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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, February 14, 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.

My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people. - Orson Welles

Tour de France: 2020

Current racing:

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Tour de la Provence stage three team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Egan Barnal's INEOS Grenadiers team with the results.

Here's the report from 3rd-place Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick step team:

Julian Alaphilippe left another indelible impression, this time on the punishingly steep gradients of Mont Ventoux, which awaited the Tour de la Provence riders on a cold Saturday afternoon. The rainbow jersey wearer was in the thick of the action in the last five kilometers of the climb to Chalet Reynard (14.6km, 7.6%), when attacks came from a depleted peloton which until the base of the ascent had been led by a very impressive Deceuninck – Quick-Step.

Second-year pro Mauri Vansevenant assumed pace-setting duties as the road began to rise, producing an outstanding effort and keeping the strung-out group within touching distance of sole leader Ivan Sosa (Ineos Grenadiers) before Alaphilippe made his move with a trademark acceleration. Dancing on the pedals, the 28-year-old Frenchman set out in purchase of the Colombian inside four kilometers to go, with only Egan Bernal capable of sticking to his wheel.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphalippe takes off with Egan Bernal on his wheel. Photo: James Startt/Agence Zoom

Climbing superbly and breathing panache at all times despite the ascent ramping up to double-digit gradients, the World Champion launched several powerful accelerations in an effort to dispatch his companion and take back time, before eventually coming across the line in third place for his first podium of the season, which puts him in the same position on the general classification with one stage left.

“I am pretty happy with my shape. Today was a good test and I can be content with how I did on a hard climb that commands respect, even though we didn’t go all the way to the summit. The team was incredible in the way it controlled the race, from the beginning until the start of the climb. Having Mauri by my side in the last kilometers helped a lot and I am very proud of the way he rode, he was so strong and impressive and deserves to be eighth overall. We showed again why we are the Wolfpack and, at the end of the day, I have no regrets. It’s a good result, one that gives me confidence for the next goals”, Julian explained after the race.

Here's the report from Patrick Konrad's Bora-hansgrohe squad:

Today's 153 km-long stage commenced in Istres and concluded with a mountain finish at Chalet Reynard, approximately 6km from the summit of the legendary Mont Ventoux. The catch of the six-man breakaway group on the final climb saw a subsequent series of attacks, including from Matteo Fabbro. Although he was reeled back in not long afterwards, the Italian and his teammate Patrick Konrad managed to make it into the reduced leading group.

Mont Ventoux

Here's the summit of Mt Ventoux. Photo: Tour de la Provence

When Ivan Sosa attacked with 5 km remaining, however, the two BORA - hansgrohe riders were forced to fall back somewhat. In the final few kilometers, Alaphilippe, Bernal and Poels attempted to counter Sosa's attack, but were ultimately unable to reach the Colombian, who went on to take the day's victory. 48 seconds later, Patrick Konrad crossed the finish line at Chalet Reynard in tenth place, thereby maintaining his 6th in the GC, just under a minute behind the overall leader Sosa.

From the Finish Line:
"As expected, today saw the decisive battle for the GC. I think I did well, especially considering that it is so early in the season. After Sosa's attack, the pace became quite high in the reduced group of favourites and I tried to keep up. I did pretty well, and against such strong climbers I'm quite satisfied with the way I rode. Tomorrow we will see a sprint stage and I hope to defend my 6th place there. I think I'm on the right track for the UAE Tour, and am hoping to further build upon my solid form there." - Patrick Konrad

"This was without question quite a tough mountain finish today, with a 10 km ascent averaging 10 per cent. We wanted to ride for Patrick and the guys did well. They got into a good position ahead of the climb and Matteo was even able to follow the first attacks. A little later, the best riders were then able to break away. Although we were unable to counter those moves, in the end Patrick took 10th on the stage, and is now 6th overall. Considering the strong competition in attendance at this race, this is a very good result. So a very solid race from the team today." - Steffen Radochla, Sports Director

Team DSM posted this stage 3 report:

After a sprint stage and one for the puncheurs in the opening two days of racing at the Tour de La Provence, today offered a chance for the climbers to go for stage honours on the finish up to Chalet Reynard at Mont Ventoux; on a day that would be likely to decide the GC of the race.

