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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, March 8, 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.

Expert: a man who makes three correct guesses consecutively. - Laurence J. Peter


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Paris-Nice stage one team reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Sam Bennett's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Meet Sam. He loves France, riding his bike and winning. And when all these happen at the same time, then he’s over the moon. It was the case last year, when he donned Le Tour’s green jersey on the famed Champs-Élysées, and again on Sunday, not far from Paris, in Saint-Cyr-L’École, where he took the glory at the end of a chaotic stage 1 of Paris-Nice.

Sam Bennett

Sam Bennet wins the stage. Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images

On paper, the 165.8km opening day should have been a quiet one, but the attackers had other plans and as consequence they attacked in waves inside the last 40 kilometers, forcing the peloton to up the tempo and kick off a frantic chase that stretched out the bunch and put many riders in the red. Unsurprisingly, Tim Declercq played an important role once again, helping with the pursuit of the attackers, whose adventure was brought to a halt with eight kilometers to go, the mass gallop becoming inevitable at that point.

On the hectic uphill finish, Sam Bennett stayed in a perfect position until the last 200 meters, when he shot out of the pack at a ferocious speed and sprinted to victory with his hands on the top of his brake levers, putting several bike lengths between him and his opponents. It was the fourth win of the Carrick-on-Suir native in the “Race to the Sun”, after the ones of 2017 and 2019, one that brought him also two jerseys, yellow and green.

“Coming into the race I didn’t know how my shape would be, because racing here is different from the UAE, here it’s full gas the entire day and today it was another test to see where the legs were. We were a bit blocked in the last kilometers and could come to the front only with two kilometers to go, which was thanks to Michael, who always stays calm and knows what he has to do. I was confident and I just waited for the right moment to go and all I can say is that I’m happy with the kick I had and my victory.”

“The team was again incredible and I am happy I could finish off their incredible job. The stage was stressful, as everybody was motivated and there was quite a fight for positioning, but I am glad that I could come on top. It’s been a great weekend for Deceuninck – Quick-Step and I’m delighted I could contribute to it. Now I will enjoy wearing this beautiful yellow jersey, it’s really special to have it”, said Sam, the first Irishman in 31 years to lead Paris-Nice.

Richie Porte crashed out of the race. Here's the report from his INEOS Grenadiers team:

Paris-Nice got off to a bruising start for the Grenadiers with Richie Porte sadly forced to abandon the race on the opening stage.

The Tasmanian, making his return race for the team, was caught up in a crash with 33 kilometres to go, landing hard on his side following a touch of wheels. After trying to continue, the two-time race winner was sadly forced to climb off.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte tried to continue the race after his crash, but couldn't. INEOS photo

Porte was assessed by the team back at the hotel before being taken to hospital for a scan. Further medical updates to follow.

The first stage ended in a sprint, with a number of other crashes causing a nervy peloton. Laurens De Plus was also involved in a larger pile-up but the Belgian was able to continue.

Supported by his team in the closing kilometres, Tao Geoghegan Hart finished in the peloton alongside a number of team-mates after staying safe. The Brit will be looking ahead to the more selective climbing stages to come later in the week.

Sunday also saw GP Industria & Artigianato in Italy and an attacking performance from the Grenadiers on the finishing circuit around Larciano.

Eddie Dunbar attacked on both the final two laps, and was joined by team-mate Carlos Rodriguez on the run-in. The young Spaniard finished seventh to secure one of the best results of his career to date, with Dunbar crossing the line just behind in ninth.

Brandon Rivera also found himself in the mix on the penultimate lap as a young team impressed. In the end a high calibre group edged clear in the final kilometres, with Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) taking the victory over Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo).

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

Team Jumbo-Visma has come through the first stage of Paris-Nice in a good way. The yellow-black formation did not get into trouble in Saint-Cyr-L'École and crossed the finish line inside the peloton.

Team Jumbo-Visma

Team Jumbo-Visma is presented during the opening ceremonies.

The stage was coloured by a few breakaways, but the sprinters teams controlled the stage. Team Jumbo-Visma kept leader Primoz Roglic in the front and did not lose any valuable time for the general classification in the hectic final kilometres.

“This was a stage in which you could lose a lot”, sports director Grischa Niermann said. “It was very hectic, very nervous. The team got through the day without problems, so we are happy with that. We may not have been in the position where we wanted to be all day, but that’s just difficult in such a stage. In the final we were where we needed to be and that is the most important. For most of us it was the first race of the season. So it was also a day to get back into the racing rhythm and it is good that we have made a start.”

