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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, May 28, 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.

You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours. - Yogi Berra


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Giro d'Italia stage 18 team reports

We posted the report from Team DSM with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Alberto Bettiol's Team EF Education-Nippo:

“The Giro is the most beautiful race in the most beautiful country in the world. This year I would love to win a stage.”

Yet it was clearly not enough for Alberto Bettiol to simply be a stage winner. This is his home country after all. He was victorious in the most unforgettable way possible.

Alberto Bettiol

Alberto Bettiol enjoys his stage win. Sirotti photo

“It’s really special to win a stage like this. It feels like the Tour of Flanders years ago,” said Bettiol.

It was a promising start for the Italian pro who joined the breakaway group that quickly set an unforgiving pace. “We had to first make the breakaway. Then for Bettiol in the break, it was all about him trying to drop everybody,” said Sport Director Matti Breschel.

Things did look concerning though at one point when he stopped for a rear wheel change, yet everyone from the mechanics to Bettiol seemed calm and collected in what’s a typically stressful situation. Almost like they knew something we didn’t. Bettiol later pushed on with a bottle in hand and then dropped back to the team car once again to chat for a bit.

Clearly, something was in the works.

Bettiol and the breakaway group would eventually gain a whopping 20 minutes over the rest of the peloton. All of this effort is made even more impressive considering his strenuous efforts in helping Hugh Carthy yesterday. Somehow his legs looked fresh and his energy high.

“The team was in good spirit and today I had this great opportunity to go into the breakaway and try for the win,” said Bettiol.

As the race progressed, one could immediately gather that the Italian pro was operating on a different level than the rest of the group. Nico Roche joined him with 10 kilometers of go and gave it his best efforts, and it looked at one point like Cavagna (DQT) might take the stage win.

But in the end, Bettiol’s dedication and commitment to winning today in Stradella was unmatched.

“We are filled with joy and adrenaline,” said Breschel. “He’s such an incredible bike rider.”

In addition to his world-class riding skills, Bettiol is a unique personality on the team. One of his most admired traits (besides his good humor) is the support he’s constantly providing to his teammates. Today was his biggest stage win to date, and Bettiol was already thinking about how the team would support Hugh Carthy in the next stages.

“We will enjoy the victory for a few hours and then we will focus on Hugh,” said Bettiol.

“Everything went according to plan today. In cycling, it’s incredibly hard to do that but today was one of those days,” said Breschel.

Here’s to the rest of the Giro and congrats to the team on a perfectly executed day.

Here's the report from GC leader Egan Bernal's Team INEOS Grenadiers:

Egan Bernal and the INEOS Grenadiers set themselves up for a pivotal weekend at the Giro d'Italia with a controlled performance on stage 18.

Following an early flurry of attacks to earn a place in the breakaway, the Grenadiers calmed the bunch and managed the pace on the race's longest stage.

Team INEOS

Team INEOS has been taking very good care of Egan Bernal. Sirotti photo

Filippo Ganna and Salvatore Puccio put in the majority of the work on the front of the peloton in order to allow the Grenadiers' climbing support to stay in their wheels and recover from stage 17's exertions.

Ahead, Alberto Bettiol took the stage victory from the break as the peloton rolled in 20 minutes down on the leaders ahead of two key mountain stages and the final stage time trial in Milan.

Egan Bernal:
“I hope I’ve recovered well, I felt much better than yesterday on the bike and I hope tomorrow will be another good day. Today was really fast at times, but I was in the wheels so it was a bit easier behind all the time.

“I am trying to do my best, you can’t be overconfident because yesterday and in the past we’ve seen that with just one day you can lose everything. I have a lot of respect for the other guys,  I need to be focused and try to do my best and that’s it.”

Here's the report from points classification leader Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team:

Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia was by far the longest of the race. At 231km riders would be grateful for the absence of the climbs that had featured so strongly on the previous week’s stages, with just one fourth category climb to contend with towards the end of the stage, followed by a shorter uncategorised climb. The downhill finish in Stradella had all the potential of being one for the sprinters, but on such a long day, the likelihood of many of the riders being in a position to win a sprint after such a long day was unlikely, while with the breaks having had so much success recently, there was every chance the day’s escape would manage to do it again, and this was clear with the level of activity when the day started.

BORA-hansgrohe were working hard to shut down the smaller attacks that could result in a larger bunch sprint at the end of the day, with Peter Sagan and Daniel Oss policing the front of the peloton, but the sheer number of riders trying to escape saw a group of twenty-three fighting their way up the road.

The break extended their lead on the flat roads, the advantage reaching more than fifteen minutes with 50km to go and this crept up to nearly seventeen minutes with 25km remaining before the escape started to split on the day’s categorised climb, the kilometres making their presence known here in the riders’ legs. With 10km remaining and the advantage now exceeding twenty minutes, the peloton knew that there was no chance of them making the catch.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan has about wrapped up his win in the points classification. Sirotti photo

While the break took the stage, Peter Sagan secured another day in the ciclamino jersey after finishing safely, fully aware that the opportunities for other riders to take it off his shoulders before Milan were slipping away.

