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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, July 28, 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.

Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example. - Mark Twain


Current racing:

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Swiss sweep women's Olympic mountain bike race

Here's the report from the UCI:

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 women's mountain bike race saw a historic 1, 2, 3 for the Swiss team, with Jolanda Neff claiming her country’s first women’s Olympic mountain bike gold medal and leading the way for a historic podium clean sweep.

It was victory for Neff in 1:15:26 on a testing new course at Izu City. Over the 5-lap race she beat Sina Frei by 1:11 with Linda Indergand collecting the bronze medal a further 8’ behind.

Yolanda Neff

Jolanda Neff takes the Gold Medal. On Twitter she said, "Please tell me this is real". It is.

In 28 degrees heat with high humidity, the race started with 38 riders on time at 15:00 local time at Izu Mountain Bike Park, 150km south-east of Tokyo. The course had received rain earlier in the day, bringing new challenges for traction, and a different character to that the men raced on the previous day.

On the 1.3km start loop there were good getaways for many of the fancied competitors including Sina Frei, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA), Jolanda Neff, Laura Stigger (AUT), Loana Lecomte (FRA) and Linda Indergand.

Rebecca McConnell (AUS) and Kate Courtney (USA) were amongst those with slower starts and were hampered by the bottlenecks at the two-lane Amagi Pass, before the American pushed towards the top 10 at the start of the first full lap and the Australian slipped back. Great Britain’s Evie Richards got off well, vying with Kata Blanka Vas of Hungary, the youngest rider in the race aged 19, who blasted forward from her back-row start and was one of many riders taking an early small slip as they got to grips with what the surface offered.

Big names battle early
Neff and Ferrand-Prévot pushed ahead on the first of five 3.85km laps before the French UCI World Champion slipped into the ropes while chasing for the short line up a rock garden and dropped back as she remounted.

The 2017 UCI World Champion Neff broke away solo and it was Richards – perhaps inspired by fellow British Tom Pidcock’s ride to victory the previous day – who emerged to initially lead the chase.

By the end of lap 1, Neff – who recovered from breaking her hand at the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at Leogang in June – led by 19 seconds from the 24-year-old Briton with Lecomte and Frei together at 23’ and Indergand making it three Swiss riders in the top five as they sped down the tarmac start/finish straight.

On the second lap the Swiss took the first three positions, with 28-year-old Neff’s advantage steadily growing out to more than 40 seconds. Ferrand-Prévot was powering herself back into contention in second position, moving away from former double Under 23 UCI World Champion Frei. It was not such good fortune for her compatriot Lecomte, the winner of all four UCI World Cup rounds so far in 2021, who had a mechanical, dropping her chain and dropping positions. Richards was drifting back towards the Dutch duo of Anne Terpstra and Anne Tauber working as a unit.

Formation of a Swiss 1-2-3
By mid-distance Neff, who won the test event on the 4,100m Izu mountain bike course in October 2019, was maintaining a metronomic pace and stretched her advantage to just over 1 minute, finding the grassy edges of the course for every bit of traction and degree of efficiency. As Stigger and Japan’s Miho Imai withdrew, by the end of lap 3 the Swiss 1-2-3 had formed, with Frei (2nd in the 2019 test event) in silver medal position.

Richards, Lecomte, Tauber, Terpstra and Ferrand-Prévot had formed a talent-packed chase group almost 2 minutes back, before the French multi-discipline former UCI World Champion (for road, mountain bike cross-country, mountain bike marathon, cyclo-cross) suffered and pushed to hold on to a top-10 spot.

As the bell sounded at the end of lap 4 the two Swiss riders continued to work together, 1:27 behind their national champion to ensure that they could maintain all the podium positions. Lecomte headed Terpstra at 2’15”, with the Hungarian Vas holding an impressive 6th and looking strong after her 33rd-place start. The attrition continued to take its toll, with the adrenaline helping the riders through the final strength-sapping 3.85km. Neff’s victory never looked in doubt, and the podium sweep was confirmed.

Vas finished an amazing 4th , with Terpstra 5th, Lecomte 6th and Ferrand-Prévot 10th. The 2016 Olympic Champion Jenny Rissveds (SWE) came in 14th just ahead of 2018 UCI World Champion Kate Courtney and Catharine Pendrel (CAN), bronze medalist in Rio 2016, finishing her fourth Olympics in 18th place.

But the day belonged to the Swiss riders, with Neff proving the best, by some distance, in Japan. She went into this race with 74 wins, but the 75th will surely taste the sweetest.

Team DSM's upcoming racing

The team sent me this schedule:

Tour de Belle Isle en Terre - Kreiz Breizh Elites Dames: JUL 29-30

Albert Timmer - Team DSM coach
"We head to France for Kreizh Breizh Elites Dames, a race which has a parcours that looks to tempt attacks and make for exciting action. We bring a well balanced squad to the race, where we aim to be active at the front and be part of any dangerous moves, utilising our team strength and guided by the experienced Julia. If the stages do come down to sprints, then we will work to set up Susanne for those fast finales."

