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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, August 11, 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.

Men are nearly always willing to believe what they wish. - Julius Caesar


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Tour of Poland stage two team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Joao Almeida's Deceuninck-Quick Step team with the race results.

Here's the report from Giovanni Aleotti's Bora-hansgrohe team:

After the tough day yesterday BORA – hansgrohe was top motivated for the second stage of the Tour de Pologne. An early 5-men break was at the front for the first 100km before Lukas Pöstlberger attacked with a trio from the bunch and bridged across to the leaders. With 35km remaining Lukas went solo but had to stop his attempt about 10km later after he got stung from a bee. In the finale, attacks were flying and Matteo Fabbro was always present at the front. In the end the final 1.8-kilometer-long climb had to decide the race. Joao Almeida launched the decisive attack quite early while Giovanni Aleotti proved his talent once again, finish in a strong 8th place.

Joao Almeida

Joao Almeida takes Tour of Poland stage two.

From the Finish Line: 
"We rode a good race today. The boys always protected Matteo and me well until the last part of the day. Our plan was to send Lukas to the font to put some pressure on the other teams. He looked strong today but unfortunately, he had to stop after that issue with the bee. Matteo covered a lot of attacks then and he also helped me to stay in position before the last climb. We knew the climb would be tough and it was up to the legs. This kind of climb suits me well and I am happy with my first top ten result at WorldTour level. I also feel better day by day and now I look already forward to the day after tomorrow which should be a nice stage for me again." Giovanni Aleotti

"We rode an aggressive race today and that was our plan from the morning. Still, we have been unlucky again. Lukas was in a comfortable position at the front when he got stung from a bee and had to stop afterwards. He was able to finish the race, but we would have been in a totally different situation in the finale with him up there. Anyway, also Matteo and Giovanni rode a strong race. Matteo covered plenty attacks on the last 20km as we wanted to focus with Giovanni on the final climb. That worked out quite well and he finished in a strong 8th place. We can be satisfied with this result, but like I said, again we haven’t been lucky." Christian Pömer, Sports Director

Team DSM re-signs Asbjørn Kragh Andersen and Nico Denz

The team sent me this announcement:

Team DSM are pleased to announce that Asbjørn Kragh Andersen and Nico Denz have both extended their contracts with the team until at least the end of 2022.

Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (DEN)
Having joined in 2019, Kragh Andersen has proven to be a valuable team player in his three years so far with Team DSM both on and off the bike. A strong rider on the flat and short punchy climbs, Kragh Andersen has played a pivotal role in several team successes, helping the team to wins at the Herald Sun Tour, Nokere Koerse and Omloop van het Houtland to name a few. Using his power, Kragh Andersen has also been able to pick up some good finishes himself with the team, claiming sixth on the final stage at the Tour of Guangxi in 2019 and fifth at the Danish national championship road race in 2020.

Kragh Andersen said: “I’m super happy to extend my contract with Team DSM. I really like working with the team and the people around me; I especially like the environment here and I feel that this is the perfect place for me to continue getting the most out of myself. I really enjoy being part of the sprint group with the guys, but also developing my role as road captain. We’ve got some young guys in the team and I enjoy being around them, sharing my advice and motivating them during races or at team camps. I strongly believe in the vision that the team has and I think that if we continue working in this way we will have the best lead out in the peloton. I’m looking forward to being a part of that and seeing where that next step takes us.”

Team DSM head of coaching Rudi Kemna added: “Asbjørn’s had an unfortunate season so far with injury, but we have a lot of faith and confidence in him and that’s why we’ve extended our contract together. We really believe that Asbjørn brings a lot of value to the team, he’s a great character off the bike and wears the Team DSM jersey with pride, whatever race he is in. We think that he still has a lot of room to grow as a rider and in his role as road captain, where his experience in hectic moments and great attitude is important. We hope that Asbjørn’s luck turns with his injury, as we’re excited to continue to work together in 2022.”

Nico Denz (GER)
Spending two years with Team DSM so far, Denz has shown to be a versatile rider who gives his all for the team’s goals. 2020 saw Denz take his second professional win after claiming success in the reduced sprint finish at the Tour of Slovakia; a race he would also go on to claim second place on GC for the team. Following on from that, he was an integral member of the team’s double GC podium finish at the Giro d’Italia, shaving the peloton on a memorable stage to Piancavallo; going on to do similar this year as part of the team’s attacking display on the penultimate stage to Valle Spluga-Alpe Motta.

