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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, May 29, 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.

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans. - Woody Allen

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Giro d'Italia stage 19 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 Simon Yates' Team BikeExchange:

Briton Simon Yates attacked the final of today’s 19th stage of the Giro d’Italia and held on to deliver Team BikeExchange a spectacular solo stage victory, displaying his great strength in the third and final week of this year’s tour.

Simon Yates

Simon Yates enjoys his win. Sirotti photo

After Team BikeExchange worked relentlessly throughout the 166-kilometre stage, Yates repaid his teammates with the victory atop the first category climb, Alpe di Mera, the penultimate summit finish of the 2021 Giro d’Italia.

The 2018 Vuelta a España champion accelerated to follow a move by Joãn Almeida with six kilometres to go, making the catch and then launching a damaging acceleration on his Bianchi Specialissima one kilometre later. The injection of speed saw Yates charge away solo, with none of his general classification rivals able to respond.

Race leader Egan Bernal quickly lost 20 seconds to the 28-year-old, but with Ineos Grenadiers pacing the Maglia Rosa, the gap to Yates remained within 20 to 30 seconds all the way towards the finish line.

Fighting all the way, Yates was able to hold off Joãn Almeida by 11 seconds to take the stage 19 honours; the eighth Grand Tour stage victory of his career.

With time gaps on the line and the addition of 10 bonus seconds for the win, the Team BikeExchange rider moves closer to the Maglia Rosa, now sitting two minutes and 49 seconds adrift, with two hard stages still remaining.

Simon Yates – Stage 19 winner:
“I am really happy, the team did a fantastic job today, really controlled the start, worked a lot and I managed to finish it off, so I am really very happy.

"I saw that the boys from Ineos were happy to ride tempo behind (Almeida) and I had a feeling that they would let me go today. As soon as I attacked, I saw that that was correct, so I just tried to ride full gas and that was it.

"I tried to do my best today, it wasn’t the most difficult of stages, it was just a very difficult final climb, but tomorrow is very different. It is a very hard stage, back in the high altitude so we will see what I can do, I am just doing my best at the moment and I am happy with the stage win.”

Matt White – Head Sport Director:
“We are very happy. It was very big team effort to control the stage and to put Simon into a position where could do his thing on the final climb.

"The last couple of days we have only been looking forwards not backwards, and if we want to go any higher on the general classification, which we do, we had to try to put our rivals under pressure today. The boys did a good job by making the day hard and solid all through the stage.

"Simon rode a very aggressive final climb. A very well-deserved win and he put some more time into his rivals.”

Second-place Joao Almeida's Deceuninck-Quick Step team posted this report:

João Almeida was a man on a mission Friday, when the Giro d’Italia tackled Alpe di Mera, a climb used for the first time at the race. Long before reaching its bottom, the Portuguese had its team hit the front and push a hard tempo, that reduced the escapees’ gap while shedding riders out the back of the peloton. One of the most experienced men in the peloton, Iljo Keisse had the reins on the flat, before passing them to Mikkel Honoré, who led the way onto Passo della Colma.

His forcing left only about 50 men in the main group with 30 kilometers to go, but our team’s presence at the front didn’t end there, as Pieter Serry and James Knox continued to apply pressure with Almeida tucked on their wheel. On the last climb, averaging an excruciating 9% over 9.7 kilometers, João attacked as soon as James peeled off the front the moment he concluded his massive effort and opened a small gap before the others reacted.

One of the best in the world when it comes to pacing himself, Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Portuguese didn’t panic when Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) caught and distanced him, measuring his effort perfectly, which allowed him to tame the draining double-digit gradients of the Alpe di Mera without going into red. Together with Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), Almeida began reducing the deficit to the Brit, before launching an acceleration that dispatched the maglia rosa under the flamme rouge.

Joao Almeida

Joao Almeida was second across the line, a few seconds behind Simon Yates. Sirotti photo

Eventually, despite his unwavering determination and insanely strong chase, he finished a bitter second, as Yates took the win, making it for the second day in three days that he concluded runner-up on a tough summit finish. Although he didn’t claim the win on stage 19, João was content with the superb effort he produced, which cemented his eighth place in the general classification.

“First of all, I want to thank the entire team, they were incredible and did a perfect job for me today. I felt good and confident, so I attacked early to see what could happen. To be up there again with the other GC guys on this hard climb was nice and showed that I have good legs at the moment. It’s a pity I missed the win and took second again, but on the other hand, I gained more time in the standings, which bodes well for the remaining stages, where we’ll see what I will be able to do”, said Almeida after his sixth podium in two Giro d’Italia participations.

Here's the report from GC second-place Damiano Caruso's Bahrain-Victorious team:

Stage 17 was another high mountain stage from Canazei to Sega di Ala, running 193km long climbing 3,400 vertical meters. The stage started off relatively easy until the category one climb of Passo San Valentino, followed by the technical descent to Chizzola, finished with another category one climb up to Sega di Ala.

After several attempts, a breakaway eventually formed of nearly 20 riders gaining over five minutes from the breakaway. As the group approached Passo San Valentino, the pace picked up as the peloton started to bridge the gap to the break and reduce the size of the group.

On the final climb up to the finish, only Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) managed to stay away from the GC contenders to win the stage, with Damiano Caruso maintaining second in the GC and finishing fifth on the stage.

Damaino Caruso

Damiano Caruso on the final climb, headed towards the finish. Sirotti photo

Damiano Caruso was pleased with his performance: “Today was one of the hardest stages of this Giro. The last hour and a half was really full gas, especially the last climb, which was super hard, and as I expected, Yates attacked, and he made the difference on the last climb. But I felt good, and even then, I kept my tempo to the finish, and the gap was quite okay and under control.

