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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, June 10, 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.

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. - Voltaire

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Tour of Switzerland stage four team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Stefan Bisseger's EF Education-Nippo team with the results.

Here's the report from second-place Benjamin Thomas' Team Groupama-FDJ:

Benjamin Thomas never came so close to a victory in the WorldTour as he did on Wednesday, in stage 4 of the Tour de Suisse. The former French time trial champion was able to enter the right breakaway, which established itself after 80k (!) and actually believed in his chances until the very end. However, at the Gstaad aerodrome, he had to settle for second behind Stefan Bissegger in the final sprint. This is still his podium at this level.

Stefan Bisseger

Stefan Bisseger wins the fourth stage. Sirotti photo

Before really entering the climbers’ terrain on Thursday, the Tour de Suisse offered quite an interesting fourth stage for many riders. With only one climb on the menu, the breakaway had every chance to make it today. As a result, a lot of competitors were keen to go up the road, which made for quite a lively first half of the stage. “For almost a hundred kilometres, it was MotoGP,” said Franck Pineau. “It went full gas”. With Jake Stewart, Stefan Küng or Benjamin Thomas, Groupama-FDJ also joined in the fight at the start of the race. “I told the guys yesterday that for half of the bunch, the Tour de Suisse was ending tonight,” added Franck. “So this was the stage where we absolutely needed to take the break and everyone could take part in the fight. This is what they did. The guys were involved. Benjamin, in particular, really had this stage in mind. He told me he would do anything to be there, and he did it”.

The decisive move was created after 80 kilometres of racing but really went away fifteen kilometres later. “There were three of us at first, then Bissegger came back alone,” Benjamin recounted. “We then rode hard to try to make a gap on the bunch. We mostly had tailwind today, so we could go fast and not get stuck. We joined forces to win against the bunch. In the back, teammates needed a break, we took advantage of it, and then they did not manage to organize themselves well enough. The start of the race also helped in our success”.

With about thirty kilometres to go, the bunch surrendered and the leading quartet thus won the power struggle that had started an hour earlier. “There were only strong guys up front,” said Franck Pineau. “Bissegger is not just anyone, Rosskopf and Suter are riding hard on the flat. You had to deserve your spot in the break today”. From then on, all eyes turned to the final and particularly to the only climb of the day: the Saanenmöser Pass (7.5 km at 4.4%), which started 18 kilometers from the line. “The goal was to drop a guy or two on the climb,” Franck continued. “There was a little acceleration and Suter was out. The other three, on the other hand, had more or less the same level”. “In the last climb, no one could make a gap, probably because we were a bit cooked from the day,” said Benjamin. “I knew Bissegger was the one to look at. I tried to surprise him on the climb but he looked easy.”

The former French time trial champion did get a few meters lead, but the trio eventually started the final downhill together. “Benjamin tried to attack at the top, but given Bissegger’s downhill skills, we would have needed 20 seconds starting the descent,” added Franck. “I suffered on the downhill, I’m not very comfortable in the rain,” continued Benjamin. “Bissegger was taking the corners really fast and he attacked us almost after every turn. I bridged across 2-3 times. I might have missed this energy at the end, but I was honestly more focused on staying on my bike and not making mistakes than anything else on that downhill.”

At the end of this tricky part, Stefan Bissegger, Joey Rosskopf and Benjamin Thomas were however still together. The American rider tried to attack in the last three kilometres but it proved unsuccessful. It then came down to a three-man sprint. Positioned as last, in the wake of the Swiss rider, the Frenchman tried to use his speed to get the win but could not get the best of the local rider. “He had a better kick than I did,” said Benjamin, second on the line. “I gave it all in the last 200 meters but it wasn’t enough, he was a little more powerful than me”. “Bissegger was stronger, that’s all,” said Franck. “You can always redo history with ifs, but I still think Bissegger was hard to beat today”.

Within the Groupama-FDJ team, there was actually no remorse on Wednesday evening. “Second place is always frustrating for sure, but I’m still happy with my day,” said Benjamin. “My goal was to go on the break, fight for the win and win the stage. The contract was pretty much fulfilled, but I have no regrets, I don’t think I made any mistakes in the final. Bissegger was the strongest and he didn’t make any mistakes either, so he won.” “I really believed in our chances, so I’m obviously a bit disappointed,” Franck concluded. “That being said, I will remember the guys’ motivation. To be in the right break today, you needed to show a strong mindset and not give up. Also, it’s still a fine second place in the WorldTour. We are there, we keep fighting and I want us to keep this momentum going”.

