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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, May 14, 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.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. - Antoine de Saint-Exupery


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Giro d'Italia stage six team reports:

We posted the report from Remco Evenepoel's Deceuinck-Quick Step team with the results.

Here's the report from new GC leader Attila Valter's Groupama-FDJ team:

On Thursday, a tough stage led to an historic day in stage 6 of the Giro. Already riding with the white jersey for two days, Attila Valter left his mark even more on the Giro 2021, in Ascoli Piceno, by conquering the iconic pink jersey. At only 22, he then became the first ever Hungarian to wear a leader’s jersey on a Grand Tour. This is also quite an accomplishment for the Groupama-FDJ cycling team, since they had not taken the “maglia rosa” since Bradley McGee, seventeen years ago.

Attila Valter

Attila Valter will start stage seven in pink. Sirotti photo

With the white jersey on his shoulders since the finish in Sestola on stage 4, Attila Valter was already living a little dream on the Giro. He probably didn’t imagine how big that dream would become on Thursday, towards Ascoli Piceno. Still, he was happy to talk about it at the start of stage 6. “It’s good to joke about it in the morning, but to really believe in it is a different story,” he said later, referring to these early interviews. “We had something to play today, but at the start we didn’t talk about it because there was a hard day ahead and we didn’t want to put pressure on him,” added Philippe.

At the start, the young Hungarian just had to stay in the bunch that went quite hard initially, in order to neutralize too big breakaways. There in a first move, Rudy Molard and Sébastien Reichenbach finally got caught, and it was then Simon Guglielmi who took over and managed to slip into the right breakaway after about twenty kilometres. The former Conti’s rider went away with seven men, and they were able to take a five-minute lead in the first part of the race. This all happened before the weather really got bad in the first climb of the day, making it even impossible to broadcast.

Under these terrible conditions, mixing heavy rain and strong wind, the riders started to climb the Forca di Gualdo. Simon Guglielmi remained in the day’s breakaway, but approaching the summit, the bunch literally exploded due to a strong move from the Ineos team. “Everyone knew it could be a decisive moment, and when everyone knows it, it’s just war,” Philippe summarized. “For us, it was really close at that point. Rudy, Seb and Romain were just behind the pink jersey, and it split just ahead of him. Attila was just in front of the pink jersey, and it just split on his wheel. He got through it ok, and that was the main thing. We knew it right away. As soon as I saw the split, I asked who was in front. I saw three blue jerseys behind the pink jersey, and I got a little scared, but the guys immediately said: Attila is in front, Attila is in front! It was a relief. Besides, Simon was still in the break, a minute ahead, so we could stop him to help Attila just in case.” In the very long downhill section, Simon Guglielmi was actually caught by a bunch of around 40 men where the white jersey was still there, in the opposite to the pink jersey Alessandro De Marchi.

At the bottom of the last climb (15k at 6%), the group of favourites therefore only included one rider higher than Attila Valter in the general classification: Louis Vervaeke (18 seconds ahead). The group progressively reduced from the back, but the Hungarian from Groupama-FDJ only started to move upper and upper in the bunch.

Serious things started in the last four kilometers, as Gino Mäder set off for the stage victory while Attila Valter was still in contact with the very best. He was even among the quickest to react to Egan Bernal’s acceleration 1,500 meters from the finish. Under the red flame, the white jersey made quite an impression being there next to the favourites of this 2021 Giro. He certainly dropped back a little in the final hundred meters, but he still crossed the line only sixteen seconds behind Bernal, Evenepoel or Dan Martin.

In the meantime, Louis Vervaeke was losing much more time, and the news came quite quickly. Moments after crossing the line in 12th position, Attila Valter was called to the official podium. Not just to pick up his white jersey, which he managed to retain, but above all to take the pink jersey, which he had just conquered with style at the end of an epic day of racing.

“I couldn’t be more surprised and happier, but yes, I was planning to do it,” said Attila in his first interview. “I knew I had good climbing legs on this Giro and that I could do better than those ahead of me in GC. I just had to hang on with the best climbers today. I was really motivated to do so. I didn’t know everything about the gaps, but I tried to keep eyes on everyone. I knew Vlasov was 24 seconds behind me overall, Remco 28 and Bernal 39. On the last climb I couldn’t think about the pain, I only had the pink jersey in mind. The more the kilometers went by, the more I believed in it. I knew the leaders were going to attack but I had the legs to limit my losses. In these situations, motivation obviously gives extra power. When I crossed the line, I looked at who was around me, and I thought, “I did it” but no one had the official information. After two minutes, someone from the organization said to me: “You have the pink jersey”. It was an incredible feeling. I still can’t believe it’s true. It’s the most beautiful day of my life! I could cry. I am so happy. I just hope to enjoy this jersey with the team as much as possible”.

The emotion was also strong among his teammates and staff. “It’s a great moment of joy that brings the team together around a very iconic jersey,” said Philippe. “You just need to watch the list of riders who had the opportunity to wear this jersey. Some will do 15 years in the pros without touching it. To have it on the team tonight is just great, for Attila and the team. I think everyone was a little anxious at the start of this Giro, some were wondering what we would be able to do. Eventually, there were three big breakaways, we were there every time, and tonight we have the pink jersey. We are not going to boast, the Giro is not yet completely successful, but it’s still a good start. And it’s always important to start a Grand Tour in a good way”.

