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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, May 17, 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.

Bore, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen. - Ambrose Bierce


Current racing:

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Giro d'Italia stage nine team reports:

We posted the report from stage winner Egan Bernal's INEOS Grenadiers team with the results.

Here's the report from second-place Giulio Ciccone's Trek-Segafredo team:

It has been hard to rein in Giulio Ciccone this Giro. When the feeling’s good, he wants to fly.

Ciccone knew coming into the 104th Giro d’Italia he would not be an unknown commodity like years past. Still, the 26-year-old showed again in Stage 9 that when the legs are good – and his arguably may be the best we’ve seen from the Italian climber – the results will follow.

Giulio Ciccone

Giulio Ciccone racing in this year's Tour of Provence. Sirotti photo

There was no stopping a vicious acceleration from Egan Bernal within the last kilometer of Stage 9, but Giulio Ciccone was not far off his pace. He finished in second at seven seconds and notably ahead of the rest of the favorite general classification contenders.  He now sits in 4th overall.

Giulio did not come into this year’s race with any GC ambitions (his first leadership role in a Grand Tour set for the Vuelta) and is not expected to vie for the overall podium, but the way Ciccone has been riding nine days into the three-week tour, his role and goals just may change.

However, there is a long way to go to Milan, and we all know that one bad moment in the mountains can alter the GC in a heartbeat.  For now, though, we will relish in the Ciccone’s good form.  And aim for one step higher.

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

The pink dream came to an end this Sunday for Attila Valter, on the gravel road of Campo Felice. In what was a very intense ninth stage of the Giro, the Hungarian held on to his leader’s jersey until the last two kilometers of the final climb before cracking a little. Nobody was able to prevent Egan Bernal’s to take the win and the maglia rosa in Rocca di Cambio anyway. Now fifth overall, Attila Valter still has a lot to go for in this Giro, like the rest of the Groupama-FDJ cycling team.

Attila Valter

Attlia Valter lost 49 seconds and the pink jersey today. Sirotti photo

Attila Valter hoped to bring his pink jersey until the first rest day. To do that however, he had to “survive” the mountains stage 9 of the Giro between Castel di Sangro and Campo Felice. Around 3,500 vertical meters were on the menu this Sunday, and it wasn’t long before the riders made their way to the first slopes. Then started a long sequence of breakaway attempts. With the attackers having the momentum on this 2021 edition, many riders wanted to get involved in the breakaway and the fight therefore lasted for… 75 kilometers.

“We weren’t surprised by race pace at the start,” said Philippe Mauduit. “To be honest, as long as our rider can hold on in such situations, it’s already a good thing. They showed they were there. Maybe they weren’t completely at the front, but in that kind of scenario, you also let the others do a bit because everyone is chasing everyone. They handled the situation in a rather good way”. “It was brutal for me, but also for all the riders I think, summed up Attila. Everyone really wanted to be in the breakaway, as if the stage victory was guaranteed. So it was very hard”. After two hours of furious racing and no rest, seventeen men managed to go away and the best placed among them in the overall standings was more than five minutes behind the pink jersey.

The Groupama-FDJ cycling team then calmly took things in hand and put its eight riders at the head of the peloton. “It was important and reassuring for Attila to still have the whole team around him after this tough start,” added Philippe. Thanks to Antoine Duchesne, the gap was maintained around three minutes in the second categorized climb, and then came the long climb to Ovindoli, fifty kilometers from the finish. “We wanted to slow down the pace a bit but when we did, the guys got passed by other guys who wanted to stay not too far from the breakaway,” Philippe said. “Therefore, they had to fight to keep their position and consequently maintain a good tempo. They really did their best”.

After this penultimate climb, the young Hungarian could still count on five of his teammates in a bunch quite reduced following the acceleration of Ineos. “The last couple of days, the guys have been super amazing,” said Attila. “I think everyone even did more than they thought they could. We were all together when the breakaway went while only half of the peloton was there. Antoine started to pull, Romain did the downhills. On the last long climb, Simon and Lars kept me in good position. Rudy was there all day by my side. Matteo was there in the final to support and cheer me, and I needed it! Seb was there in the very last part in order not to lose too much time. Everyone did his job perfectly on a hard day. They could have finished in the gruppetto under other circumstances, but we fought hard for the jersey. The team can be proud”.

