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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, April 7, 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.

I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am. - Francis Bacon

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Vuelta al País Vasco stage two team reports

We posted the report from the race organizer with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Alex Aranburu's Astana team:

Alex Aranburu scored the first WorldTour win of his career in spectacular fashion with the Basque rider attacking to win solo on home soil on stage 2 of Itzulia Basque Country. Teammate Omar Fraile won the sprint for second place behind Aranburu to make it an impressive first and second place on the stage for Astana – Premier Tech, the team’s first win of the 2021 season.

Alex Aranburu

Alex Aranburu enjoys his stage win.

Strong teamwork was instrumental to Aranburu’s win in Sestao with the Kazakh – Canadian team taking control of the race in the last 50 kilometres, setting the stage for Aranburu to seize the perfect opportunity to attack with 10 kilometres to go.

“We knew that there would be some movements on the final climb but the downhill was also very important. On the last part of the climb Omar tried and when they counterattacked him, it was my turn to try. I could make a small gap and then I went full gas until the finish. It’s my first victory in a World Tour race. I started well this season but I hadn’t won any races yet. To win at home at Itzulia Basque Country is very special. The team had very good results this year but not a win yet so it’s always nice, even more if it is at home,” said Aranburu.

“I try to be a better rider, year after year. This season I had more confidence and experience for the Classics, and yesterday I also did a good time trial. I’ll try to do my best and let’s see where it takes me. There are still a lot of hard stages to come. I have a good position on GC but we also have strong riders in the team to go for it. We’ll see day by day. I never thought about coming to Itzulia and fighting for GC but I feel good and I also felt good yesterday. Let’s see day by day and we’ll see where it takes us.”

Stefan De Bod and Oscar Rodriguez worked in the first half of the stage to keep the team leaders out of trouble in the wet conditions and on the undulating terrain, before the team rode aggressively in the finale as they tackled the La Asturiana climb. Fraile launched multiple attacks to string the reduced peloton out, and together with Kazakh road race champion Alexey Lutsenko, Jakob Fuglsang, and Ion Izagirre, controlled the situation when Aranburu made the decisive attack and went on to extend his advantage to more than 30 seconds.

Aranburu held a 25-second advantage with two kilometres to go as he approached the final ramp to the finish line and held on to cross the line solo and celebrate the momentous victory in front of his home crowd. Behind, Fraile had the legs to sprint to second place while Izagirre crossed the line in the same group just outside of the top ten, with both Basque riders raising their hands in triumph to celebrate Aranburu’s victory.

After an impressive time trial on stage one when he finished 30 seconds down on stage winner and race leader Primoz Roglic, Aranburu has moved up to second place on the General Classification, five seconds behind Roglic, followed by Fraile who sits in eighth place overall.

“We knew the final of the stage pretty well as we did a good recon on it, so we were aiming for a good result today with Alex Aranburu or Omar Fraile, who are really familiar with these roads. We wanted to do the race hard and I can say that the team worked incredibly together. All riders did an amazing job from start to the decisive kilometres. On the last climb we always had four riders in front, who were covering all attacks and attacked themselves. At the end of the day, it was Alex who made a decisive move which brought us a long awaited victory. We all are really happy as it is our first season win! It toot time to get it but we knew we were on the right way. We have a strong group of riders here and we will be aiming for more in this race,” added Giuseppe Martinelli, Sports Director.

Third-place Tadej Pogacar's UAE-Team Emirates posted this:

Tadej Pogačar finished third on the 2nd stage of the Itzulia Basque Country (Zalla-Sestao, 154.8 km), a result that bumps the UAE Team Emirates rider to 4th place in the general classification, 24 “ behind the leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and 18" from teammate Brandon McNulty, currently 3rd and leader of the young riders classification.

Stage success went to Alex Aranburu (Astana-Premier Tech), who attacked the leading group with 10 km to the finish. The Basque rider was able to hold-off the others on the final climb (800 meters at 7.4%) with his teammate Omar Fraile arriving 2nd and Tadej Pogačar coming in 3rd at 15’’ from the winner.

The duo from UAE Team Emirates tried to animate the race on the ascent de la Asturiana (cresting at 16 km from the finish): first Pogačar, then McNulty tried to attack, without being given too much leeway by the peloton.

Pogačar: “Today was a hard day on the bike. The conditions were tough so we focussed on keeping ourselves warm and keeping a good position in the bunch. We started the last climb in a good position and myself and McNulty tried to get away. In the end Hirschi put me in the right place for the sprint and we were able to take some bonus seconds on the line.”