From the Finish Line:
"Today was an important stage and the key was not to lose points for the ciclamino jersey. We kept under control the sprinters that were close in the points classification and held on to the ciclamino. On Friday and Saturday, we have two hard mountain stages." – Peter Sagan

"This was the last decisive stage for the ciclamino jersey, so it was our main objective of the day. Our strategy was to either let a breakaway group go all the way to the finish or, if other teams were also interested in that, work to keep the escapees under a shorter leash and be ready to fight in the finale. The squad was strong today and we were ready for all possible scenarios, including the possibility to battle for the stage win. Every one of the guys worked hard in the initial part of the stage and a big group went away. That was to our advantage since no sprinter would get any points in the intermediate sprint. We weren't worried about the escapees building too much of an advantage since all sprinters were in the bunch. Peter was protected, stayed safe until the finish line, and kept the points jersey. We are happy with this outcome ahead of the two mountain stages." – Jan Valach, Sports Director

Here's the report from Rémi Cavagna's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

On a day where the GC picture didn’t change at all, as the peloton decided to take it easy ahead of the two hard mountain stages that cane shake-up the standings ahead of Milano, Rémi Cavagna put on a great number, animating the longest stage of the race, which travelled from Rovereto to Stradella, over 231 kilometers that packed four short but sharp hills in the final part.

Remi Cavagna

Rémi Cavagna time-trialing in stage one. Sirotti photo

A fierce battle between the 23 riders in the breakaway started inside the last hour of racing, when they began showing their cards in an attempt to make that winning move. Cavagna waited patiently for the only classified climb of the day, where he attacked from the fragmented group and quickly opened a 25-second advantage by the time he reached the top of Castana. All-in on the descent, the Frenchman – fully committed to his effort and in full time trial mode – continued at the front also on the penultimate climb, which featured some stinging gradients, that halved his lead.

Without looking back, Rémi emptied himself on the rolling roads of Lombardia and stayed at the front despite the strong headwind until an agonizingly 400 meters to the summit of the last hill, where he was caught and dropped by Alberto Bettiol (EF Education), who took the win. Despite running out of fuel, the 25-year-old still came in the top 10, a mere consolation as he underlined at the finish, after being on track for a career-second Grand Tour stage victory at one point.

“The goal was to join the break, because it was the last opportunity to try something. When I attacked, I gave everything and had a solid gap with 15 kilometers to go, which made me believe in my chances, but I missed something in the end. I knew there were better climbers than me in the group and you could see that. Nevertheless, I enjoyed being at the front today, although the result was frustrating”, Cavagna said after coming home ninth in Stradella.

Team Groupama-FDJ posted this stage 18 report:

No fewer than 231 kilometers were on the riders’ menu on Thursday towards Stradella in stage 18 of the Giro. For the tenth time since the start of the race, the breakaway proved successful. However, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team did not manage to enter it this time after a big fight at the start of the stage. After more than five hours of racing, Alberto Bettiol got the win before the last two mountain stages of the event.

More than any other one in this 2021 Giro, the breakaway of the stage 18 was on everyone’s agenda. Despite quite a long distance to cover between Rovereto and Stradella (231 kilometers), almost all the riders had the will to go up front on Thursday. As a consequence, the first hour of racing proved very fast and made of relentless attacks and counterattacks. After about thirty kilometers, twenty-three riders managed to create a gap but the peloton did not sit up immediately. Several teams missed the right move, including Groupama-FDJ, and therefore made numerous attempts to bridge across. Unsuccessfully. After fifty kilometers of hard racing, the peloton stopped chasing and the breakaway was able to go for the stage win, as expected.

Peloton

A tired peloton faced more than five hours in the saddle. Sirotti photo

“We missed it and it’s a shame because we knew the break would make it,” said Philippe Mauduit. “We don’t have to make excuses, the guys are just really tired. We obviously wanted to be in front, and we tried to get in the moves, but some had the means to do it and others less. Antoine and Romain were very active and we can’t reproach anything. Of course it’s a failure, and we cannot be satisfied with our performance today. The guys are just at the end of their rope, like 85% of the peloton. Everyone is exhausted, but in such cases, the difference is made with will and courage. We probably lacked a bit of that today.” The day’s breakaway then fought for victory in the four hills of the final, where Alberto Bettiol proved to be the strongest to take victory on home soil. The bunch finished over twenty minutes later with all the Groupama-FDJ’s riders in it.

“As soon as the break went, the only thing we could do was to stay quietly in the bunch and save as much energy as possible for the next two stages, which will still be extremely difficult,” said Philippe. Attila Valter also gained one place in the general classification on Thursday following the abandon of Giulio Ciccone. The Hungarian finds himself fifteenth overall with three stages still to go. Tomorrow, the mountain comes back with a summit finish in Alpe di Mera (9.6 km at 9%). “It’s going to be a long fight at the start tomorrow, and we don’t have the means to follow all the moves,” said Philippe. “We will have to be a bit clever, smarter, and it will be difficult anyway. But there are only two stages left, so we have to give it a go”.

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