Well, I couldn’t follow him, so, in any case, I didn’t have any options left but to keep my tempo. Then when I saw the Maglia Rosa, Bernal, suffering like me, my morale went up because I realized that it is really hard for all of us at this moment”.

Egan Bernal leads in the General Classification, and Damiano Caruso is now 2:21 behind, with Simon Yates climbing to third place, 3:23 behind the Maglia Rosa.

Lennard Kämna extends contract with Bora-hansgrohe but will likely forego Tour participation

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this update:

The young German rider and BORA - hansgrohe have provisionally extended their contract, which expires in 2021, by one year. Together they will be aiming to further continue Kämna's development. Firstly, however, health problems must be fully cured, and so he is taking a break in order to facilitate this.

Lennard Kamna

Lennard Kämna winning stage five of this years Tour of Catalonia.

"After long consideration and intensive consultation with my coach and the team, I have decided to most likely not participate in the Tour de France this year. The decision was very difficult for me, and it is also one that hurts.

"I’d like to firstly say that I want to postpone my goals and plans for the season, until late summer. I had an extraordinarily good start to the year, having taken a stage win in the Volta a Catalunya. After that, I had to fight an infection for quite some time, which was still apparent during my participation in the Volta ao Algarve. I also had to cancel the altitude training camp that I had planned for the Tour. To be honest, I have to admit to myself that maybe I pushed the accelerator too hard during the spring and paid too little attention to my regeneration and what my body was trying to tell me.

"I want to be open with my team and the public. Unfortunately, the past weeks have also weighed on me mentally, more so than I wanted to initially admit. Now, with a heavy heart, I have to accept the reality that I’m currently not fit enough to meet the demands presented by a Tour participation. I’m now going to invest a lot of time and energy in regeneration and slowly building up my form.

"The team has therefore given me the chance to take essentially a flexible break. However, I would like to stress that I am doing well. Nevertheless, I’d like to be able to freely determine my return. That could be in the short term, but it's likely that we'll decide together not to fully re-engage again until the second half of the season. I am extremely grateful to my team, especially my coach Dan Lorang, for all the support during this time.

"However, I am happy that there is at least something positive to report, and that we have extended my contract. I have the perfect environment here, and the last few weeks have only further confirmed that. We have common goals, which I am extremely motivated to pursue. We all work together and in a very determined manner, and I really like that, because I feel that I’m able to receive the support that’s necessary for my development. But first of all, I’ll have to return to fitness now." - Lennard Kämna

"Unfortunately, Lennard has been struggling with health problems for a few weeks now. The infection he contracted before the Ardennes turned out to be very persistent. And from that time onwards, preparations weren’t able to run so smoothly. That is of course a big shame, but it also hurts personally, because I know how hard he has worked, and I would have very much liked to see him reap the rewards of this work.

"However, the most important thing now is his health. I see my task as team manager to protect him and remove him from the line of fire, so to speak, and that's why we’ve decided to draw a line in the sand and start again after a reset. First of all, we want him to make a full recovery.

"The entire team is behind Lennard and we’ll only keep looking forward together. His contract extension is also a further indication of our common direction. Together, we’ve come to the decision to extend the contract for one year. Lennard has developed very well with us. His victories not only last year, but also this spring, show that he is still making progress. With Lennard, we’re making plans for the long term because we still see a lot of potential in him, which we can develop together. He fits very well in our team environment and we’re envisioning a long-term solution with him in a timely manner." - Ralph Denk, Team Manager

Caleb Ewan returns to racing at Baloise Belgium Tour

Ewan's Lotto Soudal team sent me this release:

Following an unexpected and premature abandon at the Giro d’Italia, Caleb Ewan has resumed training. The recovery of his knee injury is going well and his participation at the Tour de France will not be affected. Ewan will resume competition at the Baloise Belgium Tour, which takes place from Wednesday 9 till Sunday 13 June.

Caleb Ewan

Caleb Ean Winning 2021 Giro stage five.

“After my abandon at the Giro I was off the bike for a few days but I have resumed training now and everything seems to be going in the right direction. I just hope I didn’t lose too much of my shape because I really needed more race rhythm. That is why I was so disappointed to pull out of the Giro with the ‘maglia ciclamino’ on my shoulders. The plan was to continue for at least another week and trying to reward the team with at third stage victory”, says Caleb Ewan.

“The Baloise Belgium Tour is definitely a good race, as a preparation towards the Tour”, adds Lotto Soudal’s General Manager John Lelangue. “In 2019, Caleb prepared for the Tour de France via a similar run-up with the ZLM Tour now being the Baloise Belgium Tour. Last week, I travelled to Monaco to discuss both the short and long-term planning with Caleb. That went smoothly and we are both optimistic about the Tour de France. If everything falls into place, there should be around seven sprint opportunities where Caleb can go for one or more stage wins.”

“Obviously, the fact that Lotto Soudal currently only has two riders left in the Giro makes me quite unhappy but believe me, so are the riders who had to leave the Giro. Therefore, I am a little frustrated by the criticism from people who are not aware of the problems our riders have faced at the Giro. The fact that we have only two riders left in the race is an unfortunate turn of events. Lotto Soudal is and always will be a team of attackers, which we showed at the Giro and are still showing, even though only two of our riders remain in the race. We will keep on racing aggressively, starting at the Critérium du Dauphiné”, John Lelangue concludes.

Meanwhile, Kobe Goossens – who had to leave the Giro following a crash – has received good news. A scan revealed that Kobe did not sustain any fractures. The 25-year-old Belgian has already resumed training and if all goes well, Goossens will return to racing at the Tour de Suisse.

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