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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, April 4, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2020 Giro d'Italia

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

Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. - Frederick Douglass

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Gran Premio Miguel Induráin team reports

We posted the report from winner Alejandro Valverde's Movistar team with the results.

Here's the report from Alexey Lutsenko & Luis Leon Sanchez's Astana-Premier Tech team:

An impressive team performance saw Alexey Lutsenko and Luis Leon Sanchez make it two Astana – Premier Tech riders on the podium at Gran Premio Miguel Indurain, with the Kazakh and Spanish road race champions finishing in second and third place respectively.

Omar Fraile made it three in the top ten, crossing the line in ninth place, helping Astana – Premier Tech to win the best team classification. The former World Champion Alejandro Valverde took the race win.

Miguel Indurain

Alejandro Valverde wins ahead of a hard-chasing Alexey Lutsenko.

“I recovered pretty well after my crash at Paris-Nice and since then I’ve done a big amount of work to come back in form for this part of the season. I am still on my way towards the Ardennes classics, but so far I feel good and I think I spent a good day on the bike. I suffered a bit in the first half of the race, while later I felt much better, so I was up there in front for the decisive part. When I saw Valverde attacking from our group and catching Luis Leon, I counterattacked to join them. Together with Luis Leon we did our best, I tried to attack on the descent, but it did not work. Well, it was a good chance to win this race and we did all we could for that, but this time Valverde was just stronger. However, I am happy with my performance and now I am looking forward to the next week at Itzulia Basque Country. The main goal is still the same – to build up my form for the Ardennes, but if I see a chance to fight for a stage win I will try to use it”, – said Alexey Lutsenko.

“Once again, I was close to a victory, but missed it. Of course, I am a bit disappointed because I did my best today, but it was not enough. The team was perfect, and the guys did an amazing job for me, providing the best moment to attack. Everything went well in our late breakaway and I made my attack on the last big climb, but later Valverde was able to join me. Together with Alexey we tried to play our cards, but it did not work out. I have no regrets about this race as the team and I did all we could. Now I am looking forward to a short rest at home before coming back to racing with the Tour of the Alps and the Giro d’Italia”, – added Luis Leon Sanchez.

Astana – Premier Tech took control of the race from the beginning, showing the depth of the team at the front of the peloton to control the six-rider breakaway. Oscar Rodriguez and Javier Romo worked really well in front, step by step bringing the traditional early breakaway back. The race hit the reset button with 70 kilometres remaining when the breakaway was caught, setting the stage for further attacks.

It was Ion Izagirre, who launched a powerful attack with some 45 kilometres to go to create a new group of leaders together with Luis Leon Sanchez. The Spanish champion attacked shortly later and was joined by three riders, forming a strong quartet that built a 40-second advantage in the last 20 kilometres of the race.

While Luis Leon Sanchez was pulling hard in the leading group, Alexey Lutsenko, Omar Fraile, Alex Aranburu and Ion Izagirre were part of a reduced peloton behind.

Sanchez proved to be the strongest of the four riders and eventually dropped his breakaway companions on the Alto de Eraul but was quickly joined by Valverde who jumped clear from the chase group. Behind, Lutsenko launched an impressive attack and capitalized on his downhill skills to bridge to the Spanish duo as they hit the final three kilometres.

Lutsenko and Sanchez were unable to match a late attack from Valverde on the final uncategorized rise with two kilometres remaining, and despite digging deep on the descent into Estella, the Astana – Premier Tech duo rounded out the podium after an aggressive day of racing in the Basque Country.

“I am really proud of our team as all of the guys did an amazing job. It was something special. We followed our plan, and we did not do any mistakes on the road. We attacked in the right moment and Luis Leon Sanchez went away in the right breakaway which had all chances to go to the finish. Well, in the end there are a few teams who cooperated pretty well in front of the peloton, chasing the break hard inside the last 20 kilometres. I think we were the best team today, but one rider was just stronger in the final. I want to thank all of the guys for this day as we looked really solid and I want to congratulate Alejandro Valverde for a very nice win. Anyway, it was a good try and now all our eyes are on Itzulia Basque Country”, – said Giuseppe Martinelli.

