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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, June 30, 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.

Fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run. - Rudyard Kipling


Current racing:

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Tour de France stage four team reports

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

Here's the report from stage winner Mark Cavendish's Deceuninck-Quick step team:

Mark Cavendish rolled back the years and sprinted to his first Tour de France victory since 2016, in what will go down as one of the best stories in the history of a race that doesn’t lack amazing moments. A late call-up to Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s squad for the biggest race in the world, the 36-year-old delivered a perfect acceleration inside the final 200 meters of stage 4 and won by a bike length, enhancing his fantastic palmares and legacy in emphatic fashion.

“Just being here is special, because I didn’t think for one moment I would come back to this beautiful race that I love so much. I’m in complete disbelief, I don’t know what to say. So many people didn’t believe in me, but these guys did and continued to do it”, said an emotional Mark as he fought to hold back the tears.

Mark Cavendish

Mark Cavendish celebrates his first Tour de France win in five years. Sirotti photo

Running between Redon and Fougères – incidentally, the site of Cavendish’s previous Tour de France stage win with the Wolfpack – stage 4 was the last one in Bretagne and looked to be an easy one for the peloton, who had to control just two escapees. The field looked in charge, even more so when the break fragmented, until with ten kilometers to go, when they found themselves one full minute behind the lone leader of the race.

A mad chase ensued, with Kasper Asgreen, Mattia Cattaneo and Dries Devenyns storming to the front and taking a big chunk of the deficit, but it was still hanging in the balance going under the flamme rouge. A massive pull of World Champion Julian Alaphilippe helped the chasers make up significant ground and move within reach of making the contact, which they did just as the road was beginning tilting upwards, with an agonizingly 200 meters to go.

Having been brought in position by the excellent Michael Mørkøv, Mark waited for the last 150 meters to pounce, unleashing a brilliant turn of the pedals that gave him the edge over all of his opponents on the curved finish in Fougères, where he celebrated his 31st win at the Tour de France and his 50th victory for the team, one that will ring over the years.

“When you have the World Champion and green jersey wearer giving everything and sacrificing himself for you, then Michael who played it so smart and remained calm at all times, it just motivates you to do the best. It was a hectic finale, and we had to throw our initial plan to the wind and adapt, but the guys did a flawless job and delivered me perfectly. They were absolutely brilliant and all I can say is a massive thank you!”

Tuesday’s resounding victory – his first in five years at the Tour de France – cemented Mark’s position as the best sprinter in the race’s history and brought him also the prestigious green jersey, which he last got to wear in 2016.

“Before today, my last Tour win with the team had been in Fougères, so to raise my hands again here for another win is just… I don’t know, it’s the kind of stuff that makes everything even more perfect. You couldn’t have written this thing. I’ve won so many races in my career and this one definitely is one of the best. I am so grateful to Patrick, to my coach Vasilis, to everyone in the squad.”

Brent van Moer came so close to pulling off a stage win. Here's the report from his Lotto-Soudal team.

Lotto Soudal rider Brent Van Moer came close to winning stage four of the Tour de France as the 23-year-old Belgian was caught only just before the finish. In a stage destined for the sprinters, Van Moer was the first to attack and formed a breakaway together with Jean-Luc Périchon. At about 15 kilometres from the finish, Van Moer left his breakaway companion behind and powered towards Fougères, where he seemed to be on his way to take a maiden Tour de France stage win. However, the peloton charged towards the finish and caught Van Moer only just over 100 metres from the line. It was the Brit Cavendish who sprinted to the stage win, Bouhanni and Philipsen completed the top three. Brent Van Moer was rewarded with the most combative rider prize.

Brent van Moer

Just before Brent van Moer is caught. Sirotti photo

“After Caleb Ewan was forced to abandon the race, we lost the fastest sprinter in our team. It was rather quiet at the dinner table last night because – with so many sprint opportunities – most of our team was built around Caleb. That is why we had to change tactics and race offensively”, says Brent Van Moer.

And that is what Lotto Soudal did because after ten kilometres of racing, Brent Van Moer was the first to attack as the young Belgian formed the early breakaway together with Frenchman Périchon.

“Despite a small success rate today, I still opted for the breakaway. Of course, I knew it would be a difficult task to stay ahead of the peloton at the Tour, but I kept fighting and gave it my all, which I always do. And such stages with hilly terrain suit me like a glove. I already proved so at the Dauphiné, Tirreno-Adriatico and Ronde van Limburg. In the final 15 kilometres of the stage, my teammates told me through the radio that I could win the stage, which gave me a huge boost. Unfortunately, to get caught at 100 metres from the line is really hard.”

Van Moer says it won’t be his final shot at a stage win this Tour de France.

