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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, July 3, 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.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. - Richard P. Feynman


Current racing:

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Tour de France stage seven team reports

We posted the report from the race organizer with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Matej Mohoric's Team Baharin Victorious:

Stage 7, dubbed the first real opportunity for the breakaway, saw Mohorič capitalise and attack the breakaway on Côte-de-Glux-en-Glenne, never looking back,  and winning the longest stage of the Tour since the year 2000.

The 249.1km stage started Vierzon going over five categorised climbs finishing in Le Creusot. An early breakaway of around 30 riders formed that included Mohorič and the yellow jersey Van Der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix). The peloton let the break take a big gap, having an advantage of over six minutes putting pressure on race favourite Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates). On the Cote-de-Glux-en-Glenne and 70 kilometres remaining, Mohorič and Van Moer (Lotto Soudal) attacked, holding a gap of over one minute from the rest of the peloton.

Matej Mohoric

Matej Mohoric has escaped and is heading for home. Sirotti photo

In the final 10km, the break began chasing down Mohorič. However, his strong descending skills kept him away, dropping Van Moer and take his first stage win at the Tour de France. Matej has now won a stage in every Grand Tour. He also moved into the polka-dot jersey and was awarded the most combative rider.

Mohorič: “It’s unbelievable! My legs were screaming in the last 20 kilometres, but I didn’t listen to them. This was my best victory because firstly it’s Tour de France, the biggest race in the world. Secondly, I did it through the breakaway, beating some of the best riders.

I was fighting for the polka-dot jersey today and took the five points, and then I was hoping they would look at each other, allowing me to win the stage. And to do this wearing my national championship jersey is even more special for me.”

Here's the report from second-place Jasper Stuyven's Trek-Segafredo team:

On paper it was already a big day of racing. At 249 kilometers, Stage 7 was the longest of the 2021 Tour de France – and longer than any other stage in the last 21 years of Tour history. It didn’t have the iconic climbs which script epic battles, but today the riders wrote their own story in a Classic-style race.

It was a stage tipped for a breakaway and a huge battle unfolded as everyone and their dog wanted to be part of the escape group.

Attack after attack jumped up the road, each rider taking a turn to get in what they hoped would be a successful move. It took almost an hour of full gas racing, with an average speed just shy of 50 kilometers per hour, for a group to go clear. And what a group it was!

A host of cycling royalty made up a breakaway of 29 riders – winners of just about every race on the calendar, from Grand Tours to Monuments, as well as the yellow and green jerseys. Trek-Segafredo was one of the best represented teams in the breakaway with three strong riders: Toms Skujins, Vincenzo Nibali and Jasper Stuyven.

What made the stage really interesting were the dynamics in play for the GC. It’s unusual for the yellow jersey to be in a break like today, but this is Mathieu van der Poel so we can’t be too surprised about him disregarding cycling norms. Likewise, it would be foolish to allow him, or a proven Grand Tour winner like Nibali to gain a big advantage so early in the race. However, the UAE team of Tour favorite Tadej Pogačar couldn’t contain the collective engines of the 29 escapees, all working in unison. The gap swelled, and the cycling world’s imaginations began to run wild with the possibilities.

It was a thing to behold, 29 riders working against the might of a single team. However, over the course of the race the cooperation broke down, and so did the time gap as other GC teams came to help UAE.

“I was actually surprised that they were keeping us somewhat close. It did not concern me too much as I was busy with our race – it was hard enough to try and make the best choice in that big group,” said Stuyven.

At some point, there is always a lack of cohesion in a breakaway group that large.  Mohoric struck at an ideal time with an attack over the Côte de Château-Chinon with Brent Van Moer (Lotto Soudal) for company – some 87 kilometers from the finish – and the lack of cooperation and tired legs allowed the pair a healthy advantage.

Behind, the elite group marked each other.

Nibali made a powerful attack but it was Jasper who found daylight from the rest of the group, bridging the one-minute gap to the two leaders with Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka-NextHash). “There was a lot of looking to each other and I think I found a good moment to go across to the two in front,” Stuyven said.

The four leaders rode together until the next climb when Mohorič’s fierce pace dropped Campenaerts from the equation, and then on the penultimate climb, shed Stuyven and Van Moer.