Nico Denz

Nico Denz at the 2018 Tour de Romandie

Denz said: “I am very happy to extend my contract with Team DSM. When I first joined the team, I found my place straight away and we had a nice ambience in the group and got some great results together. I strongly believe in how the team works and its anti-doping policy is also very important to me. After a difficult first part of the season for me with many problems, with crashes and sickness, I am really thankful of how everyone in the team stood by my side and gave their best to bring me back to my level. I am proud to be part of this team for one more year.”

Team DSM head of coaching Rudi Kemna continued: “Nico is a really strong rider who brings value on a lot of terrain, he is someone who is very dependable and that we can rely on to give it his all. As part of our sprint group, his power and strength are extremely valuable. We saw this in action recently at Vuelta a Burgos where he did some great pulls in the finale to position Alberto [Dainese]. It’s not only on the bike that Nico is of value to the team, he also always brings a nice atmosphere to whatever group he’s in which is important, keeping those around him motivated. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with Nico next year.”

Lotto Soudal targets stage victories at La Vuelta

The team sent me this:

Lotto Soudal will be hunting stage successes at the 76th Vuelta a España with the following eight riders: Steff Cras (25), Frederik Frison (29), Matthew Holmes (27), Andreas Kron (23), Sylvain Moniquet (23), Harm Vanhoucke (24), Maxim Van Gils (21) and Florian Vermeersch (22). Kron, Moniquet, Van Gils and Vermeersch will all make their Grand Tour debut. This Saturday, August 14, La Vuelta kicks off with a prologue in Burgos. The final Grand Tour of the season will be drawn to a close with an individual time trial towards Santiago de Compostela. Sports director Nikolas Maes explains the Vuelta line-up of Lotto Soudal.

“Due to the absence of Caleb Ewan and Jasper De Buyst, we needed to adjust our Vuelta line-up, which is now more focused towards the hilly and mountain stages”, says Nikolas Maes. “Guys like Andreas Kron and Harm Vanhoucke have already proven that they can obtain some nice results. They will be supported by Steff Cras, Matthew Holmes, Sylvain Moniquet and Maxim Van Gils. With Frederik Frison and Florian Vermeersch, we have two powerhouses in our team. Overall, our selection doesn’t have a ton of Grand Tour experience yet, but they all have big potential. I am convinced that each one of them will prove himself at La Vuelta. With these young guys, we certainly can’t expect them to be there every day, but our ambition is to win a stage, which is in my opinion more than justified with this team. We will mainly be aiming at the transition stages and the tough uphill finishes. On paper, there are some really nice opportunities to show ourselves.”

Matthew Holmes

Matthew Holmes racing at the 2020 Ruta del Sol.

“Even though it will be Andreas Kron’s first participation in a Grand Tour, our young Dane already has a lot of maturity and with two stage wins under his belt this season, he already showed what he’s made of. Andreas will be one of our spearheads in the transition stages and tricky finishes. Harm Vanhoucke will not be aiming for the general classification, but rather for a stage win. His second place at the Tour de l’Ain already showed that the form is there.”

“For Florian Vermeersch, it will also be his first Grand Tour. He will try to get involved in the sprints, but we’re not putting any pressure on him. Florian will also help his teammates but can also seize opportunities in the transition stages. Frederik Frison has already shown his value for the team countless times and will mainly support Florian during the sprint stages, but Frederik is also keen on riding a good prologue and can certainly join a breakaway.”

“Matthew Holmes has already proven that he can surprise and Matthew will certainly get the chance to show himself during the tough transition stages. Maxim Van Gils impressed during his first months as a pro and will therefore be starting La Vuelta in a free role. Due to Covid consequences, Steff Cras has not been able to race that much so far this season but he did really well at the Tour de l’Ain. La Vuelta should definitely suit him. Sylvain Moniquet will also be starting his first Grand Tour but like Maxim, we won’t put any pressure on him. However, I think he will definitely show himself a few times”, concludes sports director Nikolas Maes. 

Line-up Lotto Soudal Vuelta a España: Steff Cras (25), Frederik Frison (29), Matthew Holmes (27), Andreas Kron (23), Sylvain Moniquet (23), Harm Vanhoucke (24), Maxim Van Gils (21) and Florian Vermeersch (22).