On the 3rd stage, the riders will tackle the 167.7 km from Amurrio to Ermualde, finishing at the top of an ascent of 3.1 km at 10.2% average gradient.

Here's the report from GC leader Primoc Roglic's Team Jumbo-Visma:

Primoz Roglic has retained his lead in the general classification after the second stage of the Itzulia Basque Country. The Slovenian crossed the finish line in sixth place in the first chasing group.

After a leading group of seven was caught, partly due to the work of Team Jumbo-Visma, Roglic attacked on the final climb together with three other riders. After they were reeled in, the later stage winner Aranburu accelerated. Jonas Vingegaard lost some seconds in the last hectometres on the group with Roglic and is now seventh overall after stage two.

Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic will start stage three in yellow.

“I’m happy that I still have the yellow jersey”, Roglic said. “It was a very tough stage. In the beginning some rain, cold and sometimes the roads were very slippery. The race was full throttle all day. On the final climb I felt good and attacked. I was in the lead with a good group, but unfortunately we got caught. I feel good and I am glad I can compete with the best again.”

Sports director Frans Maassen witnessed that his leader was doing well today. “Everything is still close in the GC after today and everything can still happen. The stage was difficult to control because of the many attacks in the final. Primoz was very good today and we look forward to the next stages.”

And here's the report from new mountains classification leader Max Schachmann's Bora-hansgrohe team:

Today’s second stage offered plenty of terrain for attacks, with its 154.8 km from Zalla to Sestao featuring two 3rd category climbs and one 2nd category climb, and the finale also ascending steeply up towards the finish. BORA-hansgrohe had some bad luck today, with crashes of Patrick Konrad, Wilco Kelderman and Cesare Benedetti, who were, however able to get back on their bikes and regain contact with the peloton.

The eventual catch of the day's break led to a series of moves from the reduced field. When Maximilian Schachmann launched a counter-attack, it was initially only P. Roglič who was able to follow him, with two other riders eventually catching up to the duo. Yet the group was later caught. With 10 km of road left, A. Aranburu launched an attack, for which no one behind had any answers.

Max finished seventh in the group of favourites, 15 seconds behind the Basque stage winner, and with that performance, was the best-placed BORA - hansgrohe rider on the day. He also took the mountains jersey and now lies in 6th place, 31 seconds behind the current leader P. Roglič, in the overall classification.

Reactions at the finish:
"I thought that we had a good chance today. However, the roads were wet and slippery and we were all taking precautions to avoid crashing. I was good on the downhill and attacked the group of favourites on the last longer climb. It wasn't an insane pace but it was nevertheless hard, so I thought that I should just go for it. Ultimately, I lacked that little bit extra in the sprint, but the form is still clearly quite good." - Maximilian Schachmann

"Our goal today was to try something in the final and to make the race offensive. Unfortunately, that didn't quite work out as we were a bit unlucky with two crashes. It cost Wilco and Patrick some strength to come back and the unfavourable weather and wet roads didn't help either, so the race was essentially decided on the downhill. Max then tried to get away at the front, but that didn’t quite work out either. Although the guys fought and put in a good performance, we can’t be completely satisfied with the result, as we would have liked to win. Despite that, we rode a good race with the team and will try to get the best out of the next few days of racing here." - André Schulze, Sports Director

Remco Evenepoel signs for five more years with Deceuninck-Quick Step

Here’s the team’s release:

Remco Evenepoel inked a new deal with Deceuninck – Quick-Step – the most successful team of the past decade – that will see him sport the squad’s jersey for five more years. Despite turning pro just two years ago, the Belgian has already amassed an eye-catching palmares that includes the European ITT Championships, Clasica San Sebastian and five stage races. In total, since the beginning of the 2019 season, he claimed 14 victories for the team, breaking several records along the way.

Remco Evenepoel

Remco Evenpoel winning the 2019 San Sebastian Classic.

“I feel really honoured to put pen to paper for the next five years. As Patrick told me, this is the longest agreement he has ever signed with a rider. I’m really proud and happy to stay in this wonderful team, where I have already enjoyed a lot of success, and hopefully we can reach our big dreams. I love it here! The environment, the staff, the riders, everything feels so familiar. For me it’s just a dream, again, that comes true. That’s why I feel really, really happy and excited for what the future holds”, a beaming Remco said.

