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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, May 25, 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.

Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends? - Abraham Lincoln


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Giro d'Italia stage 16 team reports

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

Here's the report from second-place Romain Bardet's Team DSM:

A change of parcours today saw the peloton take on a challenging 153 kilometres as they rolled out of Sacile this morning; taking on the climb of La Crosetta earlier in the day before the very difficult Passo Giau and a descent to the finish. It was a fast start to the day with a lot of attacks before a breakaway group went clear on La Crosetta, with Nicholas Roche riding strongly and making the move for the team.

Over the top of the of the climb, some riders in the breakaway pushed on during the descent and a six rider splinter group gained an advantage, with Roche in the group behind. Those ahead continued to extend the gap and with little cooperation in Roche’s group they were eventually caught. In the peloton, the team did well to protect Romain Bardet and position him as the fierce slopes of the Passo Giau grew closer.

On the ascent the Maglia Rosa group thinned down dramatically, with Bardet showing his climbing prowess to make the front eight, before the pace increased even further and more riders were dropped. Bardet dug deep as the Maglia Rosa launched a stinging attack, riding at his own tempo and cresting the Passo Giau in third place. Starting the descent around one minute and 15 seconds behind the race leader, Bardet used his descending skills to expertly gain back time on the long downhill run to the line. Pushing as much as he could, Bardet caught Caruso ahead of him, taking a fantastic second place on the stage for the team. Ending the day just 27 seconds behind the Maglia Rosa but gaining time on all of the other GC contenders; Bardet now moves the team up to seventh place on the overall classification ahead of tomorrow’s rest day.

Romain Bardet & Damiano Caruso

Romain Bardet and Damiano Caruso finish together. Sirotti photo

“The guys did a good job to keep me safe in the earlier part of the stage before the last climb,” explained Bardet after the stage. “There, Bernal was once again the strongest. I was behind with Caruso and rode at my own pace until the top of the climb. Then on the downhill I did the most that I could to close the gap and gained back some time there. I think it was a good ride and we can be happy as we move into the third week.”

Team DSM coach Matt Winston added: “We did a really good job regrouping this morning, thinking about a new plan when they changed the stage. I think we were really sharp at the start on the first really hard climb and then we had full support for Romain going onto the Passo Giau. It started to split a little before the last climb but we brought him into a good position and he was really strong there. He then did a really good descent to catch Caruso and take second on the stage. I think we can be happy with that and the move up on GC.”

Here's the report from Damiano Caruso's Bahrain Victorious team:

Damiano Caruso displayed his resilience in harsh conditions that saw the Queen Stage shortened by 60 kilometres, removing the epic climbs up the Passo Fedaia and the Passo Pordoi. The conditions were so poor that spectators were left with no coverage of the riders for most of the race as helicopters could not take off.

The race eventually started 30 minutes later than planned, and on the descent of the first categorised climb, La Crosetta, a breakaway of six strong riders formed. The gap was just over five minutes to the peloton but was closed down by the key contenders in the GC on the Passo Giau.

As the gap came down to the breakaway, the race leader Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) put in an attack that dropped the rest of the contenders, which saw him win the stage. However, Damiano Caruso managed his losses best and moved up against the rest of the field, finishing third and moving into second in the GC.

Damiano Caruso

Damiano Caruso descends the Passo Giau, headed for the finish. Sirotti photo

After Stage 16, Caruso now sits 2:24 off the Maglia Rosa, with third place Hugh Carthy (EF Education Nippo) 3:40 down.

Damiano Caruso was excited with his performance and shared his thoughts on the eve of a deserved rest day: “Although the race was shortened, the intensity was high all day long, as we expected.

"I felt good on the last climb. I was looking at the faces of other contenders, and I could understand at that moment that I was almost the strongest, except for Bernal, of course. I tried to follow the Maglia Rosa but I couldn’t. So I focussed only on my tempo and doing my best until the end. The morale now is high, for sure.

"I want to say thank you to my teammates because they did a great job also today and to all the staff that helped provide extra clothing during the race, and with such bad weather, it’s something vital. Now, we will enjoy the rest day, and then after tomorrow, we will start again with the last fight.”

