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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, October 9, 2021

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

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

The strength of a man's virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts. - Blaise Pascal

Tour de France: the Inside Story

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Les Woodland's book Tour de France: The Inside Story is available as an audiobook here.

Giro del Veneto returns

An ancient race, the first edition of Italy's Giro del Veneto was held in 1909. The race had financial problems and until this year, the race's last edition was in 2012.

Wonderfully, the Giro del Veneto is back and will be held Wednesday, October 13. It will 169 kilometers long, starting in Cittadella and finishing in Padua (Padova).

Here's the organizer's post:

After nine years, the Italian most inspiring race is back!

On the 13th of October 2021, the Giro del Veneto returns, thus reaching the 84th edition. A great event: the best international athletes will compete in a exciting race that includes the traditional places of the old route and also new ones.

The iconic Giro returns thanks to today's dreamers: a magical event that will make you feel timeless emotions.

Team Deceuninck-Quick Step headed to Il Lombardia

Here's the team's update:

Il Lombardia will be the last race of our team this year, and the Wolfpack will be hoping to get a good result before bringing down the curtain over a season that so far has brought 65 victories, 25 of which came at World Tour level.

Scheduled this Saturday, the Italian Monument comes with a revamped 239km route for its 115th edition, which will start from Como and end in Bergamo. The iconic Madonna del Ghisallo will be the first climb of the day, and will be followed later in the race by the Roncola, Berbenno, Dossena, Zambia Alta and Passo di Ganda for a total of 4500 vertical meters. In case a small group will enter in the final five kilometers, Colle Aperto and its vicious double-digit gradients could be used as springboard to victory by the riders still having enough left in the tank.

Philippe Gilbert

For fun, here's Philippe Gilbert cresting the Madonna del Ghisallo in the 2010 edition of the Giro del Lombardia. Gilbert won the race that year. Sirotti photo

Runner-up here in 2017 at just his third participation, World Champion Julian Alaphilippe returns at the start of Il Lombardia for the first time in four years, and will lead a very strong Deceuninck – Quick-Step team that will also include João Almeida, former Piccolo Giro di Lombardia winner Andrea Bagioli, Dries Devenyns, Remco Evenepoel, Fausto Masnada and Pieter Serry, a top 10 finisher at the race back in 2013.

“We go into our final race of the season with a lot of motivation. The parcours is tougher than in the past and we expect a hard race, but we believe in our chances of getting a nice result. As you can see, the team is a solid one, comprising guys who racked up many good results in the past couple of weeks. We have several cards to play and we hope to be in the mix at the right moment on Saturday”, explained Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Davide Bramati.

Tim Wellens will ride Il Lombardia for the ninth time

Wellen's Lotto Soudal team posted this:

On Saturday 9 October, Lotto Soudal will be at the start of Il Giro di Lombardia, the fifth and final Monument of the 2021 cycling season. In the 108th edition of the “Race of the falling leaves”, the riders face a demanding 240 kilometres long course between Como and Bergamo. The final long ascent – the Passo di Ganda - is situated at around 30 kilometres from the finish. In the very final of Il Lombardia, a tough couple of last kilometres awaits the riders in Bergamo. Lotto Soudal rider Tim Wellens, who already finished inside the top five on two occasions, will be at the start of Il Lombardia for the 9th time in his career.

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens racing in the 2015 edition. Sirotti photo

“Contrary to last year, we’re now racing from Como to Bergamo. But the  direction of the course doesn’t really matter, Il Lombardia is a race that’s close to my heart”, says Tim Wellens. “The race takes place during a nice time of year and in a really beautiful region as well. I also obtained my best results in a cycling Monument at the Tour of Lombardy.”

“Some two weeks ago, I already did a recon of the course and I was struck by how technical the descents are. Luckily, the weather forecast looks nice, so it won’t have a big impact on the race. To predict how the race will unfold exactly, is a really hard thing to do. Nowadays, the race explodes earlier and earlier. But no doubt that the final long ascent, at around 30 kilometres from the finish, will be crucial. I know the finish quite well, it’s a stretch uphill of around two kilometres with a short passage over cobblestones.”

“My personal ambitions remain limited this year. Most possibly, Andreas Kron will spearhead the team. Our young Dane has demonstrated his good shape at Tre Valli Varesine and can also fight for a good result at Il Lombardia”, concludes Tim Wellens.

Astana-Premier Tech to become Astana Qazaqstan

Here’s the team’s press release:

The UCI WorldTour team Astana – Premier Tech is set to get a new name in 2022. The Kazakh cycling project will step into the upcoming season as Astana Qazaqstan Team.

Qazaqstan is the most accurate and correct name of Kazakhstan in its English transcription. Qazaqstan is a kind of new brand of the state on the international stage, which is combining centuries-old traditions, language, culture and strategy of the country’s development in the today’s world.

Team Astana

Here's the Astana kit at the start of this year's Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

“Starting from 2022 our cycling team will go on under the new name Astana Qazaqstan Team, a name which is very important to our country. The name of our state will appear on the cyclists’ jerseys and in the new team logo, and it will become a kind of sign of the continuation of traditions and, at the same time, a moment of change and renewal for the sake of two important goals: promotion of the image of our country all around the world and development of domestic cycling. The project is getting a second wind and is preparing for a new turn in its development.

"I would like to express my special gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan as well as to the Professional Sports Club Astana, which actively support the team. I am happy with the fact that Kazakhstan Cycling Federation is going to play an important role in the development of the renewed team and the implementation of ambitious plans, which will be announced in the nearest future. Also, I am happy that our federation will be presented both in the Board of Directors and in the management of Astana Qazaqstan Team. We envisage strengthening the team’s work with the federation in the transfer of professional skills to domestic athletes and specialists as well as deeper participation of Astana Qazaqstan Team in the life of Kazakhstan cycling”, – said Nurlan Smagulov, President of Kazakhstan Cycling Federation.

