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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, April 17, 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.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Robert Gesink re-signs with Jumbo Visma

The team posted this interview upon Gesink’s extending his contract with Jumbo Visma for two more years:

Since 2007 Robert Gesink has been riding in the professional peloton. The now 34-year-old super-domestique will not think of quitting for a long time to come. For this, the Dutchman simply gets too much satisfaction from the sport. So he recently extended his contract with Team Jumbo-Visma for two years.

“Super good news”, says Gesink. “I had a contract until the end of the cycling season and it seemed a good idea to wait until the last moment with a decision. The team and I have been working together for so long that we know by now where we stand with each other. The team has gained momentum in recent years. I want to continue to be part of that. I’m only 34 and I have the feeling I’ll still be around for a while.”

Robert GEsink

Robert Gesink leads a group in stage 15 of the 2020 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

Was it your idea to extend for two years?
“I have discussed with my manager whether staying longer might be an idea, but I think two years is the right choice. I enjoy what I do. I am happy with two years and happy that I can continue to focus on cycling. After that, we’ll see. In this business, you can’t look too far ahead.”

Would it be a wrong assumption for people to think you will quit in two years?
“It’s certainly not like that. I’ve been in the cycling world for a long time, but I’m not thinking of stopping yet. I have chosen to take another role in the team, the role of a supporting rider. I am not chasing my own results anymore. There are a lot of people who say to me: ‘Robert, I hope you will continue for a while, because I find it so beautiful to watch.'”

In 2007 you made your entrance into the pro peloton. A look at the team of that year shows us that only Sebastian Langeveld is still active as a professional rider.
“That’s right. I even raced with Grischa Niermann and Jan Boven was already there as well. These guys are now part of the team staff. Mathieu Heijboer, who is currently my trainer, also rode in the peloton at the time. That is nice to look back on. Because you’ve been around for so long, there are more people in management positions from my early years nowadays than there are riders who still ride in the peloton.”

You have grown into a different role and you are still very important in the team. For example, last season you were among the eight riders who made it to the Tour de France selection.
“That feels very good. My level is still good. It has become very constant over the years. You also notice that you are growing in that role. The 2019 Vuelta was the first time we managed to win a grand tour. In the 2020 Vuelta it already felt very different: more familiar. It’s no longer the first time you succeed, you more or less know what to expect. People might say, ‘You’ve ridden top ten in a big tour yourself in the past, so you must know how it works to defend a leader’s jersey’. But this is a completely different branch of the sport. I am still gaining enough experience here as well. You are never too old to learn in this business. If there is one sport that changes at lightning speed, it is cycling. I went on altitude training and trained with wattages at a young age. That was not normal back then. Nowadays, it is. Cycling has become much more professional. It’s nice to still be able to stand my ground in this sport.”

That is the sporting part. You are also called a culture carrier of the team, together with, for example, Steven and other riders in their thirties Do you understand what is meant by that?
“Of course, we have experienced the whole process of the team. For example, how we stood there watching, now many years ago, when Rabobank suddenly stopped sponsoring. Then the whole process up to now. We have experienced the entire growth. If you can take that good vibe with you and transfer it to the new generation and help them, then that is great. These young boys all prove that they can cycle well and don’t need to be taken by the hand, but perhaps there are little things that they are unsure about. I’m happy to help with that.”

These problems, being without a sponsor, no lasting performances. Guys who joined in 2018/2019 have not experienced that themselves. Is that an important difference?
“Yes, maybe it is. I was just talking to Paul Martens about it in the room. I used to have to drive 2.5 hours to pick up my time trial bike, and then another 2.5 hours to bring it back. Not everyone had a time-trial bike at home back then. You only really realise how good the facilities are nowadays if you have also experienced a less luxurious situation. You don’t always have to take everything for granted. That is part of the realisation of how well off we are now, that the culture here is very professional. That’s something people have worked for for years, but also something that has really grown over the years.”

