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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, May 20, 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.

Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory. - Albert Schweitzer

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Giro d'Italia stage 11 team reports

We posted the report from GC leader Egan Bernal's INEOS Grenadiers team with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Mauro Schmid's Qhubeka-Assos team:

Mauro Schmid stormed to victory on stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia, claiming the first professional win of his career and Team Qhubeka ASSOS first win at this year’s Giro d’Italia.

Mauro Schmid

Mauro Schmid takes the stage.

The young Swiss rider (21), who was drafted into our Giro team two weeks before the Grande Partenza, got into the early break of the day with fellow teammate Bert-Jan Lindeman, along with 10 other riders.

It was to be a very special stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia as the 162km route through the Tuscan countryside included 4 gravel sectors, totaling more than 35km inside the final 70km of the stage.

Both Lindeman and Schmid were part of our team that raced the Strade Bianche earlier this year, and were able to draw on their experience of having trained and raced on the white roads already this year. Lindeman had in fact also stayed on after Strade Bianche this year to recon this Giro stage, information which proved invaluable for him and Schmid in the break.

Lindeman did a fine job to drive the break along with his younger teammate, as the gap to peloton maxed out at 14-minutes. It soon became clear that the stage victor would come from the breakaway.

The gravel sectors whittled the front group down as expected, but Schmid certainly looked like one of the more comfortable riders on the slippery sandy surfaces. Schmid excited the final gravel sector with just 2 other riders on his wheel and 9km remaining in the race.

A final cat 3 climb into Montalcino left Schmid to battle it out with Alessandro Covi (UAE-Emirates) for the stage win. With a strong track pedigree behind him, Schmid took the sprint on from the front and Covi was unable to match his turn of speed over the final 200m.

Mauro Schmid:
I can’t believe it, it’s my first international win and I would never have expected it to be at a grand tour. I was not even expecting to do a Grand Tour this year, but the team believed in me and I got the chance to do the Giro. It’s an amazing race and it means a lot to me.

I started with mountain bike racing when I was younger, and cyclocross and now I also do track. I will go to the Olympics this year. The technical skills from cycle cross and the power from the track have helped me to develop as a rider.

We ride for a bigger cause; we ride for bicycles to change lives. We ride for a charity, but everything in our team is high performance. We have a great team spirit. For me, bicycles mean freedom, it means happiness. And that’s why we ride, that’s the reason.

Third-place finisher Harm Vanhoucke's Lotto Soudal team sent me this report:

Lotto Soudal rider Harm Vanhoucke finished third in a memorable stage eleven of the Giro d’Italia. Together with teammate Roger Kluge, Vanhoucke was part of an eleven-rider breakaway which battled it out for the stage win on the way to Montalcino. The 23-year-old Vanhoucke left a strong impression on the Tuscan gravel roads and reached out his hand to a first professional victory. However, Vanhoucke’s plans were disrupted by a late crash, which forced him to change bikes. After a furious chase, he still came close to the two leaders, but in the end Vanhoucke had to settle for third place. The Swiss Mauro Schmid won the stage, Roger Kluge crossed the line in seventh place.


Harm Vanhoucke leads the break that went. Sirotti photo

“I am unbelievably disappointed”, says Harm Vanhoucke. “I really felt I was the strongest rider in the breakaway today, but unfortunately a crash and a bike change at ten kilometres from the finish prevented me from going for the win. I still managed to catch a lot of riders as I launched a furious chase. In the end, I finished just under half a minute behind the winner, but unfortunately I lost a little too much time because of the bike change to go for the stage win.”

Almost immediately after the peloton left Perugia, a breakaway of eleven riders took shape, including Lotto Soudal riders Roger Kluge and Harm Vanhoucke. The peloton wasn’t eager to start chasing and that way, the advantage of the front group went up to a whopping fourteen minutes. It soon became clear that the stage would be won from the breakaway. In what was a true gravel spectacle, the young Belgian eventually finished third after being forced to change bikes due to a crash in the very final of the stage.

Harm Vanhoucke: “Actually, I was a bit surprised that the peloton gave us such a big lead because I thought this was going to be a stage for the general classification riders. Fortunately for us, it turned out differently. Roger Kluge did a great job and attacked several times so I could save my forces. I really didn’t plan to be in today’s breakaway. Actually, this was the stage I feared the most. In addition to that, I had never ridden on such long gravel sections, not even in training. So I was happy to be part of the front group because I would not have liked to be in the peloton today. Along the way, I also collected some KOM points, maybe they will come in handy later in the race, who knows…”

Here's the update from Remco Evenepoel's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

After a well-deserved rest day, the Giro d’Italia recommenced with a 162km stage through Umbria and Tuscany, which packed some 35 kilometers of up-and-down white roads and leg-sapping ramps in the final two hours. This made for some brutal racing, an attritional day in the saddle which took its toll on many of the riders, who ended up losing minutes on the punishing sterrate.