With about ten kilometres to go, the bunch started to increase the pace even more and Attila Valter slowly dropped back in the group. “I have to admit that even before the last climb I knew there was a high chance that I would lose the jersey,” he said. “I knew it was steep at the end, and on the gravel part, it’s really easy to gain ten seconds. Not to mention the bonus seconds. I managed to hold on until the tunnel, then tried to recover a bit and I gave my best on the gravel road. It wasn’t enough to keep the jersey but I wanted to show that I didn’t want to give it away so easily and I fought to the line. I suffered the whole stage, I was a little tired from the last few days and I did not have my best day on the bike”. Dropped from the favourites group with less than two kilometers to go, Attila Valter eventually finished the stage in 25th place, 49 seconds behind Egan Bernal. “Even if I had somehow made it on the podium today, I would still have lost the jersey to an incredible Egan Bernal,” said Attila. “I think there is no shame in losing the jersey after such a hard stage. I’m still fifth overall after nine stages. If I had been told that before the Giro, I would have signed for sure”.

“We fought to keep the jersey and we don’t have to be ashamed of our performance,” said Lars van den Berg. “Obviously, we were a bit disappointed when we crossed the line because we are competitors, but we must also remember that moment of joy when Attila took the jersey and the three days we spent defending it all together”.

For Attila Valter, the pink adventure therefore came to an end on Saturday, but without any bitterness. “For sure I’m happy, I had three beautiful days,” he said. “I’m also glad I have a little more time now to think about these three days, because I haven’t had much time lately. It’s really hard to find the right balance between staying focused on the race and enjoying the moment, which was the greatest of my life so far. I was not sad when at the finish today, but mostly happy that it all happened.”

Philippe Mauduit added: “I want to remember the work of all the staff, who have been extraordinary and who did great. I also remember the riders’ attitude, as they were united around Attila and his jersey. They fought hard every day. I only remember positive things from the last three days. The Giro is not over but we will complete the first half tomorrow, and this first half has been successful. They have certainly given a lot of energy in this first week but we will try to stay active and look to other things”. “I want every rider to have his chance,” concluded Attila. “Personally, I never imagined being in such a good position after nine days. The goal now is to stay there as long as possible, but if I happen to have a bad day, I also know that I have the legs on this Giro to play a stage victory from a breakaway”.

Here's the report from Koen Bouwman's Jumbo-Visma team:

In the ninth stage of the Giro d’Italia Koen Bouwman has come close to what could have been the best win of his career. The Dutchman rode in the lead in the mountain stage through the Abruzzi until four hundred metres before the finish, when he was passed by the group of favourites. He eventually finished in fifteenth place followed by Tobias Foss in eighteenth place. The Norwegian also holds this position in the overall standings.

The stage to Campo Felice turned into a real fight from start to finish. The pace was high from the start and there was never an easy moment. Just like yesterday, it took a long time before a breakaway got away. When that happened, a large group got established with next to Bouwman also George Bennett for Team Jumbo-Visma. On the penultimate climb Bennett paved the way for Bouwman, who first had to close a gap on Geoffrey Bouchard on the final climb. For a moment it looked like Bouwman was on his way to victory, but the group of favourites decided otherwise.

PEloton

Nothing about this stage was ever going to be easy. Sirotti photo

Afterwards Bouwman had a déjà vu to 2018 when he also seemed to be on his way to victory in the eighth stage, but was then passed by Richard Carapaz. “This really sucks. Especially when you are so close. When I saw Bernal coming, you know it’s over. He really flew by like a missile. He went really fast. It was a brutal stage. In the beginning I tried a number of times to go with the breakaway, but it took a really long time before George and I got away with the right guys. However, on the penultimate climb I didn’t feel really fresh anymore. I tried to save myself as much as possible by jumping from wheel to wheel. At the top I managed to get through and I was able to join Mollema and Storer. On the final climb I took my chance and attacked. I joined the Frenchman in the penultimate kilometre, but the stage was just 400 metres too long. The gravel there was no way to go. This is a pity and dissapointing. But at least my form is good and there are still several opportunities to come. I’ll keep trying.”

Romain Bardet's Team DSM posted this:

With hardly a flat road in sight and several categorised and uncategorised climbs to contend with, stage nine of the Giro d’Italia was set to be a spectacular day of racing. Immediately from the flag drop an infernal pace was set at the head of the peloton, with attack after attack flying at the front of the race. The team were very active, with both Michael Storer and Nicholas Roche making it into promising moves that were eventually brought back before the flurry of attacks started again.

