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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, July 25, 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.

In nine lifetimes, you'll never know as much about your cat as your cat knows about you. - Michel de Montaigne


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Men's Olympic road race team reports

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

Gold medalist Ricard Carapaz's Team INEOS Grenadiers posted this report:

Richard Carapaz stormed to gold with a tremendous solo attack in the men’s road race to make Olympic Games history for Ecuador.

Richard Carapaz

Richard Carapaz wins the Men's Olympic road race. Sirotti photo

The 28-year-old’s expertly-timed move in the closing stages of the race saw him go clear of breakaway companion Brandon McNulty (USA), before holding off the advances of an elite chase group.

Carapaz's victory marks Ecuador’s first-ever Olympic medal in cycling and only the third medal from any sport in the country’s history. Wout van Aert (Belgium) and Tadej Pogacar (Slovenia) rounded out the podium at the Fuji International Speedway. 

Carapaz had initially escaped alongside McNulty (USA) with 26 kilometres remaining of the brutal 234km course, made more difficult by searing heat and humidity.

The pair worked well together to establish a lead that topped out at around 40 seconds and forced those behind to work to bring them back. Behind, Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) and Adam Yates (Great Britain) were part of an elite chase group that formed on the Mikuni pass that tried, but were initially unable to reel in the pair. 

But as the pursuit became more organised, the gap started to drop, leading Carapaz to attack McNulty around five kilometres from the finish, racing to the line solo to make Ecuadorian history.

Adam Yates finished ninth for Team GB and Kwiatkowski (Poland) was 11th as the chase group sprinted for the remaining medals on the line.

Richard Carapaz:
"I went to the Tour with the podium on my mind. I made it and I came here with the feeling that I could achieve something special. I won a gold medal and even when I crossed the line I couldn’t believe it. I think it’s the happiest moment of my life."

“I think McNulty was a great companion in the breakaway, because he’s very, very good on even terrain. We were able to maintain that advantage that we had, 20 or 30 seconds that separated us from the rest. And then of course, coming here down to the circuit, I simply continued on that level and that’s how I won.”

“To my country, the truth is you have to believe, no? I have worked so hard to get here. I’m here, I’m enjoying — it’s something so big for me. And simply 'thank you' for the support which truthfully really helped me get here.”

Here's the report from second-place Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team:

Wout van Aert has added a silver Olympic medal to his impressive record of achievements. The Belgian of Team Jumbo-Visma won the sprint for second place from Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar at the Fuji International Speedway. The gold went to the Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz.

Wout van Aert

Wout van Aert crosses the line second. Sirotti photo

The race became a real exhausting one due to the gruelling heat. After an early breakaway was caught at the Mikuni Pass, Pogačar broke open the race. Van Aert kept riding his own pace and managed to join the front just before the top. Van Aert tried to force something several times, but it was not enough to compete for the highest podium place.

Van Aert had mixed feelings after the race. “I had the legs to win, but I knew it was going to be difficult after the Mikuni pass. I tried to force things several times, but it was to no avail. Others were looking at Pogačar and me too much to work together. Carapaz was very strong. McNulty came back, but he stayed ahead.”

“On the Mikuni pass I deliberately chose to ride my own pace”, continued Van Aert. “I knew I shouldn’t push myself too much. It was possible that I would not return to the front as a result, but otherwise it probably wouldn’t have been for the medals either. Fortunately, I was able to rejoin. Together with the Belgians we executed the tactics well. And I’m happy that I was able to reward their work with the silver medal.”

On Wednesday, Van Aert will also ride the time trial.

Bronze medalist Tadej Pogačar's UAE Team Emirates posted this short report:

Tadej Pogačar added to his recent Tour de France success with a bronze medal in the Men’s Road Race in Japan today.

Competing for the Slovenian national team, Pogačar went head-to-head with Wout Van Aert (Belgium) to fight it out for the final medals after Richard Carapaz (Ecuador) took a solo victory on the 234km course.

Tedej Pogacar

Tadej Pogačar finished third. Sirotti photo

Carapaz attacked with Brandon McNulty inside 30km to go, and the duo stayed together until 6km to go, before the Ecuadorian jumped clear after a long day of battle which included 4543m of elevation.

McNulty will be in action again on Wednesday, where he will be UAE Team Emirates’ sole participant in the Men’s 44.2km time trial.

Team reports on the Tour de Wallonie's fifth stage

We posted the stage five report from winner Fabio Jakobsen's Deceuninck-Quick Step team with the results.

Here's the report from second-place Rudi Selig's Bora-hansgrohe team:

After the start in Dinant, the peloton traversed 183.4 km on the way to Quaregnon. The first 140 km were undulating before the peloton took on a cobbled ascent twice towards the end of the race. A group of five riders tried their luck in the break early on and were able to extend their gap to a maximum of 7 minutes.

Ultimately, however, their efforts did not pay off, and with 13 km to go, it was all over for them. In the final phase, BORA - hansgrohe moved up in the field to be at the front in preparation for the finale. The last attacks were countered by the field, with the stage ending as expected in a bunch sprint. Fabio Jakobsen took the stage win, with Rudi Selig sprinting to a strong second place.

