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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, August 14, 2021

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
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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Tour of Poland stage five team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Nikias Arndt's Team DSM with the race results.

Here's the Tour of Poland report from GC leader Joao Almeida's Team Deceuninck-Quick Step:

João Almeida maintained his leadership at the Tour de Pologne – the season’s 23rd World Tour race – at the end of the 173km stage 5 to Bielsko-Biala, controlled right from the start by Deceuninck- Quick-Step, but marred by several crashes inside the last two kilometers. Having Mikkel Honoré to guide him through the field, João avoided both incidents that reduced the bunch to a handful of riders, who ended up fighting for victory.

The 23-year-old from Caldas da Rainha was in a good position 500 meters from home, but just a few seconds later found himself boxed in and for that reason opened his sprint late. Even in these conditions, Almeida still produced a strong turn of legs which almost brought him another top 3 finish, only a couple of centimeters separating him from the third place and four seconds on the stage won by Nikias Arndt (Team DSM).

NikiasArndt

Nikias Arndt throws his bike and wins the stage.

“I was feeling good and was confident in my sprint, but I started a bit late because I got boxed in at 350 meters to go. I wanted some bonus seconds today, because I knew that in case of a victory Mohoric could have divested me of the yellow jersey. Luckily I kept it, albeit for a small margin, and will get to wear in the Katowice time trial. On Saturday, everything will depend on what I can do on that 18km course and I will be prepared to give everything out there to hold onto the jersey”, said João after the podium ceremony.

Here's the report from second-place Matej Mohoric's Bahrain Victorious team:

The queen stage of Tour de Pologne went 172km between Chochołów and Bielsko-Biała. Breakaway was consistent during the day and at first 6, but later only 4 riders were trying to get to the finish line before peloton, but Ineos and we worked at the front to pull the break in the last 5km.

Three 1st category classified climbs did not shake the peloton, and they all came into the circuit (3×7.5km) that had a punchy climb. Three times through that climb reduced the peloton, but a sprint between about 30 riders decided the race. At 300m, Mohorič was boxed and had to find a way to the centre of the road, but by the time he got full speed, he managed to get to second place, just behind Niklas Arndt. With such a speed, he needed 2-3 meters more to win it.

Mohorič gained 6 seconds on GC leader Almeida and is now only 2 seconds behind. He passed Kwiatkovski for the point leaders and will be wearing a white point leader skin suit in tomorrow’s trial.

Matej Mohoric

Matej Mohoric on the podum of the 2021 Tour de Frace after stage 7. Sirotti photo

Matej Mohorič: “Today was another good stage result for us, but I’m not happy with second place. It’s a bit frustrating with all the second and third places that I got in last periods, but on the other hand, it could also be worse; it’s still an excellent result. I’m looking forward to the time trial tomorrow. There is no chance to be boxed out like today; everybody is on their own against the clock, no hiding there. I think Joao Almeida is a big favourite to win it, but I will do my best to try and get a podium on GC, and we’ll see how it goes. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Tim Harris, our SD: “Today was another bittersweet day with excellent riding by the team and with Matej Mohorič just getting beaten on the line. Dylan Teuns was also in the group sprinting for the win, but unfortunately, somebody crashed into him, so we had to change the bike literally 250 meters to go. So at the moment, Matej is second overall down by 2 seconds, while tomorrow is 19km time trial, so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. All in all, it was a good day, but just again not quite a victory.”

Tomorrow is a deciding time trial stage for General Classification before we wrap up the 7 day Tour de Pologne with a sprint stage on Sunday.

Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this report:

The last mountain stage of this year’s Tour de Pologne was also the queen stage of the race. Again a 6-men break went up the road early, but were caught on time to set up an exciting finale. A big bunch entered the final lap in Bielsko-Biala and also Michael Schwarzmann was still part of that first group. Together with Giovanni Aleotti, the two tried to position themselves for the final sprint. But some crashes on the last 3 km disrupted the field and unfortunately also Schwarzmann hit the deck. Giovanni launched his sprint quite early then, was still leading with 150m to go but crossed the line in 13th place in the end while N. Arndt took the win. With this result Aleotti is now sitting in 6th place overall ahead of tomorrow’s time trial.

