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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, April 23, 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.

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Tour of the Alps stage four reports

We posted the report from GC leader Simon Yates' Team BikeExchange with the results.

Here's the race organizer's report:

It was the most anticipated stage of this Tour of the Alps since the very first announcement of the route, and the fourth stage of the Euro-regional stage race, 168.6 km from Naturns/Naturno (South Tyrol) to Valle del Chiese/Pieve di Bono (Trentino) did not betray any expectation. Boniprati’s unprecedented ascent and descent may have issued the final rulings on the overall success, with Simon Yates’ hold on the green jersey looking even more solid after the stage, but there was much more than that.

There was the stage victory of Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious), who offered his moving dedication to a friend, Michele Scarponi, who left us four years ago. There was the challenge of the contenders for the next Giro d’Italia, which reaffirmed that Yates is perhaps the man to beat in view of the pink race. There was also the pride of a great champion like Chris Froome (Israel Start-up Nation), who on the day with the greatest elevation gain of the whole race (3880 meters) launched himself in the breakaway, started on the ramps of Hofmahdjoch/Passo Castrin, the highest peak of this Tour of the Alps.

Michele Scarponi

Michele Scarponi racing in the 2016 Vuelta a España. Sirotti photo

Along with Froome, eight more strong men featured in the break: Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ), Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Trek-Segafredo), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana-PremierTech), Felix Grossschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain Victorious), Nicolas Proudhomme (Ag2r Citroen), Nicolas Roche (Team DSM) and Marlon Dima (Eolo-Kometa).

A very solid bunch to which Simon Yates’ Team BikeExchange never seemed eager to leave much of a chance, as they could not get more than 2:42 on the peloton, the highest mark being reached right on the Hofmahdjoch/Passo Castrin. Already in the passage through Val di Sole, and then the climb to Passo Campo Carlo Magno, the peloton had started its comeback, and the chase was finalized with 18 km to go, right after the first time across the Pieve di Bono finish line – in the opposite direction.

Like in the Feichten stage, Quintana‘s Arkea-Samsic took on the responsibility of setting an aggressive pace early on the Boniprati climb, and it took only a few hundred meters on the hard slopes of the new ascent for the pack to be conspicuously reduced in numbers.

After a few kilometers controlled by the Ineos Grenadiers, a Hugh Carthy (EF Education – Nippo) attack 11 km from the end saw Pavel Sivakov, the leader of the British team, lose contact, probably suffering from the consequences of the previous day’s crash.

The following acceleration came in the toughest stretch of the climb (gradients over 9%) by Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-PremierTech), it was the overall leader Simon Yates to get back on him. The two collaborated up to the top of the categorized climb chased by a pair formed by Daniel Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) and Pello Bilbao.

In the very technical final descent, though, the fate of the two pursuers significantly diverged: the Irishman crashed twice, while Bilbao began his comeback on the two in command, facing the descent decidedly on the attack: after the stage, the Basque would reveal that he had carefully studied the corners at the desk together with DS Franco Pellizotti.

His downhill ability allowed Bilbao to return to the two leaders and take the satisfaction of leaving them behind in the final sprint: second place for Vlasov, third for Yates.

“I wanted a stage win in this Tour of the Alps, yesterday I had tried to the last, but it didn’t go well; today I knew I had an important opportunity and I was able to take advantage of it,” said the Spaniard. “On Tuesday I was disappointed after the Feichten stage, but yesterday I recovered a lot of terrains and now I’m second in the standings: tomorrow it will be hard to bring a major upset, but I certainly want to defend my place on the podium at Riva.”

For him, it was the second career success at the Tour of the Alps, after the one claimed in Folgaria in 2018. His dedication, however, was the same: “Today is a special day for us all. I believe that many of us today would have liked to win to dedicate a success to Michele Scarponi on the anniversary of his death. Michele for me was a teammate and a special person: today it was worth risking a little more to pay him this tribute.”

Also, Simon Yates was glad about the day’s outcome: “We are in an excellent position with one day to go. We managed the race well, without taking excessive risks. In view of tomorrow, there is still nothing decided, certainly another busy day awaits us, but I feel happy: the feelings are really good, and this Tour of the Alps is giving me the answers I was hoping for.”

With the only final stage still to be raced, Simon Yates leads with a 58-second margin over Bilbao, 1:06 over Vlasov, 2.18 over the white jersey Würth Modyf of Jefferson Cepeda (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), 2:37 over Sivakov and Carthy. The light blue Cassa Centrale Group jersey has passed over the shoulders of Eolo-Kometa’s Hungarian Marton Dina, while Felix Engelhardt of Tirol-KTM continues to wear the intermediate sprints’ PMG Sport red jersey.

Tomorrow it is time for the grand finale: Valle del Chiese/Idroland – Riva del Garda, from Lake Idro to Lake Garda through 120.9 km entirely in Trentino. In between, the climbs to Passo Duron, Passo del Ballino and the double ascent to the Tenno Lake, the main difficulty of the final circuit to be faced twice. An entertaining and eventful stage has to be expected, offering memorable glimpses and an exceptional background to celebrate the winner of the 2021 Tour of the Alps.

Here's the report from stage winner Pello Bilbao's Bahrain Victorious team:

After missing out by centimetres at the Tour of Basque Country, today was Pello Bilbao‘s day, who took a superb win on Stage 4 (Naturns – Pieve di Bono 168.6km) at the Tour of the Alps. More impressively, it was the queen stage, being the most demanding and prestigious stage of the race.

