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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, October 3, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

The secret of happiness is to admire without desiring. - Carl Sandburg


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Bill & Carol McGann's book The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1, 1903 - 1975 is available as an audiobook here.

Giro dell'Emilia team reports

We posted the report from winner Primoz Roglic's Team Jumbo-Visma with the results.

Here's the report from second-place Joao Almeida's Team Deceuninck-Quick Step:

João Almeida and the Wolfpack were again among the main protagonists at the Giro dell’Emilia, turning the 104th edition of the event into one of the most spectacular one-day races of the season. Just like last year, the man from Caldas da Rainha finished runner-up, as he became the first Portuguese in history to rack up multiple podiums at the Italian one-day race.

Joao Almeida

Joao Almeida finishing second at the Giro dell'Emilia. Sirotti photo

Remco Evenepoel was the one who opened the race early, with more than 30 kilometers to go, as he dropped a wattsbomb on the first of the five ascents of San Luca, which ended up making a decisive selection in the peloton just as they were preparing to reel in the escapees. Nine men, including Almeida and Fausto Masnada, joined him and together put 20 seconds into the bunch, a gap which they continued to increase with each kilometer.

As well as burying himself for João with some long pulls that helped the group stay clear, Evenepoel – fresh off the World Championships – also launched several attacks that spread panic in the group and forced the others to chase hard in order to keep things together. On the penultimate lap, João too showed his intentions and briefly split the group close to the top of the ascent, but the others came back.

The Belgian continued to drill the pace until with 1500 meters to go, when he finally waved the flag on the brutal slopes of San Luca, but showing an incredible fighting spirit, he returned in the group 500 meters from the line and accelerated again, while Almeida remained well-placed near the front. Eventually, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) took the win after zipping away with 250 meters to go, and the 23-year-old Portuguese came second, a couple of seconds ahead of Evenepoel, who concluded fifth.

“The plan we had this morning was to attack on the circuit and put at least two riders in the main group, which we did thanks to a great effort. They guys did a top job there, both João and Remco tried several times to get clear, but the others reacted. At the end of the day, another rider was stronger and that was that. We didn’t win, but we are content with the result, because we know that we gave everything and did our best, always fighting and riding as one”, said Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Davide Bramati.

Paris-Roubaix Femmes reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results:

Here's the report from winner Elizabeth Deignan's Trek-Segafredo team:

Lizzie Deignan became the first woman to win Paris-Roubaix on Saturday. Men have written 125 years worth of pages in the story of the iconic one-day race. Finally the women, led by Deignan, have made their mark.

Elizabeth Deignan

Elizabeth Deignan enjoys her historic victory.

Deignan was at a loss of words after crossing the velodrome finish line with her arms in the air.

“I feel very emotional,” Deignan said. “I don’t know, I am just really proud.  Sorry, not the best quote, but I am just so happy. I cannot believe it happened.”

Deignan’s brave winning move, made on the first cobbled section of the day, was made possible by the strength of the team behind her. Knowing that strong riders like Elisa Longo Borghini, Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Ellen van Dijk were behind her, ready to pounce if Deignan got caught, gave Deignan the confidence she needed to go all out.

“At the start of the day we said, ‘You know the rulebook: anything can happen,’” Deignan said.  “And I thought well if at least I am there I can cover something. And when I looked behind no one was there, and I thought, ‘Well at least then they have to chase.’”

Deignan had a lead as large as two and a half minutes and had more than a minute as she entered the velodrome. It was a dominant performance by a legendary rider who has won many of the biggest races in women’s cycling, from World Championships, to La Course, to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, to the Tour of Flanders.

Still, she didn’t trust that she had the victory in hand until the final meters.

“Honestly, I couldn’t hear anything, my legs were cramping, and I knew that even on the last section you could lose two minutes if you cramp and blow up,” Deignan said. “I really just tried to keep a regular pace. At this point in the season, I am tired, and I knew the best thing for me was to keep this steady pace and keep in front as long as I could.”

With an incredible physical effort, Deignan made a statement. She proved that women have always belonged on the sport’s biggest stages.

“We didn’t have a chance to dream for so long; it’s always been a men’s race. and I am just so proud that this is where we are, that women’s cycling is on the world stage now,” Deignan said. “I am proud that my daughter can look at the [cobblestone trophy]. She doesn’t just have to watch men on the TV anymore, we’re here and we’re representing and it’s thanks to support from people like those in Trek-Segafredo that we’re here.”