Pascal Ackerman's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

With today's opener to the 79th edition of the Race to the Sun, the first big European stage race of the season commenced. The start took place in Saint-Cyr-L'École on the western outskirts of Paris, before the peloton returned to the start after 166 kilometres of slightly undulating terrain and a slightly ascending final kilometre. With 60 km of racing still remaining, a small group attacked from the peloton and closed the gap to the leader.

Peloton

Bora-hansgrohe posted this picture of a compact peloton.

The field was initially reluctant to take up the chase, and the quartet quickly managed to open up a lead of more than 20 seconds. With 30 km remaining, however, the fight for position became more intense and as a result of the increasing pace, the leading group was finally reeled back in a few kilometres later. With Pascal Ackermann, the team was hoping for a strong result, and in the final kilometres, BORA-hansgrohe could be seen increasingly at the front of the peloton. In Saint-Cyr-l'École, it came to the anticipated mass sprint.

After a strong team performance, Jordi Meeus rode an impressive lead-out for Pascal Ackermann, but the German sprinter had to settle for 6th place behind the day's winner Sam Bennett.

From the Finish Line:
"That was a hectic sprint. The team worked really well together to bring me into a good position ahead of the finale. The morale in the squad was good and the legs were feeling good, but the finish line was just 30 metres too far for us today. However, more chances will definitely come and we will keep trying." - Pascal Ackermann

"On the first stage of Paris-Nice, the initial part of the stage was ridden relatively calmly. That suddenly changed in the last 60 km when Gilbert launched an attack with three other riders. The race then really opened up, particularly in the last 30 km. There was a big bunch sprint where our guys did an exemplary job to bring Pascal into position. The sprint was uphill, and ultimately it was just 30m too long for us. Otherwise, we could have taken an outstanding result. But still, chapeau to the team, which put in a very strong performance today." - Jens Zemke, Sports Director

Here's Team DSM's Paris-Nice stage one report:

Paris-Nice got underway today with the peloton starting and finishing in the town of Saint-Cyr-L’École, on a parcours that suited the sprinters with a slight uphill drag to the line. With a lot of sprint teams in the race, only one lone rider set off to form the day’s breakaway, with all of the Team DSM riders within the peloton. The gap to the break reached a maximum of almost five minutes but the peloton were always in control and as the kilometres ticked by their advantage dwindled.

Team DSM

Team DSM posted this evocative picture of riding in France.

An attacking trio bridged across to the head of the race with around 50 kilometres to go, which increased the pace in the peloton and caused some nervousness within the bunch. However, with the new found impetus it eventually all came back together inside the 20 kilometre remaining mark. Always attentive, the team positioned Tiesj Benoot to take advantage of the intermediate sprint where he picked up two bonus seconds on the punchy climb.

A flurry of attacks soon followed over the top of the intermediate sprint, with Søren Kragh Andersen riding well to cover them for the team, before proceedings were ultimately brought back together for the finale. The team moved forward en masse to position sprinter Cees Bol for the uphill drag to the line, but with around three kilometres to go it became scrappy within the peloton and the fight for position was intense. Last lead out man Casper Pedersen tried to move Bol towards the front but as the sprint opened up the team wasn’t in position to compete for a top result.

“It was a super nervous stage today,” said Bol after the finish. “Even though there was only one guy in the break, it was a pretty hard day, especially when the others attacked. From then the pace was on and it was tough, and on the twisty and narrow roads it was very challenging to get organised. We lost some energy on the way to the finish and then lacked that in the final kilometres for the sprint. We’ll regroup though and give it another go tomorrow.”

Team DSM coach Marc Reef continued: “Today was the first stage in Paris-Nice, with a pretty hard lap and some twisty roads in the finale. It was up and down, with road narrowings and furniture which made it nervous. We had the plan to go for Cees at the finish and be alert for the intermediate sprints with Tiesj. Tiesj got two seconds which was good and then after that there was a move which Søren rode well to be in so that we had some control there. From that point the whole focus was on Cees and the sprint. I think we were a little bit too enthusiastic and were in the front too early and spent some energy there. In the end, it turned out that we ran out of riders and positions so going into the last 500 metres Cees was in around 20th position so wasn’t really able to sprint. There was no top result for us today but we have some good points to take from the stage where we were in the race, and in the sprint there are things we can improve on that we will hope to show tomorrow already.”

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