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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, June 21, 2021

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

If you are in a spaceship that is traveling at the speed of light, and you turn on the headlights, does anything happen? - Steven Wright

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National championships reports

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this summary:

25 BORA - hansgrohe riders took part in various national championships this week. The first success came with Maciej Bodnar, who took the Polish individual time trial title. This was followed up on the weekend, by Peter Sagan winning the champion's jersey in Slovakia, while Patrick Konrad prevailed as a soloist to become Austrian champion.

PEter Sagan

Peter Sagan (shown at this year's Giro d'Italia) won his 7th Slovakian road title. Sirotti photo

In Belgium, Jordi Meeus took an impressive fourth place in a tight race, and in Denmark, 20-year-old Frederik Wandahl won the silver medal in yet another close finish. The German road race was held on a 185.7km-long circuit south-east of Stuttgart, which featured almost 3000m of elevation. The team from Raubling, which took on the race with 10 riders, came to the event with favourites such as Maximilian Schachmann, and attempted to control the race so as to bring the jersey back to the team. Maximilian, as well as Emanuel Buchmann, took the lead in a small breakaway group, and when Max attacked on the penultimate lap, no one was able to follow, leading him to take his second German road title.

Results: time trial:

Results: Road race

From the Finish Line:
"We wanted to avoid a situation like last year, so we made the race very hard from the start and then tried to attack in the right moments. Everyone really deserved this victory and I want to thank my teammates for all their tremendous work. It's really nice to be able to wear this jersey in the peloton yet again." - Maximilian Schachmann

"I'm very proud and happy to have won my seventh Slovak national championship. I'd like to thank everybody for their support during the race, it feels nice to be back in Slovakia." - Peter Sagan

"I knew before the start that Marco would be very dangerous today because the course was perfect for him. The race was really tough from relatively early on, as we went into the hills for the first time. I was able to attack with Gampi and then break away with him and Marco. However, it was a long fight, because our gap was never that big. But with Pösti, we had a rider in the chasing group, so we were always able to rely on Plan B. Gampi rode an amazing race and I owe the victory to him. In the finale, I was able to leave Marco behind on the longer climb, but even then, I really had to go deep to prevent him from coming back to me. It's amazing to ride the Tour in the national champion’s jersey, and a great win for the team. I'm ready for the Tour, last week I was at altitude again and the form is just right to peak in the coming weeks." - Patrick Konrad

“It's always a bit hard at the national championships when you are the only one from the team there! So the whole day I was attempting to keep myself in a good position, and stay at the front when it was necessary. I really wanted to make it to the finale. In the end, I'm not really disappointed with second place, although I was so close to the win. Mads was really strong, so second is a good result, I tried my best and I'm satisfied.” – Frederik Wandahl

“Of course, it's always special to win the national championships, so we are very happy to have taken several titles. Regarding the German race, we were the favourites, but winning here is never easy. However, the guys rode strongly right from the get go. We made the race difficult and went on the attack in good time. There were several other riders who were also very strong, but ultimately Max managed to launch a successful attack ahead of the finale, which ultimately secured him the win. Emanuel, Nils and Marcus also rode a very strong race, and everyone in the team was of immense support. So we’re extremely pleased with our performance, not only here in Germany, but also in the other countries where our riders competed. I’d like to add that Jordi's fourth place in Belgium was also impressive, it was a close finish and he won the sprint among the chasing group. Frederik also put in a very strong performance today with his second place in Denmark, for such a young rider that's an outstanding result." - Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

New French Champion Rémi Cavagna's Deceuninck-Quick Step team posted this report:

Rémi Cavagna shrugged off the disappointment experienced during Thursday’s individual time trial, when a series of mechanicals hindered his hopes of retaining the title, and pulled off a great ride in the road race, which at the end of the day landed him the prestigious tricolour.

Remi Cavagna

Rémi Cavagna is the new French Road Champion. Photo: Thomas Maheux

Part of a three-man team which featured also World Champion Julian Alaphilippe and Florian Sénéchal, Rémi was among the early attackers that went clear, just 30 kilometers into the race, and opened a five-minute gap over a peloton which looked to be in control of things at all times, especially as several squads had the numbers to pull the escapees back. On the hilly circuit around Epinal, it looked like the day would belong to one of the pre-race favourites, especially as they weren’t shy of attacking with three laps to go.