Matthews hungry for stage victories at  Vuelta a España

Matthews’ Team BikeExchange sent this:

Team BikeExchange name a powerful and diverse eight-rider line-up for the final Grand Tour of the season, the Vuelta a España, led by Australian puncheur Michael Matthews.

After coming close on multiple occasions at the Tour de France, the former three-time Vuelta a España stage winner is hungry for stage success and will have a solid foundation built around him, divided into fast men and talented climbers.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews racing at the 2021 Paris-Nice. ASO/Boukla photo

Team BikeExchange at La Vuelta a España (14th August – 5th September):
Lucas Hamilton – Debut appearance
Damien Howson – 5th appearance
Michael Matthews – 3rd appearance
Luka Mezgec – 4th appearance
Mikel Nieve – 9th appearance
Nick Schultz – 5th appearance
Robert Stannard – 2nd appearance
Andrey Zeits – 8th appearance

Fresh from his impressive fourth place finish on the Champs-Élysées, Slovenian sprinter Luka Mezgec heads to the Spanish Tour with confidence and extra fire in his belly, looking to help deliver the team the stage victory that eluded them at the Tour de France.

The 33-year-old will be joined by young Australian Robert Stannard, who has enjoyed a consistent season and lines-up for his second Grand Tour, after making his Grand Tour debut at the 2020 Vuelta a España.

For the high mountains, the team is stacked with climbing pedigree in the shape of Mikel Nieve, another former Vuelta a España stage winner with an abundance of experience, set to line-up for his ninth Vuelta a España, which will make it an astonishing 22nd Grand Tour start for the 37-year-old.

Alongside the Basque climber will be Kazakhstani rider Andrey Zeits, taking to the start line for his 19th Grand Tour, and 25-year-old Lucas Hamilton, looking for a consistent and successful three-week race after crashing out of the Tour de France.

Tour de Hongrie winner Damien Howson and recent Sazka Tour stage winner Nick Schultz, bolster the squad’s strength and depth in the climbs and round out the mixed line-up.

Michael Matthews:
“I’m feeling ready for the Vuelta, I recovered well after a hard Tour de France and now, after many close calls at the Tour with second and third places, I am motivated to try and get on the top step at the Vuelta. I’ve won a few stages here before and it’s a Grand Tour that I really enjoy.

"We have a strong team; we saw at the Tour that Luka Mezgec was in good form so I am happy to be lining-up with him again and it will be good to race with Rob Stannard too and have him alongside us for the fast sprint stages.

"I think there’s a few stages that look like they should suit us, for sprinting but also in the climbs. It’s really nice to see Lucas Hamilton back racing after he was unlucky crashing out of the Tour.

"I think we’ve generally got a strong team and a team that can sprint but that can climb well too. I feel prepared, now I just want to start racing and hope we can have some really good results.”

Lucas Hamilton:
“I was devastated having to withdraw from the Tour de France after crashing, so this makes me even more motivated and excited to start the Vuelta. It will be my first time racing the Vuelta, I’ve heard it’s a really great Grand Tour and having looked at the stages, the second half of the race looks really hard with lots of climbing, so hopefully we can have a really good tour, a strong overall showing and get our hands in the air.

"The team we have is really strong and really well balanced and I think everyone is super motivated for this final Grand Tour of the season. I am ready and can’t wait for Saturday to get started and to make my Vuelta debut in Burgos."

Brent Copeland – General Manager:
“The Vuelta is always an important race for us. Team BikeExchange has had some incredible memories at this race, and we head into this year’s edition with a solid group of riders who have a wealth of experience.

"We have had a few months of challenging moments by closely missing out on some important results, however we are confident that this Vuelta will be the time to turn things in the right direction.

"The team have put an enormous amount of work into getting all the riders to the race in the best of condition and we all are looking forward to some very exciting racing."

Julian Dean – Sport Director:
“Michael will be our key rider as we look for stage wins but we will have an open-minded approach to also look for opportunities for others when circumstances suit.

"We have a strong team; everyone is going well going into this Vuelta and so the selection has been challenging but in a good way for the team; we have a good group of riders all performing well.

"Every couple of days of this year’s Vuelta we have a significant stage in terms of determining GC outcomes but during the first week we have a few flatter stages than we are probably used to seeing at the Vuelta. There will be some stages in the first week that we will target with Michael and then particularly from stage 10 to 14 there’s some good stages for us that the whole team can target, support Matthews but also get the right guys into the breakaways.

