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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, April 2, 2021

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

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

The soul is healed by being with children. - Fyodor Dostoevsky


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Paris-Roubaix & Paris-Roubaix Femmes postponed to October

Editor's note. Last year the race was postponed to October, then cancelled. Let's hope that doesn't happen this year.

The race organizer posted this news:

The organisers of Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Roubaix Femmes have recognised the Préfecture des Hauts de France’s decision to request the postponement of the events that had been scheduled to take place on the 11th April.

Paris-Roubaix

We're going to have to wait. Sirotti photo

Thanks to effective and rapid collaboration with the Union Cycliste Internationale and the local authorities concerned, the new dates fixed are the 2nd October for Paris-Roubaix Women and the 3rd October for Paris-Roubaix.

Christian Prudhomme: “An eminently popular Classic, targeted by the best riders in the World, followed by millions of fans and benefitting from a television broadcast in 190 countries, Paris-Roubaix is a source of pride for the whole Hauts de France region that welcomes it with fervour each year. It’s part of the region. It’s part of its history. It’s why we are happy to announce that the Queen of the Classics will be happening in 2021 and that the women’s edition will be enjoyed for the first time by competitors and fans alike.”

Deceuninck-Quick Step to race Vuelta al Pais Vasco

Here’s the team’s update:

The 13th World Tour race of the season takes place between 5-10 April.

One of the numerous races to be cancelled last year, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco returns this spring with its 60th edition, one which will start with a 13.9km individual time trial in Bilbao featuring some brutal 19% gradients in the last kilometer, enough to set the pecking order ahead of the hilly stage to Sestao. Ermualde, just outside Laudio, promises plenty of fireworks on Wednesday, when the yellow jersey contenders will have another big opportunity to gain time on the slopes of this short but excruciating climb (3.1km, 11.1%).

Packing four classified climbs, stage 4 to Hondarribia will be the longest of the race and should be an excellent opportunity for the breakaway specialists to shine before a visit to Ondarroa, where the fast men should hit the spotlight. The last stage promises to deliver full gas racing right from the off, as the riders will take in six classified ascents before the finish on the mythical Arrate (6.4km, 6.4%), which will include a 14.9% stretch not far from the top.

UCI World Team Classification leader Deceuninck – Quick-Step will travel to the Basque Country with a strong squad consisting of Mattia Cattaneo, National ITT Champions Josef Cerny and Ian Garrison, Mikkel Honoré – who at last week’s Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali sailed to his first pro win – James Knox, Pieter Serry and Mauri Vansevenant.

Matteo Cattaneo

Matteo Cattaneo (shown in the 2019 Giro d'Italia) is headed to Spain for some tough racing. Sirotti photo

“Pais Vasco is one of the toughest races of the year, with steep and tough climbs that make it very hard to control. The weather is another factor which can play a big role, with the rain and wind usually having the potential to be decisive in the outcome, and it doesn’t look like this year it will be any different. Our team is a mixture of youth and experience, the riders are all motivated and will go to the start having shown a strong form in their previous races, so we’re confident we can get some nice results next week”, explained Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Geert Van Bondt.

Amanda Spratt joins Sarah Roy and Grace Brown to boost Team BikeExchange for Tour of Flanders assault

The team sent me this:

Australian Amanda Spratt returns to the fold alongside Grace Brown and Sarah Roy to boost Team BikeExchange’s firepower for their Tour of Flanders assault on Sunday.

Amanda Spratt

Amanda Spratt at the 2020 Tour Down Under, winning stage 2.

The squad will be looking to build on a number of strong performances across the Belgian Classics campaign that has yielded six top-10 finishes, including a race victory for Brown at Brugge-De Panne.

The Australian trio will be supported by a team growing in confidence with Arianna Fidanza, Moniek Tenniglo and Teniel Campbell all set to line-up for ‘The Ronde’ this weekend.

The 152km Classic is one of the toughest and most prestigious races on the women’s calendar, with a number of cobbled sectors and bergs to deal with before the peloton race back into Oudenaarde.

Team BikeExchange at the Ronde van Vlaanderen:
Grace Brown (AUS)
Teniel Campbell (TTO)
Arianna Fidanza (ITA)
Sarah Roy (AUS)
Amanda Spratt (AUS)
Moniek Tenniglo (NED)

Grace Brown:
"I am definitely feeling relatively confident ahead of Flanders, it’s a really big race and another one that a lot of it is up to chance. My form is good, and I have been working on all of the other aspects of racing these classics as well, just improving the little things, so I am hoping to have a good race.

The team has come together really well over the last few races here in Belgium and I think each race we are improving on the one before and we are working really well as a unit, so I expect to see that again in all its glory on Sunday."

Sarah Roy:
"I am feeling a bit nervous, but also excited about Flanders, I think my form is pretty good at the moment, but I haven’t really been able to capitalise off that so far with a lot of bad luck, so I am hoping for some better luck on Sunday.

It’s good to see after last year that I can be there and also consistently in the Classics last year, I was in good positions in the finals. I think the racing is really tough this year, the racing has been really chaotic and intense. It’s going to be hard, it will be a really hard race, but I think we have the strength in our team to have a really good day."