Line-up
Susanne Andersen (NOR)
Pfeiffer Georgi (GBR)
Franziska Koch (GER)
Floortje Mackaij (NED)
Esmée Peperkamp (NED)
Julia Soek (NED)

Tour de l'Ain: JUL 29-31

Wilbert Broekhuizen - Team DSM coach
"Tour de l'Ain is an exciting race with a mixed parcours; featuring a flatter opening day before two stages in the hills and mountains. We arrive at the race with a young climber group, where we will aim to ride aggressively over the three days, looking for the best possible strategy to go for day results. It's a good opportunity for the guys to gain more experience, and a race where we can work together to try and achieve those results. We are also happy to see Florian make his return to racing for us after his injury earlier in the year."

Michael Storer

Michael Storer is planning on being at the start of the Tour de l'Ain. Sirotti photo

Line-up
Marco Brenner (GER)
Felix Gall (AUT)
Gianmarco Garofoli (ITA)
Michael Storer (AUS)
Florian Stork (GER)
Henri Vandenabeele (BEL)

Kreiz Breizh Elites: JUL 30 - AUG 02

Bennie Lambregts - Team DSM coach
"Kreizh Breizh is a beautiful and tough stage race in Brittany. Starting with a team time trial, the next three stages all take place on hilly routes which should make for exciting action. We want to race aggressively, because the type of terrain suits that and it's a race where we normally see a lot of attacks. If things do stay together then we will work to set up Marius for any reduced bunch sprints. There's confidence in the team after our recent results so with good communication and collaboration, we hope to continue that here with some attractive racing."

Line-up
Tobias Lund Andresen (DEN)
Marius Mayrhofer (GER)
Tim Naberman (NED)
Oscar Onley (GBR)
Pepijn Reinderink (NED)
Vegard Stokke (NOR)

Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa: JUL 31

Michiel Elijzen - Team DSM coach
"San Sebastian is a hard one day race with a tough parcours, where the level of competition is normally really high with riders coming from the Tour de France. For a lot of our team, it will be their first race back after a period of training or rest, so our goal is to be present in the race on all fronts, by anticipating the action and getting as many riders as possible into the final. We have a strong group here who are ready to fight for it, and we will give it our best on the tough terrain."

Line-up
Romain Combaud (FRA)
Chad Haga (USA)
Chris Hamilton (AUS)
Jai Hindley (AUS)
Nicholas Roche (IRL)
Kevin Vermaerke (USA)
Ilan Van Wilder (BEL)

Vuelta a Burgos: AUG 03-07

Matt Winston - Team DSM coach
"Stage racing continues for us at the tough Vuelta a Burgos which has a mixed bag of terrain, including a flatter stage, some punchy days in the hills and a tricky mountain top finish. We go to the race with a strong team that’s looking forward to some good racing, where we will look to be active and attentive every day during the race, and go for our sprint opportunities with Alberto when they arise."

Line-up
Thymen Arensman (NED)
Romain Bardet (FRA)
Alberto Dainese (ITA)
Nico Denz (GER)
Chad Haga (USA)
Jai Hindley (AUS)
Martijn Tusveld (NED)

Deceuninck-Quick Step to Clasica San Sebastian

Here's the team's update:

Julian Alaphilippe will make this weekend his first appearance since concluding another successful Tour de France, with a stage win and a spell in the yellow jersey in the bag. The World Champion – who so far this season has racked up three victories, all in the World Tour – is set to pin on a number for Clasica San Sebastian, a race he won from a two-man sprint in 2018.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe beats Bauke Mollema to win the 2018 edition of San Sebastian.

The Frenchman will be supported Saturday afternoon by a very strong Deceuninck – Quick-Step squad, comprising the best placed Italian rider in the general classification of Le Tour, Mattia Cattaneo, Dries Devenyns, Vuelta al Pais Vasco stage winner Mikkel Honoré, James Knox, Pieter Serry and Zdenek Stybar.

The 223.5km one-day race will take in seven climbs, with the last of these being expected to play again a major role in the outcome. Murgil-Tontorra averages a leg-sapping 10.1% over just 2100 meters, and tops out only eight kilometers from the finish line on the famous Boulevard, acting as a springboard for those tempted to roll the dice there and on the technical descent that follows instead of betting everything on the sprint.

“San Sebastian is always a hard race, everybody knows that. You’ve got a lot of climbing and an extremely tough ascent inside the last ten kilometers, which since it has been added to the course, it’s been decisive almost every single time. But we have a solid team, built around a former winner of the race, and we go there with the confidence that we can get a good result at the end of the day”, said Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Wilfried Peeters.

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