Remco Evenepoel was among those, after getting dropped with twenty kilometers to go, on the third and the penultimate ascent. The 21-year-old Belgian managed somehow to keep the pink jersey in sight and kept putting in a determined effort, but as the gradient stiffened, he began to struggle and lose more time on the other GC contenders, who increased the tempo upon hearing the news. Fortunately, João Almeida was there, dropping back from the main group to help his Deceuninck – Quick-Step teammate limit the losses in the last part of this complicated stage.

Eventually, Evenepoel arrived in Montalcino around two minutes down on the maglia rosa, but he wasn’t deterred by what happened in this unique and harsh day of racing, opting to look at the whole picture in a different and much positive way, especially as he arrived at this point of the Giro after a difficult injury and nine long months without a single day of racing in his legs.

Remco Evenepeol

Remco Evenepoel lost time in stage 11, dropping to seventh in the GC. Sirotti photo

“Unfortunately, I lost two minutes. It wasn’t the best day for me. I was suffering a lot on the second sector, then on the third one, when they started sprinting, I felt the legs were pretty empty, that’s why I was in the last position and couldn’t follow. It’s the way my body reacted after eleven days of racing that came after so much time with no racing. I’m thankful to the team and João for the job they did for me today, from the start until the finish. It’s not a good result for me, but I’m still seventh in my first Grand Tour and remain confident, as there’s still a long way to go until Milano”, said Remco after Wednesday’s stage.

“We knew it would be a difficult stage. We lost some time, but considering the circumstances, it’s not the end of the world. We aren’t the only ones who lost time, it was a hard stage for a lot of riders. We continue to remain optimistic and motivated ahead of the big mountain stages”, added Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Klaas Lodewyck.

Emanuel Buchmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this stage 11 report:

Coming straight after the race’s first rest day, stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia would be exhilarating and anxiety-inducing in equal measure. It wasn’t the third category climb, ridden twice in the closing 50km of this 162km stage, that would test the riders, but the four ‘sterrato’ gravel sectors spread out over the parcours.

Classics riders would be familiar with the dusty Tuscan roads from riding the Strade Bianche race in March and knew just how tough they are, but many of the GC riders would be experiencing this terrain for the first time and with the potential for mechanicals and punctures, the overall standings could change dramatically once the dust had settled. With spirits lifted by the good weather, eleven riders went on the attack at the start of the day, quickly building a considerable advantage – more than five minutes after 20km of racing – and that lead only grew stronger, hitting nearly fifteen minutes at its peak.

In the early part of the stage, the GC riders were working to stay safe ahead of the gravel sectors, and BORA-hansgrohe made sure the team’s GC rider, Emanuel Buchmann, was well protected here. The peloton started pulling to reduce this lead, bringing it down to eleven minutes with 50km to go, but with many riders suffering from the day’s difficult terrain – both bike issues and tiredness – the break always seemed just out of reach. Riding to support BORA-hansgrohe’s GC rider, Emanuel Buchmann, Peter Sagan shared his experience of the terrain with the German rider to help keep him safe in the select chasing group.

Peter Sagan

After the tough 11th stage, Peter Sagan remain the points classification leader. Sirotti Photo

In the fourth and final gravel sector at the foot of the final climb of the Passo del Lume Spento, Emanuel took to the front, keeping pace with the Maglia Rosa, with only fifteen riders making up this select GC group, before going on the attack on his own, maintaining a slim lead over the chasers before Bernal bridged over to him as the race entered the narrow streets of Montalcino. While the breakaway took the stage win, in an incredible ride where his attack was timed to perfection, Emanuel claimed twelfth – a result that rocketed him into sixth in the overall standings.

From the Finish Line:
"I felt pretty good from the start today and the team positioned me well in the first sector. It was a very tough race and on the gravel sections we went full throttle and I was always in front. On the last climb, I looked at the other riders and thought I'd give it a go. In the end, Egan joined me and we crossed the finish line together. I think that was a really good race and we can hope to continue like this." – Emanuel Buchmann

"We knew it would be an unusual stage, very nervous, and we were ready for any eventuality. It was important to anticipate potential problems, such as mechanicals, and make sure they were quickly resolved if they took place. I think teams were more concentrated on reducing risks and not losing time rather than actually going for the win. We focused on Emanuel Buchmann and his GC position, so the entire team worked for him. The guys guided him very well in the first gravel sector and then Peter in the second one.  He stayed in the reduced group of favourites and from there onward it was easier for him. He had the legs and took the initiative to attack in the final climb. He distanced nearly all GC contenders and was only joined by Bernal. It was a good day for us." – Jan Valach, Sports Director

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