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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, August 16, 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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Vuelta a España stage two reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from GC leader Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team:

Team Jumbo-Visma has survived the second stage of the Tour of Spain without any problems. Primoz Roglic’ leader’s jersey was not in danger. Tomorrow the riders will face the first mountain stage of this Vuelta.

Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic will start stage three in red. Sirotti photo

Prior to the stage, Roglic was aware of the lurking danger. “It is important to stay out of trouble today”, he said. “The wind can play a role. We will have to be alert the whole day.”

The flat stage had a traditional course. Shortly after the start three Spanish riders broke away from the peloton. The three had a maximum lead of four minutes. Several teams in the peloton made sure the advantage wouldn’t get too big. Twenty kilometres from the finish the escapees’ plans were put to rest. The stage eventually ended in a bunch sprint.

“Fortunately, in hindsight, we can conclude that we got through this stage without any problems”, Roglic said. “In stages like this you always have to be careful not to run into damage. We can now focus on tomorrow’s stage. There is a chance that the approach, like today, will be nervous. I don’t know the final climb. It will soon become clear whether the climb suits me”, the Slovenian concluded.

Michael Matthews' Team BikeExchange sent me this report:

Former three-time Vuelta a España stage winner Michael Matthews fought to a close third place on today’s flat and fast road stage, battling it out all the way to the finish line in Burgos to also move himself up the rankings to third place overall.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews has been winning Vuelta stages for a while. Here he is winning stage three in 2014. Sirotti photo

The 30-year-old was dropped off into the perfect position by teammate Luka Mezgec, before tussling neck-and-neck alongside Jasper Philipsen, Sebastian Molano and Fabio Jakobsen, all fighting for the final podium positions.

Earlier on in the day, the threat of crosswinds echoed through the peloton, but with no echelons or real dangerous crosswind sections ever eventuating, the hot 166.7km stage remained steady before concluding in a pure bunch sprint.

Matthews and Team BikeExchange avoided a pile-up with four and a half kilometres to go as all attention then turned to the sprint, but with no team really taking control in dominating the final two kilometres, the squad kept towards the front, ready to unleash Matthews, who was able to take a respectable third place.

After yesterday’s ninth place finish in the time trial and today’s sprint performance, the Australian takes confidence in his form, but with the race heading straight into the mountains for tomorrow’s third stage, there’s plenty of changes still to come.

Michael Matthews – 3rd place:
“There’s not a massive sprint field here, but the sprinters that are here are fast, so my goal was a top-three, top-five today, so we achieved that.

"We expected a harder day, we thought some of the pure sprinters might have been more tired but it ended up being a super easy day, averaging 100bpm heart-rate all day. It was a pretty stock-standard sprint day, so I am happy with the podium and tomorrow is another day.

"I think where the boys delivered me today, we can be really confident in our lead-out here. There’s not a massive field of sprint trains here so that makes it a bit easier for us not having a large sprint train so we can just mix it up, take confidence from yesterday’s TT and today’s sprint stage.”

Julian Dean – Sport Director:
“We were expecting maybe more action in the crosswinds, so the wind made it a little more nervous all day, everyone was sort of waiting for something to happen but never really happened. It wasn’t maybe as windy or quite as exposed as we were expecting but everybody from our team arrived safe and sound.

"It was a good sprint from Michael, he showed some good condition carrying on from yesterday, so we will see what that brings us in the coming weeks.

"Straight into the mountains tomorrow, we have a pretty solid eight kilometre climb to the finish with a narrow run-in, so it will be one for the GC guys to try and play their cards.”

Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this report:

Starting from Caleruega, the peloton rode south before the riders [headed north to] cross the finish line in Burgos Gamonal after 167 km in the saddle. Today's flat stage featured a small climb 5km ahead of the finish, but this wasn't to stand in the way of the fast men.

Despite this, the riders had to endure high temperatures and face the threat of crosswinds, so there was always the chance for a surprise ending. The efforts of the early breakaway ultimately did not pay dividends, with the trio being reeled back in with 20km remaining, after which point BORA-hansgrohe and the other teams with a fast man turned their attention to a stage win.

However, it wasn't to be, with designated sprinter Jordi Meeus, as well as Maximilian Schachmann and Patrick Gamper being involved in a crash with less than 5km remaining. Lead-out rider Martin Laas, at this point without a teammate to assist him in contesting the finale, made the most of his chances in the sprint and eventually finished in seventh place in Burgos. Max and Jordi do not seem to have any injuries. Patrick, who sustained a cut, is at the hospital with the team doctor for further examinations.