GC fourth-place Max Schachmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

After the start in St. Urban, the peloton headed towards the western part of Switzerland, where the riders crossed the finish line in Gstaad following 171 km in the saddle and the climb up to the Saanenmöser. After 40 km of racing, a small breakaway group including Marcus Burghardt managed to break free, yet their attempt was thwarted 30 km later by the Alpecin Fenix-led peloton. Several breakaway attempts followed until eventually a quartet succeeded in getting clear with 85 km remaining, extending their lead during the day to over 7 minutes.

None of the teams were willing to commit to the chase in earnest and as a result the advantage of the lead remained stable. In the end, Stefan Bissegger was able to take the sprint victory from his breakaway companions, while a reduced field containing Maximilian Schachmann, Toni Palzer, Matteo Fabbro and Marcus Burghardt, arrived more than 5 minutes in arrears of the day’s winner. Max retains his fourth position in the GC, six seconds behind the current leader, Mathieu van der Poel.

From the Finish Line:
"Today we wanted to finish safely and of course not lose any time in the GC. The team also tried to put someone in the break and potentially race for the win, but it didn't work out in the end. I actually felt pretty good and even though it rained at times towards the end, we all finished well." - Maximilian Schachmann

"Today saw a bit of a crazy race. We wanted to possibly win the stage via a breakaway and also tried to achieve that several times. Marcus was able to get into a leading group, but unfortunately Alpecin-Fenix didn't let them go far and only allowed a one-minute gap. After that, there was another attack from the peloton and the escapees were caught again. Another group then tried to get away, the field let them go and they were ultimately able to secure the day's victory. For us it was rather unfortunate, but sometimes bike racing is unpredictable like that." - Steffen Radochla, Sports Director

Here's the report from sixth-place Sebastian Molano's UAE-Team Emirates:

The 4th stage of the Tour de Suisse proposed a spectacular arrival on a runway at the Saanen airport in Gstaad: under heavy rain, the Swiss Stefan Bissegger (Ef-Nippo) dominated in a three-man sprint over Benjamin Thomas (Groupama- FDJ) and Joey Rosskopf (Rally Cycling).

The main group, which split on the climb of Saanenmoser Pass (7.5 km at 4.4,% with brow at 9.5 km from the finish) reached the finish 5'16" behind the winner; Juan Sebastian Molano put in a solid sprint to take 6th on the line.

Mathieu Van Der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) remains at the top of the general classification, with Marc Hirschi in 14th place (+52")

Mathieu van de Poel

Mathieu van der Poel remains the GC leader. Sirotti photo

The riders will go tomorrow from Gstaad to Leukerbad, 175.2 km with an uphill finish (4.1 km at 7%).

Molano: “Today was certainly a complicated race. The team did a good job with De la Cruz and Troia helping me navigate me down the descent which could have been dangerous given the rain. In the final, Gibbons led out the sprint in the best possible way and I gave everything I had. ”

Baloise Belgium Tour stage one team reports

We posted the report from GC leader Remco Evenepoel's Deceuninck-Quick Step team with the results

Here's the report from Team DSM:

The first day of racing at the Baloise Belgium Tour saw the bunch faced with a tricky stage and a testing Flemish finale. After a flurry of early moves, an eight rider breakaway managed to escape quickly into the day, building up an advantage which peaked at almost four minutes.

As the short and sharp climbs increased in intensity, the bunch upped the tempo and slowly started to bring back those out front, reducing the gap to only one minute with 35 kilometres to go. The pace stayed high in the peloton as riders had to let go of the wheels on the numerous climbs littered around the course. Casper Pedersen reacted well to a dangerous early move for the team before the eventual stage winning attack was made, with a duo bridging across to the remainder of the breakaway.

Chris Hamilton impressed once again, showing his good legs after the Giro, attacking several times in the finale to try and force a counter attack clear. Yet, another group couldn’t escape and those ahead would fight for the win, with Hamilton the team’s first rider home on the stage, finishing in the very reduced chasing peloton.

Robbe Ghys

Robbe Ghys wins the first stage.

“I didn’t really have any expectations for myself coming from the Giro last week and wasn’t sure how I would go,” explained Hamilton after the stage. “Coming towards the end of the stage I was feeling okay so I tried a few attacks but couldn’t get away and just came in with what was left of the bunch in the final.”

Team DSM coach Luke Roberts added: “Today’s first stage at the Baloise Belgium Tour was quite a tough one. The final local lap that we covered three times was quite brutal with small roads and steep climbs on it. The peloton completely exploded on these laps as you would expect, with Chris putting in a good ride, staying in the first part of the peloton that came in just behind the three leaders. We got no top result today but it was good to see Chris bringing some good legs out of the Giro. He’s got another day suited to him on Saturday so hopefully he can use those legs for another good performance then. The rest of the guys will now have a focus on the TT and hopefully the sprint stages still to come.”

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