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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, April 25, 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.

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion or ethnic background, is that we all believe we are above-average drivers. - Dave Barry

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INEOS Grenadiers' Tom Pidcock to miss Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Here's the team's update:

Backed by Adam Yates, Richard Carapaz, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Luke Rowe, Michal Golas and Eddie Dunbar, Kwiatkowski is buoyed by the options open to the team, and says the group will take inspiration from the attacking display at last weekend’s Amstel Gold.

But Tom Pidcock will now miss La Doyenne, having not fully recovered from his late crash in Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne. The Brit will rest up and start to focus in on his mountain bike programme, ahead of his first event in a week’s time in Leukerbad, Switzerland.

Tom Pidcock

Tom Pidcock (shown winning this year's De Brabantse Pijl) will miss Sunday's big race.

Kwiatkowski has endured a mixed build up to Liege, the Monument that he has previously described as the ‘race of his dreams’. A broken rib disrupted his Italian block in March, but the former world champion is happy with where his form is after impressing in Amstel and Flèche.

“I’m excited. It’s always the finish of my spring block and this year it’s been super tricky coming into the Ardennes with my broken rib, but I feel great to be honest," said the 30 year old.

“I’ve taken a different approach, going into this period with an altitude camp. I felt wonderful in Amstel, Flèche, and we’ve had some great performances from the team. Tom nearly had it in Amstel and I’ve enjoyed the last two races so much, racing with these boys.

“In the last couple of years I felt a little bit alone sometimes as the leader, but this year we have so many options and we can play the racing game differently. It’s just great.

“I always believe in the Classics that you should always have some cards to play, and we have those in Liege, even though we will miss Tom. We can support each other, and Amstel was a good example - we were in the winning moves many times. If a Grenadier is at the front of the bunch, ahead, we’re happy. That’s what we’re aiming for. We will all celebrate.

“We are enjoying riding our bikes here. The weather has been good, we enjoyed a recon of Liege together, on our easy days we can ride on the Dutch bike paths. We can’t ask for more.”

Sport Director Gabriel Rasch has been happy with how the riders have performed this week.

“In Amstel we rode really well as a team,” he said. “In Flèche we were a little blocked when Tom had his crash, we couldn’t race as aggressively as we wanted, but we were still committed 100%.

“This week in general has been really good and we are well prepared for Sunday. As a collective with our strongest guys working together, we can really do something on Sunday.”

EF Education-Nippo previews Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Here's the team's post:

Liége-Bastogne-Liége is the oldest, and perhaps the most demanding, of the classics. In Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium that hosts the race, it’s referred to as La Doyenne. The Old Lady.

Liége has been won and lost 106 times, but has always retained her grandeur, though the world around her has collapsed more than once. When Liége was first raced in 1892, Wallonia was Europe’s industrial capital, and its people enjoyed unprecedented wealth. A number of those factories they built then are moldering, and more than a few tumbledown mansions top the hills that rise towards the forested heart of the Ardennes.

French-speaking Belgium was hit hard by the World Wars. In 1914, Liége was the site of the first World War’s first great battle, and some of the worst early fighting took place in the surrounding hills. People tried to resume their lives after the war. Business returned. Liége-Bastogne-Liége was held again in 1919. Twenty-one years later, the Germans stormed through the woods again on their way to take Paris. For four years, the people of Wallonia lived under occupation, until the Allies liberated the region in late 1944. The German counterattack—the Ardennes Offensive—killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people, before it was finally defeated.

That August, just a few months after VE Day, the people of Wallonia lined their roads to watch their beloved Liége-Bastogne-Liége once again. Those hopeful days were the start of hard years. The factories that had once been the pride of European manufacturing were weary and war-damaged. Ever since, the region has fought hard to regain the advantages it once enjoyed.

The region’s people and old stone towns have a distinct warmth, and the landscapes are magnificent — dense forests clinging to the folds of hillsides. Above the jumbles of shops and concrete-block flats, grand buildings and statues still stand—monuments to a prosperous era.

Liége-Bastogne-Liége is such a monument. The oldest and once most grand, now in the long shadows cast by the cobbled classics — Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, namely — to the north. But look closely, and what a monument Liége is.