How would you describe the culture of Team Jumbo-Visma?
“A very familiar culture. There are many people you know well and with whom you have shared life’s ups and downs over the years. For me, that makes it like a second family with whom you are on the road for a large part of the year. To me, this feels like a place where I have made many friends over the years and with whom I have had some great moments. And what really appeals to me in this culture is that every day you try to develop that better version of yourself. Everything is thought about beforehand in this team. Every moment is used to go the extra mile and create an advantage over the competition.”

As a team – and you personally – do you never get stuck in habits?
“No, at least we try not to. Then you have to change things. We’ve learned that over the years as well. If you can deal with that and use it to improve yourself, that’s a very good thing. I believe that this is what a top athlete should be like. You do everything you can to do your job as well and as professionally as possible.”

Has it never occurred to you to choose a different team for a change, to experience new stimuli?
“In 2015 we went through a lesser year as a team, but for me personally it felt quite strange. In that year I finished sixth in the Tour, so for me it wasn’t a lesser year at all. Steven also rode well in the Giro d’Italia. At the time Lotto and Jumbo decided to put a few years on top and I myself decided that I was fine here. In the past, there were some contacts with other teams, but from a young age I always had the dream to cycle with the biggest Dutch team. That is Team Jumbo-Visma. I still want to be part of it.”

Have you also always found new goals in the renewal this team has gone through?
“Yes, actually I did. The renewal, thanks to Merijn Zeeman, among others, always meant a challenge. In the first years of my pro career, in every race I started, people expected me to ride a good classification. Actually, that went quite well. There were years when I was in the top of the UCI ranking at the end of the season, so then you did pretty well for the whole season. At a certain moment I was looking for innovation. And I have clearly found that. I am happy to be part of this fantastic team for two more years.”

Vincenzo Nibali undergoes wrist surgery

Nibali's Trek-Segafredo team post this:

Vincenzo Nibali fractured his wrist in a training accident Wednesday, April 14th. He was scheduled for osteosynthesis surgery for a compound fracture of the radius of the right wrist one day later.

Dr. Emilio Magni, Trek-Segafredo physician: “Vincenzo has been subjected this early afternoon to surgery for reduction and osteosynthesis of the fracture of the right distal radius with the placement of a metal plate and screws. Dr. Ivan Tami, a specialist in hand surgery, confirmed the excellent outcome. The operation took place under loco-regional anesthesia and lasted one hour. He will spend the night in the clinic, and tomorrow, after dressing, bandage replacement, and drain removal, he will be able to return home.

“Vincenzo will have three days of absolute rest. Then, after physiotherapy evaluation, he will start the path of passive and active physiotherapy with the help of a brace. It is difficult now, a few hours after the operation, to make a hypothesis or more precise timing steps. Much will depend on Vincenzo’s feeling, as well as on the indications we will receive from the specialists. However, we can have hope that he will resume a minimum of physical activity as soon as possible.”

Vincenzo Nibali

Vincenzo Nibali racing in the 2020 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

Luca Guercilena, Trek-Segafredo General Manager: “Our greatest wish at the moment is that Vincenzo can enjoy the maximum tranquility. We will do everything possible to guarantee him utmost serenity in the recovery process. This is our goal, and this is what I have also said to Vincenzo. Together we will work for a difficult but not impossible challenge: being at the start of the Giro d’Italia.

“We will know day after day with feedback from the physicians and specialists how much this goal will be reachable. We won’t leave any stone unturned to get it, but now it’s senseless to make any predictions. Let’s stay focused on the present and, as soon as we get close to the start of the Corsa Rosa, we will take a decision together. We know how strong Vincenzo is, not only riding the bike but also with his head and character. We will be at his side through the whole process.”

Team BikeExchange headed to Amstel Gold Race

Here's the team's update:

Team BikeExchange men line-up with a strong squad for the modified edition of Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, as they look to race aggressively on the new course, with the team boasting impressive talent including former podium finisher Michael Matthews and recent Volta a Catalunya stage winner Esteban Chaves.

Esteban Chaves

Esteban Chaves winning stage four of the 2021 Tour of Catalonia.

For 2021, the riders will face 12 laps of a 16.8km circuit followed by a new 15.8km finishing loop which untraditionally sees the Cauberg coming more than 17km from the finish line, which is likely to change the dynamics of the final.