Alaphilippe was one of the riders to test the waters, drawing a small group with him, but with the others not willing to share the workload, the 29-year-old soon stopped and waited for the peloton to reel them in. This lull played into the hands of the escapees, who still held two minutes with 20 kilometers left. Eventually, three men managed to bridge across from the bunch, but as soon as they did, Cavagna attacked and was never seen again until the finish.

In the space of just a couple of kilometers, the “TGV of Clermont-Ferrand” opened a gap of almost one minute, which allowed him to take it easy on the rain-soaked descent to the finish in Epinal, where he had plenty of time to celebrate, after a stunning 200 kilometers in the breakaway, what’s arguably the biggest success of his career.

“It’s crazy! I still can’t believe what happened today! My main goal this week was the time trial and I was very disappointed after that race. Now I am French Champion on the road, which is insane. My role at the start was to support Julian but I ended up by taking the win. I can’t believe it”, an emotional Rémi said as he pulled on the bleu-blanc-rouge jersey.

Cavagna, who became only the second rider in Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s history to win the French Championships, continued: “It was a strange race with the breakaway going all the way to the finish. Our plan was for me to be in the front group, as we knew it wasn’t easy to control on this route. Having what was a good margin on the peloton so close to the finish, I found the right moment to attack and pressed on as soon as I saw a gap had been opened. To take a solo victory today is incredible! I was very sad after losing the ITT title, but this completely makes up for that. It gives me goosebumps and huge joy to know I will wear this jersey – one of the most beautiful in the world – in all the races I do for a full year.”

Here's the report from new Belgian Champion Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team:

Wout van Aert is the new Belgian champion. In a thrilling sprint he beat Edward Theuns by a small margin. It’s the first time the 26-year-old rider of Team Jumbo-Visma wins the tricolour in the road championship.

Wout vanAert

Could it be any closer? Wout van Aert (on right) just beats Edward Theuns.

The Belgian riders were presented with a course of 221.3 kilometres. Van Aert, Edward Theuns and Remco Evenepoel battled for the title after a late breakaway.

“It was a difficult final”, Van Aert said. “When Theuns came to join, I wanted to rely on my sprint. But I had already carried a large part of the escape. In the end it was very close. It seems like I’ve been winning with a small margin in the sprint for a while now, so I was happy when I saw the difference on the photo finish. The Belgian tricolour is one of the most beautiful jerseys in the peloton. I already won it in the time trial last year. Of course I wanted to win it on the road as well. This victory is extra special because I want to dedicate it to a good friend I lost this month. I thought about that a lot, and for three weeks I had been thinking about winning this race for him. A lot of other things have happened, but they don’t matter when you go through something like that. I had to fight hard to be back here at the start and I want to thank him for giving me the strength today. I’ve ridden several championships where it didn’t work out, but today I was in the right breakaway. Especially in the circumstances, it’s really good.”

The victory has also given Van Aert more confidence heading into the Tour. “I can still get better. I started here with doubts, but I’m happy I can go to the Tour like this and show that jersey. The Tour is a very different course, but I got a lot of confidence today.”

Teammate Nathan Van Hooydonck crossed the line in the chasing pack: “I’m super happy for Wout. He worked really hard for the last few weeks and made a lot of sacrifices. It’s a great reward for him to go to the Tour like this. The tricolour is the most beautiful thing. When Wout rode away with a group, I did not make myself very popular by trying to control the peloton. I always find it very annoying when that happens, but it’s just part of it. This is a beautiful reward.”

For Van Aert, the national title is his fifth win of the season. Team Jumbo-Visma has been successful twenty times so far this season.

Astana-Premier Tech reports on Omar Fraile's winning Spanish Championship:

Omar Fraile continued Astana – Premier Tech’s dominance at the Spanish national championships, claiming the road race title with an impressive performance and a great display of teamwork, with Alex Aranburu rounding out the podium in third place.

Omar Fraile

Omar Fraile (shown at the 2018 Tour de France) is the new Spanish Road Champion. Sirotti photo.

Fraile inherits the jersey from teammate Luis Leon Sanchez in what was an emotional moment for the Basque rider, who secured his first national championship and first win since his Tour de France stage win in 2018.

“I was anxious to raise my arms again. When I crossed the line I didn’t believe it. It had been a long time since I had that special feeling and I did not believe it. That is why I was excited. It was a very hard day, a very demanding circuit, so we tried to control the race with Cofidis so that the break did not go too far. The finale was very crazy with many attacks. We all played our cards, but in the end we decided to try to prepare the sprint for Alex, but when it was time to launch it, I was a little stronger and I was able to get the victory,” said Fraile.