Just shy of 260 kilometers, it is one of the longest races on the professional cycling calendar, and its course usually features 4,500 formidable meters of climbing. In scale, the Ardennes hills are not very imposing. The highest point in Liége-Bastogne-Liége, the summit of the Côte de Mont-le-Soie, is just 587 meters above sea level. But countless roads wind up and down the steep, wooded sides of the valleys that rivers have cut into the rock.

Past lumberyards and old mines, through forests and meadows and small stone villages, those climbs and descents come one after the other in the race, especially during its final third. After reaching the top of the Côte de Mont-le-Soie at the 161-kilometre mark, the riders face a barrage of short, steep climbs for the next 80 kilometres: the Côte de Wanne, Côte de Stockeu, Côte de la Haute Levée, Col du Rosier, Col du Masquiard, Côte de la Redoute, Côte de Forges, and Côte de la Roche aux Facons.

Since the race now finishes with a flat run into the center of Liége instead of an uphill sprint, every one of those climbs could be decisive. The best climbers no longer have a reason to wait to attack. And the hilltops are often exposed to the wind, so the race could split at any point.

The finale will be a test of the riders’ tactical nous, raw uphill ability, and guts. Two hundred plus kilometres into Liége-Bastogne-Liége, with several thousand metres of climbing in their legs, they won’t have a watt of effort to waste. Going with the wrong move could put them out of contention. But, at a certain point, they will have to pick a time and go and commit to their decision.

La Doyenne rewards those who endure and can rely on their instincts. It’s a slow burn, and runs through towns a bit forgotten but still welcoming, still beautiful. Once one watches this race closely and looks in, much like spending a little time in some old stone villages folded tucked in the forested hills, it’s hard to forget.

Sergio Higuita

Sergio Higuita (shown winning stage 18 of the 2019 Vuelta a España) will be on the startline for L-B-L. Sirotti photo

Our team for the 2021 Liége-Bastogne- Liége
Jonathan Caicedo
Simon Carr
Lawson Craddock
Sergio Higuita
Alex Howes
Hideto Nakane
Michael Valgren

Team DSM & Parkhotel Valkenburg withdraw from Women's Liège-Bastogne-Liège after COVID-19 positives

Here's Team DSM's post:

After undergoing all regular pre-race COVID-19 tests, a member of the team returned a positive test. A decision has been made by the team to completely withdraw their Women’s program ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège tomorrow, in order to protect the race bubble; a decision that the UCI and ASO support after being informed. All team members feel well and show no symptoms, and more tests will decide further race participations.

And Team Parkhotel Valkenburg posted this note on Facebook:

Unfortunately no Liege-Bastenaken-Liege tomorrow.

Team Parkhotel Valkenburg will not appear at the start of Liege-Bastenaken-Liege, the last Women's World Tour match of the Ardense triptych scheduled for next Sunday. The Dutch team of Raymond Rol and Bart Faes had some positive Covid-19 tests.

Two staff members and a runner tested positive for the coronavirus. None of them have symptoms or feel ill. As a precaution, the staff members and teammates who were in 'close contact' with the positive cases remain quarantined for the time being, to combat the spread of the virus and protect the cycling bubble.
For the team would drive: Julia van Bokhoven, Nina Buijsman, Pien Limpens, Lieke Nooijen, Marit Raijmakers and Kirstie van Haaften.

We hope to be there again for the next edition!

Thibaut Pinot will not compete in the Giro d’Italia

Pinot's Groupama-FDJ team posted this bad news:

The Groupama-FDJ cycling team, in consultation with its rider, has decided that Thibaut Pinot will not participate in the Tour of Italy. Thibaut Pinot took part in the Tour of the Alps as a test prior to the Giro d’Italia but back pain still prevents him from fully expressing his potential on the bike. The conclusions of this test do not allow him to consider a participation in the Giro d’Italia which starts in two weeks. Thibaut Pinot will continue the treatment process he has been undergoing for the past eight months with the team’s medical team, and will do everything possible to regain full physical strength. No schedule for a return to competition has been set and no sporting objective has yet been defined.