Deceuninck – Quick-Step CEO Patrick Lefevere was equally delighted after the new contract was signed: “It’s an important step for the future, for the team. Everybody knows what Remco is capable of and how talented he is. As he said, he’s happy, and one of my most important roles is to keep him happy and to put the right people around him. Because I know from experience, and I think I have some after a small 40 years in the sport, that happy people perform better than unhappy people. We’re glad Remco continues with the Wolfpack, and as he said, we hope we’ll enjoy many more great moments together.”

Teams preview Wednesday's Scheldeprijs

Here's the post from Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert:

For this year's edition of the Scheldeprijs (1.Pro, 07/04), the 109th in history, the organizers have decided to reshape the course. Last year, due to the pandemic, the race had to be limited to ten laps around Schoten, thus interrupting the new route introduced in 2018, which started from the Dutch peninsula of Terneuzen, in Zuiv-Beveland, before reaching the finish in the Antwerp municipality.

This time, the peloton will set off again from Terneuzen to join the Western Scheldt tunnel, 6 kilometers long, which leads them to Borsele (Zealand). But it will not stop along the Veerse Gatdam dam or the Deltaweg in Goes, both feared for the likelihood of echelons. 72 kilometers will be necessary before entering Belgian territory, east of the port of Antwerp, and as many will have to be accomplished before crossing the finish line for the 1st time and starting the three laps of the 16,7 kilometer-long circuit around Schoten. This year, the oldest of the Flemish races will feature its cobbled section of the Broekstraat, 1700 meters long, to be covered four times. In total, the peloton will complete 194 kilometers across the flat country to reach Churchill Avenue, where the organizers have now secured the roadway prone to numerous crashes in recent years.

The Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux team will join Zeeland with seven men who all already have at least one participation in this one-day race. The Dutchman Danny Van Poppel had notably finished third in 2014, and he comes out of an excellent Tour of Flanders (16th). He will be accompanied by his brother Boy Van Poppel, his compatriots Wesley Kreder and Taco van der Hoorn, but also the Italian sprinter Riccardo Minali, the German Jonas Koch and the Belgian Pieter Vanspeybrouck. Hilaire Van der Schueren and Steven De Neef will take charge of the team on Wednesday.

Danny van Poppel

Danny van Poppel (shown winning Binche-Chimay-Binche in 2018) will be on the Scheldeprijs start line.

Danny Van Poppel:
"I like this race. It usually is for sprinters, but it has become more of a true Belgian classic since its change of course. The departure from Zeeland, which is a region very exposed to the wind, will undoubtedly lead to echelons. I doubt there will be a massive sprint, it will be more of a positioning race and we will have to be careful. We have had the opportunity to rehearse in that exercise in the past month, and I must say that the whole team is doing a wonderful job. We can see that the more we ride together, the more the automatisms are noticeable. As far as I'm concerned, the legs have recovered well from the Ronde. In comparison, I feel less tired than after Gent-Wevelgem. We will have a very strong and very experienced team in this race, so we will have to take advantage of the positive momentum to get a good result."

The selection:
Jonas Koch
Wesley Kreder
Riccardo Minali
Taco Van der Hoorn
Boy Van Poppel
Danny Van Poppel
Pieter Vanspeybrouck

Sports directors :
Hilaire Vander Schueren
Steven De Neef

And Team Qhubeka-Assos sent me this:

Scheldeprijs has traditionally been the mid-week Belgian Classic, splitting the two monuments, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. This year, with Paris-Roubaix being postponed, Scheldeprijs will close out the Spring Cobble Classics season for many riders.

Team Qhubeka ASSOS (, has this year enjoyed its most successful Belgian Cobble Classics campaign, and will certainly also be looking to end on a positive note at Scheldeprijs.

The mostly flat 194km route no doubt favours the fast men, with a bunch sprint deciding all recent editions of the event. This year is expected to be no different and so Team Qhubeka ASSOS will have its complete sprint train at the start.

Victor Campenaerts, Dimitri Claeys, Lasse Norman Hansen, Giacomo Nizzolo, Matteo Pelucchi, Andreas Stokbro and Max Walscheid will be our team on the start line tomorrow.

Lars Michaelsen - Sport Director:
It has been a long but very enjoyable 2-week period here in Belgium with a nice core group of riders and staff. We have come very close to the top step of the podium on a few occasions and tomorrow at Scheldeprijs we have one final opportunity to try and achieve that goal. A sprint can be expected tomorrow but the race is not totally straight forward for the sprinters, there is always wind to consider at Scheldeprijs and a constant fight for position is a certainty. The cold front that is sweeping through Belgium at the moment together with the usual wind chill factor will add to the test tomorrow. We have a strong team though and we will all be giving our best for that top result.

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