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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, April 22, 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.

It is the privilege of the gods to want nothing, and of godlike men to want little. - Diogenes


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La Flèche Wallone reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results:

Here's the report from winner Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick step team:

Julian Alaphilippe got his third victory in the rainbow jersey, and his biggest since becoming World Champion, after one of the best and most thrilling finishes in Flèche Wallonne history. In doing so, the 28-year-old became one of the few riders in history, and the first since 2010, to win the Belgian Classic with the iconic arc-en-ciel jersey on his shoulders.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilppe wins wearing the rainbow jersey. ASO photo

On the menu of Wednesday’s 85th edition: 193.6 kilometers, almost 3000 vertical meters and twelve climbs, one more than last year. As usual, the Mur de Huy was the main attraction of the race, featuring three times on the course that this year saw the start return to Charleroi. Soon after the field left behind the neutral zone, attacks began coming, but it took nearly one hour for a breakaway to form, and when this happened, eight riders were at the front, with an advantage that at its height reached five minutes.

Deceuninck – Quick-Step were one of the teams to assume pace-making duties in the peloton, posting Josef Cerny at the front before Mikkel Honoré and Mauri Vansevenant made their way towards the head of the bunch and took over as soon as the group entered on the circuit, chewing into the escapees’ gap. The biggest attacks of the day before the final climb came with 11 kilometers to go, on the penultimate hill, but they were all suppressed by a strong James Knox, who continued to remain in control of things on the descent taking to Mur de Huy.

The tension was palpable in the bunch with one kilometer to go, but Julian Alaphilippe – brought into position by Mikkel – remained calm and composed on the endless ascent, where the first to make his move was Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), with 350 meters to go. Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s leader, oblivious to the brutal double-digit gradients, waited for a moment before unleashing an enormous acceleration that saw him make inroads into the Slovenian’s lead and come past him just 50 meters from the top on his way to a third victory in Flèche Wallonne, a race he never finished outside the top 2 in five participations.

“Since the start of the season I haven’t won a lot and even though that didn’t stop me from having fun, I really wanted to raise my arms again. The fact that it happened at this great race, more than one month after my Tirreno win, makes it even more beautiful”, said a delighted Julian after his sumptuous performance in the Ardennes.

“The team did a great job today, working tirelessly and protecting me, and I’m really proud of them. I had huge confidence in the guys and was well placed thanks to them when I needed to be. Mikkel dropped me off at the bottom of the Mur in the first positions, and in the end, I knew what I had to do. It’s the legs that make the difference on this hard climb. It wasn’t easy with Roglic out front and Valverde on my wheel, who were both very strong, but I managed to pull it off. Winning in this jersey gives me an amazing feeling, and at the same time, a huge confidence boost. I’m really happy”, added Alaphilippe, the sixth rider in history to win Flèche Wallonne on at least three occasions.

Here's the report from second-place Primoz Roglic's Team Jumbo-Visma:

Primoz Roglic embellished his first appearance in the Flèche Wallonne with a strong second place. The Slovenian jumped away on the steep Mur de Huy, but eventually had to acknowledge his superiority to world champion Julian Alaphilippe.

The classic image of the midweek Ardennes Classics was also present in the 2021 edition. A front group of eight got away and the last escapee was caught in the final stage. Team Jumbo-Visma covered Roglic well. Robert Gesink and Sam Oomen, among others, countered a number of attacks on the penultimate climb of the day. On the all-decisive Mur de Huy it was exciting until the end.

Roglic spoke of a deserved victory for the world champion. “Julian was the strongest rider on the climb. He deserved to win. The final climb is really difficult and tough, but it’s one that suits me. I was in a good position and went for it. When you feel that the legs are good, you just have to attack. That is what I did. Unfortunately, I got caught up just before the finish. That’s racing.”

The defending champion of La Doyenne is already looking forward to the upcoming classics. “I’m looking forward to Liege-Bastogne-Liege. My form is good and I want to show again what I can do. Hopefully I can compete for the podium again.”

Max Schachmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

On the agenda today was the 85th edition of Flèche Wallonne, the second race of the Ardennes classics. After the start in Charleroi, the riders had to contend with 12 climbs over the 193-long course, including three ascents of the Mur de Huy. As expected, the race was ultimately decided on the short yet brutally steep final ramp, which proved to be too much for several riders. Following a series of attacks after the start, a group of eight riders eventually escaped, going on to stay clear for most of the day.

