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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, October 12, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

It’s not true that life is one damn thing after another – it’s one damn thing over and over. – Edna St. Vincent Millay


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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.

Team Delko stops all operations immediately because of financial troubles

Here's is the sad news in a machine translation from the Directvelo.com website:

Team Delko will no longer be in the pelotons next season. Moreover, the Provençal team has even already competed in the last race of its existence this Sunday on the occasion of Paris-Tours (1.Pro), announces La Marseillaise. In great financial difficulty, the world second division team has decided to skip the last two rounds of the Coupe de France: the Grand Prix du Morbihan and the Buckles de l'Aulne, and will not field any rider. Neither during the Chrono des Nations.

Team Delko

Team Delko earlier this year at the Tour of Provence. Sirotti photo

As a reminder, since the departure of its public partners during the offseason, the training of Philippe Lannes has long sought a solution that has never come, in order to save what could be. Since the spring, events had been removed from the team's calendar, then staff members and contract riders - sometimes for several more seasons - were released. This is how Biniam Girmay made a commitment with Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux on August 1st. Clément Berthet joined AG2R Citroën on the same date. Axel Zingle, who was to turn pro in early August, never came and went to Cofidis. A way to reduce the payroll as quickly as possible and the expenses of a team at the worst financially.

At the same time, Philippe Lannes tried to find new title partners throughout the summer, or a team with which to merge as quickly as possible. Several names have been mentioned, in France - professional and amateur teams - as well as abroad. But no lead has succeeded. The decision to throw in the towel was taken this Friday and an announcement was made to the riders this Sunday morning, at the start of Paris-Tours, which aroused great emotion.

The whole story is posted here.

Team reports on Coppa Agostini

We posted the winner Alexey Lutsenko's Astana-Premier Tech team report with the results.

Here's the report from second-place Matteo Trentin's UAE Team Emirates:

Matteo Trentin came close to his second triumph in UAE colours, with a mis-timed sprint in the final metres just costing him victory today at the Coppa Agostoni in Italy.

On the day which started and finished in Lissone (180km), Trentin arrived to the line just behind winner Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) with Alessandro Covi arriving first home in the chasing group for 3rd.

Alexey Lutsenko

Alexey Lutsenko beats Matteo Trentin for the win. Sirotti photo

The main move of the day occurred with -24km, as an elite 6 man group containing Alessandro Covi along with the likes of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Lutsenko moved away over the final climb of 1.6km at 8% average.

Trentin bridged across on the descent to make it a seven man group at -20km and went on the offensive shortly after, taking Lutsenko with him with the pair collaborating well and building a 25’’ gap on the chasers.

The pair would stick together until the line with Trentin being outmanoeuvred by the Kazakh.

Trentin: “We did a good race to place myself and Covi in the final selection. In the end I just mis-judged my sprint a bit and Lutsenko got the jump on me, which in that situation is almost impossible to close down. It was just a split second but in that scenario it makes the difference and he was very strong also. On the plus side I can feel the legs are very good. Of course I’m disappointed not to win, but really focussed now on the remaining races.”

The result for Covi means he wins the overall prize for the Trittico Lombardo, having shown great consistency over the autumn classics Italian calendar.

Here's the Coppa Agostoni report from 7th-place Lorenzo Rota's Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team:

This Monday, the riders of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert were at the start of their fifth race in one week in the north of Italy, on the occasion of the Coppa Agostoni (1.1, 11/10). Just like in the previous races, Lorenzo Rota showed audacity by closing the gap of 2’30 to the seven leaders on his own in the first hilly lap around Lissolo, halfway through the race.

Behind, the peloton was reduced to 30 riders, with Norwegian rider Odd Christian Eiking and Estonian rider Rein Taaramäe, who took 2nd place in the Coppa Agostoni in 2018. The three remaining leaders and the peloton melted together with 50 kilometer to go, reuniting the three riders from the team directed by Valerio Piva. The pace remained high in the final, despite the downhill slope of the final 25 kilometer towards the finish in Lissone. In the end, the three riders from Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert sprinted for 3rd place, 12 seconds after Alexey Lutsenko and Matteo Trentin. Lorenzo Rota was the first rider of the team to cross the finish line, in 7th place.

"I approached this period of end of the season classics with a lot of motivation. That’s why I adopted an aggressive racing style, attacking each race, hoping that one day one of my attempts succeeds. Last Saturday in Il Lombardia I didn’t have the legs I hoped for, but today I felt good again. I accelerated in the climbs around Lecco, but unfortunately nobody followed me. Contrary to the Tre Valli Varesine, an early breakaway wasn’t the successful strategy. But our motivation to shine in the final two Italian classics remains unchanged!" - Lorenzo Rota

Amanda Spratt: A season of questions & underperforming but now the reason is clear

Spratt’s Team BikeExchange sent me this:

For any athlete the ups and downs of competition are part and parcel of their careers, however, when you are fully committed, 100% motivated and taking care of every little detail and yet the results still aren’t coming as expected, you begin to question everything.

That can be the hardest part of sport, the unknown. Those unexplained, incomprehensible questions.

The Unknown
For Amanda Spratt, a two-time world championship medallist, three-time Australian champion, four-time WorldTour race winner, the results speak for themselves but not in 2021, it was a year that just didn’t unfold as planned.