Martin Vestby – Sport Director:
"I think we have a really strong group of riders, with Spratty coming in and being fresh in the group, she has a lot of experience in this race and she’s perfect as a road captain. The girls who have been doing the classics campaign seem to have grown together more and more. They’re learning every race and there’s been an improvement in every race, so we’re looking forward to Sunday.

We have a couple of strong riders in the Classic group with Roy and Brown, and Spratty’s main goals are the Ardennes races, but Flanders is Flanders and we have to play with the cards that we have."

2021 Ronde van Vlaanderen – Race Details:
Sunday, 4th April: Oudenaarde – Oudenaarde, 152.4km

Bahrain Victorious to race both GP Indurain and Tour of the Basque Country (Vuelta al Pais Vasco)

Here's the team's release:

The Indurain Grand Prix, one day race, starts a great week of racing on Saturday, April 3, before the start of Itzulia Basque Country (Tour of the Basque Country) Monday, April 5.

Pello Bilbao will lead a six-rider lineup at Indurain for Bahrain Victorious, taking on the 203km through Estella before Mikel Landa joins the team to compete for the GC at Itzulia.

Pello Bilbao

Pello Bilbao (shown winning stage 20 of the 2019 Giro d'Italia) will be the Bahrain team leader at the GP Indurain. Sirotti photo

The Basque Country’s six-stage race begins with an ITT that starts with a 2.6km climb and finishes with a brutal 600m climb with a 19% gradient. Stage 2 takes on La Asturiana, a 7.6-kilometre climb with an average 6.2% gradient before descending towards the finish. The third stage has a similar profile, but the last 3.1 kilometres take on a challenging 11% climb to the finish. Stage 4 brings us elements of the Clásica de San Sebastián with the riders climbing the Alto de Jaizkibel and Puerto de Erlaitz in the last 50 kilometres. The Jaizkibel is a 6.9-kilometre climb at 6.2%, while Puerto de Erlaitz is a 7.4-kilometre ascent with a mid-section of 3.8 kilometres at 10.6%. The last 10-kilometres to the finish will be a test of the riders’ descending skills and may determine the stage’s outcome.

The term ‘flat’ is not often used in races in the Basque Country, but Stage 5 is as close as it gets. This will be one of the stages that the sprinters will be looking for at the finish line in Ondorroa. The final stage is also the Queen Stage, with seven challenging climbs compressed into 111.9-kilometres of racing. The stage finishes near the Arrate Sanctuary with a final climb of 4.5-kilometre 8.9% climb.

Sports Director Gorazd Štangelj shared his thoughts ahead of the race: “We are coming to race at Tour of Basque Country on a very high level and to accomplish the fine-tuning for the upcoming Giro d’Italia to build up everything around Mikel Landa, our GC, and see if anything is missing that we can improve on time before Giro.

We would also like to see how Rafa Valls recovered after last year’s injury at Tour de France. We believe he came back in good shape as he worked really hard in the past period. We raised our quality of racing at the past Tirreno-Adriatico, making us positive for the upcoming races. The first Itzulia stage is an individual time trial, and it’s not going to be easy. Neither one stage is easy at the Basque Country, but the last one, the Queen’s Stage is definitely the hardest, but also the biggest challenge for Mikel Landa. Pello Bilbao is in good shape. Our riders, young guys like Gino Mader and Mark Padun, and experienced Rafa Valls, Eros Capecchi and Yukiya Arashiro will give their all for Mikel, who is one of the favorites in GC, together with Primož Roglic and Tadej Pogačar. Well, there could always appear some other rider for the big result there. I believe that every member of our team, every rider, every staff member will give his best, uprise the performance to the maximum to have a peaceful road to Giro d’Italia”.

Mikel Landa is feeling good ahead of the race: “The tour of Basque Country is going to be very special for me as always. I think that racing at home gives you a special sensation and I am feeling very good. I feel I’m in very good shape after Tirreno-Adriatico. I’m focused on the Giro d’Italia, and all my preparations are focused on being 100% there. I feel competitive at the moment, and I think it’s going to be a very hard Basque Country like always. 

"The first stage we have is the ITT. I hope not to lose too much time. If I lose some, I will use the other stages for a stage win and reach the best possible position in the GC”.

Pello Bilbao is motivated ahead of the race: “I can say that I have a special motivation now for this race every year. We didn’t have the opportunity to be in our home race last year. We missed it a lot, so this year, it is great to turn back and have a chance to race on our home roads, and I’m especially motivated for the first TT day in Bilbao. It’s a very special moment for me to have the opportunity to start the race with an ITT, which is my favourite and my specialty.

"I was working hard in the last few years and had to improve myself for every second possible. I’ve got the opportunity to perform an ITT that suites me quite well in our capital, Bilbao. It’s going to be a great day for sure, but just a pity that we’re not going to be cheered by the Basque fans along the parcour. I think we’re going to miss them a lot because I think all our fans make this race so special. Despite this, we will have a great race, a great spectacle with all the big names there and us. Mikel and I are very motivated, and we will try to go for the podium or try to win this race. I will have the opportunity at Indurain race to see where I am. Do a good test and get to the real racing mode for the Tour of Basque Country”.

Team Bahrain Victorious lineup: Yukiya Arashiro / Pello Bilbao / Eros Capecchi / Mikel Landa / Gino Mäder / Mark Padun / Rafa Valls

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