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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, July 9, 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.

There are three classes of men; lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor, and lovers of gain. - Plato


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Tour de France stage twelve reports

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

Here's the report from stage winner Nils Politt's Bora-hansgrohe team:

After the exertions of climbing Mont Ventoux twice yesterday, riders would be grateful for the flatter terrain of stage 12. The parcours covered only one third category climb in the middle of the day, but the peloton would have in the backs of their minds the thought that at the end of the day, the hard climbs of the Pyrenees would be 159.4km closer.

While the stage was predicted to finish in a sprint, one rider who wouldn’t be contesting the win was Peter Sagan, whose knee injury had worsened over the past few days and did not start the stage today.

In a fast and furious start, Nils Politt jumped in the break, one of thirteen riders that quickly built a lead of two minutes and, from this point, their advantage grew and grew, hitting six minutes after a little more than 20km of racing, and then more than eight minutes after 40km. The flat roads gave Nils’ group a chance to extend this to eleven minutes, before the German went on the attack with 50km to go, a move that shrank the leaders’ group to four, and multiple attacks and counter-attacks put some distance between this group and the nine chasers.

Further attacks brought the number in this group to three, but not happy with this, Nils went off the front with 11km left to go solo, maintaining a slim lead over his rivals for the win. Gritting his teeth in sheer determination, there were just twenty seconds between him and the chasers, but this grew to thirty as the number of kilometres remaining dropped. The grimace turned into a grin as he passed under the Flamme Rouge, barely believing what he was about to do. In a career-best performance, Nils held his hands high as he crossed the line to take his first Tour de France stage win and the first stage win for BORA-hansgrohe at the 2021 edition of the race.

Nils Politt

Nils Politt wins stage twelve. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"It's unbelievable, it's a dream to win a stage in the tour de France. Before the start it was decided that Peter would leave the race because of his knee problems, so that changed our tactics a bit. Right after the start, we had crosswinds and quite a big break group was formed. I was already feeling better in the last few days, so I gave it my all today and it's unbelievable it ended with a stage victory in the Tour de France.

"There were quite a few sprinters and fast guys in our group, so I knew I had to make the race hard and attack quite early. I launched the first attack and we ended up with four riders in the front, the sports director told me it was my last chance before the finish, I had to give it a try and give everything. I did it again, I attacked and I was seeing my gap growing to 20, then 30 seconds, and coming to the finish solo was unbelievable. Crossing the line I thought that all the effort, everything I have done, had paid off. Cycling is my passion and I'm so often away from home, from my family with all the races and training camps, so winning a stage in the Tour de France is the biggest victory you can have." – Nils Politt

"It was a roller-coaster day. After the morning shock when Peter had to abandon, we finished off with a brilliant performance and stage victory by Nils. Weather conditions were quite difficult, there were strong winds, so we knew we had to support and protect Wilco as much as possible while going full-on from the start. We wanted to try to possibly drop some of the big GC contenders or at least put them in trouble. The whole squad was there from the start, and there were splits in the bunch. Nils jumped in the break and then the race became a bit easier, with 13 strong riders in the front. We knew it wouldn't be possible for him to win in the sprint, so we were prepared to attack early. Nils executed that perfectly, he attacked 3-4 times and in the finale he soloed to victory. It was a nice win for him and the whole team." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

Here's the report from third-place Harry Sweeny's Lotto Soudal team:

Lotto Soudal rider Harry Sweeny finished third in stage twelve of the Tour de France. In a 160-kilometre stage between Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux and Nîmes, an early breakaway fought for victory. After its leader Caleb Ewan crashed out of the Tour, Lotto Soudal went – as so often in this Tour - on the offensive and had two riders in the breakaway: Harry Sweeny and Brent Van Moer. After a tactical game, it was Sweeny who – together with three other riders – reached out his hand to the stage victory. The neo-pro had to settle for third in the end as Politt soloed to victory in Nîmes. Brent Van Moer finished 8th.

Erviti and Sweeny

Harry Sweeny leads out Imanol Erviti with 200 meters to go. Erviti was second and Sweeny third. Sirotti photo

“To be honest, it felt a bit surreal to fight for the stage victory today. I didn’t expect to be at the Tour this year, let alone to be performing at this level”, explains Harry Sweeny. “I knew I was capable of doing this but tactically, it’s another thing. Maybe I made a few mistakes in the final, but I can’t be disappointed with this result. It really was a tactical game at the end and maybe I showed my strength a little bit too much. Politt saw that and took a little advantage of that. However, I have only been pro for six months, so I have to be satisfied with third place.”

“I was hoping that the final climb would be a little harder. I attacked there and hoped it would be a little too hard for the others but they made it back and that is where I lost my legs a little bit. I knew I wouldn’t have a good enough sprint to beat those guys so I had to try something. I’ve done everything to try and win the stage, so I can be happy. We’re quite deep into the Tour and I’m still feeling ok, which is a positive sign.”

Behind the four-rider move, it was Brent Van Moer who played the team tactics perfectly. The 23-year-old Lotto Soudal rider eventually finished 8th.