Gorazd Štangelj, Head Sports Director praised Damiano Caruso and the team: “Damiano did an amazing job today. He raced using his head and legs. We get out of these days at the maximum. Tomorrow is the rest day, and I wish that our guys have a quality rest. They faced difficult stages and bad weather, fast racing every day. It will be fundamental to recover well ahead of the last week of the Giro, which will be very brutal”.

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

The peloton awoke to rain on Monday morning of the Giro d’Italia’s 16th stage, touted as the most challenging of the 104th Giro d’Italia. When the riders and race organization agreed to shorten the queen stage, taking out two of the four Dolomites’ climbs, it lessened the difficulty of the parcours, but they couldn’t alleviate the weather. Despite a shortened race, it was an epic day and the general classification went through a shredder.

Some love racing in harsh weather conditions, and others loath it. One’s mental approach to a punishing day on the bike can be as important as having good legs, and Trek-Segafredo came into the day ready for theatrics.

Vincenzo Nibali rebounded from a fall in Stage 15 to lead the way, and when teammates Gianluca Brambilla and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier joined him in an initial 24-rider breakaway early in the race, Act 1 was underway. “The pain in my ribs was minimal, fortunately, and it didn’t give me much trouble to breathe, which was my biggest fear,” said Nibali. “I started with the idea of attacking, getting into a breakaway, and going for the stage.”

The plot thickened as Nibali forced a split on the tricky descent after the first climb, leaving six men out front, including Ghebreigzabhier, who did the lion’s share of the work in keeping the breakaway group ahead.

As they approached the Passo Giau, a fatigued Ghebreigzabhier fell off the pace, leaving Nibali to combat the rest of the group on the climb.

“The front group was strong, and Amanuel did a great job supporting me. During the race, we knew that the peloton wouldn’t give us too much space. But it was right to try, to persevere,” he added.

In the chasing group behind, EF Education First had drastically reduced the gap to the breakaway. Under their searing pace, only a skeleton group of GC rivals remained, and by the top of Passo Giau, all remnants of the breakaway were swept aside as the GC fight took center stage.

“It was a stage with no time to breathe,” agreed Nibali. “The absence of Fedaia and Pordoi [climbs] made it less difficult in terms of altitude, but it was still very difficult. Such cold days, all day long in the rain, put everyone to the test.”

A test that Giulio Ciccone was ready for.

Giulio ciccone

Here's Giulio Ciccone racing in the year's Tour of Provence. Sirotti pohoto

Ciccone, who has found himself in an unexpected GC fight in this year’s race, played a more calculated and conservative tactic than usual. As other rivals fell off the demanding pace, he continued to hold firm.

“Although the Giro was forced to revise the route, I think the spectacle was not lacking – it was an epic stage,” said Ciccone. “The new profile blew away any tactics we had from yesterday evening and made the day more explosive. The pace was strong from the start, but, of course, Passo Giau made the real difference.

“EF set an impressive pace, and from there it was a test of endurance, legs and head. I had good feelings all day, and this allowed me to manage my energy smartly.”

When Egan Bernal’s expected attack came, Cicco did not falter.  He crested the final climb in 4th place, the same position he crossed the line 17 kilometers later after a wet, treacherous descent.

While Bernal put a stronghold on winning this year’s Giro, behind him the classification went through some drastic changes. It will be a thrilling fight for the final podium steps in the last five stages to Milan, and Ciccone is well in the game.

“This is the aspect that makes me most satisfied today,” pointed out Ciccone, “I didn’t give in to the instinct to follow whoever was attacking and to accelerate even though I felt good, but I climbed at my own pace. Looking at the overall ranking now, it’s a choice that has paid off.”

Here's the Giro update from Joao Almeida's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

João Almeida edged his way back in the general classification at the end of the weather-shortened stage 16, which started in Sacile and finished in Cortina d’Ampezzo, where the race returned after nine years. Three minutes outside the top 10 overall at the beginning of the day, the 22-year-old was keen on improving his position, and that was precisely what he did, after an audacious day spent at the front in pouring rain.