Pello Bilbao

Pello Bilbao takes the Tour of the Alps queen stage. Sirotti photo

The stage had riders taking on challenging climbs, Passo Castrin, Passo Campo Carlo Magno and Boniprati, but it was the final descent, where the Basque rider bridged the gap to the leaders, Simon Yates (Bike Exchange) and Alexandre Vlasov (Astana). It then came down to a sprint finish, where Bilbao proved to be the fastest in Pieve di Bono, beating Vlasov (2nd) and Yates (3rd) to the line.

Bilbao was delighted with the stage win: “It was such a perfect day. I came here at the Tour of the Alps with a stage victory in mind, and I tried from the first day to take it. Maybe today was the stage that suits me the most.

"We knew that the decisive moment was the last climb but especially the following descent. We studied it with our Sports Director Pellizotti, outlining the points where I could take some risks and those where I have to be very careful.

"Today was a special day as it’s the death anniversary of my late teammate Michele Scarponi and I wanted to do my best to take this victory to dedicate to him. As I already did last time, I won at Tour of the Alps 3 years ago.”

Besides the stage win, Pello Bilbao also moved up to second place overall, at 58" to the leader Yates:

“To upset the overall tomorrow, I think it will be difficult to do something. I think that more than attacking, we will defend this podium place, but if possible, we will try again to take the stage win”.

Today’s victory results from excellent teamwork, with Hermann Pernsteiner working in the day’s breakaway and the other teammates protecting Pello. But also it comes thanks to perfect race strategies as Team Bahrain Victorious Sports Director Franco Pellizotti pointed out:

“I’m very happy as we studied it in the details and the victory arrived right in that way we were thinking. Therefore, you can be even more satisfied. The guys were perfect today. They weren’t in the first break as it didn’t include dangerous riders for the GC. Then they worked to put Hermann Pernsteiner in the proper break, and the Austrian’s job was amazing. His group was caught back at the foot of the last climb. Pello climbed with his pace as we knew that we had the descent to our favour, and we just had to calculate to keep the gap under control. We also studied the finish to be ready to face a sprint of a restricted group of riders.

"Tomorrow’s stage probably can’t upset the overall, seeing that Yates has a strong team, and he proved to be in good shape. But we don’t want to settle for the results we have achieved so far. The stage suits Bilbao as well; therefore, we want to be protagonists again”.

Here's the report from second-place Aleksandr Vlasov's Astana-Premier Tech team:

Aleksandr Vlasov showed his strength and determination on stage four of the Tour of the Alps, sprinting to second place in a nail-biting finale of the queen stage.

Vlasov’s impressive ride sees him move onto the podium in third place overall ahead of the final day of racing, 1’06” behind race leader Simon Yates. The strong performance from the Russian leader came on an emotional day for Astana – Premier Tech, four years since the passing of Michele Scarponi.

“The whole team was really motivated for today’s stage. The team did a good job to keep me in front the whole day and then it was up to me to try something on the final climb. I did my best on the final climb and I was close to getting the win. I did everything I could. Day by day I am feeling better so it’s a good sign before the Giro d’Italia. I think I am on the right way and we still have tomorrow’s stage, so we will see what we can do,” said Vlasov

The battle for the stage win was also in the minds of Vlasov’s teammates with Spanish road race champion Luis Leon Sanchez making the breakaway for the second consecutive stage. Despite the peloton keeping the nine-rider group on a short leash, solid cooperation amongst the riders saw the breakaway fight hard to maintain a two-minute advantage for most of the stage.

With almost 4500 metres of elevation on the cards, the tough terrain took its toll and it was a reduced peloton that made the catch inside the final 20 kilometres.

Vlasov had been positioned well by his teammates throughout the stage and was able to respond to the attacks on the final climb before launching his own attack with 10 kilometres to go. Yates was the only rider able to respond and the duo forged clear in the final kilometres of the climb, working well together on the downhill run into the finish.

The duo was joined by Spaniard Pello Bilbao in the final kilometres, setting the stage for a three-man sprint to the line. Vlasov dug deep, gritting his teeth as he gave it everything he had but fell just short of the win with Bilbao taking the day’s honours.

Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this:

Today’s fourth stage at the Tour of the Alps was also the queen stage of the five-day long tour between Italy and Austria. From Naturns to Valle del Chiese the peloton had to climb almost 4000m of elevation but still the fight for the break was intense like yesterday. BORA – hansgrohe was quite active again and covered several attacks with Pöstlberger, Zwiehoff and Fabbro before Felix Großschartner followed the decisive move.

tour of the Alps

No shortage of climbing in stage four. Sirotti photo

A nine-men break formed at the front but wasn’t allowed to gain more than a two and a half minutes advantage, before being caught just before the final climb of the day. It was Matteo Fabbro then who tried to stay with the best climbers. With 4km remaining to the top of the climb, Carthy launched an attack and the front group felt apart. Matteo was one of the riders being dropped but found a good rhythm to finish the stage in 10th place 1:22 behind P. Bilbao the stage winner.

From the Finish Line:
"I tried to go for a result in the end, but it wasn’t enough today for the first group. I didn’t have the best legs after yesterday’s effort in the break and Ineos was pulling incredibly hard on the last climb. I knew I had to go early to have a chance, but it wasn’t possible with this high pace. When I was dropped, I found my rhythm and also didn’t risk too much in the technical downhill." – Matteo Fabbro

"We wanted to ride aggressive again, but we also knew it will be hard to send Felix or Matteo in the group as both were sitting at around 2:30 in GC. When Felix was at the front, as a result the bunch controlled the gap at that margin, and this wasn’t enough to survive the final. But we gave it a try, so it’s ok. Matteo tried to follow the leaders then on the last climb but was dropped around 4km to the top. Still a 10th place is ok, and we’ll see if there is another opportunity tomorrow to grab a stage win." – Christian Pömer, Sports Director

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