"We’ve seen Nick Schultz is in good shape after riding so well in Czech and Luka Mezgec also is capable of stage wins, so we will be keeping an open-minded approach. Mikel Nieve has been riding well in Burgos and is always a solid performer for us and Andrey Zeits is going well and is really motivated after having a tough year with injury. So, I think we will have a lot of chances to do something with the motivated team we have.”

Team BikeExchange – La Vuelta a España Stats:
Youngest rider: Robert Stannard (22)
Oldest rider: Mikel Nieve (37)
Vuelta a España debutants:  Lucas Hamilton
Most Vuelta a España appearances: Mikel Nieve (9)
Total Vuelta a España appearances: 36

Esteban Chaves joins EF Education–NIPPO

The team sent me this press release:

We are excited to announce the newest addition to our roster for the 2022 season – Colombian rider Esteban Chaves.

Chaves joins EF Education–NIPPO with an illustrious palmares to back him up. A two-time grand tour podium finisher and Monument winner, Chaves has been at the top of the sport of cycling ever since he entered the WorldTour in 2014, with his signature smile there every step of the way.

“I wanted to join the EF Pro Cycling for several reasons. First of all, from the outside you can see it is like a big family where everyone is driven by the passion of cycling. Also, one of the directors is a rider I really admired when I started riding my bike – Juanma Garate – and finally I would love to have Colombian teammates. But most importantly, the cycling kit is really cool, don't you think?” says Chaves lightheartedly.

Esteban Chaves

Esteban Chaves wins stage four of this year's Tour of Catalonia.

Team CEO Jonathan Vaughters is also looking forward to seeing Chaves pull on his pink jersey. "It’s our view that Esteban will have a great next few years," he explains. "He’s overcome his health issues and showed this year he has consistency. We feel that he’s poised to break out and turn that consistency into wins. He’ll fit right into the nature of our team, which places human qualities of any rider, at the top of the list.”

Born and raised in Bogotá, Chaves started riding his bike at the age of 14 when his dad signed him up for a duathlon on a borrowed bike. He quickly fell in love with the sport and after purchasing his first bike not long after, he says “the rest is history.” Chaves quickly climbed the developmental ranks of cycling and would go on to win the prestigious Tour de l’Avenir in 2011 often regarded as the U23 Tour de France and got his first WorldTour contract soon thereafter.

“I love the feeling of freedom when riding your bike and the pride of getting to the top of the mountain or finishing a race,” says Chaves. “Also, I love that it is a sport that you can practice with friends and family. Most of all, I really like the power of cycling as a tool to show that dreams come true if you work hard.”

Now 31, Chaves is looking forward to the chance to rediscover the sport of cycling in a new environment.

“I’m excited about everything! New bike, new kit, new teammates, new helmet, new races, new challenges. I feel like a neo pro again,” he jokes.

For Chaves, the journey to cycling’s highest level hasn’t been a smooth one. His career, like that of so many cyclists, has been riddled with injuries and crashes. Before signing his first WorldTour contract, he had to battle back from a career-threatening crash at age 22. Then in 2018, he was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus and chronic sinusitis – an illness that would’ve made many riders consider the future of their pro careers.

“My biggest strength is my warrior spirit,” says Chaves. “I don’t give up and I fight till the end.”

This year he’s shown off that fighting spirit and took a spectacular stage win at the Volta a Catalunya and continued to bring in some big results throughout the season with numerous top ten finishes in stage races and one day races proving to everyone once again that he could be there with the best on the world stage.

But for Chaves, his cycling career has always been about a lot more than collecting accolades and trophies. Around six years ago he launched an organization called FUN Chaves whose goal is to give children and youth in Colombia opportunities to make their dreams come true using the power of the bicycle.

“We began with a developmental cycling team, where we identified talented riders and supported them in their athletic and personal growth,” explains Chaves. “After that, we started to organize the yearly Clásica Esteban Chaves, a 4-stage race for U-16, Juniors and Women to encourage healthy competition in these categories. And finally, in 2018 we created our medical program where we fund orthopedic surgeries and treatment for children to improve their quality of life.”

We can’t wait to see him pull on his pink jersey next season. Welcome to the team, Esteban!

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