Jasper Stuyven

Jasper Stuyven winning this year's Milano-Sanremo. Sirotti photo

“The climbs were not a problem except the 1.7km one with the 15% gradient was too not ideal for my body weight.  That is what killed me, I think,” continued Stuyven.

“Mohorič was super strong and on the steep part he got a gap and I tried to limit the loss there, but I couldn’t close it afterward. Then on top of the last climb I cramped a bit, it is what it is, he was the strongest and I cannot change anything about it.”

A strong performance by Stuyven, who was in his element in the Classic-like parcours, but unfortunately ran up against an even more impressive Mohorič.

“Tired and disappointed,” answered Stuyen about his race, “but today there was one guy stronger. I left it all out there, I tried the best I could, and again I was close to a stage win in the Tour and that’s maybe the bigger disappointment than finishing second today.

“It’s one of the stages that I targeted before the Tour so I have to be happy that I was there, I was close, I fought for it.  It’s the best I could do.”

Here's the report from Mark Cavendish's Team Deceuninck-Quick Step:

Traveling from Vierzon to Le Creusot over 249.1 kilometers and featuring around 3000 vertical meters, stage 7 of the Tour de France was the longest scheduled by the race in the last 21 years and witnessed a fierce battle right from the start as it had breakaway written all over it. It took more than an hour for a group to establish at the front, and when it did, Deceuninck – Quick-Step had two delegates there: Kasper Asgreen and Mark Cavendish.

Mark Cavendish before the stag start

Mark Cavendish before the stage start

The Dane played lead-out man for Cavendish some 110 kilometers into the stage at the intermediate sprint in Saint-Benin-d’Azy, who easily racked up 20 points that helped him increase his margin in the green jersey classification, which has been led by a Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider since the opening day of the race.

With around 60 kilometers to go, on Côte de Glux-en-Glenne, the group began fragmenting as a result of the numerous accelerations coming from the riders who were hoping to seize the day. Kasper Asgreen showed his intentions with two probing attacks, but each time he was reeled in by the sizeable group. Eventually, it was on Côte de la Croix de la Libération that a couple of riders managed to zip clear, opening up what turned out to be a decisive gap, and from that move Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious) rode to a solo win in Le Creusot.

Behind, on Signal d’Uchon, the toughest climb tackled by the Tour de France so far at this edition, Kasper paced himself superbly and even moved to the front of the group as soon as the gradients ramped up to double-digits to apply pressure on his companions. Still having enough let in the tank, the Ronde van Vlaanderen champion attacked minutes later and joined a small group up the road inside ten kilometers to go, from where he finished fifth.

“The long stage and hot temperatures made for a really hard day out there. It was nice to be in the break with Mark and he was great, helping me with food, bottles and ice while also adding to his points tally. Then, when it came to crunch time, a group got away and we never again saw them. I tried to go several times, but the others were glued to my wheel, and it was only with a couple of kilometers left that I could finally get a gap. It was nice to be up there and in the mix, but I would have liked a bit more from this stage”, explained Kasper after the stage that took him up to third in the general classification.

All smiles at the finish, where he arrived a couple of minutes behind the small favourites group that contained World Champion Julian Alaphilippe, Mark Cavendish talked about his day at the front, at the end of which he took to the podium to collect the 29th green jersey of his career.

“It wasn’t planned to be there, but at one point I got this feeling that the elastic would snap, so I told Kasper ‘let’s go’ and we just rode full gas and made it into the break. Once the group formed, I had a look around and noticed there was no real competitor to the green jersey, so I just kept pushing and at the intermediate sprint picked up those 20 points. It’s nice that my buffer has increased, but I’m not thinking of winning it at the moment. We’ll continue to take it day by day and see what the weekend and the mountains bring.”

Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team posted this:

Just before the first stage in the Alps, Wout van Aert is the new number two in the general classification. Injured leader Primoz Roglic had a tough day and had to let go of the peloton on the steep hills.

The longest stage of this Tour, from Vierzon to Le Creusot, was full of attacks in the early stages. Team Jumbo-Visma, with Van Aert, Mike Teunissen and Tony Martin, got involved in the front and wanted to be in the breakaway of the day. A large group of 29 riders, including Van Aert and Teunissen, was able to separate themselves and get a maximum lead of around seven minutes.