Deignan’s day was made even sweeter by the fact that her teammates Longo Borghini and Cordon-Ragot finished third and eighth, respectively. A tight-knit Trek-Segafredo squad gave one of its best-ever efforts on one of the biggest days in women’s cycling history.

“It was a really incredible Paris-Roubaix and I don’t think there is anyone who deserved it more to be on the top step of this podium,” Longo Borghini said. “[Lizzie] made history, we made history. It’s hard to acknowledge this, but it’s just an amazing feeling. There’s no better person who could be on the top step today.”

Trek-Segafredo was well-prepared for the big day, having done multiple recons for the repeatedly delayed debut of Paris-Roubaix Femmes. This may have been the team’s first race on the fearsome cobbles, but they nonetheless knew them well.

“We did many recons this year, we were prepared, but of course when you go onto the cobbles with a full peloton it’s different,” Longo Borghini said. “It was a big fight.

“The cobbles today were really slippery, and I crashed 3 or 4 times, but I always made it back. We were told to never give up if we had something because Paris-Roubaix is always like this, you always have the chance to get back and get a result.”

Longo Borghini had the unenviable task of chasing down Marianne Vos as the Dutch legend, who finished second, tried to catch Deignan late in the race. Cordon-Ragot spurred on Longo Borghini.

“Audrey Cordon-Ragot was incredible today. She was riding smooth all the time, really strong, always there and covering attacks,” Longo Borghini said. “She told me to stay on Vos’s wheel.  So I tried, but when Vos went, I felt like a seal.”

Longo Borghini was rewarded for her effort with a podium place right next to her friend and teammate. The weather was slate gray, and the mud on the cobbles made the racing treacherous. But in the end, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect day.

Here's the Paris-Roubaix report from second-place Marianne Vos' Jumbo-Visma team:

Marianne Vos has become second in the first edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes. The rider of Team Jumbo-Visma had to acknowledge her superior in Lizzie Deignan. In the spectacular race, she was the best of the chasing group.

Deignan escaped from the peloton on the first sector and was not seen again. In the chasing group, the cobblestone sections always caused significant differences. At 35 kilometres from the finish, there was a regrouping behind Deignan. Teuntje Beekhuis and Romy Kasper helped in the chase. At Carrefour de l’Arbre, Vos started her counterattack and quickly got one minute closer. After that, the difference remained the same. Riding solo, Vos was the second to cross the line at the Vélodrome.

Podium

The podium, from left: Marianne Vos (2nd), Elizabeth Deignan (1st) & Elisa Longo Borghini (3rd). ASO photo

“It was tough, hard work and, above all, very good positioning”, Vos said. “Some sections were very slippery, so I had to try to stay in front. Deignan’s attack was super strong. When she was two minutes ahead, I knew I had to go. After my attack I got a little closer, but the gap stayed one minute. Then I knew it was going to be difficult.”

She enjoyed the classic. “It was really fantastic to do. You can’t relax anywhere, you have to be alert constantly. The rain, wind and mud made it a wonderful first edition.”

2019 winner Phlippe Gilbert previews Paris Roubaix

Gilbert's Lotto-Soudal team posted this:

14 April 2019. On this day, the most recent edition of Paris-Roubaix was held and won by current Lotto Soudal rider Philippe Gilbert. No less than thirty months later, the riders finally return to the ‘Hell of the north’. It’s a weekend full of racing as on Saturday, the first-ever edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes will take place. On Sunday, the men will take on a 257-kilometre course between Compiègne and the Roubaix velodrome, including 30 cobbled sectors. In addition, the predicted weather conditions will possibly make for a heroic edition.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert wins Paris-Roubaix in 2019. Sirotti photo

“It’s rather bizarre that after two and a half years, I am still the reigning Paris-Roubaix champion”, Philippe Gilbert begins. “It’s always an honour to start with race number one and that is even more the case in Paris-Roubaix. Despite the race number, I am not part of Sunday’s favourites. I will be at the start without any stress, I just want to have fun.”

After a first recon on the cobbles, Gilbert already knows it: after a long wait, we’ll get a memorable edition of Paris-Roubaix.

