-FDJ’ leader was dropped from the yellow jersey group very far from the finish in the Pyrenees’ first stage. Escorted to the line by his teammates, he will try to recover in the next few days before moving on to other goals. Also injured since his crash in Nice, William Bonnet was forced to leave the race.

Thibaut Pinot

One of the great French hopes, Thibaut Pinot will not be competing for the GC win in the 2020 Tour de France. What a shame. Sirotti photo.

In the aftermath of a crazy day, during which the Groupama-FDJ team proved to be admirable, the first real mountain stage of the Tour de France was set to deliver its verdict on Saturday in Loudenvielle after the tough Col de Menté, Port de Balès and Col de Peyresourde. In the end of the day, the verdict proved to be a terrible one for Thibaut Pinot. After a quite calm first half of the stage, during which a thirteen-man breakaway was allowed to battle for the stage victory, things took an unpleasant turn in the Port of Balès. Although the pace was not crazy yet in the pack, Thibaut Pinot got dropped. His teammates did stay with him to give him comfort, but the general classification’s goal was no more in reach. “I was still hoping after yesterday’s stage and the Orcières-Merlette’s one, as I had seen some encouraging signs,” Thibaut said. “But other than that, it had been hell since Saturday. My back hurts so much that I don’t have strength to push the pedals”.

The Frenchman quickly understood that the dice were cast and therefore simply tried to complete the stage together with his mates. “This is unfortunately the Tour’s first stage consequences, and the damage is still there”, reacted Marc Madiot. “Recovery has not proven to be enough in order to have an interesting role. We managed to keep a low profile on the flat stages, but you can’t do that in the mountains. We felt some difficulties as from the day after the crash, but we managed to get through the second stage and we had the feeling that things were going a little better. We still understood that we were not at the Dauphiné level but we hoped that the situation would settle over time. It did not, and today is obviously a hard day”. After a faultless start to the Tour, without having lost time in the first seven stages, Thibaut Pinot eventually cracked because of his crash with three kilometers to go on the first stage. “We know that to have a good Tour, it is better not to crash”, added Marc Madiot. “But we also know that crashes are part of the job. It happened on us, that’s how it is”.

While the Tour de France’s major goal, namely the general classification, is no longer topical for the Groupama-FDJ cycling team, the Tour itself still has a lot to offer. Including to Thibaut Pinot. “It’s a difficult day and I want to apologize to my team, my teammates and those who support me for this failure, but I will not leave the Tour, and it did not even cross my mind”, he said. “The Tour continues and we will try to fight back. The team is very strong and I hope the guys can go for a stage victory. They deserve it”. “It was a complicated day for Thibaut, but the Tour is far from over,” said Matthieu Ladagnous. “We will remotivate ourselves. There are stages to go for, and it’s still the Tour! We will try to put all that in order and help Thibaut to go for stage victories, or even do it with others”. Marc Madiot eventually had the final word: “Crying is useless. We are going to pull ourselves together and rebuild our morale to get going again. We will try to recover from tomorrow on and take advantage of the day off before setting out new goals that may interest us, such as stage victories or even the polka dot jersey, we will see…”.

Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step team posted this:

110 years ago, the beautiful and ruthless Pyrenees were included in the Tour de France, a major innovation from the organisers which ended up having a huge impact on the race outcome. This year, the first stage spent by the peloton there didn’t bring too many changes or attacks from the overall contenders, despite featuring three classified climbs – Col de Menté (6.9km, 8.1%), Port de Balès (11.7km, 7.7%) and Col de Peyresourde (9.7km, 7.8%).

After three-time Danish Champion Michael Mørkøv booked a place in the large breakaway that got clear as soon as the neutral start was left behind, the peloton allowed the escapees to take their advantage to 14 minutes, the largest gap a group enjoyed since the start of the race. Just before the first ranked ascent, Sam Bennett emerged from the pack and scored two points at the intermediate sprint, cutting the deficit to the green jersey leader to just seven points and sticking true to his word of fighting for the classification until Paris.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe (shown finishing stage six) lost more ground today. Sirotti photo

The only moves from the yellow jersey group came five kilometers from the top of the Peyresourde. Victorious on stage 2, Julian Alaphilippe gritted his teeth and tried to stay there, but was eventually distanced and concluded the stage won by Nans Peters (AG2R) several minutes behind the favourites. Going into the last stage before a well-deserved rest day, Alaphilippe remains Deceuninck – Quick-Step highest-ranked rider in the general classification.