Several hundred kilometers away, Marc Madiot also savoured the moment. “I hadn’t seen it coming at all,” he confessed on Thursday night. “I hadn’t even seen him with the rain jackets! Having the pink jersey in the team had not happened to us since Bradley McGee (in 2004, note). It’s good for Attila, who is rewarded today. It’s also a very good thing for the whole team. We didn’t take the start with a group that looked very dominant on paper, but at the end of the day, we’ve already done some great things. The pink jersey is the icing on the cake for this first week of racing. They’re committed, they are in the game and it will open doors for them in the head”.

To Attila, Marc only had two words to say: “Enjoy it”. Tomorrow, in a seventh stage that looks suitable to the sprinters, the 22-year-old will set off with all eyes on him. “In Hungary, it was already incredible with the white jersey, but I think it will get crazy now,” concluded Attila. “My father is in the Tour of Hungary, he told me that at the finish they showed the stage of the Giro and that everyone was supporting me. I’m happy to be the first Hungarian to take this jersey. I hope it will give cycling a big boost in my country”. “For him, the white jersey was a dream,” Philippe recalled. “Tonight he’s in pink, it’s something way bigger. He will dream all night long about his podium and his jersey. Maybe even sleep with it. That’s great for a 22 year old kid.”

Here's the report from stage winner Gino Mäder's Bahrain Victorious team:

After yesterday’s shock of losing Mikel Landa on Stage 5, today Team Bahrain Victorious turned their fortunes around with Gino Mäder winning from the breakaway.

Gino Mader

Gino Mäder finishes alone.

The 160-kilometre stage started in Grotte di Farassi and finished on the summit of San Giacomo. An early breakaway of five riders formed, including Gino Mäder and Matej Mohorič, on another day in tough conditions.

Gino was able to stay clear in the break coming onto the final climb of the stage with only two other riders with him after great help from Mohorič. With 3.5 kilometres remaining, Gino launched his attack to go for the win. Gino’s gap from the GC favourites started to fall as they picked up the pace and looked for the stage win. With the time dropping, the fears of a repeat of Stage 7 at Paris-Nice looked possible, but this time he proved too strong and held out for the win.
Damiano Caruso also managed to stay with the favourites and keep the fight alive in the GC, moving into 7th overall.

Gino Mäder‘s victory also moves him into the Maglia Azzurra, as leader of the best climber’s classification: “Yesterday was a really sad day to lose Mikel due to the crash. We had some new goals today, as we do not have to protect Mikel anymore. So we wanted to race aggressively. We wanted to take part in the race differently and go for a breakaway, and I had Matej with me in the day’s breakaway. He did incredible work, and he believed in me. He already believed in me yesterday and told me this is your stage to win. I’m just really happy that it paid off and that we could finish it like this today.

"Actually, what I learned from my past races is if you’re not the strongest, you have to go in a breakaway to have a chance to do something. You can’t influence the way the other guys are racing, so as soon as you have an opportunity to go for a victory, you have to play your cards, and you have to go all the way to the finish line. The only thing you can influence is your power, speed, and so on, be focused, and not lose any energy thinking about the other guys.

"Regarding our following stages on Giro, we had a discussion today in the bus. My humble opinion is that we keep on racing aggressively, we keep on taking the opportunities that we get, and if it is that I can join a breakaway again, I’m surely going to try for it. If I have to work for somebody else, I’m pleased to do so and enjoy the Giro, which is the most beautiful race in the world for me, and it’s the race I always dreamed of. I can enjoy this great opportunity and make the best out of it and achieve for Team Bahrain Victorious”.

Matej Mohorič:
"After all that happened with Mikel yesterday, we were super determined today to prove our point that we are going strong. We are going well for this Giro. Today was Gino’s turn to go in the breakaway and try to win the stage, and I was there to help him out. I worked as hard as I could to keep the advantage as big as possible. Even with the Team Ineos working in the back, we managed to get a big enough advantage that Gino could finish the work off. We are super proud of this. It was perfect teamwork today, and I’m sure we will have more success in this Giro, and we also look forward to the following stages”.

Damiano Caruso moved up to 7th place overall, with a gap of 39" to the new Maglia Rosa Valter Attila (Groupama- FDJ): “We started this stage aggressively. We’ve sent two guys in the breakaway, and also, on the back, we were quite good. I was super happy about today’s victory. It is the best present for what we can have for the team, and also my performance was quite well, and I know that I’m in great condition at the moment. It’s one of the best days of my career so far. We are aligned, solving bad luck and issues we had yesterday. I am still sure that everything is going ok and will be so until Milano”.

Second-place Egan Bernal's Team INEOS Grenadiers team posted this report:

Egan Bernal sprinted to second place to round off a superb INEOS Grenadiers performance in difficult conditions on stage six to move up to third overall at the Giro d’Italia.