“It was 100 percent a team effort today because all six of us worked as one so a big thank you to the riders and staff of the team. Now I will start the Tour de France with special motivation and a lot of confidence.”

Astana – Premier Tech took control of the race and helped bring the breakaway back approaching the final 40 kilometres, at which point Ion Izagirre attacked from the reduced bunch and rode into the race lead with 35 kilometres to go.

Attack after attack played out in the last hour of racing with the race lead constantly changing. After Izagirre’s move was neutralized, Fraile attacked and was joined by two riders with 28 kilometres to go. The group grew in size with Sanchez joining Fraile at the front before the defending champion launched a move with one lap to go.

In the end, the groups came back together with 12 kilometres remaining, at which point Astana – Premier Tech had strong representation with Fraile, Sanchez, Izagirre, and Aranburu all there. The quartet, who had shown incredible teamwork all day, alongside teammates Javier Romo and Oscar Rodriguez, took responsibility in the finale with Sanchez and Izagirre setting the pace inside the final five kilometres.

Under the flamme rouge, Sanchez put the pressure on, with Fraile and Aranburu in his wheel, and as he peeled off with 500 metres to go, Fraile hit the front. Fraile started his sprint immediately and despite the distance to the finish line, he showed phenomenal strength to not only hold the lead but establish a gap with 150 metres to go.

The Basque rider had enough time to look over his shoulder, sit up and raise his arms in triumph as he took the victory ahead of Jesus Herrada and Aranburu, who sprinted to third place.

Fraile’s win secures a Spanish championship double for Astana – Premier Tech after Izagirre took the honours in the time trial for the second time in his career.

Spanish National Championships – Road Race (183km):
Top 3: 1. Omar Fraile, 2. Jesus Herrada (Cofidis, Solutions Credits), 3. Alex Aranburu

And here's the report from Team Groupama-FDJ on Ignatas Konovalovas becoming the Lithuanian Road Champion:

The Lithuanian colours will be seen on the next Tour de France. On Sunday, Ignatas Konovalovas indeed took his national road title in a race bringing together all the Baltic countries in Valga (Estonia). At 35 years of age, “Kono” then became Lithuanian champion for the second time in his career in the road race, and for the ninth time overall, including the time trial.

To compete in his national championship this year, Ignatas Konovalovas had to cross Latvia to get to the southern end of Estonia, in Valga, where an event bringing together all the Baltic countries’ championships was taking place. This was already something new for the experienced 35-year-old rider. “Since there were a lot of us at the start, it was a normal race, which we are not used to in the Lithuanian championship,” he joked. “It was also hot, over 30°C. When there were attacks, you could really feel the heat.” On Sunday, the race included 173 kilometres and the riders quickly got into action. “The race started quite early. There were already only 23 riders left in front with 120k to go”, he said. “The course was quite hilly. We also had to cover 4-5 kilometers of gravel road and I had a flat tire at that point. My car was not immediately behind so I did another three kilometres on the flat with the rear wheel punctured before I could change it. Then we had to do six laps of ten kilometres with a cobbled climb of about 500 meters”.

After a first quiet lap, things got livelier with about 50k to go. “We ended up in small groups all over the road,” Ignatas said. “There were four riders in front and I was in a 3-man group behind. However, the two riders with me were not pulling so I could not get back to the first four. Therefore, we stayed like that, in chase, for more than forty kilometers. I realized pretty quickly that I would be the first Lithuanian on the line, if I didn’t puncture and if I didn’t have any problems. I knew there were three Estonians and a Latvian in front, and I was with an Estonian and a Latvian myself”.

While Toms Skujins went on to win the Scratch event – and the Latvian title -, and Mihkel Räim (2nd) won the Estonian title, Ignatas Konovalovas finished the race in fifth place 2’39 down, but more than five minutes ahead of its closest Lithuanian competitor. “I’m very happy to have this jersey and especially to wear it during the Tour de France with the team,” Kono said. “That prospect certainly motivated me today, but the biggest motivation was my family. My wife, my two sons and my mother-in-law were there. I’m a bit disappointed because I wanted to raise my arms. It’s not something I often get to do. It’s a shame, but the important thing still is that I won my championship”.

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