“To show these kind of things is exactly why the team selected me for the Tour de France. I hope to be at the front again in the next weeks. Although it’s a pity I just missed out on the stage win, I have to put things into perspective. I am only 23 years old and hopefully there are still a lot of opportunities to come”, concludes Brent Van Moer.

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

Stage 4 of the Tour de France was 150.4km long, with barely any elevation change over the entire day before a flat finish in Fougères. This gave the sprinters a second chance to go for the win on what would undoubtedly be a fast finish. After a slow start to proceedings, the pace picked up and a duo went off the front to make the day’s break, their lead quickly hitting more than two minutes before stabilising around the three-minute mark.

As the race covered the first 50km, the break’s lead dropped a little to a more manageable two minutes, which the peloton reduced even further as the pace went up for the intermediate sprint with a little less than 40km to go, at which point the gap was approaching a minute. Wanting to avoid any of the splits that took place on yesterday’s stage, BORA-hansgrohe were out in force at the front of the peloton, working hard to deliver Peter Sagan to the finale in a good position, and to ensure Wilco Kelderman finished with the GC riders, with Nils Politt and Daniel Oss pushing the pace here.

While the race was nearing its final 10km and the peloton was preparing for the sprint, the breakaway was still almost a minute ahead and seemed reluctant to play by the bunch’s plans, one of the duo going on a solo attack and making the most of the flat terrain to try and get ahead. With 30 seconds the gap and 3km remaining, it was going to be close, but Peter was surfing from wheel to wheel, ready to strike when the opportunity came, in spite of suffering significant pain from his crash on yesterday’s stage.

With the attack caught and passed in the last 100m, the frenetic finale saw Peter caught behind a row of riders and there was simply no space to squeeze through, the Slovak national champion still fighting hard through the field of sprinters as well as through the pain barrier, taking fifth place after an admirable effort. Wilco Kelderman finished with the sprinters to maintain his fifth place in the GC ahead of tomorrow’s time trial.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan (just behind stage winner Mark Cavendish) came close today. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"My crash yesterday was hard and I still had knee pain today but it was gradually getting better in the final 35km. The team did a fantastic job in keeping me in position in the tricky part, especially Nils and Daniel. The last 5km were again hectic because Van Moer was still in front. I found myself a bit out of position and didn't have enough time to recover positions in the last kilometre, so I started my sprint from further back. However, it was a good effort, I feel optimistic about the upcoming days and I will, obviously, keep fighting." – Peter Sagan

"In the aftermath of Peter's heavy crash yesterday, we are happy with his performance and result today. We knew it was going to be a painful day for him but he fought. He grabbed a few points in the intermediate sprint and in the finale he was there, it was nice to see him. It was another stage where the team did a very good job to keep our guys in a good position. Overall, we're happy with the day." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

And here's the report from Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team:

All things considered, Team Jumbo-Visma has come through the fourth stage of the Tour de France in good shape. The stage started with a riders’ protest and ended in a bunch sprint. Wednesday the first time trial is on the programme.

Primoz Roglic showed himself combative prior to the stage. “I am grateful that I can be at the start. We will continue to give everything as long as we are in the Tour de France. It’s a matter of getting through the next few days. For now it makes no sense to look at the time loss”, the heavily injured Roglic said.

The peloton made a statement after the start by squeezing the brakes and putting their feet on the ground. The riders tried to draw attention to the safety of the race. After the stage had resumed, Brent Van Moer and Pierre-Luc Périchon got away from the rest. The former was only caught up at 200 metres from the finish by an attacking peloton. Mark Cavendish took the win in Fougères.

Wout van Aert did not sprint. The Belgian will focus on tomorrow’s time trial. “Today I didn’t interfere with the bunch sprint. Fortunately, we came through this stage well as a team. The focus for me is on tomorrow’s time trial. The main goal is to compete for the day’s victory. Whether I can also have a go at yellow, remains to be seen. I am looking forward to it. I will go full speed ahead.”

“Under the circumstances, we got through today’s stage well”, explained sports director Grischa Niermann. “The goal was to arrive at the finish line safely and without losing time. Though in this case good is relative of course. The riders were suffering from the after-effects of the crashes of the last few days. Fortunately, today’s stage and route lent itself to saving strength somewhat with regard to what’s to come.”

“In tomorrow’s time trial we will go for nothing less than the win”, an ambitious Niermann added. “We have a number of good time trialists at the start. Wout will be our main man. The goal is to go for the day’s victory. Hopefully we can also try to get the yellow. Tony Martin has had a lot of physical damage in recent days. He will stay away from the battle for the first places. We hope that Primoz will be able to put power to the pedals on his time trial bike.”

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