“We were the only team with two riders in the front group so we could play it tactically. And that is what we did because when Harry attacked in the final, I did my work and tried to slow things down in the chasing group. I am happy for Harry but when you’re with two in the breakaway, you want to win of course. Everybody knew the start would be hectic and that is why we had to be attentive from the gun. Soon, it was pretty clear this wouldn’t be a sprint stage and the early break was formed quite early. It has been a nice Tour for me so far, but Paris is still a long way and the team has brought me here to attack, which has turned out quite well. But we keep trying the coming days”, concludes Brent Van Moer.

Here's the report from fourth-place Stefan Küng's Groupama-FDJ team:

In the aftermath of a painful day, Groupama-FDJ got back on track this Thursday in stage 12 of the Tour de France. Through its Swiss rider Stefan Küng, the team was represented in the right breakaway that established itself in the echelons at the start. The European time trial champion was even one of the main protagonists of the final before taking fourth place at the finish. Anyway, a new momentum has started.

Stefan K

Stefan Küng finishes fourth. Sirotti photo

Less than twenty-four hours after a hard stage on the slopes of the Mont Ventoux, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team had only four riders at the start of Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux on Thursday, but four combative riders. “Yesterday’s race scenario has changed our plans, but we are starting today with just as much motivation,” claimed Valentin Madouas. “All the stages will be one day races, we all have ambitions and we all want a stage win”.

It then all started again with a slightly hilly 12th stage towards Nîmes, which especially featured some crosswinds at the start. “At the briefing, we told the guys there was a high probability that the break would make it to the end,” said Yvon Madiot. “It was very nervous with the wind at the start but Stefan stayed in a really good position, and the riders who ended up in front were those who were in the first echelon. It came down to legs and courage”. The peloton was indeed still split apart when a group of thirteen strong men formed after fifteen kilometres of racing. Up there, Stefan Küng found himself with riders he is used to seeing in the Spring Classics. The peloton quickly gave up and the fugitives knew after just a few minutes that the day’s victory would go to one of them.

At first, the European time trial champion did not spare his efforts to create the decisive gap. When things got serious at the head of the race with fifty kilometres to go, he tried to use his energy the right way and managed to enter the right move of four riders.

With forty kilometres to go, he escaped with Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Nils Politt (Bora-hansgrohe) and Harry Sweeny (Lotto-Soudal). They all worked well together, and made a significant gap on the rest of the breakaway, but Stefan Küng saw his chances evaporating in the last climb, 15 kilometres from the line. “After only thirty kilometers today, I felt like I was a bit empty,” Stefan confessed. “I thought that everyone felt the same, but in the end I did not have anything left in my legs. I was at the limit. I just didn’t have enough energy today to be able to play for the win. I held on, gave it my all and really tried everything. I fed myself very well during the stage, but if you don’t have energy from the very start, that is not a good sign. I started to have cramps and my body was just exhausted. I couldn’t do more. We do have limits and my body reminded me of that”.

Unable to keep up with his three breakaway companions, Stefan Küng nevertheless managed to stay away from the chasing group to grab fourth place on the line, while Nils Politt took the win. “He managed his effort as well as he could, but he just did not have enough energy in the last ten kilometres,” said Yvon. “He worked a lot for the team every day since the start, and he paid a bit for that today. It’s a bit of a pity because it was a great opportunity, but he had a great race and there is nothing to blame him for. Fatigue eventually got the better of him. This fourth place is still encouraging”.

“I would have liked to win today,” Stefan added. “Unfortunately, I hadn’t recovered enough from the last few days. Let us not forget that we are on day 12 of a special and hard Tour, unlike any I have ever experienced. I knew it could be a good day for the break, so I went for it, but deep down I was empty”. No matter what, he clearly showed the way for the nine upcoming stages. “I won’t stop fighting to get that stage win,” Stefan concluded. “We lost our hopes for the general classification, but the Tour is not over yet. For me there is of course the time trial on the penultimate day. We’ll try again, but I think I will need a few days to recover first”.

And here's the report from Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

On paper, stage 12 of the Tour de France between Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux and Nîmes was an ideal one for the sprinters, but with an entire peloton coming after the gruelling day that featured two ascents of the infamous Mont Ventoux and with strong crosswinds in the first ten kilometers, it quickly became a stage for the breakaway. It took just a couple of minutes for one to form and put almost ten minutes between them and the bunch in the blink of an eye, Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe being one of the main animators.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe with his fans before the start of stage 12. Sirotti photo

The escapees worked well together and extended their gap to an astonishing 15 minutes inside 50 kilometers to go, when they began throwing caution to wind and attacking each other. The World Champion was there to react, keeping things together and even putting in a dig on a rolling section. More attacks followed and eventually four riders managed to extricate themselves from the group and pad out their lead to one minute by the time they passed through the intermediate sprint.

The winner came after another attack, this time just a couple of kilometers from the finish, Nils Politt (Bora-hansgrohe) being the one who claimed the victory. Alaphilippe rolled over the finish part of a small group and took ninth for his fourth top 10 at this year’s edition. Mark Cavendish enjoyed a quiet day in the bunch and continues at the top of the points classification, which he will lead for the ninth consecutive stage this year.

“The break was good for us. We had Julian there, who is such a world class rider, and no contenders for the green jersey, so it was a nice scenario for us on a day with some heavy roads and big speed right from the start. It’s another stage ticked off at the race and we will continue to take it day by day and stay focused”, said Mark Cavendish.

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