Thibaut Pinot

In better days. Thibaut Pinot wins stage 14 of the 2019 Tour de france. Sirotti photo

“I can’t hide from myself: I’m not in the medical condition to shine in the Giro. I would unnecessarily suffer and I would not be able to help the team. It’s not even a question of shape, but the pain in my back prevents me from performing well. It’s hard to explain. At the beginning of a stage it works, I even managed to get into the breakaway on the last day of this Tour of the Alps. Unfortunately, the more the kilometers go by, the more the pain increases and at some point, I am too sore to force myself. Tuesday was a very bad day for me. It was mentally hard, I didn’t expect to be so far in the classifications. Giving up crossed my mind but I am a competitor, I wanted to go to the end of the test, I needed to, in order not to have any regrets. Every day I gave everything. Not racing in the Giro d’Italia is heartbreaking, we did everything to be there! We really did our utmost so that I could ride at my best. I’m disappointed but I’m focused on the next step. I am only thinking about healing myself, leaving these back problems behind me, competing at my usual level and fighting with the best.”

JACKY MAILLOT, Team Physician:
“In the recent weeks, we have seen a gradual improvement in Thibaut’s training. We knew that the Tour of the Alps would give us some answers. Unfortunately, the conclusions are clear: his sacroiliac inflammation, following his crash in the last Tour de France, still prevents him from riding at very high intensity despite all the treatments he received. Further investigations with new specialists in this field are scheduled for next week.”

“We did everything we could so Thibaut Pinot could come back to his actual level. We are disappointed but we can’t regret, neither him nor us, that we wanted to believe. He fought until the end on this Tour of the Alps but his body will not allow him to compete with the best for three weeks. Thibaut is going through something, we will of course give him the necessary time to come back. We will continue to accompany him in his convalescence, he has the confidence and support of the entire Groupama-FDJ cycling team.”

Team BikeExchange headed to Tour de Romandie

The team sent me this update:

Lucas Hamilton will look to further his general classification development as Team BikeExchange head to Switzerland for the Tour de Romandie on Tuesday.

Hamilton will lead the team’s GC ambitions as the 25-year-old continues to build into a leadership role following strong performances at both Paris-Nice and Volta a Catalunya. Climbers Brent Bookwalter, Tsgabu Grmay and Damien Howson will be key support in the mountains for Hamilton during the six stages.

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton finishing stage four of the 2020 Tirreno-Adriatico. Sirotti photo

New Zealander Dion Smith gives the squad options for the fast finishes while fellow countryman Sam Bewley and Australian Alexander Edmondson will provide the horsepower.

The race is bookended by two time trials, with a short 4km prologue to kick things off before the race heads into the mountains. Stage four is set for a general classification showdown with the summit finish to Thyon before the final day 16km TT.

Team BikeExchange at 2021 Tour de Romandie :
Sam Bewley (NZL)
Brent Bookwalter (USA)
Alexander Edmondson (AUS)
Tsgabu Grmay (ETH)
Lucas Hamilton (AUS)
Damien Howson (AUS)
Dion Smith (NZL)

Lucas Hamilton:
“After Paris-Nice and Catalunya where we had some really good racing as a team, I am looking forward to more of the same in Romandie. I am still developing my skills as a GC rider and I am gaining as much experience as possible before my next Grand Tour. We have a really strong team for Romandie with various options for each day and we’re going into it with high expectations.

"This is my second time at Romandie, I really enjoyed it last time and I remember how tough it was, but I have good memories. I am happy to have another chance to race here, I love the area and it’s another good opportunity ahead of my goals later in the season.

"I have studied the stages and the mountain days will be very solid and obviously key for GC, but also the two TT days will be important, particularly the final stage. I spent the last few weeks at home in Andorra training at altitude and I feel good, but of course until we go racing, we don’t really know how my form will be.”

Julian Dean – Sport Director:
“We are entering Tour de Romandie in a particular part of the season where most of the riders are ending their first intense part of the season and will soon begin their preparation for future key races. We are very motivated, and we will go to Romandie to achieve the best results possible.

"We will focus on Lucas Hamilton for the GC, with the aim to at least finish in the top-10 overall. The key day for the GC will be the stage four summit finish, so hopefully Lucas can be in the mix there.

"We also have Dion Smith in good form and he’s an option should any of the stages come down to a sprint finish. We have a solid team that is capable of supporting both Lucas and Dion throughout the tour."

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