“Certain sectors are really slippery, it will be chaos. I have raced in snow, extreme heat and cold but I never experienced muddy conditions, so it will be a new experience for me as well. However, you can’t compare it to cyclocross because the surface and tires for example, are completely different. I rewatched the images from 2002, the last wet edition of Paris-Roubaix and no one really went fast on the cobbles. That is why not the fastest rider but the one who can stay on his bike the best will win Paris-Roubaix.”

Despite winning the French cycling monument in 2019, Philippe Gilbert doesn’t consider himself as a Roubaix specialist.

“Actually, I don’t have tons of experience in Paris-Roubaix as this will only be my fourth participation. So I am far from an expert and I can still learn from my teammates. What I do know is that it’s easier to win Paris-Roubaix when you still have a lot of teammates left in the race. This is already a rule of thumb in general, but it’s even more important in Paris-Roubaix. The Hell of the North is also a race which can produce some surprises, the early breakaway sometimes provides nice opportunities. That is why I think it will be a huge battle for the breakaway and with the predicted tailwind, the first 100 kilometres will be really fast”, concludes Philippe Gilbert.

Also John Degenkolb knows what it feels like to win Paris-Roubaix as the German Lotto Soudal rider was victorious back in 2015. However, a crash at the past World Championships in Flanders disrupted the preparation for this favourite race.

“First of all, I am extremely happy to be at the start on Sunday”, John Degenkolb said. “In the beginning of the week, I still had a lot of pain but fortunately the healing process is going quite fast. I was able to do some training rides and I feel better every day. However, I need to adjust my ambitions for Paris-Roubaix due to that nasty crash, which has clearly had an impact. But with the predicted weather conditions, I really don’t want to miss out on an epic day. In a ten-year career, in which I was at the start of Paris-Roubaix almost every time, you just have to ride a wet edition. I am looking forward, but I’m quite nervous as well. It will be a real spectacle, that’s for sure and choosing the right lines will be crucial. When you have to adapt your trajectory, it’s already too late. That is why riders who choose the best lines and who can handle the bike the best, have the biggest chance to stay upright.”

David de la Cruz joins Team Astana

Here’s Astana’s news release:

Spanish rider David De La Cruz is set to join the Kazakh Team Astana where he will spend the two following seasons of 2022 and 2023. The 32-year-old is well-known as a strong climber and stage race specialist, finishing seventh in the General Classification of La Vuelta on three occasions, including the 2021 edition.

David de la Cruz

David de la Cruz winning 2016 Vuelta stage nine. Sirotti photo

“I am really happy to join Team Astana from the upcoming season. I didn’t have any doubts and made quite a quick decision when Alexandr Vinokurov came to me with an offer to join his team. I feel like Astana is the team that perfectly suits me, but at the same time, it is the team I suit as a rider. I really like the team’s style, its attacking character, ambitions, and its focus on the General Classification. So, I am sure that I will be able to fit in well with this team. Of course, I understand that the first season in a new team may not be easy, I will have to go through a certain period of adaptation, but I hope that it will be a short one and I will become an integral part of the group quickly. I am sure that together with the management we will be able to plan a good race program where I will have an opportunity to help the team to reach its important goals and where I will get a chance to achieve some personal results. Perhaps, I will have a chance to go for the General Classification at La Vuelta or even at the Giro, but, first of all, I am ready to follow the team strategy and the plans to achieve great successes together with Astana”, – said David De La Cruz.

Alongside a few good podium places and some Top-10 results in the GC of various stage races, David De La Cruz has scored several important wins in his career. The Spaniard’s palmarès includes stage wins at La Vuelta (2016), Itzulia Basque Country (2017), Paris-Nice (2017, 2018) and Vuelta a Andalucia (2018).

In the current season of 2021, De La Cruz took a strong second place in the individual time trial of the Spanish National Championships, was fourth in the General Classification of the Tour de Luxembourg, finished fifth at the Vuelta a Burgos, and impressed with seventh overall at La Vuelta.

“David is an experienced and complete rider who can strengthen our team in terms of stage races. It’s not just about the Grand Tours, but also about week-long stage races. He looks strong in the mountains, he likes to attack, and he feels comfortable enough in the time trial races, where he is not only able to defend his positions, but also to gain time on the rivals. This is a good reinforcement for us, so we will be able to use David in team tactics at certain races, Grand Tours, but we are also ready to give him some freedom and chances to prove himself in those races that will fit his characteristics”, – said Aleksandr Vinokurov, 2022 Team Astana General Manager.

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