On the second climb of the Mur de Huy, a handful of riders attacked, among them Patrick Konrad, yet the group's move was unable to stick and was reabsorbed by the peloton. Somewhat later, the squad from Raubling moved forward in the peloton, while the field attempted to reel in the remaining breakaway riders. On the final kilometre to the foot of the Mur, a fierce fight for position ensued between a small group, which contained Maximillian Schachmann, with only those entering the final ascent ahead of the bunch having a chance at a podium place. Over the last few hundred meters, Max tried to pull his way to the front, yet in the end had to settle for 10th place, while J. Alaphillipe took the win.

From the Finish Line:
“Tenth place is admittedly not quite the result, that we had hoped for today. I felt ok during the race, and tried to cover all the important attacks over the last kilometres, which cost quite some energy. I was able to be up there in the important move on the final and decisive ascent of the Mur de Huy, but ultimately I was just missing that final kick to be able to fight it out for a top result.” - Maximilian Schachmann

"The entire race came down to the final climb and so the race was something for specific type of riders who possess particular skills. So it was clear that Roglič, Valverde and Alaphilippe would be the among the best. Of course we tried to do well with Max on the final climb, but with such a specific finish, it's difficult to net a great result and so under those circumstances, we can be satisfied with 10th place." - Steffen Radochla, Sport Director

Tour of the Alps stage three team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Gianni Moscon's Team INEOS Grenadiers with the results.

The race organizer posted this report:

After breaking a long draught in Innsbruck, the rider from Trentino Gianni Moscon gave an encore in Südtirol in the third stage of the Tour of the Alps (Imst-Naturns/Naturno, 162 km), getting the better of three fellow escapees. Yates still in green in view of the anticipated fourth stage.

Winning helps to win, or so they say. What’s for sure is that such formula works for Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers) who, after nearly three years without success, he managed to claim two significant ones in the space of three days at the Tour of the Alps.

The Italian rider from Trentino conquered the third stage of the Euroregional stage race, which made its way back to Italy on Wednesday April 21st, from Imst (Tirol) to Naturns/Naturno (Südtirol), over 162 km with nearly 3000 meters of elevation gain.

Alpine panorama

Racing in the Alps.

It was a tough stage for hard-nose attackers, and indeed 15 riders forced their way out of the peloton on the Piller Sattel ascent that was already seen during stage 2: Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers), Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Antonio Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Tejada (Astana), Fabbro and Grosschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Van Garderen (EF-Education Nippo), De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation), Pernsteiner (Bahrain-Victorious), Bidard and Gallopin (AG2R-Citroen), Storer (Team DSM), Ravasi and Christian (Eolo-Kometa).

A puncture on the Piller Sattel immediately put Pinot out of contention, while Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) rejoined the escapees, who earned a maximum of 2:30 on the peloton paced by Team BikeExchange.

Leader Simon Yates’ squad further upped the pace through the Vinschgau/Val Venosta, as they approached the tough and technical Frinig ascent. On the ramps leading the summit of Maso Albergad, the breakaway lost several pieces, whilst on the descent Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) was victim of a slide, in which he suffered several grazes on the right side of his body.

On the final Tarsch/Tarres drag, Grossschartner and Moscon forced the pace, taking Storer and Fabbro in their wake, while Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious) launched himself from the peloton at the chase of the leaders.

In the final flat kilometers, Bilbao and the other fugitives tried to get back on the four escapees, but bridged over only in the very last meters: it went down to a head to head between Moscon and Grossschartner, with the Trentino native celebrating again. Third place for Fabbro, ahead Storer and De Marchi, the new owner of the best climber’s Gruppo Cassa Centrale light blue jersey.

“On Monday I broke the ice in Innsbruck, now I have regained my confidence and feeling with victory,” Moscon commented after the race. “The stage was clearly suited for long-run breakaways, with its challenging profile. In the final kilometers we were down to four and insisted in our action until the finish: it worked out well. Dreaming of a hat-trick in my Trentino might seem too much right now: tomorrow we are expected by a hard and important stage, and we are ready to stand by Pavel Sivakov, hoping that hoping that his fall will leave no significant aftermath.”

Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) confidently handled the race with his team and retained the green Melinda leader’s jersey by finishing 49 seconds behind the winner, though a dangerous rival like Pello Bilbao has managed to gain some valuable ground. “Today we were able to control the race, the team did a great job, and I was able to save some energy for tomorrow. Tomorrow it will be a very demanding stage, Sivakov is looking strong, and Bilbao has also got closer in the standings today, moving to third place. So far, I am really enjoying this Tour of the Alps: we race in a beautiful area, on fantastic roads and so far the weather has also been better than expected: let’s hope to continue like this.”

Yates leads in the GC with 45 seconds on Sivakov, 1:04 on Bilbao and Dan Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) and 1:08 on Vlasov (Astana PremierTech) and the white Würth Modyf jersey of Jefferson Cepeda (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec). The red PMG Sport jersey of the intermediate sprints leader remained on the shoulders of Felix Engelhardt (Tirol-KTM Cycling Team).

Tomorrow, Thursday, April 22nd, one of the most anticipated stages of this Tour of the Alps is taking place: Naturns/Naturno-Valle del Chiese/Pieve di Bono (168.4 km), with the ascents of the Hofmahdjoch/Passo Castrin, the highest peak of this Tour of the Alps, Passo Campo Carlo Magno, and the hard and unprecedented final climb of Boniprati, tough to handle both on the ascent and the descent, that will leave the riders with just 800 meters to go to the first Trentino’s stage finish this year. Tomorrow will make a huge difference in the run for the final success in Riva del Garda: everybody, from Simon Yates to each of his rivals, will have to show his cards.

In the morning in Imst, the Uno-X Cycling Team had abandoned the race due to a positive COVID test of a team member, who had reported flu-like symptoms. Out of a sense of responsibility and to safeguard everybody’s health, the team autonomously chose to abandon the race, and isolate its members. Later in the day, the whole team underwent new PCR tests: all resulted negative, including one of the members who had initially tested positive.

“We were very saddened to see the Uno-X Cycling Team leaving the race, after showing in recent days that they fully deserved their opportunity in a race like this, – GS Alto Garda President Giacomo Santini told, – but we are sure that the best possible decision was taken in this situation, showing fairness and responsibility towards the race and everybody involved, and we are grateful to them for that. We wish them the best of luck in their upcoming fixtures, and look forward to welcoming them back to the Tour of the Alps in the future.”

Here's the report from GC leader Simon Yates' Team Bike Exchange:

Yesterday’s stage winner Simon Yates successfully retained his overall race lead on today’s 162km third stage at the Tour of the Alps, thanks to the work of his Team BikeExchange companions, riding throughout the day to keep control of the breakaway.

The rolling stage began with a large breakaway group of 15 riders escaping early on, opening a steady lead and remaining intact until the race entered the final 40km. The group slowly whittled down to just four riders as the finish line drew closer, with Team BikeExchange spending most of the day at the head of affairs, controlling the distance to the leaders to keep Yates safe.

The 28-year-old Brit now heads into tomorrow’s penultimate stage with a gap of 45 seconds over his nearest rival with two hard, but short stages to come.

Simon Yates

Simon Yates remains the GC leader. Sirotti photo

Simon Yates – Race Leader:
“It was a tough stage, but the team was really in control and we did a good job. There were a lot of guys trying for the breakaway because I think today was the last chance. The team did a really good job today to control so today wasn’t so difficult for me.

“I felt the effort from yesterday, but I didn’t have to go into the wind and now we look forward to tomorrow and the final stage. Tomorrow, it’s going to be a very difficult day. The race is not finished, I have a good gap, but you never know.”

Matt White – Head Sport Director:
“It was a very hectic start today, a lot of attacks on the first climb and then finally a group got away over the top. It was a strong group of guys and we had some work to do but the guys did a good job, and we didn’t need to bring the break back for the sprint as we are here to win the tour.

"All the boys rode very well. This is why we came here; it is all part of the process to get ready for the Giro d’Italia. Tomorrow is a tough day, there’s a very tough climb in the final and I think we will see the best climbers come to the fore again.”

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