Fabio Jakobsen

Fabio Jakobsen takes the final stage.

From the Finish Line
"I think that was all we could get out of today because Jakobsen was just too strong. He also had three riders to help him in the finale. Apart from that, Matteo, Cece and Schwarzi protected me well the whole day. In the finale, Schwarzi unfortunately had a flat tire, but the work he did on the stage was really strong, and without him my podium place would not have been possible. All in all, we put in a good team performance, and with only four riders we can be happy that we pulled off such a result in the end. Here at the race, I’ve found that I was getting better and better every day. After four weeks off racing, it was slightly difficult the first few days, but after that I got into the swing of things and I'm looking forward to seeing what’s in store in the future." - Rudi Selig

"Our goal was to go on the offensive again in the finale, especially because we saw that the time gap to the leading group had grown to 7.5 minutes. We thought that it would be difficult to control the final, with few teams being able to do so. Matteo Fabbro in particular had the task of riding offensively in the final, but then the GC teams managed to close the gap. When we approached the lap in the end, we decided to ride fully in support of Rudi and support him in the bunch sprint. I have to say that it worked quite well with second place, especially when one considers that Rudi had no lead-out riders, and Matteo had to counter the last attacks. Rudi made it to second place without a real lead-out, a strong achievement. And chapeau to Matteo who was able to do the work of a Classics rider in the finale of a stage that had the quality of a Classic. Cece also worked very well today. In this respect, second place is a conciliatory finish for us, and certainly a reason to be happy. Hopefully Rudi can build on this good performance over the coming weeks." - Christian Pömer, Sports Director

Overall winner Quinn Simmons' Trek-Segafredo team posted this final report:

When you have a team dedicated to you, there is nothing to do but ride in their slipstream and enjoy the ride.

Quinn Simmons had little to do for most of Stage 5 as his strong teammates controlled the race over the 192-kilometers. Only when the peloton caught the breakaway, and the attacks began in the finale did Simmons have to use energy, and he had plenty left to make sure no threats went up the road.

A reduced bunch of around 60 riders contested the finish with the fast men again enjoying a second straight sprint day while Simmons cruised safely across the line in 20th position to lock in the orange jersey and his first multi-day race victory.

“We saw again what the boys did! It was 200 kilometers of pulling into crosswinds and then with this crazy last circuit – to win is amazing!” exclaimed Simmons. “Protecting the jersey was hard for the boys in the last days. I only have 20k to ride in the finale; to go full-gas. Really, when they do that job, it’s not too much work for me personally. It was a victory won by the team as a whole.”

Simmons grabbed the race lead with victory in the most challenging stage of the five-day race and successfully defended a slim lead in the final two stages, thanks to a concerted effort from his six teammates.

Quinn Simmons wins stage 3

Quinn Simmons wins stage three.

“Racing for the GC is not actually my favorite thing as you have to be a little more conservative and sit more at the front of the bunch and think things through more. Today was a day where I would really like to be attacking in the final circuit to try and win the stage. But it’s a nice new experience, and maybe more one-week races in the future will be a nice mix in my Classics program.”

After getting through a more complicated than expected Stage 4, Trek-Segafredo was able to maintain control in Stage 5. They permitted a small breakaway to escape up the road, even granting them a hefty margin of seven minutes’ lead before finally bringing the gap down to a manageable two minutes in the final 30 kilometers.

With two of the riders at only 35 seconds in the classification, the leading group needed to be contained, but there was no panic in the Trek-Segafredo camp. As they drew nearer to the end, other teams eyeing a stage win helped up the pace, and the breakaway tagged back at 15 kilometers to go.

Perhaps a touch sooner than optimal, but Simmons had the legs to finish off the team’s hard work over the last steep cobbled climb and ensuing final kilometers.

“I am really happy it was a hard week, especially a stage race in Belgium where many things can go wrong and three months without racing,” admitted Simmons. “We all rose to a new level, and we got it done – I don’t think anyone expected us to win the GC here.”

“For me, this is crazy and not quite what I expected,” he continued. “I have not raced since Flanders this year. I had two goals outlined – maybe three actually – for this year: a result in Strade Bianche, and then make the selection for the Tour, but I crashed just before Strade, and then a crash just before the Tour took me out of that. So, to have three months at home, the motivation was quite high to come here and finally get something to go right.”

Trek-Segafredo won the teams classification and Quinn Simmons, 20, also won the best young rider of the race. Two bonus awards for all the work put in over the last five days.

“My goal was maybe a stage, but I would have been happy with some good race miles for the Vuelta, so I am really happy, and a good morale boost for us going into the next races,” said Simmons.

“The time I went without winning was super stressful, but it’s back, and I feel more like my old self as a racer now; the confidence is back,” he added. “Now we see what happens for the rest of the year. Maybe I can try and do a stage in the Vuelta, and then the Worlds.”

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