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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 26, 2021

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An excavation on the Red Sea coast revealed what seems to be a pet cemetery from nearly 2,000 years ago, the earliest yet identified. Nearly 600 cats, dogs and monkeys – mostly cats – were carefully buried, many with textiles, pottery or ornate collars – Scientific American, May 2021


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Liège-Bastogne-Liège reports

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

Here's the report from winner Tadej Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates:

Tadej Pogačar once again wrote his name in cycling history, winning the biggest one day race of his young career and becoming the youngest winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 44 years.

Tadej Pogacar

Tadej Pogacar gets another big one. Sirotti photo

With a determined sprint, the Slovenian from UAE Team Emirates triumphed at “La Doyenne” ahead of world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation).

The quintet had an advantage on the main group 13.5 km from the finish when, near the brow of the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, Davide Formolo pulled back Richard Carapaz (Ineo-Grenadiers), opening the way for an attack by Michael Woods. Pogačar, Gaudu, Valverde and Alaphilippe followed the Canadian and this group managed to maintain an advantage of just over 20” on their pursuers until the final sprint.

Entering the sprint, Pogačar was glued to Alaphilippe’s wheel, coming around the Frenchman in the final metres before the line.

The win topped off a very solid team performance with UAE also claiming 6th place with Marc Hirschi and 16th with Davide Formolo.

Pogačar: “I am almost speechless. I really love this race: winning here was a dream of mine and it is incredible to have achieved this goal and finish ahead of these big names . In the sprint I was behind Alaphilippe when he opened-up and I tried to stick with him. I wasn’t sure I would be able to overtake him but, with strength and a bit of luck, I did it.

“I have won the Tour de France, I have won other high level races and now I have conquered the Liège-Bastogne-Liège: I’m living a cycling dream. Now I will rest, spend some time with my family and then resume my preparation for the Tour de France.”

Here's the report from second-place Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Julian Alaphilippe finished second at “La Doyenne”, six years after getting the same result at his debut there, albeit on a different finish. If in 2015 his podium came in the suburb of Ans, this time it happened in downtown Liège, where the race returned since 2019, after almost 260 kilometers peppered with eleven climbs, the last of which was Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, where the main move of the day came.

The sprint

As they approached the line, Alaphilippe was perfectly placed. Sirotti photo

Five riders zipped clear of the peloton over the top of the 1.1km ascent, World Champion Julian Alaphilippe being among them. Victorious just four days ago in Flèche Wallonne, the 28-year-old Frenchman was very active in the group, putting in several long and strong turns that helped the quintet extend their advantage over the chasers to more than 30 seconds in the outskirts of Liège. Then, inside the final two kilometers, Alaphilippe closed down an attack before slotting into a perfect position going under the flamme rouge.

The rainbow jersey waited for the others to kick out before launching his sprint on the right side of the road with 150 meters to go and coming round his opponents only to be pipped on the line by Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates). It was Julian’s sixth podium in a Monument, one that brings to a conclusion another impressive spring campaign that saw Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s rider finish top ten at all three Ardennes Classics.

“I did a very good race and the same can be said about the team, they rode perfectly today and did a stellar job, controlling everything from the start until the last ascent, and I must say a big thank you to them. After the main group formed over the top of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, we worked well together and managed to open a nice gap on the chasers, which allowed us to focus on the finale. I opened my sprint at the right moment and did everything as I should, but one rider was stronger today and there wasn’t much to do about that, so I don’t have any regrets. Despite not winning the race, I am still happy, because being on the podium of Liège–Bastogne–Liège is always a special moment. Overall, I can be satisfied with my Ardennes campaign”, said the World Champion.

Third-place David Gaudu's Groupama-FDJ posted this report:

This Sunday, April 25, David Gaudu added a significant line both to his personal record and to the Groupama-FDJ’s one. At 24, the Frenchman indeed climbed on the podium of a cycling’s Monument for the very first time of his career, taking third place in Liège-Bastogne-Liège after proving one of the strongest in the final part of the race. This result certainly gives hope for the future but is also the first ever podium on the race for the team.

The podium:

The podium, from left: Julian Alaphilippe (2nd), Tadej Pogacar (1st) & David Gaudu (3rd) Sirotti photo

On Sunday morning, around 10am, David Gaudu left Liège with a simple objective to tell but a more difficult one to achieve: to improve his sixth place from 2019. His great condition could certainly lead him to such a result, but everything had to come right on D-Day to actually make it happen. At first, while a breakaway of seven riders took up to ten minutes on the bunch, the young man could count on his teammates to protect him, especially approaching the serious hills after 150 kilometers of racing. “William, Lada and Romain did a very, very great job until the bottom of La Redoute,” said Franck Pineau. “Up until then, the race was a bit blocked because of the headwind and the few attacks that occurred did not prove successful.” Right into La Redoute, however, with about 35k to go, the race really started. “Usually, we climb La Redoute quite fast, but today, the peloton literally exploded into a thousand pieces,” explained Franck. “Ineos climbed it as if the finish was at the top. We weren’t expecting that too much. Only David was able to follow. Rudy and Valentin could not show their real value today. Valentin was slowed down by a crash and Rudy was a bit far starting the climb”.

