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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, August 1, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

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Clásica de San Sebastián team reports

We posted the report from third-place Mikkel Honoré's Team Deceuninck-Quick Step with the results.

Here's the report from race winner Neilsen Powless' Team EF Education-Nippo:

With predicted rains, winding roads, six categorized climbs, and multiple previous winners at the start line, the 41st edition of the Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa was never going to be an easy win.

The peloton let a sizable breakaway go clear but never gave them much more than a minute’s advantage. Simon Carr, sensing the time was right, made his move on the penultimate climb with just over 40 kilometers remaining in the race. The Brit stayed clear for a further 20 kilometers until four chasers, including teammate Neilson Powless, caught him.

“Our team worked hard from start to finish, it was a real team effort,” said Sports Director Juanma Garate. “Julien El Fares and Jonathan Caicedo were unable to make the difference even though they tried to attack. When Simon Carr got away and on the top of Erlaitz we rethought our plans. We decided to have Simon work hard to make sure the gap stayed open.”

The gap not only stayed open, but grew thanks to Carr’s efforts.

It was a game of cat-and-mouse in the final 10 kilometers as the leaders alternately attacked and caught each other. The wet conditions played a role, said Powless, “I was watching the map on my Garmin. I think the guys in front of me were maybe too focused on the situation in the race and not so much the road. I could see it was a sharp corner coming up that they ended up crashing in. In the end I was just happy to keep it upright and stay as fresh as possible for the end.”

Coming into the final kilometer, Powless found himself with two other riders. Although it was his first time racing Spain’s biggest one-day race, he was well prepared. “We’ve spoken repeatedly about the finish with Neilson Powless, and he came good for us in the end,” said Garate. Sitting second wheel, the American timed his sprint perfectly, winning by half a wheel.

Neilsen Powless

Powless times his sprint perfectly. Photo: Jose Maria Lopez

A jubilant Powless said of his first professional victory, “I’m just so happy to have taken it in San Sebastian with a director in the car who’s a local and every time I’ve raced in the Basque Country it’s just been incredible with the fans so I’m super happy to win in front of such enthusiastic crowds.”

Team CEO Jonathan Vaughters succinctly summed up Powless just after. “Love this guy. A humble, honest, genuine, thoughtful, and truly kind human being. First and foremost. And a rock-solid bike rider too boot. Congrats.”

Recognizing the significance of the team’s accomplishments today, Garate said, “It’s a very important win for us. I think we’re all feeling pretty emotional because of the sheer scale of what we’ve achieved. It’s so difficult to win anything in cycling, especially in a race like this, so this will bring us good energy for the Vuelta a España and the rest of the season.”

Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this report:

Traditionally the first big race after the Tour de France is the Classica San Sebastian, because of the Olympic Games this years Klasikoa was held on the second not on the first Saturday after the Tour.

The tough 223.5 kilometer-long parcours around San Sebastian favors the climbers in the bunch, with its six hard as well as steep climbs. Besides the parcours also the wet weather conditions made it a hard day for the riders. After several attacks and a lot of kilometers finally a break of 13 riders could escape from the peloton and reach about five minutes of maximum advantage.

The BORA-hansgrohe riders saved their energy in the peloton to be ready for the tough accents in the finale. Unfortunately just before the penultimate climb of the day with about 45 kilometers to the finish line with Giovanni Aleotti, Matteo Fabbro and Wilco Kelderman all three captains for the day crashed in a sharp right-hander due to the wet roads.

For all three of them the fight for the win and a good result was over as the peloton was already approaching the climb with a high tempo. So there was nothing left the team could do to secure a top result as the whole strategy was focused on one of the three riders. Luckily Wilco and Giovanni came away with minor injuries as Matteo injured his foot and will be watched by the team doctor.

From the Finish Line:
"Unfortunately we weren’t able to show our best today as our three main riders for a good result crashed out right before the penultimate climb. Till that point, the team did an amazing job and kept all three of them safe to bring them in the finale with as much energy as possible. But that`s cycling, within a split second all the hard work and our good strategy was gone and our race ended earlier than we hoped as there was nothing left we could do. Now we hope all riders are fine and able to race again tomorrow." – Andre Schulze, Sports Director

Here's the report from Team Groupama-FDJ:

The Groupama-FDJ cycling team did not experience its best edition of the Clasica San Sebastián on Saturday, in Basque territory. Eliminated with about fifty kilometres to go, the French team’s riders did not manage to go for the top spots, as Romain Seigle crossed the line first in 38th position.