Soren Kragh Andersen's Team Sunweb posted this report:

With yesterday’s fast day of racing behind them, the peloton headed into the Pyrenees today for a tough day in the mountains and the race’s first HC climb. Rolling out from the start town of Cazères, Søren Kragh Andersen got the action underway in the peloton, attacking for the team from the flag drop. His initial attack was brought back but the powerful Danish rider kicked again and forged on out in front in a group of 13.

Soren Kragh Andersen

Soren Kragh Andersen in 2019. Sirotti photo

With a lot of teams represented in the breakaway, the peloton sat up and spread across the road, allowing the attackers’ advantage to balloon out. Peaking at almost 13 minutes with 75 kilometres to go, it became more clear that stage honours would be decided by those out front.

On the steep slopes of the HC climb of Port de Balès, the breakaway began to splinter under fresh impetus and numerous attacks. Two riders, Peters and Zakarin broke clear, while Kragh Andersen rode a measured effort in a chasing group. Over the top of the climb Kragh Andersen’s group were 50 seconds behind the leader, a gap which stayed in equilibrium down the descent.

Immediately bouncing off of the descent and onto the last climb of the day, the famous Col de Peyresourde, the group started to break up. On the early double digit gradients Kragh Andersen was forced to let go of the wheels, riding solo for the last 15 kilometres and sticking to his own tempo all the way over the summit and onto the descent. Arriving at the finish in Loudenvielle, Kragh Andersen crossed the line for a very respectable eighth place finish – yet another top ten for the team at the race.

“I was really happy to be in the breakaway,” explained Kragh Andersen at the finish. “I wanted to be in the break a few times already before today but was happy to be there today and to push myself to the limit. I’m a little bit disappointed with the result but it is how it is. I was in the break to try and win but I wasn’t good enough today, so that’s how it is. For sure it wasn’t a waste of time as it was good to test my legs and I was able to also learn a few things from today too. We’ve still got two weeks left so I’ll definitely try and give it a go another time.”

Team Sunweb coach Matt Winston added: “We had the goal to have one of our climbing guys in the breakaway today. Søren was in a really nice breakaway actually, we were really happy with the composition and we thought it would go the distance. Obviously the gap went out to where it was a race winning break. Søren dug deep on the really tough climb but lost distance. He chased hard, almost came back to the front but just didn’t quite have the legs in the end. I think it was a really good effort and I’m sure when we analyse it we’ll be able to take some little details out of that, ready for the coming stages.”

And Emanuel Buchmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

After a week of racing, the Tour de France hit the Pyrenees. The 141km stage featured two first category climbs, and the first Hors Catégorie ascent of the race – the infamous Port de Balès – and its punishing 7.7% average gradient would show any weaknesses in the GC contenders’ form, while the climbers would relish the opportunity to take the stage win.

Emanuel Buchmann

Emanuel Buchmann. Sirotti photo

The relatively flat start to the stage gave a group of thirteen to build a lead over the peloton. With none of the GC contenders threatened, the bunch was happy to let the escape go, and the breakaway made the most of this opportunity – extending their lead to a massive thirteen minutes. While it was clear the climbing was hurting, with only around sixty riders in the main group, BORA-hansgrohe had a strong presence in the peloton, with Lukas Pöstlberger, Maximilian Schachmann and Lennard Kämna supporting Emanuel Buchmann.

With less than 10km remaining, both the break and GC group were now spread out along the road and it was clear that the climbs of the Port de Balès and the Col de Peyresourde were taking their toll, and Emu included, the impact of their efforts was clear.

The downhill to the finish gave the German rider an opportunity to limit his losses, not stopping until the line had been crossed, a little behind his rivals in the GC. While he grit his teeth and put in a determined effort, it was clear Emu was still feeling the effects of the injuries sustained in his crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

From the Finish Line:
"When the attacks started in the final climb, I wasn't feeling well and couldn’t respond to the attacks. So, I went on my own pace in order to limit my losses. It’s not what I wanted, but it looks like I still haven't fully recovered from my crash. I can only take it day by day and hope that my shape will come back again. The team did a good job today, the most important aspect was to be in a good position in the penultimate climb, and that worked well. In the final climb, everybody was alone and it was up to each one's legs. I simply didn’t have the legs today to follow." - Emanuel Buchmann

"It was a hard stage, as expected, especially the last two, back-to-back, climbs that made it even harder. Jumbo-Visma set a very strong pace and Emu was with the GC group in the climb to Port de Balès but, unfortunately, lost contact in the final ascent. However, he wasn't totally empty, he had a good speed and climbed meter by meter. We lost time today, not too much, and hopefully, Emu will get better in the next days and reach his 100%. The team did a very good job and right now not everything has been lost." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

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