At the top of La Redoute, around ten riders made a small gap but around thirty guys including David Gaudu managed to bridge across a few minutes later. Therefore, as initially expected, the decisive fight was set to happen in the last climb with 14k to go. At the bottom of La Roche-aux-Faucons, the Groupama-FDJ’s leader actually made a good effort to get back to the front of the bunch, in the World Champion’s wheel. “Since this morning, I had this moment in mind,” explained David. “I thought about it all day. I knew I was going to do an all-in on that climb. Then, either I would make it, or I would blow the engine up. The climb was done very fast, I tried to hang on, and I could make it. It was close, but I did it”. After he followed the attack of Michael Woods almost to the top, the Frenchman managed to hold the wheels in the final meters of the climb to give company to four top names: Woods, Alaphilippe, Valverde and Pogacar. “We all cooperated well,” David continued. “Everyone knew they had their own little sprint. I knew I was potentially the slowest on paper, but I still had to work with them. I thought it was better to sprint with four guys than ten”. The leading five entered the last ten kilometers with a lead of fifteen seconds on a rather substantial chasing group, but still managed to consolidate its advantage in the final.

At the flamme rouge, the gap grew over twenty seconds, as David was just about to stand on the pedals. “I knew I was the slowest in the group and I was thinking about attacking in the last kilometre,” he said. “However, as soon as I stood on the pedals, I saw that Julian turned around and was ready to jump on me. I changed my mind and then it was too late to try to avoid the sprint.” A sprint of five for a “monumental” success then loomed and the young rider from Groupama-FDJ entered it in third position. “Valverde launched from quite far,” David said. “I saw that I was slowly coming back up, that I could get the podium but I was also starting to have cramps. Fifty meters from the line, I thought of a friend I had made a bet with. He told me he would do seven hours with me if I got a podium in one of the Ardennes Classics, although he barely rides a bike”. And so David Gaudu won the bet. The man from Brittany couldn’t beat Pogacar and Alaphilipe on the line, but managed to outsprint Valverde and Woods to take his very first podium in a cycling Monument. On Sunday afternoon, he was very satisfied with his performance.

“I’m very, very happy with this third place,” he said with a broad smile. “It’s pure happiness to be on the podium behind these two huge champions. I’m over the moon. It’s actually a podium on a Monument, and there are only five of them in the year! For me, it’s even the most beautiful Classic on the calendar”. “I don’t think everyone actually realizes what he did”, added Franck. “Being 3rd in Liège-Bastogne-Liège certainly shows the kind of rider he is! David continues to improve quickly, and to gain maturity. Today he proved it once again. He raced like a big man, because you need to keep your composure when you have to deal with this kind of riders in the final. But in the race, he does not make any mistake, that’s his strength! He is now one of the strongest in the world and people will now have to take him into account. They already looked at him before, but they will now keep a close eye on him”. With this first ever podium in the race for the team, a “successful” 2021 “Ardennes Classics” campaign came to an end on Sunday. This campaign also bodes well for the coming years. “I hope to come back to fight for the win,” said David. “We all have dreams, we don’t know if we can achieve them, but we do everything to make it happen”.

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

The finale of the Ardennes week kicked off today with the 259 km-long Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the Wallonia region of Belgium. Eleven short yet tough climbs and over 4,500 metres of elevation gain awaited the riders during this year's edition of this Monument. BORA - hansgrohe's hopes were pinned on Maximilian Schachmann, who took third at Amstel Gold Race at the start of the Ardennes campaign.

After an early 7-man breakaway group was able to break away, the first half of the race was relatively quiet. The climbing commenced in all earnest after 160km in the saddle, and at the foot of the Côte de la Redoute, the leading group's advantage sat at 1:40. As expected, the field thinned out considerably under the high pace, but Max and Patrick Konrad remained attentive and continued to ride up front. After a series of attacks, a strong quintet managed to break away from the already decimated field shortly after the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, the last climb of the day.

A small group containing Max attempted to close the gap, but the necessary cooperation to bring them back ultimately proved to be lacking, and the victory in this year's La Doyenne was contested by the group of five and taken out by Pogacar. Max finished in ninth place overall, crossing the line with the second chasing group, nine seconds behind the victor.

From the Finish Line:
"I felt good today, but the end result was not precisely what I had hoped for. I missed the jump into the decisive group and in the final phase we simply weren't able to close the gap. It was a pity that the others in my group weren't willing to put enough effort into the chase. When the group in front only had a 10-second lead, I really tried to bring them back, but no one else wanted to ride." - Maximilian Schachmann

"It was not the result we wanted to achieve. But overall, we saw a good race from the team. We were certainly also unlucky today, with quite a few punctures. We were up there in the decisive race situations, and also with Max at the end. Our efforts were, however, ultimately not enough for Max to be with the best of them at the very end, and we will of course debrief after the race, and then we will see what we can take away from this experience here." - Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

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