Amanda Spratt

Amanda Spratt winning the second stage of the 2020 Tour Down Under

The 34-year-old couldn’t quite understand what was happening and it was clear to see her results weren’t the same as before. “2021 has been a pretty tough year, both physically and mentally. I could feel that something wasn’t right since late on in the 2020 season but there were always other reasons or answers I could think of at the time. I would put any bad performances down to things like my bike set-up or small illnesses,” Spratt explained.

“I have been racing for so many years. I know that I am the type of rider that excels in the hardest races. When everyone starts to get tired in a tour, I only get stronger. This is one of my biggest strengths. Yet this year I noticed that I couldn’t back up each day. My performances got worse and worse and if I reached the finale of a race, my legs were the first to explode. I had bad sensations that I haven’t had before and in the end, the Tokyo Olympic Games road race was the tipping point.

“In that race I had great legs. Until I didn’t. I couldn’t even push 200 watts anymore. It was of course an event that I had been training relentlessly for; a major goal of the season. The come down after the Olympics was incredibly difficult because I just couldn’t understand what had happened or why,” the Australian admitted. “I pride myself on my professionalism and covering every little detail.”

The Discovery
Like many athletes that didn’t achieve the results they hoped for, the post-Olympic blues can happen, however the Team BikeExchange rider knew that something just wasn’t quite right, and that it was something that needed exploring in more detail. Her frustration was understandable.

“After the games, the Australian Cycling team doctor, Dr Kevyn Hernandez, concluded that I needed to get checked for artery endofibrosis. Thanks to him and to Team BikeExchange, my appointment was fast tracked and in mid-August I had some conclusive answers which confirmed that I have iliac artery endofibrosis. After looking at the case, doctors explained that if I wanted to continue as a professional cyclist then surgery was my only option,” the rider from New South Wales detailed.

After almost one year of doubting and questioning herself after every race, finally there was an answer and more importantly, a solution. “I definitely felt relieved to have an answer. For myself, but also for those closest to me who put so much time and effort into helping me try and be my best. It’s definitely been a struggle to race this year and to not know why I couldn’t be at my best,” continued Spratt.

“There is no linear progression with this condition. You are still able to have some good days littered amongst the bad days, but for me in the last months, as the condition worsened, I struggled to have many good days at all. This story can help make the diagnosis, but it is difficult to confirm the diagnosis without the right tests which are only performed by a small number of specialist centres. I’m grateful that I have such a good support network around me, and I know this will be really helpful in the upcoming period as I have an operation. I especially have to thank my core medical group on the team – Dr Steve Baynes and Ellen Bates for all their valuable help and advice.”

The Condition
“Iliac artery endofibrosis is just one of the many causes of exercise related leg pain and loss of performance,” Team BikeExchange Dr Steve Baynes explained. “It is found in a number of athletes who undertake endurance training, especially where the training involves repetitive hip flexion and rotation. It is also likely to be linked to the anatomical pathway of the important leg arteries which can become ‘kinked’ in some individuals. So, because of these and other mechanisms, the artery becomes stiff and loses its elasticity with resultant reduction in flow just when the muscles need more supply during training and racing.

“Several special tests can help confirm the diagnosis,” Baynes continued. “These include arm and leg blood pressure testing before, during and after exercise; Ultrasound scanning of the arteries and Magnetic resonance imaging in a neutral position and in hip flexed position. This is a specialist area in vascular surgery and there are only a few centres in Europe where the experience is high in managing elite athletes through this condition. Amanda was lucky enough to be able to see Dr Goof Schep and Dr Mart Bender in the Sports Medicine and Vascular Unit in Veldhoven in The Netherlands.

“Treatment can mean changing training methods and intensity which may help in some cases but where the blood flow is very restricted, surgery is the only option that will bring back blood flow, reduction in symptoms and return to performance. This is a significant surgery which can involve releasing the arteries along with bypassing the narrowed segment with a vein graft. It requires very careful post-operative rehabilitation and the return to full training will be after five to six months.”

The Recovery
It is always a relief when there is a conclusion, an answer, for all the questions but with this comes the realisation that it is a serious condition and an operation that requires important recovery time with no guarantee of success. “I know it’s a very serious surgery with a long recovery but thankfully there are many good examples of riders who have come back from it in full force,” Spratt acknowledged. “I don’t have to look far for inspiration with my current teammate Sarah Roy and former teammate Annemiek van Vleuten, having both undergone the same procedure that I will this off-season. I’ve spoken with both of them, and I know their help and guidance will benefit me hugely in the recovery period.”

What Next
Looking ahead after a difficult year, Spratt now feels relieved and extra motivated. “During 2018 and 2019 I felt like I started to show myself and those around me what I am really capable of. This injury has made me realise that I still have so much I want to achieve in this sport. I’m not ready to give up and I already see many big goals coming up in the next few years. The Tour de France Femmes and the Wollongong World Championships are two realistic goals for me. I also can’t wait to be back racing an Australian Summer with good legs in 2023. For now, it is time to digest this diagnosis and as I prepare for my surgery, I know I will be surrounded by the best team, and I am excited to see what I can achieve with the team next season.”

We wish Spratt all the best for her upcoming surgery later this month and the recovery period that follows. The team is proud to have seen Spratt’s incredible determination throughout what proved to be a difficult season and everybody is excited to see what her bright future holds.

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