Roman Seigle

Romain Seigle was Groupama-FDJ's best finisher. Here he's warming up for a race earlier in the year. Sirotti photo

Cancelled last year due to the pandemic, the Clasica San Sebastián made its return this Saturday. Two weeks after the Tour de France, and just a few days after the Olympic events, the Spanish event brought together a very competitive field as usual.

However, many teams still wanted to put a man up front today, so a breakaway of sixteen riders developed in the first part of the race. It included the likes of Javier Romo (Astana-Premier Tech), Johan Jacobs, Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Lilian Calmejane, Mikaël Chérel (AG2R-Citroën) or even Valerio Conti and Alexandr Riabushenko (UAE Team Emirates). Their lead went up to four minutes at one point, but was reduced to one minute approaching the famous Jaizkibel climb, also the first key point of the race about seventy kilometres from the finish. In this same climb, Javier Romo could show himself as being the last man standing from the morning breakaway, while the peloton gradually increased the tempo in the back.

However, the real selection was made on the downhill, covered under raindrops, and it proved fatal to the Groupama-FDJ cycling team with the exception of Romain Seigle.

Subsequently, Simon Carr (EF Education-Nippo) launched the fight in Erlaitz’s climb and the peloton thus lost many more contenders. A few kilometres later Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious), Mikkel Honoré (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) and Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo) joined the leading rider and then managed to stay away from the main favourites. Powless then stormed to a surprise victory as Romain Seigle crossed the line in 38th place, about four minutes later.

“We weren’t in the mix and we endured the race”, soberly debriefed Marc Madiot. “In particular, there were positioning mistakes on the downhills and we probably also came a bit short physically speaking. At the top of Jaizkibel, we were not in a good enough position. The bunch broke up into several groups on the descent, the guys tried to come back but the race was already over by then. It wasn’t a good day, and we were obviously not coming for that. Lars van den Berg fought well, some were not in their best form for different reasons, many were making their return to racing and there were those positioning mistakes. There are many factors to explain the poor performance, but it is still a very mixed record in this returning race”.

Here's the report from Team DSM:

WorldTour one day racing returned today with the tough Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa and its 223 kilometre long parcours that featured several tough climbs, including the famous Jaizkibel, Erlaitz and Murgil Tontorra. It was fast start to racing as the the clouds loomed over the bunch, with the team particularly active trying to make the day’s breakaway, with Chad Haga and Romain Combaud both in moves that were brought back.

Eventually the elastic snapped and a large 14 rider group got clear, with all Team DSM riders in the peloton, so focus switched to saving as much energy as possible for the difficult finale. As the kilometres ticked by, the heavy rain began to fall and on the Eerlaitz climb the race was all together before more riders attacked. On the following descent the pace stayed high and the peloton split to pieces, with Jai Hindley and Chris Hamilton riding well to make the front split.

Jai Hindley

Jai Hindley racing in stage 21 of the 2020 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

With more riders going up the road to form a leading quintet, the peloton eased in pace and heading onto the final climb the leaders had more than enough of an advantage to take the win. Hamilton and Hindley finished within the third chasing group, just over one and a half minutes behind the winner after what was a hard day in the saddle.

“It was a nice day out for us today,” explained Hamilton at the finish. “For a lot of guys this was the first race back after a break so was good to see where the form is at. On a personal note I’m pretty happy with how my race went, being a part of the final but I just didn’t quite have the legs to follow the best on the final climb. It’s also great to see Jai in his way back to his best after a long time off with injury.”

Team DSM coach Michiel Elijzen said: “It was a good race to start with after training period. Not an easy one but I think we managed to put our two protected riders into a good position towards the final and that was the goal. It was always going to be tough to compete for the win but everyone made the most out of it and it’s a good start to the second half of the season.”

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