In the hilly final the breakaway broke up several times. Mohoric proved to be the strongest of the large group and completed a solo effort. Van Aert crossed the line in eighth place, just behind the holder of the yellow jersey, Mathieu van der Poel.

Wout van Aert

Wout van Aert heads to the start of stage three. Sirotti photo

Van Aert found it logical that Van der Poel did not let him go. “My goal was to get in the breakaway of the day, go for the stage win and gain some time in the general classification. I was Mathieu’s biggest rival in the breakaway, so of course he wouldn’t let me get away. We worked well together in the final kilometres. I am now in a nice second place. First I have to recover and then I’ll see what’s in store for me tomorrow and whether I can still try to win yellow.”

The Belgian champion sympathised with his struggling leader. “Primoz gave a really good performance in the time trial. That was impressive. It is a pity to see him suffer so much, but a stage as today’s certainly does not help.”

Teammate Steven Kruijswijk said the leader was not to blame. “In the time trial he gave everything, but you see that he’s in pain. Then such a hard course as today is not really conducive. We hoped he would come through, but now you see that was not realistic. I didn’t have a super day either, but with Jonas Vingegaard I was still doing okay.”

Sports director Frans Maassen will review the situation tonight, with the team. “We had hoped beforehand that Primoz could survive, but in the end he had a very hard time. Tonight we will make plans for the upcoming mountain stages, but unfortunately for Primoz the GC seems to be over and done with. That’s painful, but realistic.”

And Patrick Konrad's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

Stage 7 of the Tour de France started out innocently enough, with flat roads easing riders into the huge 249.1km distance – the longest of the race – but after covering 150km, the terrain became distinctly choppy, with five categorised climbs spread out over the final 100km, as well as the first second category climb of the race.

Stage 7 profile

The day's race profile show the climbs all bunched into the final 100 kilometers.

With sprint points, climbing points and the stage win up for grabs, there was a flurry of activity at the start of the stage as riders tried desperately to get in the break, multiple moves going out only to be brought back. Finally, after nearly 50km of racing, a large group managed to escape and put some time between themselves and the peloton, no fewer than twenty-nine riders in this move, Patrick Konrad representing BORA-hansgrohe here. The advantage rose steadily before the peloton eased off the pace and the break capitalised on this, growing their lead from one minute to three and then more than five. As this group hit the first climbs, the less able started to fall off the back and the break began to splinter and, as the break exceeded six minutes, an attack from the front with 70km to go formed two distinct groups, the Austrian national champion in the second. Not happy with this arrangement, Patrick went on the attack with 35km to go, taking nine riders with him, before attacking again in an attempt to bridge across to the now solo rider on the front.

Ascending the second category Signal d’Uchon, which featured some incredibly painful gradients, he was joined by three others with less than 10km to go, with a second group bridging across soon after. The solo leader had maintained a strong lead over Patrick’s group and claimed the stage win, with the Austrian taking seventh after an impressive attacking performance today. 

From the Finish Line:
"We had a very fast start to the stage and a lot of riders wanted to get in the breakaway. I made it to the definite group that was formed but it was a very strong one, with many classic riders as well as the yellow jersey, so it was clear it would survive all the way to the finish. It was a long fight out there, with 29 riders and I tried to save energy all day for the last three climbs. I attacked twice there and in the penultimate climb, I went solo. I was joined by a group of riders in the last climb, so it became a sprint for third place. I gave everything but it wasn't one of my best sprints. I'm surprised the decisive attack from the breakaway happened so early, just four riders out of such a big group with still 90km to go. I think the problem in the big chase group was that there were three riders from Lotto-Soudal and three from Trek-Segafredo who destroyed the rhythm, so it was easier for their teammates in the front to maintain the gap as they only had to keep a steady pace. I tried to go full gas in the climbs but I was unable to bring the gap down." – Patrick Konrad

"As expected, it was a long and tough day. Our goal was to be present in a big breakaway group and it's good Patrick jumped in. We tried to win the stage and focused on the Category 2 climb. We wanted to invest our energies there, after saving them before. Two riders attacked very early, 70km from the finish, built a gap, and were then joined by two more. Patrick did a perfect race, put in a strong effort, and came close to the front group but not enough to go for the win. However, it was a very good performance by him and the whole team. Our GC riders were in a good position and the rest of the squad worked. It was a good day for us." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

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