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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, June 17, 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.

If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner. - Tallulah Bankhead

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Egan Bernal meets with Pope Francis, and gifts a custom painted Pinarello Dogma F12 bike

Bernal’s INEOS Grenadiers team sent me this:

At 8am on Wednesday 16th June, Egan Bernal met with Pope Francis, at the Vatican in Rome.

Egan bErnal

Egan Bernal and Pope Francis

The meeting was organized by the Colombian Embassy as a way of celebrating Bernal’s recent win of the Giro d’Italia, where he held the leader’s jersey for a total of 12 stages, after taking the race lead with an impressive win on stage nine. He led the race for the subsequent 12 stages, completing the race with the final time-trial in Milan. Bernal’s victory at the Giro d’Italia marked the INEOS Grenadiers’ twelfth Grand Tour win.

To show his gratitude to Pope Francis, and following customary protocol of offering a gift, Bernal takes his Maglia Rosa and a custom painted Pinarello Dogma F12 bike as a symbolic gesture to the man who is head of the Catholic church.     

Here is what Bernal had to say regarding his meeting with Pope Francis, "It fills my heart with so much happiness to be able to meet Pope Francis in person, because I grew up in a catholic family. For me he is of the highest authority in religion and to receive his blessing is so rewarding.

"I hope his blessing not only touches me, but to all those who need it. As is customary, everyone who meets the Pope offers a gift, mine to him will be the Maglia Rosa and a Pinarello bicycle, which has been custom painted for him by Fausto Pinarello. A symbolic gesture of what we do as cyclists and as a team."   

Tom Dumoulin wins fourth Dutch time trial title

Dumulin’s Jumbo-Visma team sent me this:

Tom Dumoulin has seized the national time trial title at the Dutch championships for the fourth time in his career. In tropical conditions, the Limburger of Team Jumbo-Visma rushed to victory in the province of Drenthe.

Along the way, Dumoulin recorded the fastest split time. During the second lap on the local course the new champion assured himself of the victory. Alongside Dumoulin, teammate Koen Bouwman also appeared at the start of the race against the clock. Bouwman rode to bronze behind Dumoulin and Sebastian Langeveld.

Tom Dumoulin

Tom Dumoulin time trialing at the 2020 World Championships. Sirotti photo

“In the second part the heat started to play a role. My legs became slightly tired. It was hard work”, a relieved Dumoulin said. “But I have recovered well after a week of racing in Switzerland. I rode a very good time trial. If I had ridden this time trial a few years ago, I would have been very happy too. I am close to my good form. In Switzerland it went a little bit better every day. I started to like racing more and more. I have continued that feeling. I am very happy with the title today. This is really a victory over myself.”

In the build-up to the Olympics, this boost comes as a godsend for the cheerful Dumoulin. “It’s not easy to return to my old level, but gradually things are improving. These kilometres on the time trial bike are very important towards the Olympics. My base just needs to be a little more stable. I have every confidence that it will work out.”

Despite the fact that the tough conditions were gruelling, the trialist also saw room to enjoy his own performance. “I am so happy with this victory. It had been a long time since I had won a race. Of the four time trial titles won at the Dutch championships, this one feels the most special. I can say that I am proud of myself”, Dumoulin concluded.

And Yves Lampaert wins the Belgian time trial title

Here's the report from lampaert's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Yves Lampaert delivered a flawless performance at the Belgian Time Trial Championships and captured a second victory in the discipline, leading home a superb Deceuninck – Quick-Step 1-2 at the end of the day. The 30-year-old was the only rider to average more than 50km/h over the 37.6 kilometers of the flat and fast course in Ingelmunster, putting 20 seconds into his Deceuninck – Quick-Step teammate Remco Evenepoel, who took the silver medal for the second time in his career.

Yves Lampaert

Yves Lampaert time-trialing at the 2019 Tour of Switzerland. Sirotti photo

Runner-up last week at the Belgium Tour, where he missed out on the win in the stage against the clock for just two seconds, Lampaert was a man on a mission Wednesday afternoon, when he was pumped up by riding in front of his family and friends in Ingelmunster. The penultimate rider to roll down the start ramp, Yves went fastest through both intermediate checkpoints before stopping the clock in 44:48 – a time that brought him his first victory of the year.

“I never thought I would be able to finish first, but I did it and I’m over the moon now. I can’t tell you how proud I am. It was a tough race and I fought hard, and at the end of the day, I am happy I could repay these incredible fans. At the same time, I’m delighted to be on the podium together with Remco. Our team’s goal was to win today and gold and silver make for a great outcome”, an emotional Yves said.