Egan bernal

Egan Bernal was the first of his chasing group across the line, earning him second place. Sirotti photo

Bernal attacked twice on the final climb to distance a number of his general classification rivals, the second time distancing all but three riders before putting in a late burst to the line to finish second and take key bonus seconds.

Teammate Dani Martinez had attacked earlier on the uphill finish in driving rain, finishing the stage seventh to move up to 12th overall

Earlier, the Grenadiers had exploded the race with a well-timed acceleration on the Forca di Gualdo climb, which notably saw the maglia rosa, Alessandro De Marchi distanced.

With over 60 kilometres to go Salvatore Puccio, Jonathan Castroviejo, Gianni Moscon and Filippo Ganna took it in turns to push the pace as the peloton split, struggling to handle the pace combined with the blustery and wet conditions.

The Grenadiers then kept the pressure on, navigating treacherous conditions, with Ganna pulling on the front of a reduced peloton to the final climb, the Ascoli Piceno.

From there, his teammates took it in turns to set the tempo, with the gap to Gino Mäder, the remaining rider from the break ever-decreasing.

Mäder held on for the stage win, but came close to being caught as Bernal attacked behind and pipped a select group of GC riders to the line.

Egan Bernal:
“The original plan was to not lose time in what was the first test in a longer climb, we weren’t sure how the legs were going to be, we were going to be conservative but anyway, during the race we realised that we were feeling good, it started to rain and we wanted to be at the front.

"There was a moment in the race where there was the opportunity for us to control of the race, we had the idea to take the opportunity where we knew there was going to be winds at a certain point.

"I think it was an aggressive race, in the end in the headwind, people in the wheels were able to conserve some energy, so the strategy wasn’t quite a successful, but anyway it all worked out, we didn’t lose any time, a few seconds with a couple of our riders, but we’re taking it bit-by-bit.

"It was hard, but it was also amazing, we didn’t wait, it wasn’t planned, we arrived at that point and Pippo pulled, even though I was on his wheel I could tell there was a bit of wind, we went round a few bends, I spoke with the riders, with Castro and said if we pull now we can do some damage, and he said if you think so, I’ll speak with the riders.

"Pippo and the others went full gas, with everything that they had until the first mountain, and although it didn’t do exactly what we wanted, you have to take those opportunities."

Here's the report from Emanuel Buchmann's Bora-hansgrohe squad:

A summit finish would bring stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia to a close today. The 160km parcours was dominated by the second and third category climbs that came after 88.1km and 100.4km respectively, before the 15.5km second category ride up to the finish on roads with a maximum gradient of 10% in the top sections.

Blue skies at the start in Grotte di Frasassi injected some ambition into the breakaway, with a group of six making the move and jumping ahead with two more chasing and bridging across. This group of eight set about building a lead that reached more than five minutes, but as the day went on, the wet weather of previous stages returned to demoralise the entire race.

In spite of the wind and rain, BORA-hansgrohe were supporting Emanuel Buchmann as the decisive climbs of the day began, Felix Grossschartner and Matteo Fabbro flanking the German rider on the demanding gradients. With these weather conditions being felt in the legs of the riders, even the holder of the Maglia Rosa was distanced, leaving a select group of GC riders working to catch the breakaway riders, and Emanuel was in the mix here, latching on as the headwind caused massive splits. The breakaway group began attacking each other on the descent of the penultimate climb, leaving a chasing group strung out on the road and Emanuel’s group closing fast, the gap now below three minutes. The roads were treacherous, with standing water on the flat sections and water running down the mountain roads, causing Felix to slide out on a corner on the final ascent, but unaffected by the fall the Austrian re-mounted his bike and continued at his own pace while Matteo continued to ride with Emanuel.

While the select group of GC riders was reducing the lead to the break, with 1:30 left and 5km remaining, it was unlikely the catch would be made and while Emanuel wasn’t able to respond to the late attacks from his rivals in the overall race, the German rider kept pace with the remaining GC riders and crossed the line in thirteenth spot, continuing his climb up the GC.

From the Finish Line:
"It was an extremely tough stage under harsh conditions, very wet and cold. The team put in a strong effort to help me and in particular, Felix and Matteo provided solid support in the final kilometres. Unfortunately, Felix wasn't able to come back after he crashed but Matteo was with me in the final, decisive, climb. I did my absolute best to stay as long as I could with the group of favourites in the last climb and try to limit any time losses as much as possible.  We've had some awful weather in this first part of the Giro and I hope it improves from here on." – Emanuel Buchmann

"I think it was a good day for us, Emu moved up 10 places in the GC to 16th. The positive aspect we can draw from this stage is that Emu is able to climb with the best while the rest of the squad did a fantastic job, helping with clothing, feeding and making sure he's safe. We had a crash in the last town before the start of the final climb. Felix tumbled in a corner and although it wasn't anything serious, unfortunately, he wasn't able to rejoin the first group. Matteo was the last man with Emu in the climb, protecting him and positioning him. In my view, we can be happy today. The weather was really bad but the good thing is that our guys were always in a good position." – Jens Zemke, Sports Director

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