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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, February 4, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2020 Giro d'Italia

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

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Etoile de Bèsseges stage one team reports

We posted the report from third-place Mads Pedersen's Trek-Segafredo team with the results.

Fourth-place Giacomo Nizzolo's Qhubeka-Assos team posted this:

The European and Italian champion, Giacomo Nizzolo, fought to a strong fourth place on the opening stage of Etoile de Besseges in the team’s first proud outing as Team Qhubeka ASSOS.

The 32-year-old Italian benefited from excellent teamwork throughout the day with the single goal of positioning Nizzolo perfectly ahead of the final steep climb to the line in Bellegarde. It was Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) and Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic) who eventually fought it out for line honours, with the former taking victory.

Nizzolo showed some excellent early-season form and was just shaded by former world champion Mads Pedersen, as they were fastest among the group two seconds adrift of the winners.

Nizzolo

Giacomo Nizzolo spots the cameraman

Lukasz Wisniowski, Michael Gogl and Simon Clarke were key throughout and in particular when Andreas Stokbro, Matteo Pelucchi and Sean Bennett were caught up in a crash with 6km to go. All three were able to ride to the finish line and were checked over by our team doctor, who will continue to monitor them overnight.

Giacomo Nizzolo:
I feel good, I definitely didn’t think that I would have such good legs because of the preparation but in the end I was well-placed and I maybe spent a little bit too much to get in place at the bottom of the climb.

I didn’t have the confidence to go too early but in the end I manged to be top-five and I’m looking forward now to the coming days.

Gino Van Oudenhove – Sports Director:
We had a good plan for today and of course with quite a few new riders on the team, to see the commitment and the work they did gives us good hope for the future.

Of course the 4th place for Giacomo was a big plus and motivates us in the team very much to do even better in the future.

Fifth-place Michal Kwiatkowski's INEOS-Grenadiers team posted this short update:

After spending much of the stage at the rear of the peloton, the team hit the front in time for the final 15km, with Geraint Thomas leading the charge.

Geraint thomas

Geraint Thomas leads his team at the front of the pack.

Egan Bernal was held up behind a crash that split the peloton late on but suffered no issues on the run-in as he returns to racing.

With Kwiatkowski fifth, two seconds behind victor Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), there was also a strong ride from Filippo Ganna to finish on the same time as a number of rivals. The Italian has a firm eye on the final day time trial and sits just two seconds off the lead.

Here's the report from sixth-place Jordi Meeus' Bora-hansgrohe team:

An illustrious starting field took to the start of the four-day stage race in the south of France today. The opener, which commenced and finished in Bellegarde, covered 143.5 km of largely flat terrain, featuring a fairly sharp uphill run-in to the finish line.

BORA - hansgrohe, however, was beset by bad luck today, with Felix Großschartner suffering a mechanical 15km ahead of the finish, only to hit the deck a few kilometres later, along with Frederik Wandahl. Both riders, however, were able to get back on the bikes and continue the stage, yet as a result, Felix lost his chances to contest the finish. On the final ramp, C. Laporte launched a decisive attack and wasn’t able to be reeled back in. Shortly behind, our Belgian newcomer Jordi Meeus crossed the finish line in Bellegarde in sixth place, thereby also taking the lead in the young rider’s classification.

From the Finish Line:
"We worked very well as a team all day, but our plans were scuppered when Felix had a mechanical 15 km from the finish and then crashed shortly afterwards. So I was left to take my own chances in the finale. On the climb towards the finish line, I was in the first ten riders and from then on, it was full gas racing to the finish. I tried to maintain a good position and ended up sixth. I’m pleased with my result as well as taking the young rider's jersey. Thanks to my teammates, who did a good job to bring me into a solid position ahead of the tough finale." - Jordi Meeus

"Today was not quite our day. We already saw yesterday in the recon that the climb up to the finish was likely too hard for Pascal so early in the season, so we decided to focus on Felix, who is generally able to ride these short climbs very well and also had a good chance in the GC due to his time trialling abilities. Unfortunately, he had a mechanical 15km before the finish. We were able to bring him back, but not long afterwards, he was involved in a crash and so was out of contention for the finale. The finish was very hectic. Jordi had good legs and so took his chances there. He ultimately finished sixth, a performance that also gave him the best young rider’s jersey. For a young rider like Jordi, his result is a strong performance upon which we can definitely build. I’d also like to add that both of our neo-pros, Jordi and Frederik, rode very well today. The second stage is one that should suit Pascal, so now we’re focusing on tomorrow, where we’ll try to take the win." - Christian Pömer, Sports Director

Tenth-place Danny Van Poppel's Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux team posted this report:

A few days after opening their season in the south of France at the GP La Marseillaise, the riders of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux took part in their first stage race this Wednesday. The first of the five stages of the Etoile de Bessèges (2.1, 03-07/02) lead the peloton around Bellegarde, with the outcome to be decided atop the 600 meter-long Côte de la Tour.

It took only five minutes for a trio to become the breakaway of the day. The rather flat parcours and the many ambitious teams willing to earn the right to wear the first leader's jersey left absolutely no chance for the break to last. With around 10 kilometers to go, just as the peloton got back together, a crash occurred at the back which fortunately saw no riders of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux involved, although Odd Christian Eiking and Rein Taaramaë had to concede time.

A fabulous teamwork allowed Danny Van Poppel to approach the flamme rouge in ideal position. Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa) was the first to make a move up the pedals but Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) took over in the last hundred meters without anybody able to match his speed. Danny, for whom it is a second participation in Bessèges, crossed this explosive finish in tenth place. Tomorrow, the peloton will ride from Saint-Geniès to reach the commune of La Calmette, where the fast men will have another opportunity to go for the win.

Danny Van Poppel:
"We had a clear plan at the start, and it was carried out perfectly by the boys. I am therefore very satisfied with our first race together. Adopting the automatisms is usually a long process, but here it went very well from the first attempt and I am proud of that. Also, I consider this top 10 against such a strong field of competitors to be a nice bonus. I had to dig deep for it, because the finish was intense and quite difficult. Tomorrow promises to have good weather and a sprint finish, I look forward to it!"

And Israel Start-Up Nation posted this stage one report:

Sometimes you’ve just got to pause and take a long look at the big picture. For us, that moment came some 20 kilometers into the first stage of Étoile de Bessèges in southern France, when our first rider called for assistance.

For the first time in a very long time, we could hear the sound and the speed of 150 bikes. The race radio called Israel Start-Up Nation to the front and the adrenaline in the air was palpable.

Months after the last race of 2020, after we watched numerous races derailed because of COVID, we were back again, doing what we are all passionate about. “It was a great feeling being part of the peloton,” said our Dane, Mads Würtz Schmidt. “We all shared that.”

The first 133 km of this flat stage was a sort of a waiting game in anticipation of the real race, which unfolded in the last 10 km: the battle to be in the front at the turn to the uphill finish.

Hectic? You bet. The team held its own. Guillaume Boivin and Rudy Barbier carried our GC leader Würtz Schmidt into the final corner, and newcomer Sep Vanmarcke was right there in the front.

Ultimately, Sep lost some gas in the end – “I did not have the legs to go with the sprinters” – but Mads finished 14th, just two seconds behind the winner Christoph Laporte from Cofidis. “We were there in the middle of things, and we lost no time so I will call it a success,” he said.

On the menu for tomorrow is 154 km that may end with a classic sprint. Barbier should be our man for the day.

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