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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, August 23, 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 nine reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Damiano Caruso's Bahrain Victorious team:

Damiano Caruso took an epic win on Stage 9 of La Vuelta going solo from the breakaway, securing his second Grand Tour stage win this season.

Damiano Caruso

Damiano Caruso heading up the mountain for his stage win. Sirotti photo

Stage 9 of La Vuelta was another challenging day in the mountains covering 187 km with over 4,600 vertical meters. The race started with a fierce pace and was a difficult day for the riders to get into the breakaway. Eventually, the break managed to go which included Damiano Caruso and 10 other riders.

With 70km to go, the peloton started to bridge the gap to the break. Damiano kicked on and attacked going solo. On the foot of the final climb, Damiano had 5 minutes to the leader’s group and managed to climb his way to the top of Alto de Velefique before the GC contenders could catch him.

Bahrain Victorious had three riders finish in the top-ten of the stage with Jack Haig finishing 4th and Gino Mäder 7th. In the GC battle, Haig also moved up from 7th to 4th, 1:42 behind Race Leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)

Damiano Caruso: “I’m so happy. I know it was a lot, but I knew Ineos was doing a really hard tempo. So I said okay, before they catch me I’ll try do a breakaway, maybe alone. I didn’t expect the gap to be bigger, but km by km it did…I still can’t believe what I’ve done.

"It’s an amazing feeling and a repeat after my feeling in the Giro. For me it’s incredible. The last climb was so long, and I just wanted to keep focussed on my tempo and in the last 2km I realised I could win the day.”

Gorazd Štangelj, Lead Sports Director: “It’s great to see Damiano win today, but also hard to see Mikel suffering today. Let’s say actually, from this morning Mikel was not feeling the best. So we decided already that a few of the guys keep an eye on him. He is still a champion and one of our best riders and still support him with Wout and Mark.

"What can you say about Damiano? We planned to have one rider in the break and it wasn’t easy to get into the break. Then the peloton didn’t give him much space and reacted really well to go alone and get time before the battle of GC riders. He did everything perfectly!

"Jack has shown great form in the first block. He’s shown good condition from the beginning. We already got one objective today with the stage win of Damiano, and we are looking to more objectives with Jack, Gino and Mikel”

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

Primoz Roglic has strengthened his lead in the general classification of the Vuelta a Espana the day before the first rest day. The rider of Team Jumbo-Visma was the first of the classification riders to cross the finish line on the difficult final climb. In doing so, he took valuable time on his competitors.

After a long fight for the break a group of eleven riders got away. Caruso managed to stay in front and soloed to victory. In the group with the favourites there were several attacks on the final climb. At eight kilometres from the finish the stage exploded. Roglic and Enric Mas remained in front and slowly increased their lead. After a short acceleration the Slovenian finished second.

Enric Mas and Primoz Roglic

Enric Mas & Primoz Roglic on their way up the mountain.

“It was a tough, hot day with tough climbs”, Roglic said. “My teammates did a good job. Ineos rode a high pace on the long climbs. Then it exploded on the final climb. Fortunately, I had good legs and I could finish it off. Enric Mas was very strong today and we were able to build our lead together.”

Tomorrow is the first rest day of the Vuelta a Espana. “I’m looking forward to it. After that, there are some beautiful stages on the programme where some hard riding can be expected.”

Here's the report from Fabio Jakobsen's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Four decades after first hosting a stage start at the Spanish Grand Tour, Puerto Lumbreras witnessed as the peloton departed again, this time for a mountain stage containing four classified climbs: Alto de Cuatro Vientos, Alto Collado Venta Luisa, Alto de Castro de Filabres and Alto de Velefique – a tough 13.2km ascent located not far from where many of the famous spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood were filmed.

Sunday, on a stage that included 4700 vertical meters, the breakaway was the protagonist, but it took two hours for one to form and it happened only after the average speed dropped under 50km/h. Eleven riders broke clear and put a maximum gap of five minutes between them and a peloton that began to splinter on the second classified climb of the day, where the gradients exceeded 12%. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) attacked from the first group there and soloed to the win, around one minute ahead of the chasers.

Fabio Jakobsen

Fabio Jakobsen remains the points classification leader. Sirotti photo

Helped by Andrea Bagioli, Josef Cerny, Florian Sénéchal, Zdenek Stybar and Bert Van Lerberghe, Fabio Jakobsen beat the time limit and kept hold of the green jersey which he donned again following his victory in La Manga del Mar Menor. The 24-year-old will carry a 16-points buffer into the second week of the race, which will feature just one opportunity for the sprinters, in the province of Badajoz.

Here's the Vuelta stage nine report from team Groupama-FDJ:

The first part of La Vuelta came to an end on Sunday, with a very mountainous ninth stage in Andalusia. Rudy Molard and Olivier Le Gac made an attempt from the breakaway, which only went after 80 kilometers, but only Damiano Caruso was able to stay away from the GC favourites to the Alto de Velefique. Not in his best shape, Jacopo Guarnieri was forced to abandon. On Monday, the riders will enjoy a very welcomed rest day.

Groupama FDJ

After stage nine Groupama-FDJ is now down to seven riders. Sirotti photo.

The first week of the Vuelta ended this Sunday towards the Alto de Velefique with a hell of a course, featuring more than 4,700 meters of elevation. However, the start of the stage was not so hard and it made for quite a lively race for a while. “The goal was to be in the breakaway today,” said Thierry Bricaud. “Arnaud tried, but Olivier and Rudy especially did a great start. The pace was very high for two hours, and when the right move finally went, they were in there. We had two riders of the team in a group of eleven guys. Unfortunately for us, Ineos started to pull a little after, even if the breakaway was already three minutes in front.”