Despite finishing runner-up for the second time in three years, Remco Evenepoel made an honest assessment of his outing while looking on the bright side of things after Wednesday’s ITT, at the same time underlining that the result will only add more fuel to his desire of performing well in a couple of days’ time, when he will line out at the start of the road race.

“I rode as fast as I could in this hot weather and gave everything, but Yves was just better. I wanted to win today, but made a mistake and almost crashed in the center of Izegem, before another error in a corner on the second lap. My goal was to take the victory and I’m disappointed that this didn’t happen, but what makes this defeat a bit easier to digest is that a teammate won and I’m happy for Yves. On Sunday there’s another chance and I am keen on doing a good race for the team”, Evenepoel explained after the finish.

Five Swiss time trial championships in a row for Stefan Küng

Here’s the report from Küng’s Groupama-FDJ team:

Named as the main favourite in the Swiss Time Trial championship on Wednesday, Stefan Küng completely lived up to his status. Near Lausanne, on a forty-kilometre course and despite a flat tire, the Groupama-FDJ’s rider crushed the competition to conquer his fifth consecutive national title in the event. He also scored the team’s 15th win this season.

Stefan Kung

Stefan Küng racing in the 2020 World Championships. Sirotti photo

On Wednesday late afternoon, Stefan Küng was expected on the outskirts of Lausanne, in the locality of Chalet-À-Gobet, to defend his Swiss national title in the time trial. “There was almost not a flat metre”, explained Julien Pinot, his coach. “It was a very hilly course. There were certainly no steep climbs, but there were still ones at 2-4%, slight hills, slight downhills. We had to do two round trips in a straight line. With more than 600 meters of elevation gain over 40 kilometers, it was still a demanding route”. As his runner-up in the opening time trial of the last Tour de Suisse Stefan Bissegger was not competing, Stefan Küng was the clear favourite for the title once again. “Even though Bissegger was not there, the goal was to make the maximum effort in order to work in race condition,” added Julien. “Today, the goal was of course to defend the title, but it was also a good test for the Tour and the Olympic Games,” Stefan said.

The European champion therefore went flat-out right from the start. “He started very fast,” Julien could testify. “At the intermediate check, after ten kilometers, he was already 45 seconds ahead of Hirschi”. “I started really well, I found a good pace,” said Stefan. But things were going too well… “He punctured from the front wheel right after”, added Julien. “We made a quick bike change and he went again”. “Unfortunately, five kilometers later my radio stopped working, and so did my power meter,” said Stefan. “I was really riding blind, I had no more information. I had to ride according to the feelings. Fortunately, I spend so much time on the time trial bike that I pretty much knew what to do”. The day’s technical issues therefore had no impact whatsoever on the Swiss man’s power. “After twenty-five kilometres, I caught Marc Hirschi who started two minutes before me, and just before the end, I caught Mäder who started four minutes before me”, he explained. “So I knew I was in the right timing.”

More than being in the right timing, Stefan Küng actually crushed the competition on Wednesday, distancing the silver medallist by 2’29 and the bronze medallist by more than three minutes. “The gap at the finish is huge because the goal was to do 50 minutes full gas,” said Julien Pinot. “From this point of view, the mission was accomplished”.

With this remarkable performance, the 27-year-old Swiss took his fifth national title in time trial, his sixth on the road within the pros, and his tenth as an elite rider including the track. However, this one was won in special conditions. “In the end, it is better for these issues to happen now than in a race like the Tour, the Olympics or the Worlds,” he put into perspective. “We learn from all that”. “It was a ‘good’ exercise to suffer a flat tire today, because these are things that can happen on bigger goals,” said Julien. “We have been able to prepare for such a situation. If that happens later, we’ll be ready to react. In the end, today went really perfect. The number 1 priority was to keep this national champion’s jersey, which also keeps the team’s record running. The second purpose was to take advantage of this time trial and its hard course to prepare for the next big goals that are the Tour’s two time trials and the Olympic Games’ one. Stefan had already done two great time trials on the Tour de Suisse. His performance today proves that his shape is very good and that he will be able to reach the top of his form in the Tour”. In that purpose, Stefan Küng will actually skip the road race this weekend, despite being the defending champion. “I’m going to rest a bit to be well prepared for the upcoming Tour-J.O sequence,” he concluded.

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