From the Finish Line:
"Unfortunately, three of our riders went down today, including our sprinter Jordi Meeus, so I had to try it alone in the sprint. Over the last 2km I was without any teammates to assist, and tried to find a good wheel to follow. However, in the end I was simply too far behind to get a top result." - Martin Laas

"That was quite some bad luck. We were fully motivated for the sprint in Burgos, but with about 4.5km to go some riders went down in front of me and I wasn't able to avoid the crash. I feel ok at the moment, but honestly I'm relieved that the crash at least wasn't worse." - Jordi Meeus

"What can one say except how unfortunate the finish of the stage was for us. We wanted to aim fully on the sprint, and were prepared with Jordi, and Martin as his last lead-out rider, and then the crash happened. A rider went down directly in front of Patrick, who then hit the deck with Jordi and Max. It couldn't have come closer to the finish. We're trying to keep the moral up in the team but you can't change such things, that's sport." - Steffen Radochla, Sports Director

And here's the stage two report from Alex Aranburu's Astana-Premier Tech team:

After yesterday’s second place in the opening individual time trial, Alex Aranburu was motivated to fight for the bonus seconds in both the intermediate sprint and the main finish to try to gain time and to take the red jersey.

At the end of the day, Aranburu was second in the intermediate sprint, taking two bonus seconds, while later he took a very good fifth place in the final bunch sprint, won by the Belgian rider Jasper Philipsen.

Alex Aranburu

Alex Aranburu (showing winning stage two of the 2019 Tour of Burgos) is still in second place in the Vuelta GC.

“I started this day with an idea to try to take the red jersey and, thus I was motivated to do a good result in the intermediate sprint and at the finish. The team worked perfectly for me, and I want to say a big thank to all the guys. They provided me with huge support in both sprints. In the intermediate sprint, I was second and took two bonus seconds, so I knew I had to try to finish inside the top 3 in the final of the stage. Well, it was a very fast sprint, and I did all I could, but finished fifth. However, I think this is a really good result for me in such a fast bunch sprint, so I can be happy with this day”, – said Alex Aranburu.

After the second stage of La Vuelta, Alex Aranburu still keeps his second position in the general classification, led by yesterday’s winner Primoz Roglic.

The team’s GC leader Aleksandr Vlasov was well protected by his teammates during the whole day and finished safety in the main group in 17th position. Thanks to this result, Vlasov moved up to seventh place in the General Classification.

Tomorrow the peloton will face the first tough test in the mountains with stage 3 bringing the riders to the top of the first category climb Picon Blanco (7.6 km, 9.1%).

Tour of Poland winner Joao Almeida's Deceuninck-Quick Step team's final Tour of Poland report

Here's the team's update:

João Almeida sealed the overall victory at the Tour de Pologne, becoming one of the youngest riders to take home the yellow jersey since the race was elevated to the World Tour calendar in 2005. The Portuguese built his success on the back of two impressive stage victories, on the uphill finishes of Przemysl and Bukovina Resort, and cemented it on the penultimate day ITT, where he put time into all his rivals, setting in stone the general classification.

Joao Almeida

Joao Almeida wins Tour of Poland stage four.

One of the most consistent riders in the peloton, a top 10 finisher this season at the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico, Volta a Catalunya and the Giro d’Italia, João enjoyed quite the breakthrough in Poland, capturing both his first World Tour win and his first stage race triumph after a dominant ride doubled by a strong team support.

“I am extremely happy, it’s a dream come true to be at the top of the podium in a stage race, something for which I worked so hard. To win the GC, two stages – one in the yellow jersey, something quite special – and the white jersey, which came as a bonus, is something incredible that I couldn’t have dreamed of at the start of the race.”

“We were also first in the team classification, which is really beautiful, as it gives you a wonderful feeling to be on the podium with all your teammates who worked so hard for you. We were there on every stage, we fought hard and we showed the Wolfpack spirit, so we can be proud of ourselves. I will draw a lot of confidence from Poland and aim for more good results until the end of the season”, said the 23-year-old, the first Portuguese to win the Tour de Pologne.

Deceuninck – Quick-Step enjoyed a dominant week, in addition to the GC victory, taking also three stage wins – Almeida’s double and Rémi Cavagna’s ITT one – the points jersey with the same João, the team classification and placing one other rider in the top 5 overall, Mikkel Honoré, who confirmed the fine form that just two weeks ago netted him a podium finish at the Clasica San Sebastian.

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