From the Finish Line:
"It was yet again a challenging day and the whole team did a great job to protect me during the stage. In the end we wanted to go for Schwarzi. I was in a good position and wanted to lead him out, but then he crashed, which was a pity. With 300m to go there was a hole and I tried to use this opportunity, but it turned out to be a little early. On the last 50m I couldn’t keep up the pace and lost some positions. But personally, I can be happy with the day as I am still in a promising position in the GC. I just feel sorry for Schwarzi, because today I wanted to give something back for the great support the last days." – Giovanni Aleotti

"Our goal was to protect Giovanni again, but we knew this could also be a chance for Schwarzi. When we entered the final laps, we decided to go in the sprint for Schwarzi and everybody was doing a great job to bring him and Giovanni in a very good position on to the last kilometer. Unfortunately, he crashed little later and lost his chances, which is quite frustrating for us as it was bad luck again. I feel sorry for Schwarzi, who had a really good chance today. Then Giovanni went a little early in the sprint, but like I said, it was a hectic finale and that can happen especially when you are a young rider. Still, he moved up two places in the GC which is of course the positive side of today’s stage." -  Christian Pömer, Sports Director

Here's the Tour of Poland stage five report from team Groupama-FDJ:

In Bielsko-Biała’s challenging finish, where Rudy Molard grabbed a nice third place in 2020, Jake Stewart tried to get in the mix again in stage 5 of the Tour of Poland, on Friday. With the precious help of his teammates, the 21-year-old Briton managed to enter the day’s top-10 as he finished eighth in a reduced sprint won by Nikias Arndt. A promising performance.

Jake Stewart

Jake Stewart on the podium of the 2021 Etoile de Besseges.

On Friday, the riders had to face what has become a traditional stage of the Tour de Pologne. The bunch was set to make his way to Bielsko-Biała, where the slightly uphill road to the finish usually crowned strong riders since 2018. However, before reaching the local circuit – which had to be done four times -, a first battle occurred at the start of the day. However, the fight for the breakaway proved to be rather short and Evgeny Fedorov (Astana-Premier Tech), Daniel Arroyave (EF Education-Nippo), Robert Power (Qubeka-NextHash), Emils Liepins (Trek-Segafredo), Jonas Rickaert (Alpecin -Fenix) and Lukasz Owsian (Poland) managed to hit the front.

“We were vigilant at the start as we did not want to miss a big move,” said Frédéric Guesdon. “We did not know how the other teams would react, and if some of them would control as the finish was kind of special. When we noticed that the move was gone, that there were not that many in there, and that we would surely have a sprint to the finish, we all gathered around Jake like we initially planned”. The leading riders were kept within four minutes the whole time, as the peloton slowly started to pace up in the second, hillier, part of the stage. “We needed to save as much energy as possible with these few climbs before the circuit,” added Frédéric.

When the race actually entered the final circuit, with twenty-five kilometres to go, four riders were still in the lead: Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto-Soudal), Jonas Rickaert (Alpecin-Fenix), Larry Warbasse (AG2R-Citroën) and Sean Bennett (Qhubeka-NextHash). However, the field was still quite big starting the four laps around Bielsko-Biala. “I think it was not as hard a day as some people expected,” said Jake Stewart. “The last climb was not actually raced so hard so it came down to the circuit. We worked really well as a team, everyone stayed together and the boys helped me into the final lap”. “We’re used to doing this circuit on the Tour de Pologne, so we knew it was going to push hard and hurt the legs. The goal was to put Jake in the best possible position,” continued Frédéric. “Fabian and Romain were supposed to be our last two men alongside Jake, and they were indeed”.

The Briton then recounted the last minutes of the race and this long ascending false flat: “I was in the top five positions in the last two kilometres into the finish. Fabian did a turn, and then Romain took me to 300 meters. From there, I was on the front and so I started the sprint. I tried to hold on but in the end guys came past me and I didn’t have the speed in the finish”.