Team DSM

Team DSM riders enjoying the gentle slopes of Provence. Team DSM photo

It was a cagey start to the day once the flag dropped after the neutralised zone, with the team active towards the front of the peloton, as Andreas Leknessund, Max Kanter and Jasha Sütterlin tried to make it into any large breakaway groups as the attacks flew from the peloton. A sextet eventually escaped after 20 kilometres of racing and with all Team DSM riders in the bunch, attention focused on staying warm in the cold winds and saving energy for the tough finish to come.

With the breakaway eventually caught, the team did a good job to position Romain Combaud, Nicholas Roche and Mark Donovan on the lower slopes of Mont Ventoux. The three climbers put in a good effort and gave it their all on the steep ramps, but couldn’t match the stinging pace set by those out front, with Combaud the first rider across the line for the team at the end of the stage.

“It was a really hard day up Ventoux,” explained Donovan after the finish. “There were a lot of guys who are flying early season so the plan at the start of the day was to do as good of a job as we could as a team, and to see if we could get a result out of the day. In the end none of us really had the legs but we gave it a good go on the last climb. There are a lot of positives to take but we’re just not quite there when it came to the finish but hopefully in the next few races we can make that lest step up and be fighting for some nice results. It’s good to see the team working so well together already. We were together all day as a team and really working well for each other.”

Team DSM coach Michiel Elijzen continued: “As expected it was a pretty controlled race after the breakaway was gone, and we tried to be in there but didn’t succeed. After that it was up to the GC teams to control it up until the bottom of Mont Ventoux. We tried to get Romain, Nicholas and Mark into a good position for the climb and the guys did well to do that. They rode up the climb as hard as possible and did a good effort but it was not for a top result come the finish line. The rest of the guys came home safely and within the time limit, so we’re looking forward to tomorrow’s final stage now where we’ll work to set up Max for the expected sprint finish.”

Team Movistar had this to say about the third stage:

It was the ‘D-day’ on French soil, the first big mountain stage of the 2021 season with the climb towards the Chalet Reynard / Mont Ventoux, with 14.6km at 7.6%, more demanding after six kilometers into the ascent. A 40-minute effort that could help test the legs of some of the sport’s biggest names at this early point of the season.

As snow falling over the finishing mountain on Friday evening was plowed by the French authorities to enable the race to reach the Chalet Reynard, riders weren’t disturbed by weather on Saturday, with clear skies at the start -more covered during the second half of the race- and cold temperatures: 5ºC at the départ, then below zero at the finish. Wins blew on the peloton’s tail over the final ascent.

After quite a considerable fight for the early break, six men went ahead of the peloton: Louvet (AUB), Fedeli (DKO), Vermeersch (LTS), Cousin, Gaudin (TDE) and Bagioli (BBK). Teams different to those which used to take to the front to chase came to work this time; more precisely, Trek-Segafredo, INEOS Grenadiers and Astana-Premier Tech. The maximum gap for the leaders was 3’30”.

As the break was reduced to four riders with only one minute of advantage at the foot of the climb, the favourites’ teams took care of their leaders into the early slopes of the Chalet Reynard. Carlos Verona supported Matteo Jorgenson, again the top Movistar Team performer as he only lost the wheel of the GC group with 4km remaining, as eventual stage winner Iván Sosa (IGD) had already made his solo move.

Matteo Jorgensen

Matteo Jorgensen looks glad to be done with the stage. Movistar photo

Jorgenson finished in 12th place, 1’18” down on the winner, while Abner González took 20th, in his first-ever mountain-top finish as a WorldTour rider, just over two minutes behind Sosa, alongside team-mate Sergio Samitier.

The first stagerace of the year for the Movistar Team will come to its end on Sunday with a 163km route from Avignon to Salon de Provence. Three Cat-3 climbs should not prevent the bunch to go to a final sprint after just over 1,000 meters of vertical gain.

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