In the endless climb (29 km at 4.3%) of the Alto Collado Venta Luisa, the bunch came back within just a minute and some riders from the break then decided to attack. With 70 kilometres left to go, Giro’s runner-up Damiano Caruso flew away solo in front. “When he attacked, I did not have anything left,” explained Rudy Molard. “I had a tough time halfway through the race. It’s a pity because we did the hardest part with Olivier by entering the breakaway. However, the fight was so intense that we left a lot of energy on the road. After the efforts of the last few days, especially for Arnaud, I already felt that the legs were a bit sore this morning. The furious start did not enable me to recover. Suddenly, I was empty and then the end of the stage felt quite long. It is how it is, but we’ll try again, there will be other opportunities. We still did a good race to be in front. Unfortunately, it was not my best day”. “It’s a shame for us, the spirit was very good once again,” Thierry insisted.

At the head of the race, Damiano Caruso managed to conclude his long solo with a victory while Primoz Roglic came second, therefore reinforcing his red jersey. The first “gruppetto” including Arnaud Démare finished about thirty minutes later. “The stage was very fast, so the time limit was also much bigger, and the guys managed their day pretty well,” added Thierry. “It was not easy, but they were able to make it on time and the rest day is going to do good to everyone”.

Unfortunately Jacopo Guarnieri won’t get there as he was forced to abandon the stage midway through on Sunday. “It was again a very tough day for him,” added Thierry. “He’s not at his very best since the start of this Vuelta. He was doing good, but not great, and that necessarily takes its toll entering the mountains, which are not his favourite terrain”. “I don’t perform at the level I would like to,” said the Italian. “This season I had some ups, downs and proper downs… Today we reached really hot temperatures again and my body said stop. I am very disappointed because the Tour and the Vuelta were the two most important races of the second part of the season, and they did not end well. I am not satisfied and the Vuelta unfortunately comes to an end far too early. It’s a big disappointment”.

Seven Groupama-FDJ riders will therefore be back on the road on Tuesday. Before that, the rest day will be welcome on Monday. “The first week was quite intense for us, with the stress of sprints and the fast mountain stages,” concluded Rudy Molard. “We’ll need to recover as best we can”.

Tour of Norway final reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from GC winner Ethan Hayter's INEOS Grenadiers:

Ethan Hayter sealed his first-ever professional GC win after another assured team performance on the final day at the Tour of Norway.

With Leonardo Basso, Jonathan Castroviejo, Filippo Ganna, Luke Rowe and Ben Swift all in to help the young Brit defend his orange jersey, the team rode all day, before Rowe and Swift dropped Hayter off for the final sprint to the line.

He crossed safely, as his housemate and Olympic Omnium partner Matt Walls (Bora-Hansgrohe) won the final stage in Stavanger. Hayter took the overall by 15 seconds, from Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) and 25 from Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma).

Ethan Hayter

Ethan Hayter winning stage two.

It tops off an incredible week for the 22 year old, who won the opening two stages in Norway, defending his lead stoutly on yesterday’s difficult third stage, and then saw it home today, two weeks after securing Olympic Silver on the track in Tokyo.

Ethan Hayter:
“This is my first GC win and it definitely wasn’t an easy one!”

"The first two days I got an advantage and then defending it on stage three was the hardest day of all of them. It’s not been an easy race. I really enjoyed this race. The weather has been amazing, the views have been amazing and the race has been great."

Here's the report from stage four winner Matthew Walls' Team Bora-hansgrohe:

The fourth and last stage of the Tour of Norway was supposedly the flattest stage of the tour with about 1200 meters of elevation on 156 kilometers. Immediately after the start, a group of 7 riders was able to break away from the peloton and gain a maximum lead of over four minutes.

The BORA-hansgrohe team also took part in the chasing work in the main field over long periods in order to catch the escapers again. Despite the largely flat route, the riders had three final laps with the short but up to 14 percent steep ascent to Grisabakken. Due to the technical route to the foot of the ascent, the pace in the main peloton was kept extremely high even before the first crossing and the distance to the breakaway decreased almost by itself. On the last ascent to Grisabakken, the peloton split up due to the high speed and only a smaller group, in which three BORA-hansgrohe riders were represented, were about to sprint for the victory.

About two kilometers from the finish it was Nils Politt who opened the finale and prepared the sprint for Matthew Walls on his rear wheel. Thanks to an extremely strong leadout by Politt and a well-timed sprint by Walls, no other rider was able to pass and Matthews Walls secured his first professional victory. Ide Schelling crossed the finish line in 22nd place with the same group without any loss of time and was thus able to maintain his second place in the overall standings.

Matthew Walls

Matthew Walls wins the final stage of the 2021 Tour of Norway.

From the Finish Line:
“I am super happy with my first pro victory today. Big thanks to the whole team and especially Nils for the perfect leadout over the last couple of kilometers. I was not quite sure how my shape is going to be after the Olympics and I did not expect anything here but I am more than happy that it worked out and I could finish it off!“  – Matthew Walls

“I think we had a next to perfect day today. The team did a great job and kept us safe the whole day. I am happy that Matthew could finish it off and win the stage and that I was also able to secure my second place in the GC. So there is not much more you can ask for.“  – Ide Schelling

“Today was a nice successful day for us and honestly all our plans worked out as we planned it on paper. We wanted to control the breakaway, what we did with Erik most of the time and in the finale it was about to prepare the sprint for Matthew. Nils did a perfect leadout and Matthew was able to finish it off and get his first pro victory. Also Ide was super strong today and could stay up in the GC, so not much more we could ask for. I am very happy to end these four days of racing here in Norway like this. “  – Jean-Pierre Heynderickx, Sports Director

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