Finally after 75 kilometres of incredibly intense racing a break of 17 riders established itself out front, with Storer showing great legs to make the move for the team. Their advantage grew out and with 35 kilometres to go it stood at three minutes and 30 seconds where things stabilised. Heading into the difficult finale the breakaway split after an increase in pace, with Storer riding well to make the group, before yet more attacks flew. On the flat plateau before the final climb, Storer launched a stinging counter attack alongside Mollema and Bouwman, setting off in pursuit of the leading duo. At the same point the peloton increased the tempo too, setting up a nail biting finale for the stage win on the gravel climb to the finish.

A fierce pace was set in the closing ten kilometres, with Storer and the rest of the breakaway ultimately caught as they hit the final slope. After some good positioning work by the team in the lead in, Romain Bardet was to the fore as the bunch fought it out on the gravel ascent for the stage win. Digging deep all the way to the line, Bardet finished in a strong seventh place on the day, crossing the line amongst the other GC contenders.

Romian Bardet

Romain Bardet finished seventh. Sirotti photo

“It was another pretty hard stage,” explained Bardet at the finish. “It was a good job from Michael to be in the break because it was a really hard start and he did well there. The rest of the guys did a good job to really position me up front for the gravel section. I felt good, I just made a mistake in my trajectory with 200 metres to go that cost me a lot of speed to get into the finish. Anyway, it’s a good day and I feel stronger day-by-day so we’re well on our way to the second week.”

Team DSM coach Matt Winston added: “It was a really fast start to the day but the guys rotated well in the attacks and we had Nico [Roche] and Michael up there covering the moves. Eventually a group got away and Michael did well to be in there for us and rode a really good stage. The rest of the guys in the peloton focused on keeping Romain safe as we headed to the finish and they positioned him well for that last climb. He managed to get a nice top ten for us on the day and we’re still up there in contention on GC. Overall, it was a good day for us and we’re building nicely together as the race progresses.”

Here's the report from Matteo Fabbro's Bora-hansgrohe team:

Stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia had the riders climbing from the very first of the 158km. While there were only four categorised climbs on the profile, there wasn’t a kilometre of flat road to be seen, with the terrain either rising or falling the entire day. A flurry of attacks marked the start of the stage, and every time, Matteo Fabbro was in the move for BORA-hansgrohe, but it took 50km for a cohesive group to form on the front to become the day’s break.

After his many immense efforts, Matteo was rewarded, joining this group of fourteen riders to mark the team’s first day in the escape group of this year’s Giro d’Italia. The Italian rider helped the leaders to slowly increase the gap to more than three minutes, the peloton behind keeping a close eye on the time gaps as the day went on, and while the climbs got harder and members of his group dropped off, Matteo stayed on the front. Back in the bunch, Emanuel Buchmann was riding with Giovanni Aleotti and Felix Grossschartner, the German rider being well supported by his teammates as the final 20km came and only one tough mountain remained to be climbed, the first category Rocca di Cambio, which started easily enough, but in the final kilometre saw average gradients of nearly 9% and maximum slopes of 14% - as well as a rough gravel stretch to the finish line.

Final kilometers

The final kilometer was both unpaved and really steep. Sirotti photo

It was here that Matteo dropped off from the break to ride in support of Emanuel, the remnants of the break caught shortly after, leaving only two riders off the front fighting it out for the stage win. The unpaved gravel roads at the summit finish made the steep slopes even more difficult as the select GC group was gaining ground on the break, sweeping past with just 600m left to race. A late attack from Bernal took the stage, but Emanuel raced to the very end, taking thirteenth on the line, holding on to fifteenth place in the overall standings.

From the Finish Line:
"The first part of the stage was marked by the really hard fight for the breakaway to go away. When the definite group was formed, we had Matteo in and the team was happy all day long. Felix brought me into a perfect position for the important gravel sector in the finale. From there on it was up to each rider's legs and I think I can be happy with the day." – Emanuel Buchmann

"Today, we tried to be in the breakaway. We gave our best and it was an absolutely hard fight to finally make it. I was feeling good in there but, unfortunately, the peloton didn't give us much space and we were caught in the final gravel sector. We'll try again another day." – Matteo Fabbro

"Matteo did a fantastic race today. It was extremely hard to make it to the break and every time a group was formed, Matteo was present. That's incredible, he was very strong and he took the opportunity to give it a shot at the stage win. That was the goal behind that action. Our second goal was to protect Emu all the way to the finale, making sure he gets there safe and everybody did a very good job." – Jens Zemke, Sports Director

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