And here's the report from 6th place Krists Neilands' Israel Start-Up Nation team:

The Israel Start-Up Nation riders put on a strong team performance in Saturday’s GP Indurain with several attacks and Krists Neilands sprinting to sixth place on the line.

From the start of the race, it was clear to see that the ISN riders were eager to get in the mix. Both Guy Niv and Robin Plamondon were on the attack early on but unfortunately, neither group managed to get away. Instead, six riders got up the road and opened up a small gap of around two minutes.

The peloton always kept breakaway on a tight leash and with 70 km left to go, it all came back together again. Several riders then tried to get away, amongst them James Piccoli, but it was only with 40 km to go that another group went clear. Ben Hermans did well to make it into this four-riders break, letting Neilands save energy in the chase group behind.

The quartet managed to get a gap over 40 seconds on the pack but on the final climb, the group dissolved as the riders lost contact one by one. Behind them, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) attacked and went on to take the win, while Neilands showed great shape to finish sixth with Hermans in 11th place on the day.

Sports director, Oscar Guerrero Celaya: ”I’m very pleased with how the team raced today. We wanted to race aggressively as we knew this would be a difficult race to control, which is why we went on the late attacks with Piccoli and Hermans. It would have been a good if there had been a Movistar rider in that group with Hermans, then they would probably have had a bigger gap starting on the last climb. I knew that 40 seconds wouldn’t be enough as Valverde was bound to attack but we did everything we could. We were always in the mix. Everybody did their part and I’m very happy with the team spirit we showed today.”

Team BikeExchange headed to Vuelta al Pais Vasco

The team sent me this update:

Colombian climber Esteban Chaves will lead Team BikeExchange’s GC ambitions at next week’s Vuelta al Pais Vasco, coming straight from a strong performance at the recent Volta a Catalunya, where he picked up an impressive solo victory on the Queen stage before finishing in sixth place overall.

Esteban Chaves

Esteban Chaves winning the Volta a Catalunya queen stage.

The 30-year-old will have top support squad alongside him with local Basque hero Mikel Nieve lining-up for his first stage race of the 2021 season, whilst Australian climber Damien Howson and Ethiopian Tsgabu Grmay provide additional climbing support for the race over relentless terrain.

With half of the stages including first category climbs, positioning will be crucial as the riders navigate through the rolling hills of the Basque Country, and for this, the team recruit super domestiques Chris Juul-Jensen and Amund Grøndahl-Jansen, with Dion Smith giving a solid option for the faster stages after his strong showing in Catalunya.

Team BikeExchange at Vuelta al Pais Vasco 2021:
Esteban Chaves (COL)
Amund Grøndahl-Jansen (NOR)
Tsgabu Grmay (ETH)
Damien Howson (AUS)
Chris Juul-Jensen (DEN)
Mikel Nieve (SPA)
Dion Smith (NZL)

Esteban Chaves:
“Pais Vasco is a different type of race to Catalunya, it is a race I love but it is a different style race and there will also be other riders like Roglic and Pogacar. There are shorter climbs and steeper climbers compared to Catalunya and it also depends how it is with the weather.

"I think it will be a tricky one with the time trial on day one, we will see but we need to go step-by-step. If we had three riders in the top-10 overall in Catalunya then why not in Basque Country too and we will fight for a stage win.

"We saw Dion was really good last week so I am sure he will also have a good opportunity again which is also is exciting for us.”

Julian Dean – Sport Director:
“We have seen Esteban’s performance recently at Catalunya and that has indicated to us that he deserves our full support for Pais Vasco. We have a pretty good team for that and so we will be going there with that approach.

"The time trial is first up so that will set the precedent for the race and then we will be able to decide our tactics from there. Already by stage three, it is a pretty hard finish with a short steep climb, we will have a good idea then how it is really looking for the overall.

"One of the other things that Basque is good for, is for a rider like Dion Smith who can sprint and climb. There should be some opportunities for him and he showed in Catalunya that his form is good and he can take a lot of confidence from that race coming into Pais Vasco.”

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