In this hard finish, Jake Stewart eventually placed eighth, not so far from the winner Nikias Arndt. “As a result, I think that we can be happy as a team,” he said. “It was a good step in the right direction. Everyone worked for it and I think there is plenty of good things to take from the stage to make progress moving forwards”. Later, the young man did point out small mistakes, but Frédéric Guesdon was still positive on the overall performance. “The guys did everything they could,” he added. “We didn’t win, that’s true, but I think they’ll have nothing to be ashamed of. We didn’t have any issue, Jake was in a good position, and then the legs did the talk. He is more or less where he belongs. They did what they had to do and Jake was able to go for it. I don’t think we could have won by acting differently. Jake has certainly shown that we can count on him on such finishes.”

On Friday, Romain Seigle also climbed six places overall. He now finds himself in 22nd place and will be keen to deliver a solid time trial tomorrow on the 19 kilometre-course in Katowice. “Romain will do it properly, and I think Attila will too,” concluded Frédéric. “The next day, there’s a 99% chance it will finish with a sprint anyway. They will try to do well. For Attila, who is still young, it’s also an opportunity to work and improve for the future”.

Fabio Aru to retire from racing after Vuelta a España

Aru’s Qhubeka-NextHash team sent me this:

Qhubeka NextHash’s Italian star rider Fabio Aru has confirmed on the eve of the Vuelta a Espana that he will retire from professional cycling at the conclusion of the 2021 edition of the race.

Aru, fittingly, has chosen the Vuelta to conclude his professional career, an event that he won in 2015. It’s a decision that he has spent significant time considering and one which ultimately will see him focus on spending time with his young family.

Fabio Aru

Fabio Aru and his Astana team at the end of the 2015 Vuelta a España. Sirotti photo

The 31-year-old joined the team at the start of the 2021 season and says that he rediscovered his love for the racing his bike with Team Qhubeka NextHash, which culminated with him placing second overall at the recently concluded Vuelta a Burgos.

His stellar palmares includes:
Overall victory at the Vuelta a Espana (2015) as well as finishing 5th in 2014.
Twice finishing on the podium at the Giro d’Italia – 2nd (2015) and 3rd (2014).
Six Grand Tour stages: 3 x Giro d’Italia, 2 x Vuelta a Espana and 1 x Tour de France (2017)
5th overall at the Tour de France (2017)
Italian road race champion (2017)

Fabio Aru: "Reaching this decision has not been easy but it is something that I’ve been thinking about and discussing with my family for some time. I’ve been racing my bike for 16 years and for more than a decade as a professional, but the time has come now to prioritise other things in my life, my family.

"During my career, as any bike rider will tell you, a significant time is spent away from home and for me this is now the right time to give back to them.

"I’ve been fortunate to realise my talent on the biggest stage of all, and together with my teammates celebrate incredible successes. I hope that I have been able to demonstrate the true values of sportsmanship over my career, and in doing so made people proud.

"I also want to express a deep sense of gratitude to all of my former teammates and staff at my former teams - Astana and UAE - who elevated me throughout my career. We shared some incredible moments which I’ll forever be grateful for.

"Finally, I want to pay a special tribute to Team Qhubeka NextHash. Within our organisation we speak about the spirit of Ubuntu – I am because we are - and this sense of togetherness, at a time when the world needs it most, has been amazing for me to be a part of.

"I must admit that when I joined the team I was aware that it was special, different but had no real understanding of what it would truly be like. This team, without doubt is completely unique not just in cycling but across all sport, I am incredibly proud to race here and honoured to end my time as a professional with them.

"After a tough few years, in 2021 I was able to race my bike again and ride at a level that I knew I was capable of, while smiling on the bike. That is a victory in itself, and something that I will forever be grateful for.

"I want to express my sincerest thanks to Douglas Ryder, Lars Michaelsen, Gabriele Missaglia, Mattia Michelusi and all the team’s staff and my fellow riders, it’s an honour to be your teammate.

"In our team we speak about hope, opportunity and platform in order to be able to change lives with the bicycle. Having played my part in this will be something that I hold dear for the rest of my life, and I will forever be a supporter.

"I will continue to ride my bike because it is what I love to do but for now I’m focused on riding the Vuelta a Espana to the best of my ability with my Team Qhubeka NextHash teammates; and it’s fitting that my journey will end here in Spain, a place and a race where I have incredible memories.

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