With these changes the course has the potential to be even harder however, with relentless climbs coming in close succession every lap, it should continue to suit the puncheur riders, with Matthews and Team BikeExchange lining-up as one of the clear race favourites.

Alongside the duo will be an in-form squad providing multiple cards to play with recent sixth place finisher in Brabantse Pijl Robert Stannard, Slovenian sprinter Luka Mezgec and New Zealand powerhouse Jack Bauer who all return for more Classics action. Whilst Dane Chris Juul-Jensen andNew Zealander Dion Smith arrive to the Ardennes after a period of solid stage racing in Spain, ready for the hard one-day Dutch race.

Team BikeExchange at Amstel Gold Race:
Jack Bauer (AUS)
Esteban Chaves (COL)
Chris Juul-Jensen (DEN)
Michael Matthews (AUS)
Luka Mezgec (SLO)
Dion Smith (NZL)
Robert Stannard (AUS)

Michael Matthews:
“Amstel Gold Race is a race I really love, it is always a really hard race, many riders arrive in top shape and this year could be even harder with the new course.

"I feel like my form is good at the moment. I have finished on the podium and also in fifth place before in this race, so I know how to be there in the final, but it always just comes down to timing and how good the legs are in those last kilometres after such a hard day.

"I am really looking forward to the race this year, especially after missing it last season and also being back with GreenEDGE where I had the good results in this race in the past.”

Matt White – Sport Director:
“It is a new course where you have to be on the front foot as there’s still 3000 metres of climbing. The main difference is that you don’t do the Cauberg on the last lap, the last climb is now seven kilometres from the finish. It is not a flat run-in but at the end of the day, at the end of five hours of racing, the guys who have the legs can still do damage.

"There will be guys in-form who have prepared for this period of racing and it will become a very tactical game between key teams as to how the final plays out.

"There’s no hiding that Matthews has had some great results in Amstel in the past and it is one of the goals for the year for him but we also have an in-form team and a team that brings us multiple options.

"I think the new course makes it harder for the pure climbers to stamp their authority on the race. The really steep hard climbs traditionally came with 50km to go that could do a lot of damage to the non-climbers, and were launching pads for the pure climbers; those climbs have gone. But there’s still multiple climbs per lap and they are still pretty steep.

"Circuit races are usually more predictable, I think it will still be a very aggressive race and I think we’ll still see the same type of winners anyway. It will likely be a select group that gets away in the final or a reduce group sprint and as a team we have both of those options covered.”

2021 Amstel Gold Race Details:
Sunday, 18th April: Valkenburg – Berg en Terblijt – 11x laps of 16.9km + 1x lap of 15.8km

Tour of Turkey stage 6 reports

We posted the report from Mark Cavendish's Deceuninck-Quick Step team with the results.

Here's the update from André Greipel's Israel Start-Up Nation team:

German sprinter André Greipel digests a fast and tough sixth stage very well and just misses out on a bunch sprint victory by a few centimeters.

Right after the finish he said that the team had ridden very professionally. “We did a dominant lead-out, again, and unfortunately this time I missed it by a few centimeters.”

Jasper Philipsen

Jasper Philipsen just beats Greipel for the stage win.

The Israel Start-Up Nation sprint train survived a climb with its summit twenty kilometers to the finish, when they brought Andre Greipel into position in the last few kilometers. In the lead-out, the German sprinter was passed in the very final few meters, finishing second.

“My teammates deserved a win today”, Greipel said. “It is incredible how dedicated they are, and how much they trust in my sprint.”

Just like in most of the earlier stages in Turkey, it took a long time to form the breakaway. In today’s stage 6, the race was almost halfway done when a small group of riders went up the road.

It meant just a small period of relative rest for the riders, as a serious last ascent at thirty kilometers from the line meant a big battle for positions in the kilometers before.

It was in that battle that the lead-out train lost Rick Zabel. He was involved in a minor crash, tried to come back to the front on the climb, nearly managed to, but couldn’t provide his support in the lead-out anymore.

Greipel: “We missed him in the train, however, together we will keep trying to get that stage victory here in Turkey.”

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