Joao Almeida

Joao Almeida

Almeida joined a 24-man group who went up the road in the 155km stage that featured only Passo Giau, after the organisers decided to take out Passo Fedaia and Passo Pordoi due to the miserable conditions out there. On the slopes of the first climb, only six riders, including João, were still at the front, but after enjoying a heartening maximum advantage of six minutes, they started the Giau just two minutes ahead of the chasers as a result of a serious injection of pace in the peloton.

Caught and distanced by the maglia rosa some four kilometers from the top of this neverending ascent, the race’s Cima Coppi this year, Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Portuguese fought valiantly on the punishing gradients, bridging to a small chasing group and even making up time on the descent. Eventually, João finished sixth in Cortina d’Ampezzo, and this effort paid off handsomely, as Monday’s result elevated the man from Caldas da Rainha three places in the rankings, up to tenth, with just five stages remaining.

“I felt good today despite the rain and cold. I wanted to go for the stage win, that’s why I attacked and joined that move, but the peloton was really strong and rode really hard, as they had other plans today. In the end, it wasn’t a bad day. I did my best and I’m happy to have gained a few places in the general classification. There’s still a long way to Milano and a lot of hard stages left, but we’ll continue to take it day by day and see where that takes us”, a smiling João said after his strong day in the rain.

For Remco Evenepoel it was a day of suffering, as he concluded the stage more than 20 minutes down on the winner, but not even this could dampen his morale: “Losing that much time shows that I didn’t have a good stage and I really felt the fatigue in my legs. I said even before that I didn’t have any expectations coming into the race after that lengthy injury and with just two months of training, I don’t think everyone thought I could be in top form for three weeks. At the same time, it’s a learning process that I’m sure will help me in the future. I am happy for Joao, he worked hard for me in the last couple of days and deserves to be in the top 10, so we’re going to help him in the remaining stages to achieve this.”

Simon Yates' Team BikeExchange posted this:

Briton Simon Yates slipped down the classification on a shortened, cold and wet Queen stage at the Giro d’Italia today, after being distanced from the reduced GC group half-way up the Passo Giau, with 24km remaining.

The much-anticipated 16th stage began with a drastic change, as challenging weather conditions forced the race organisers to shorten the 212km day down to 153km, removing two key climbs, the Passo Fedaia and Passo Pordoi, from the final.

As the peloton reached the ‘Cima Coppi,’ EF Education-Nippo set a hard tempo and quickly the distance to the a breakaway group of six riders halved. Yates remained with his GC rivals as they started climbing the 9.9km ascent, but as the pace continued to increase, the 28-year-old struggled to stay on terms half-way up the climb and slowly drifted off the back of the group.

Simon Yates

Simon Yates finishes stage 14. Sirotti photo

Before reaching the summit the Maglia Rosa, Egan Bernal, attacked and led down the 12km solo before taking the stage win into Cortina d’Ampezzo. The Team BikeExchange rider limited his losses behind, crossing the line two minutes 26 seconds adrift, to move into fifth position overall ahead of tomorrow’s second rest day.

Simon Yates:
“I would have preferred to have been closer to the front, to the guys who were fighting for the podium, but that’s how it goes. I did my best and I’ll continue to do that in the coming stages and enjoy a well-earned rest day tomorrow.

"It makes a difference [the cold weather], some riders tolerate it better than others, normally I’m ok and today I was not so cold, but I think just a combination of serval factors meant that I was unable to be where I wanted to be.

“It is was a difficult stage, not what I was looking for, but I did my best. The victory is a bit far away now, but the podium is still well within reach, so we’ll keep the head up, keep the chin up and go from there.”

Matt White – Head Sport Director:
“It was a difficult stage, a little bit less difficult because we didn’t run the full stage. Lucky we didn’t as it was cold enough today and I think they (RSC race organisers) made the correct decision. It was cold and if we had gone over those other two passes in those temperatures, we would have seen even bigger gaps, so I think it was the best decision for rider safety.

"With us, it didn’t go as planned. You have to manage your bad days; they are just as important as managing your good days. There’s still a lot of racing to come, there’s a well-deserved rest day tomorrow and then we press reset and attack our last block before Milan.”

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