“I am happy that our team will continue its development under the new Astana Qazaqstan Team brand, and it is an honor for me to return to the leadership of this team as a General Manager. For the past 16 years the Astana Cycling Project has been the hallmark of our country in the world of sports, and I would like to thank the leadership of Kazakhstan for many years of support and trust. Astana Qazaqstan Team is not just a new team name, it is an updated project philosophy emphasizing closer integration of our sports brand and promotion of the Republic of Kazakhstan as a major international partner. In the current period, preparations for the new season and the registration of the team in the top division are in full swing. Beside this we are working on an additional project, which we will announce soon”, – said Alexandr Vinokurov, General Manager of Astana Qazaqstan Team.

With Dan Martin retiring, Israel Start-Up Nation looks back on his career

The team posted this tribute:

How do you know when it’s time to stop? Dan Martin knows. “I made the best of every period of my career, lived an amazing life but also kept a promise that I made to myself. That as soon as it stopped being fun I would stop. Cycling has never been about results for me, it’s been about the performance and enjoyment.”

With that, the Israel Start-Up Nation rider will ride his last professional race on Saturday, October 9  — Il Lombardia, which he won in 2014. We are proud that he has spent his last two years with us, even if they have been two unusual years, with Covid and injuries having major effects on him and on pro cycling in general.

Dan MArtin

Dan Martin wins stage 17 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

It may not be “about results” for Dan, but he has some great results to look back on. He may have had “only” two wins for ISN, but what wins they were! In 2020 he took a stage win at the Vuelta a Espana, his first ever in that race. A well-time uphill sprint saw him take the win ahead of none other than Primoz Roglic and Richard Carapaz.

This year he stormed his way up the closing climb on Stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia, in a solo attack out of the day’s break group. And that after having suffered from Covid only a few months earlier.

That win elevated him into the ranks of those who have won stages in all three Grand Tours. He can look back on two stage wins each in the Tour de France (2013, 2018) and the Vuelta a Espana (2011, 2021)) and now also one in the Giro.

It was a day he will never forget, calling it “a special moment in my life here at ISN and also in my career. The happiness and joy it brought to all the people in the team, but also the way I managed to win. It was a special day all around as we made a plan and pulled it off.

“It was the first time since the lockdown that we had really big crowds on the climb and to be climbing through hundreds of screaming fans was one of those moments that still gives me goosebumps. Plus the fact I completed the trilogy of GT stage wins. It was incredibly satisfying.”

Looking over his career as a whole, he says “I’m most proud of how I managed to maintain a constant level of performance and commitment throughout not just seasons, but for so many years. I think it shows that I just love racing my bike. I love the process of training and aiming for an objective.”

However, he adds, “I don’t think you can look back in this sport. That’s how I have stayed fresh so long. However a race goes, good or bad, it’s important to turn the page and refocus. Having said that, if I could take all the lessons I have learnt and rewind to 10 years ago, I could have been so much more successful but the same goes for everybody. The sport has just advanced leaps and bounds the last years and become ever so competitive.”

Dan knows what he will and won’t miss about his soon-to-be-former life. “The thing I will miss the most is the camaraderie and vibe with my teammates. It’s one of the things that I’ve enjoyed most about ISN is the family atmosphere and the fun we have at the races but also that feeling of being together and helping each other work towards a common goal.

“Obviously there are so many things I will not miss, that’s why I’m retiring. The time away from home, the sacrifice, but then the less obvious things like the constant scrutiny we put ourselves under; the worry of getting sick or if your nutrition is good, if your training is good, how the races will go. The mental side of the sport is still massively underestimated. Then of course watching the last races in the rain: that’s something I will definitely not miss”

He has big plans for his future. “During the last few off-seasons and when I’ve had time outside of training and racing, I have found a new sense of purpose and fun in developing companies and working within businesses. This interest led to Rubix Ventures, a company I co-founded with trusted contacts, to help athletes invest in exciting growth companies.”

Even more importantly, “I’m also looking forward to being more present as a father and husband at home and doing some simple things that are not compatible with the requirements of a cycling career, like going for a run with my wife.”

Those runs, by the way, will be in Andorra, where he has lived for several years with his wife and three-year-old twin daughters. “We are really happy there and our life is there.”

“Dan crowned his career these last two years with ISN, re-discovering his joy for racing,” said team co-owner Sylvan Adams. “This showed in his results, with his biggest achievements being a Grand Tour GC career best of 4th at last year’s Vuelta including a stage win, and his epic stage win at this year’s Giro. But more importantly, Dan’s contributions as a loyal teammate and mentor to our younger riders proved invaluable to our start-up team.

“And, for me personally, I will always appreciate Dan, as a friend. So, congrats Dan, for a great career. Pro cycling will miss your signature courageous racing style. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement.”

Dan certainly comes from a cycling family. His father was a professional cyclist, and his mother is the sister of former great Stephen Roche. His cousin Nicholas Roche is also a long-time pro rider, who is coincidentally also retiring at the end of this season.

He got his career off to a good start early, winning the British under-18 road championship in 2004 before changing to the Irish team two years later.

Dan turned pro in 2008 with Slipstream-Chipotle, where he stayed for seven years. Whilst there he brought in stage wins at the Tour and the Vuelta, and won two Classics, Il Lombardia and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

From there he spent two years each at Deceunink-QuickStep and UAE Emirates, before joining ISN in 2020.

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